Pakistan: Was it worth it?

After the escalation of attacks on overseas nationals and the increasing lawlessness, British Pakistani’s have moved on to ask was it worth it?

As Pakistan marks the 64th year of independence the mood among British Pakistani’s is more despondent than celebratory; a stark contrast to over a decade earlier.

It is the 14th August 1998 and the Civic Theatre in Nelson, Lancashire is a throng with celebration. The British Pakistani community like many of its counterparts up and down the length and breadth of the country are celebrating the 51st anniversary of the birth of their motherland. Except this year there is extra cause for celebration.

Pakistan has just a few months earlier detonated its first nuclear devices. The great equaliser had arrived and Pakistani’s were now safe from any threat from the outside. The cake tasted that bit sweeter in the knowledge that the motherland was now secure.

But the safe haven that was envisaged by so many of us from a far has turned into a living nightmare. The same individuals who were filled with joy over a decade previous talk of a war zone and day by day deterioration of institutions and infrastructure. Others have simply given up talking and lost any hope for the nation.

Law and order seems non-existent in many places and now the threat from the outside that seemed to have been eradicated is a daily occurrence in the form of drone attacks.

Only last year members of the Yousuf family who hail from the Nelson community were horrifically gunned down whilst on a trip to Pakistan. Unfortunately their story is not unique in that a number of British Pakistani’s have faced incidents of an unsavoury nature whilst on a visit some of whom like the Yousuf’s have not lived to tell the tale.

According to Foreign & Commonwealth Office statistics, 245 British nationals required consular assistance in Pakistan during the period 1 April 2010 – 31 March 2011 with twenty seven deaths and four hospitalisations occurring.

Writing for Reuters last year Pakistan’s High Commissioner Wajid Shamsul Hasan talked of the “human bridge” that exists between Britain and Pakistan following post-World War 2 migration that brought many Pakistani’s to Britain.

The foundations of that human bridge are no doubt weakening as increasing numbers of second and third generation British Pakistani’s see little point or hope of returning to a land that their fathers and grandfathers left, not even to visit.

My last trip was over twenty years previous. At the tender age of two it was hoped by my parents that it would be the start of a regular pilgrimage to keep me attached to my roots. Despite the wish to return several excuses have prevented this from taking place in the interceding years.

Now however the excuses are no more and any immediate thought of return is akin to walking into the eye of the storm. No thank you!

As the Foreign and Commonwealth Office increasingly adds to the list of places to avoid it effectively cuts of large swathes of the nation to visitors. British Pakistani’s may now ask that even if they were to return, where are they to go?

Karachi at present is a battlefield riddled with gang violence and political massacres. The North West of the country has replaced Afghanistan as America’s favourite shooting ground. Balochistan is continually plagued by secessionist movements who are now engaged in a fifth conflict with the state since 1947.

Even the famous abodes of peace that make up Pakistan’s Sufi Shrines (which have acted as historical melting pots for the people of the Indian Sub Continent’s different faiths to come together in harmony) are now in the line of fire.

As the space becomes ever restricted the talk in some academic and mainstream circles amongst students, professionals and even the common folk is retrospective in that perhaps Pakistan wasn’t such a great idea after all.

That was two years ago during my postgraduate study. It’s safe to assume that the ‘perhaps’ is no more.