Why I Came Back to Pakistan? - By Samad Khurram

Why I Came Back
Samad Khurram, The Express Tribune, September 15, 2010

The writer graduated from Harvard University this spring and is now running Khushal Pakistan, an organisation to help the flood victims samad.khurram@tribune.com.pk

“But, why did you come back?” asked our guard as we off-roaded near Golial Bachaband to deliver relief goods to the flood affected people of Thatta district. As a worker of the PPP he was familiar with Harvard, the alma mater of Murtaza Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto. “Wasn’t life so much better there?” he asked, and continued “You have an opportunity, go and make your life. Why are you back in Pakistan? Nothing works in Pakistan; everyone is corrupt, incompetent and indifferent.”

I was in the process of replying, “I want to join politics, and do my part…”, when I got interrupted by the MPA from the area sitting in the front seat of his Vigo. “Beta, this is Pakistan” he advised supporting an unwelcoming sneer, “Politics here is dirty. You have no idea how difficult it has been for me to remain clean.”

Of the many villages, cities and camps I have visited over the past month, despair has eclipsed hopes and dreams. In Mingora, my guide told me that he came back to Pakistan because of a love interest. It didn’t work out and now he regrets his decision to return from England. “Please help me get out of here” he begged, “You came from America, you can find a way to get me there. Why did you come back? Did you return for a girl too?”

I replied: “I came back for my motherland. I have a few dreams, a few aspirations I want to work towards.” He replied: “The system will kill your dreams” he said, still in disbelief over my answer. “You will soon want out too.”

The ‘system’ is crippled, as I learned first-hand over the past month, but not beyond mending as is commonly believed. It is slow but work does get done. Overhaul is only possible through structural reforms initiated by those already in power. To facilitate change, one has to join politics or the civil service. The general tendency to not try to fix the ‘system’ while cursing it and the country in every breath is not helpful. Utopian dreams of massive, overnight structural changes through a “bloody revolution” are counter-productive. Pakistan needs a gradual evolution of the system by active civic engagement. One small step in this regard is to vote responsibly and put pressure on your elected representatives to work in the right direction.

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