Selection By: Shahana Khan
It’s almost the break of dawn. A sweet and oddly attractive sound reaches the ears of an old man. He does not just change his side and fall right back into the inviting arms of sleep where the realm of dreams are waiting for him, no, he stands up and prepares for Wudhu. He turns on the tap for water, to receive nothing but thin air. It takes a micro second for him to realize that there is no electricity, thanks to load-shedding. But is it enough to stop him? No! In fact there is nothing that can stop him from offering his prayer today. Every single one of his salah for the last few days has been followed by a special du’a for his country and his people. After all, this is the least that he can do. With the fear of Allah and love for his country in his heart, the old man heads towards the Masjid.
“Stop right here and hand over all that you have!” a harsh voice says as the old man feels a pointed thing, perhaps a knife, against his back.
“Son, I have nothing on me. I just came to offer my prayers.”
But no matter what he says, no matter how softly he speaks, the thief just goes ahead and starts checking the man’s pockets. When he finds nothing there, he decides to do with the old man’s watch.
“Take the watch if you want, I don’t mind, but son leave this life of crime. It is the time of Fajr, come offer salat with………” It isn’t destined for him to complete what he has to say.
“Shut up you old piece of garbage! Shut up and take off your watch!” With this, he punches the old man, plunges the knife into his stomach and runs away with the watch.
As the old man falls down to the ground, he feels something leaving him. Something that is coming out of his body, something more precious than his blood. It is his patriotism. Suddenly the old man’s body fills with frustration and hatred where patriotism has resided for so long.
A 24-year old guy wakes up with the beeping of his alarm clock. He jumps out of bed and drinks an energy shake made with raw eggs. With that down, he heads out of the house to run his mile for the day. He is on a strict routine; after all, he has a competition coming up. He is desperate to win it, not for himself or his own publicity, but for his beloved country. The country can certainly do with some positive publicity in the midst of all the crisis.
He has hardly gone a couple of hundred meters from his home when he collides with a car which is clearly over speeding. As he falls down to the ground he immediately knows his arm has broken. It takes him a minute to comprehend that the searing pain is not just coming from his arm, but every part of his body. And why wouldn’t it? The two bulky men who have just come out of the car are beating the hell out of him, kicking every part of his body their legs can reach with as much force as they can muster. They are taking out their anger on him because, apparently, it was his fault that they collided with him.
While his teeth and arms break, something else also shatters. It is his patriotism that has powdered down to fine crumbs leaving an abyss in their wake.
An 18-year old girl is roaming around her home, excited and happy. She is finally going to cast her vote; she finally has a chance to do her part for her country. As soon as the clock ticks eight, she sits in the car. Moments later her brother comes out as well and they head towards the polling station. The car stops outside a polling station and her brother gets out first. Then her entire world turns to slow motion, while she keeps on trying to get over the feeling of falling down a long, steep and dark pit. Her brother is wearing badges in support of a specific political party. Perhaps it is too much for the rival party supporters to swallow. They see her brother outnumbered, and pounce upon him. What happens next is still a blur in her memory, but she remembers standing in the midst of all those men, trying to stop them from beating up her brother.
As the girl screams, pleads and cries, something more than her tears seep out of her eyes. Something more delicate and precious than the pearls sliding down her cheeks … her patriotism … something she has nourished for the last 17 years of her life. But now that she is finally old enough to bring a change, on her very first attempt, her patriotism is made to leave her forever.
A tall man stands in the corner, watching all this silently. The man is pretty old and has a mysterious smile on his face. His expression is unreadable and incomprehensible but his smile is definitely whimsical. He takes a pen out of his pocket and starts writing on a piece of paper. Once done, he sticks the paper to a wall and vanishes, just like that, into thin air.
The next morning a little boy in a school uniform, with a bag heavier than his whole being, passes by that paper. He plucks the paper from the wall and starts to read it. Oddly enough, a mysterious smile like that of the old man creeps on the child’s face as well. But the child’s smile is more determined, stronger and strangely powerful. He brings the paper to his heart and wipes the tears that have started to trickle from his eyes. The paper reads:
“Yes, I know how you feel. I know it is hard. I know you feel like running so far away that all these hardships seem like a dream. I know you are asking yourself ‘Why should I live in this country with all these atrocities when I can very well live abroad in better conditions.’ Trust me when I say I know your internal turmoil, because I’ve been here. I was working for India when Congress rejected me for being a Muslim. I started working for the Muslims but they saw me as a joke and ridiculed me. Later in 1940 I was on my way to make Pakistan when Muslims of these areas (which are now Pakistan) attacked me and all those Muslims along with me who dared to dream of Pakistan. We were humiliated by our own brothers in front of Hindus. But I endured it all, I faced it all. I fought it all and by the end of the day a part of me wanted to leave the sub-continent to live in Britain with a 6-digit salary. But with every new dawn, my hope gained a new life. I kept on the struggle and carried on with the fight. Not for myself, not for wealth or status. I did it for my religion and my set of beliefs. I made this Pakistan so that YOU can live here and follow Islam in peace. I know people will be thorns in your path, but remember, the darkest part of the night is just before the dawn. Good days are just around the corner, just hold on my fellow Pakistanis because this country is the Fort of Islam and it was made for YOU. It’s your duty to drive the traitors away from this sacred land with your vigilance. Just don’t lose hope and don’t let the sacrifice of millions go in vain. Rest assured that Allah will help you the way He helped me. Long Live Pakistan!”
Muhammad Ali Jinnah.