18/08: Pakistaniat and Common Sense

I have often enough heard that Pakistani citizens tend to violate laws when at home and strictly follow them when abroad. I have found this to be true to quite an extent, specifically where following the law abroad is concerned. Even when inside the country, the educated citizens tend to follow the laws most of the time, most being a key word here. I think the best way to determine the attitudes of the citizens of any country towards the law is to observe the roads in its cities and villages and see how many people follow the traffic laws. During a recent trip to UK, I found it very refreshing when I saw people following the law and not taking liberties with it. Obviously, there are exception but as a norm, people abroad respect the laws and expect others to do the same. This is a very positive trait which I liked a lot.

During my trip, I also visited Southall in London for dinner at the Lahore Restaurant. The streets were littered with crushed cans and packaging materials of various products [surprisingly enough, one can find a lot of chewing gums stuck on roads in most parts of England - rather disturbing when you consider the nicer aspects of the country] and there were an excessive number of Indians, and a comparatively smaller number of Pakistani and Bangladeshi citizens amidst large boards depicting posters of Indian films being shown in the local cinemas. It is even called Little India by some. I felt pangs of embarrassment when I compared the place to other areas of London. All it takes is cleanliness and a better way to dress and talk to improve the soft image of the place to any visitors like me. Is that too much to ask? Pile the desi chicks [young women from India and other surrounding countries who are born or brought up (or even both) abroad] on top of this who think they have conquered the world by dressing in Western attire and their lame attempts at cat walking makes one want to flee to the North Pole, make an igloo and become a hermit. But enough of that! I seem to be digressing from the main point of this post.

Breaking the law is not something to be proud of. It's rather shameful and the consequences could be dangerous as is most often observed in road accidents where violating the traffic signal results in putting your self and some other unassuming victim at risk of fatal injuries in car accidents.

I recently read an article by Adnan Gill titled 'Pakistaniat and Common Sense' which prompted the above thoughts. I have posted another of his article on my site before which can be read here. The article made me stop and think about the reason(s) people violate laws. To me, it primarily seems as a way to stand out and be noticed. There are other reasons but this seems to be the most relevant of them all

On that note, I leave the reader with Adnan Gill's thought provoking article. All credit for the article below belongs to him. Without further ado...

Pakistaniat and Common Sense
by Adnan Gill

They say, once a month a metamorphosis takes place which turns a man into a werewolf. In a similar metamorphosis, once a year around 14 August, the blood of Pakistani-Americans turns green and we return to the grounds of University of Southern California to celebrate the birth of Pakistan. It is a unique experience that freshens the memories of the country we grew up in. The people you meet there and their behavior could fool you into thinking that we are back in Pakistan. Just like every year, this year too the experiences of Pakistaniat were not much different either.

As soon as we got closer to the fair venue the traffic turned from bad to ugly. As if ‘Stop’ signs didn't matter and driving on both sides of road became legal, the race to enter the parking lot got so competitive that people started to ignore the traffic rules altogether. Commonsense says, obeying the traffic rules would get everyone in faster and nobody would get a traffic ticket. But then what do we know; maybe in our hearts Pakistanis like to donate money to the city officials through their traffic tickets and strive to get their insurance rates higher. Others decided to save the $10 parking fee by parking on the streets. It didn't matter whether they were parking on the yellow or the red lines. Commonsense says it's cheaper to pay the $10 parking fee than paying $60 in fines. But then what do we know; maybe Pakistanis were trying to increase the city's revenues by paying through the parking tickets.

No sooner had we entered the parking lot a raging mad Pakistani captured our attention through his yelling and cursing at a female parking worker. Apparently, he was unhappy about how much time it took him to reach the parking lot as compared to others. Maybe, all he wanted to do was to inform her that she was racially profiling him against rest of the Pakistanis, but she called the police instead. Almost immediately, Police sirens could be heard. I could swear I have never seen anyone disappearing in the darkness of night as fast as our Pakistani brother did. Commonsense says, when treated unfairly, one should sue the discriminator and become rich. But then what do we know; perhaps all he wanted to do was to educate her in the art of fairness.

We got into the parking lot, but were held up for another 10 minutes; because another Pakistani brother wanted to squeeze in his van in a space big enough for a bicycle. When he failed to get in head first, he decided to back into it. Low and behold, the space refused to widen even though he was desperately trying to reverse into it. Commonsense says, it's faster, safer, and more convenient to park 10 spaces farther than parking in a tight spot that will cause him to put dents in his and other people's cars. But then what do we know; maybe he had a shrinking-ray gun that could have shrunk other peoples cars.

Since there were no signs or anyone pointing towards the main entrance, we decided to try our luck by walking in the same direction as the others were. It turned out people had found a hole in the fence, with a red sign that read ‘do not enter’ next to it, to enter the fair. Commonsense says, the organizers must have put signs to guide the masses towards the official entrance. But then what do we know; the organizers were probably trying to increase our IQ through the process of trial and error.

A dirty little secret is, most of the Pakistani women are lured to the 14 August Fair to check out the latest fashions, and most of the men are lured to it in a pursuit of the wide variety of desi gourmets available. Therefore, like most, our first order of business was also to throng the food stalls. Organizers were kind enough to provide folks with long sheets of paper so that they could sit on the ground and feast on their favorite dishes. After devouring their food most of people simply got up and left the paper sheets in the middle of the grounds. Commonsense says it's considered common courtesy to clean up after oneself. But then what do we know; people probably thought since organizers were naive enough to arrange for the paper sheets, perhaps it was their duty to clean up after them too; or at minimum, sooner or later, the paper sheets would decompose and provide nourishment for the grass.

Everywhere one could see green balloons and Pakistani flags proudly flying in the wind. But not a single American flag was in sight. Commonsense says, it's good etiquettes and appropriate, while celebrating the birth of Pakistan, not to forget the country that is graciously hosting us; as well as the chance that it can give Pakistanis a big backlash for appearing to be unpatriotic Americans. Not long ago the Latino population in Los Angeles learned a hard lesson when they flew and waved only Mexican flags during the protests against the immigration policies of the United States. Their PR blunder only resulted in hardening of the prevailing negative impression (illegal immigrants being a burden on society) the rest of Americans had against them. But what do we know; organizers probably believed Pakistanis didn't have to prove their patriotism to the Americans, because the Pakistani President Musharraf believes he has trusting friends and allies in the White House in the shape of the President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Who cares what rest of the Americans think?

To the credit of organizers, for the entertainment purposes, they collected a host of renowned Pakistani singers. To name a few Alamgir, Ali Haider, and Najam Shiraz were there. The rising Pakistani stars were also quite impressive. Between all of them, they managed to keep young Pakistani-Americans on their feet and dancing. There is no doubt that most of the people were having a good time and enjoying the concert with their families. Unfortunately, at least one of the singers (without naming) was clearly drunk and shouldn't have come on the stage. Commonsense says when drunk, don't come on the stage, because drinking liquor is still a sin in Islam, and Muslims certainly don't believe drunks can be good role models for the impressionable children. But then what do we know; he probably believes liquor squeezes better performance out of him and Muslims prefer performance over a sin.

Just like in any other concert, a crowd of people gathered behind the stage, not accessible to the general public. Some of them were the artists; others were staff-members and organizers, while others were special guests wearing red wristbands who probably considered themselves to be superior and above the rest of the mortals. One such middle-aged guest, high and mighty, with a receding hairline, probably imagining himself to be the gift from God to women, decided to descend upon the sidelines to showoff his cigar-lighting skills. If he wasn't rude enough to block the view and to blow the smoke in the faces of handicaps and elders sitting in the wheelchairs and chairs, he invited three other friends to join him by lighting their cigarettes too. Some elderly women politely requested them to move away and to the side, which they did. But as if the cigar-smoker regretted easily succumbing to the request of ordinary elderly women, he stepped back, once again blowing vile smoke and blocked their view. When they asked him again to move, he smirked and stood his ground by widening his stance and asked another friend to join him in putting down the rebellion. To us, his rude behavior suggested he wanted to teach a lesson to ordinary elderly women for daring to interrupt his corralling of younger women. As it so happened, some of the gentlemen who were observing his rude behavior decided enough was enough, and they told them to move away and not in a so polite manner. To that the crowd cheered and applauded the intervention of the gentlemen, and our once high and mighty Don Juan had to move with his pride wounded and trampled upon. Commonsense says don't embarrass yourself needlessly. But then what do we know; he probably believed the cigar-smoke had therapeutic effects on the elderly and ill.

All in all, despite certain aberrations, it was a good experience and a nostalgic reminder of our good old country. Children got the opportunity to experience Pakistani culture firsthand, women folk caught up with the latest fashions, and men doused fires in their bellies with Pakistani cuisines. Most of us will certainly return to the Pakistaniat and same fair grounds in the years to come. May Allah bless Pakistan!
Asad  General 
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Comments made

While the article may put the country in a bad limelight, yet again, I consider it necessary for realizing what is being done wrong and then trying to improve it.
18/08 01:24:38
While I didn't quite finish his essay, he's spot on. But it's more an issue of following common sense, especially when it's in alignment with the law.

In this country (the USA), there are now so many laws I can't follow all of them, no matter how much I'd like to, how much I was brought up to. I joke that it's illegal to do anything more than breathing, but that's a sick joke based on a nasty reality....

- Harold
18/08 04:41:06
@ hga:

That could be true but what to do of people who don't even follow very basic laws? It's quite disheartening.
18/08 11:14:11
Good question.

A functioning society depends on most of its members following basic rules of conduct. Once too many don't, there's e.g. no way the police can arrest and the courts can fine/jail enough of them, although a society can try changing the calculus by meting out severe punishment, but that doesn't really work either (both tend to engender if not reflect a contempt of the people for the government---although sometimes that contempt is well earned. To have been totally law abiding in the old USSR wasn't exactly a moral position...).

Do the sorts of things you observed and he writes about happen a lot in the home country? In just some places/sub-cultures?

- Harold
19/08 03:22:53

It was a rhetorical question but thanks for replying anyway. :)

The problem is that violating laws becomes a social trend; a sought after quality [talking specifically about teens and young adults]. On a wider scale, the laws themselves become a way to control those who oppose you. That is why in countries where there is little rule of law, the poor has little hope in the judiciary since the powerful will never be affected in any way when he/she violates the same laws. Even in developed countries, corporate giants and powerful figures abuse the laws. That leads to anarchy and mob rule in some cases. Vigilantism becomes common (as was tried by the Red Mosque students recently) and consequently they don't even try to see if there are any provisions in the law to address their grievances.

Most people do tend to follow laws but there exists, in any society, a group who care little for the law, be they ordinary teens or corporate giants. It is not that one witnesses such things often enough. It is just that one gets to hear of this too much through the grapevine (in casual discussions) and media to just outright ignore it and consequently concerns for lawlessness rise and make them self known.
20/08 00:20:50
This is a good post - I agree with your reflections..
Good to have stumbled across your blog
cheers, R
30/08 11:16:53
Well I think the most important thing is the sense of responsibility and it cannot be developed by government, it can only be done by urself. During the rule of Ayub Khan ppl use to make lines on bus stops but the fact behind is that always some Rangers' soldiers were there to impose the law and after that nobody bothers to make line.
14/10 00:05:54
It made me laugh.
30/10 16:24:33

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