Whenever anyone – be it a media outlet or a public figure – brings up the numerous problems facing Pakistan, people are quick to pounce and demand, “Why are you concentrating on the negative image of Pakistan?” This simple question is symptomatic of a greater problem in Pakistan — the idea that in order to love Pakistan, you need to turn a blind eye to its problems.
When Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won an Oscar for her movie “Saving Face”, she ought to have been hailed in our home country. A Pakistani had won one of the most prestigious prizes for a piece of art in the world. Yet the country was critical of her, condemning her for “showing a negative image of Pakistan”. But is it really an “image”? Acid attacks are real, there is no doubt about that. And yes, they are rooted in Pakistani society’s appalling treatment of women. Will this problem solve itself? Doesn’t it need to be acknowledged by society so it can be solved?
A similar situation was observed with recent short film ‘Stray Dogs Come out at Night’ which was selected to be screened at an Oscar-contending festival and deals with ideas of toxic masculinity and sexual repression; it received similar criticism. Why do Pakistanis have this tendency to wish away issues and pretend they don’t exist rather than actively try to solve them?
This is not to say that Pakistan is a nation full of suffering. There are countless beautiful things about the country as well as good people who live in it, but the good does not wipe away the bad, nor vice-versa. Loving one’s country does not mean pretending it is perfect. Loving one’s country means loving the good and also acknowledging the bad, so one can begin to work towards eradicating it.