An open letter to the people of Pakistan, from an Ahmadi - Ahmadiyya Media Library

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Saturday, 9 April 2016

An open letter to the people of Pakistan, from an Ahmadi


To the People of Pakistan,
I know you are hurting. So am I. The events during the recent Easter weekend have taken their toll on everyone. It seems like all we do is leap from one tragedy to another. It's a hard thing to come to terms with. Escaping this trauma won't be easy, it will take years, decades even. Yet we have to start somewhere and that's what this letter is about, to initiate a conversation that needs to be had. 
First, it's difficult to know what to say because you are not a monolith; you come from diverse worlds and backgrounds. I don't even know where to begin, so let's start with me.
My name is Usman. My parents are Pakistani, but I grew up in the UK. I returned here after graduating with a history degree and have stayed on since. I still remember the day I arrived. It was strange because even though Pakistan had been a constant presence in my life through my family, the moment I stepped off the plane everything felt so alien. This sense of disconnect was only intensified by the heat and of all the things I have had to get used to over the years the excruciating warmth is still what I struggle with the most.
Anyway, as I began adjusting to a new life so did you. Just before I came, the country had become a frontline ally in the grossly miscategorised 'war on terror' at a damaging cost to its own stability. This new wave of chaos came in multiple forms; growing sectarianism, suicide bombings, political inertia and the disenfranchisement of so many of you from the regular stream of every day life.
There is a tendency to identify 9/11 as the point at which Pakistan's current troubles began. Sure it was a catalyst for a lot of things, however, the roots of the problem reach so much deeper than that, and this is where I come in again.
You see the thing is I am an Ahmadi. That is partly why I originally left the country. Some of you may choose to stop reading here because of the bent of your intolerance and if so perhaps you were never meant to read this in the first place.
Over the past almost 70 years you've whipped up a frenzy of prejudice and vitriol against my community to somehow resolve your own struggle for identity. From the riots of 1953, to declaring us non-Muslim in '74 to the pernicious anti-Ahmadi laws passed under General Zia, no effort has been spared in letting us know that we are unacceptable to you. And yet instead of coming to a better understanding of who you are, you've merely succeeded in locking yourself into hate.
I don't want to turn this into an Ahmadi thing because it’s become much more than that. The attack two Sundays ago was against the Christians of Pakistan. Shias, Hindus, Parsis and even you are now victims of this cycle of vengeance. Nor am I asking for any sort of sympathy or apology on your part.
What I do want you to do though is enter into a bout of soul-searching; to linger for a moment and recognise those of your faults that have led us down this path. A great deal of our failings as a nation are down to you. Until you accept this, things will carry on in the desperate way that they are.
The majority of you may think this unfair. As I mentioned before, you are not all the same and what I have said so far may come across as a simplistic depiction of a more complex reality. In your mind the jihadis may not be representative of the peaceful, fair-minded and moral people that you consider yourselves to be. However, if that is what you believe you are living in denial.
Why do I say this? Well quite simply because you do not do enough to disavow the extremism in your midst. Some of you will donate blood for the victims of a terror attack but then sign up to sectarianism the next time you need a passport. Some of you will attend candle light vigils but only if it is in a nice part of Karachi, Lahore or Islamabad and only if your ivory tower is not too far away. Some of you will speak about your hopes for a brighter future for Pakistan while making preparations to leave the country for calmer pastures abroad. Most of you though will just stay silent seeking shelter in your fear, all the while forgetting that history has never been a kind judge to those who perpetuate evil through reticence.
If you want things to change you are going to have to change something about yourselves. Right now your inaction emboldens those who spread discord. That can only last for so long. Eventually you will have to speak out against the fanatics. Either that or you will lose your country for good. Injustice and statehood cannot go together. The sooner you recognise this, the sooner the healing process can begin. And if not, then sad to say the future of Pakistan does not belong to people like you.

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