Confessions of a Punjabi Girl

naeemaNaeema Saeed                                

A Few days ago, I told the editor of the Baloch Hal that I wanted to write for the paper. I see the Baloch Hal as an endeavor, being a part of which would be nothing less than a privilege for any Pakistani. But what could I possibly write about? The things which bother us are predominantly too “Pakistani” that are, ethnically, irrelevant to many in Balochistan.

They are irrelevant because the people over there are routinely abducted and are mercilessly butchered. Yet, this does not stir the national conscience. But what else do I know about Balochistan? Hardly much! I only know about the eventual tragedies resulting from decades’ long negligent behavior and unfulfilled promises. And amongst those tragedies too, I am aware of only a fraction, and within that fraction, the state plays the victim as do the dissident groups.

Finally, I had decided that I would write about the things the Punjabis have knowingly or unknowingly sacrificed for Pakistan and yet their acts are not acknowledged rather their attitude is seen as the imperial power that colluded with the establishment. However that evening I met a gentleman who has been working with a donor agency. He wanted to make a proposal regarding peace resolution, conflict prevention or something like that.

“Why not explore Balochistan?” I asked. He was reluctant. Nobody goes there, he explained. The law and order situation is at its worst in Balochistan. He even said that he would rather work in Afghanistan, where his organization is already working.

For quite a while, I have had a defensive attitude for the Pakistani side. I sympathize with the Punjabis especially, not out of chauvinism but because I believe that the establishment and the Punjabis are not the same and they are often mistakenly deemed as interchangeable. I believe that most of the Punjabis are the well-wishers of the people living across Pakistan yet they are ignorant of what is being done elsewhere in their name.

I believe that the Punjabis are so zealously Pakistani and Muslim that to them being anything else is sort of a sin. So they do not like being Punjabi and they do not recognize or appreciate any other ethnic identity. Many of them do not appreciate the existence of other sects and religions too. It is unfortunate but in a way the Punjabis of Pakistan were never totally free from the colonial imprints. They have been fighting a war of self-assertion and identity for a long time. During all this time, they have not been at peace with themselves or with their surroundings.

The Punjabis speak Urdu and appreciate English speaking people. The Punjabi language is usually shunned away as a language, especially in urban areas. So, their Pakistani selves have suppressed their native culture. They imitate the West and at the same time eulogize the Muslim conquerors. They think that Mahmood Ghaznavi is the real hero and they intentionally skip Bhagat Singh in national archives. Many of them know nothing of Bacha Khan. All I see is that the Punjabis are suffering from cultural cringe and an identity crisis. They assert the Pakistani self so much that they often overlook the basic tenet of the constitution i.e. Pakistan is a federation.

A federation does not simply imply that there should be two tiers of government. It implies unity in multiplicity. Federations rule out regulating cultural differences. It is not merely a congregation of the units, states, provinces or cantons. It is celebration of diversity. Yet, many Pakistani and the most of the Punjabis ignore these facts. Because of the complexes surrounding their identity, I sympathize with the Punjabis. However, on that very day when the guy told me that working in Balochistan is the last of all options, my all delusions vanished away.

It dawned upon me that the Punjabis and the rest of Pakistanis are not simply ignorant, they are deliberately ignorant. Their fault lies in ignoring the dark reality intentionally. The fault lies with the media too. Recently two earthquakes jolted the province of Baluchistan. In spite of that, all we see are few still shots and footages on television channels. The new island in Gwadar, on the contrary, was given live coverage in news bulletins. I believe even 2011 London riots were given better coverage by the Pakistani media than the earthquakes in Balochistan that have claimed hundreds of lives.

In the backdrop of this indifference, every Pakistani is a culprit. We want to own Balochistan without putting any effort for it. This definitely is a form of imperialism. We blamed the state machinery for the Dhaka tragedy. In the age of flourishing electronic and social media we cannot play innocent anymore. We know the situation in Balochistan is unstable but we just ignore and sit idly. This surely is not going to help.

Another disgraceful episode was the pre-election campaigns of Pakistani politicians. Many claimed legitimacy by just setting foot in Balochistan. They branded arranging one political rally in Quetta as their success. That surely is a point of mourning. It points out to the irony that they had been absent from Balochistan for years without caring about what had been going on and they appeared on the scene for political maneuvering just before the general elections. Moreover what about post-election scenario? There is silence again.

Pakistanis know that the conditions are bad, but how and why they are they so bad? They do not know and their attitude shows that they are not very keen either to change the status quo. All the government does is to blame India and so do many media persons. To improve the situation, we need to find out our own faults and work on them. Nobody from outside could have flared up the situation to the extent that we have done in Balochistan. It is high time that we in the Punjab realized our responsibilities toward Balochistan.

Naeema Saeed, based in Lahore, is a student of law and a freelance journalist who has previously worked with Geo Television

  • Fatima Batool

    Very well said Ms Naeema

  • Ejaz Asi

    ‘So they do not like being Punjabi and they do not recognize or appreciate any other ethnic identity. Many of them do not appreciate the existence of other sects and religions too.’ ermmm what was this girl smoking?

    You go to any part of the country and if you find a Punjabi, chances are he/she can tell you half of the culture around him/her by his/her own actions and not just knowledge. This integration and acceptance can not simply come and exist without tolerating or actually appreciating other people and cultures. I used the word culture and not sect and religions because I don’t consider ‘religions’ and ‘sects’ to be bigger deal than culture, of course.

  • Ejaz Asi

    ‘They imitate the West and at the same time eulogize the Muslim conquerors.’ Can’t say how that’s representative of Punjabis so much more than other Urban populace from other cultures and ethnicities.

    ‘We want to own Balochistan without putting any effort for it.’ Absolutely and let’s just not put all the blame squarely on Punjab alone as you haven’t made the case so successfully why is it Punjab’s fault alone or responsibility to care for federation.

    Naeema used the word Punjabis and Pakistanis as if she is not one. I can only read confessions without guilt. Oh wait, she wants the rest of Punjab and Punjabis to feel guilt alone. I am not sure if she deliberately singled out Punjabis from Punjab and not included Seraikis, Hazaras and Kashmiris from whatever faults she found in Punjab.

    • Faisal Syed

      saraiki is a dialect of punjabi,not a different nation or language,despite propogating by punjab haters specially MQM and their puppet

  • Abdul Aijaz

    A wonderfully crafted piece! could not be better!

  • bawar baloch

    hum nay mana k tagaful na karen gay lekin !
    kakh ho jaen gay hum tum ko kabr hony tak …

    • sahil baloch

      It is a good note she has written it down but It is too late to convince the people of Balochistan through the colonial based writing……

      • sahil baloch

        Baloch people are the oldest settler of their mother land. They have always been in search of free land where their national identity and culture is preserved ….we do not have any relation with Punabi and Pakistan……………… long as punjabi believe that Balochistan is the part of Pakistan, we baloch do not have any relation with punjabis……….Baloch people have mistaken to secure the sucking kafira azum when his life was in danger…………………………….we will relation with punjabi on the humantarian ground once our nation-state restored………..

  • Rizwan Awan

    She raised wonderful points and questions. I like her column and want to share it on my page, but I am not going to do so. Because she used the word “Punjabis” many times (Intentionally or unintentionally), it smells like prejudice! (Sorry!) She could write the same things as a general Pakistani, doesn’t matter, who belongs to which class, race, cast or religion, it would more fantastic!

    Well, I appreciate her effort, and want her to keeping it up!

    • Salman

      Exactly, she talked about the people like you who does not like other to love their ethnicities or speak their language.

  • Usman

    I do agree with some parts of the article but the whole premises for the young lady seems to be deeply flawed. She probably is forgetting that what little “abadkar” live in Balochistan live under constant fear. Unfortunately Balochistan’s separatist spew same hatred and propaganda against Punjab and Islamabad as the usual Pakistani dish towards Amrika/Israel.

    When we do need a honest introspection, it should not be based alone on emotions and that too misplaced. We Pakistanis need to get practical about things to begin solving things.

    From last few days now I have been constantly asked by Punjabis and non-Punjabis around me on how they can help quake struck people in Balochistan and all I am doing is trying to find a safe way of getting the things done. It took me a lot less time to arrange things for 2005 Earthquake in North and floods of KPK.

  • Nasrat Baloch

    This is what Balochs have been telling and complaining for years. They are not only ignorant but also made ignorant and apathetic.

  • Adnan Aamir Sarparah

    One of the best articles that I have read on Balochistan by a non-Baloch. She has really done a good job and admitted what others are so reluctant to admit i.e that they know nothing about Balochistan, to begin with. Those who are just criticizing her that She used Punjabi rather than Pakistani, please grow up.. Pakistan is a conglomeration of many ethnic entities and discarding your identity is just running from reality.

    We want people like the author who accept the reality, not those who concoct baseless reasons to deny that anything wrong is happening in Balochistan.

  • Sami

    I am a Punjabi and i just want to tell the author that stop being so apologetic at all. Punjabis know what is our identity and we are not ashamed of it at all .In Punjab millions of Non Punjabi live and enjoy but they dont want to see any Punjabi in any other piece of land. For example Baloch live in many parts of Punjab but if a Punjabi will try to buy the land in Balochistan then they will protest and will not allow that. Similarly in Pukhtoon dominated regions in KPK and in Sindh as well no Punjabi can live easily as locals dont allow them to live easily. It is their hatred that is coming forth every time and we are blamed for everything.

    So stop being apologetic and be proud of who your are. The other ethnicities of Pakistan hate us because they cannot see their own mistakes and they just search for Punjabis for their own problems. A weak person blame others for their own shortcomings so in Pakistan a Punjabi is the easiest scape goat to blame for all of the Problems.
    After 1947 most of the Federal Level jobs were taken by Immigrants and Urdu speakers but even they blame Punjabis for everything now a days.
    Many consider Punjabis as easy going so we are being framed and bashed everywhere and on every forum. But i am telling everybody the day any conflict will arise then we will be the first one to raise up.
    Also anyone want to break Pakistan then go ahead and Punjabis are also the settlers of their own lands for thousands of years and surely we will not die with hunger or any other problem because we are hard working individuals and we know how to bring forth any solution in case of any problem.

  • Saad Ayub Jajja

    Grow up. we don’t have an identity crisis but we are faced with some serious national crisis; our survival is at stake here. We are all Pakistanis. We know who we are; proud citizens of Pakistan and our allegiance should not be questioned based upon our mother tongue or traditions.

  • Tariq Mehmood

    I agree…lets do something…lets protest..or at least speak…

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