Ofcourse We’re Not In Dubai, Get Real Pakistan!

Only yesterday did I come across an article by George Fulton (“George Ka Pakistan”) namely “At least We’re Not In Dubai” in which he pens down his dislike for Dubai calling it  “It’s a plastic city built in steel and glass”, its people and their ways while hailing Pakistan in comparison to it.

George begins his article by the lines: “We haven’t got a lot to be thankful for these days in Pakistan. But at least we are not Dubai.” and then he starts his proposed ‘observation’ of Dubai as a tourist:

“It has imported all the worst aspects of western culture (excessive consumption, environmental defilement) without importing any of its benefits (democracy, art). This is a city designed for instant gratification a hedonistic paradise for gluttons to indulge in fast food, fast living and fast women. It’s Las Vegas in a dish dash. You want to eat a gold leaf date? Munch away”

It is not necessary for every country to have a democracy as George deems for Dubai, both Dubai and the United Arab Emirates have flourished and glittered under this system and why should it be changed if its people have no objection to it? Let me remind all of the late founder of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed Al-Nahyan’s answer to a journalist in regard of choosing democracy:

“Why should we abandon a system that satisfies our people in order to introduce a system that seems to engender dissent and confrontation? Our system of government is based upon our religion and that is what our people want. Should they seek alternatives, we are ready to listen to them. We have always said that our people should voice their demands openly. We are all in the same boat, and they are both the captain and the crew. Our doors are open for any opinion to be expressed, and this well known by all our citizens…”

  George further writes:

 “You want to drink a Dhs 3,000 bottle of champagne? Bottoms up. You want a UN selection of hookers at your fingertips? Tres bien. Let’s start with the malls. These cathedrals of capitalism, these mosques of materialism are mausoleums of the living dead. Slack jawed zombies roam around consuming food, clothes and electronics in a desperate attempt to fill the emptiness of their existence.”

Exactly what has made him believe that all of the above activities are not carried out in Pakistan? They may be hidden but they are nonetheless huge.

Calling the people of Dubai as “Slack jawed zombies” is both biased and wrong. It is their land and they have the right to freedom to do anything be it eating like gluttons or shopping, as long as it does not harm anyone or breach laws. And it is quite evident that in the Pakistani society, these segments and groups of people (are growing) and do exist.

 “Whilst at the Mall of the Emirates the azan goes off. Nobody appears to move to the prayer room; everyone’s too busy performing sajda before Stella McCartney, genuflecting before Gucci, and prostrating themselves at Prada. With Dubai, one recalls F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.”

Isn’t this also something that is witnessed in Pakistan? How many times do we notice that all markets or places are abandoned at the call of prayer?  Indeed we are wholly away and distanced from our religion, indulged in worldly desires.

George should not ignore the fact that Dubai is one of the most visited places in this world, with the number of tourists in millions, expected to swell to 10 million this year. And whatever is present in Dubai today has played a pivotal role in its success. Why else would tourists like him go there? He can not deny, Dubai allures everyone with its glow.

 “Dubai is a moral failure a society obsessed with wealth and status. Everyone is trying to keep up with the Jones’ or the Javaids. You see the goras with their perma-tans, streaked highlights and their flabby cleavages.

The upwardly mobile South Asian man prances around wearing a silly shirt with a large picture of a polo player on a horse, whilst their women wear oversized sunglasses and carry oversized handbags. And the Arabs walk about with enough gold bling to blind you at ten paces. But not everything that glitters is gold. And Dubai is not only morally bankrupt it is also financially bankrupt.”

The point of Dubai being a moral failure made a smile erupt on my face, moral failure? This is what best describes Pakistan today. It is this moral failure that reflects into our today as the Quran says : “Tumharay amaal tumharay hukmaran hain” or “ Your actions are your leaders”. The mind-set of our people already mirrors their obsession with wealth, status and worldly frivolousness.

As far as the demeanor, outlook towards life and appearance of the residents of Dubai is concerned, what right does anyone have to judge them? What right does one have to object to their ways? Have we looked at ourselves? People in Dubai shop, stop, squander with the money THEY EARN and it is entirely up to them how they spend it and how to lead their lives.

 “Lately, Dubai, and its ruler, Sheikh Mohammed Al-Maktoum have been compared to another piece of literature — Percy Shelley’s famous poem Ozymandias, which illustrates the inevitable decline of all leaders and the empires they build. Shelley finishes it thus: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains.”


One of the most oft-repeated reasons for Pakistan lagging behind others today is cited as failure of leadership or lack of leadership. Atleast Dubai has a a genuinely acclaimed and loved leader. Dubai was a desert, and the world admits and accepts that the vision and sagacity of Sheikh Mohammed  has lead to where it stands today, a globally-known and visited place. With immense progress and success, Dubai may be debt-ridden but it is a thousand times better than where Pakistan is today. And even if he built an empire, it is not as bound to fall as Mr.Fulton predicts.

George ends his article as:

“For all its irresponsibility, at least we have a robust media. For all the police corruption, at least we are not a police state. For all our littering, at least we have paper wallahs. Remind yourself that at least we have a heart. At least we have a soul. At least we are not Dubai.”

His intention behind writing such an article, he says is to uplift Pakistanis and erode the cynicism that has dwelled into them for they are still in a better state. What surprised me most was the response of Pakistanis to his article, not only were they extensively praising him but applauding him for unveiling the ‘reality’ about Dubai. This attitude shows that Pakistanis hear what they want to hear and see what they want to see.

We have a heart? Then how can we forget the 700,000 Pakistanis living in Dubai who were welcomed by its leaders and its people to their land where most of them went for the opportunities it offered and have built fortunes or if not fortunes, improved and bettered their standard of life while supporting their families back home in Pakistan. Our people have and are benefiting from Dubai, then how ignorant can we be to blindly applaud the baseless censuring of it.

We as people of another nation, and that too a highly flawed and blemished one, have no right or privilege whatsoever, to deride any other nation in order to restore our confidence in our country or be thankful for what we are today.

We don’t need any reason to love Pakistan but merely the fact that it is our identity, our freedom, our home and our future should push farther in our hearts, the love for this gift of Allah.

 For all that George Fulton has written, I beg to differ , pointing out the flaws in other nations and degrading them will never uplift us but only solidify the degree of over-confidence and stagnant thinking that we possess as a nation but also add up an evident glint of ignorance and arrogance to our mind-sets. It will cement the illusion in us that we are perfect as a nation and nothing needs to be changed. We have defects as a society and as a nation, we acquiesce with the wrong, we refuse to admit our mistakes and such articles make us numb to the prick of our conscience and accepting the reality about us and the need to change. One should first glance at the order of their house first before pointing out at other homes. As Oscar Wilde writes in his only novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” :

“Everyone knows how others should lead their lives but none know how to lead theirs”

 So we, need to focus on ourselves rather than others; we need to wake up to the need for a difference in ourselves which shall light the torch of change that shall illuminate Pakistan rather than focusing on others and acquiring self-contentment by unrightfully finding faults in other nations. 

– Hafsa Khawaja

The Chain That Shackles Us – Poverty, Inflation and Child-Labour

We as Pakistanis have developed the habit of being unappreciative and ungrateful to what we have around us. Humans, as we are, are ravenous beasts wnating ever more. Recently, I heard a couple of young people I know whine and complain about not going to a posh restaurant where they wanted to dine but instead were going to a restaurant of equivalent standards. This made me ponder, have we ever seen what lies around us?

According to information available with WFP, the number of food insecure people in Pakistan has increased from 35 million to 45 million during and after the 3-F (food, finance & fuel) crises.

Also Pakistan ranks fifth among countries having the highest number of hungry people (to an estimate), with women and children among the worst affected.

A recent incident clearly paints the picture of desperation that has developed between people : in Karachi, women were killed due to a stampede as they all tried to acquire bags of flour.

The inflation rate in Pakistan was 13.68 percent in January of 2010. Inflation rate refers to a general rise in prices measured against a standard level of purchasing power.

In our country, around 85 per cent of the population lives on income less than two dollars a day and food costs are more than 50 per cent of the monthly expenses. And a surge in food prices has adversely impacted the food security situation in the country, resulting in poor children being deprived of the right of education just for the cause of working to do menial jobs at tender ages to help their families meet their ends.

According to a newspaper:

“Many wealthy Pakistanis employ children as servants, often to help with their own youngsters, a relatively common practice that Pakistani law does not prohibit. Slight and shadowy figures at the edges of birthday parties and nights out in fancy restaurants, these young servants, who rarely earn more than $50 a month, form a growing portion of Pakistan’s domestic labor force.
It was raw need that brought Shazia into the house of Chaudhry Naeem, a prominent lawyer who lives in a wealthy neighborhood in this leafy city in eastern Pakistan.
She received $8 a month to wash his floors, his cars and his toilets, her mother said, money that went toward paying off a family debt”

Inflation and poverty has lead to one of the most serious issues of child labour in Pakistan. As known to all, our population in the rural areas due to their lack of education and understanding, increase the number of children in their households as to strenghthen their man-power and with the envisagement that they’d be helped by their very children to facilitate them in times of need and by working.

Such was the case of Shazia Masih, a thirteen year old girl who worked as a maid for Former President of Lahore Bar Association and was tortured to death in Lahore. The girl worked for a mere amount of money for her family, that many in Pakistan would squander in a day.

The Senate was recently informed of 3.3 million children in Pakistan as child-labourers.
A report was published in 2009 :

“In Pakistan children aged 5-14 are above 40 million. During the last year (2008), the
Federal Bureau of Statistics released the results of its survey funded by ILO’s
IPEC (International Program on the Elimination of Child Labour). The findings
were that 3.8 million children age group of 5-14 years are working in Pakistan
out of total 40 million children in this age group; fifty percent of these
economically active children are in age group of 5 to 9 years. Even out of these
3.8 million economically active children, 2.7 million were claimed to be working
in the agriculture sector. Two million and four hundred thousand (73%) of them
were said to be boys.”

Child labour is also associated with physical, mental and moral exploitation of children. Not only is the child-hood of these children crushed and drained away but their mental growth is also stunted. These children when once, start working for their ‘Sahabs’ or ‘Bajis’, are blatantly mistreated and remain underprivileged of their rights. They are often beaten up as ‘punishments’ for little mistakes that these children might commit such as stealing. And why wouldn’t they?

*A child as defined by UNICEF is anyone under the age of 18.

When these children see us, of their very own age group and yet living a luxurious life and more fortunate, they start buliding grievance and grudges inside them that can be stated as a reason for the rise in crimes of murder, robbery that these youths later commit.

Though child labour is an entirely different issue in itself, my intention behing writing this is that the next time one of us begins to gripe about a meal not cooked of our choice, be thankful and remember the many children in Pakistan who sleep without a shelter each day, with hunger pangs resting in their stomachs and no hope for a better future.
Look around yourselves and aim for a change by working in your own capacity to put an end to the suffering of those who are victims of such atrocities or impoverished in any shade for every one of these issues are inter-linked and if we don’t break this chain, no one will.

Hafsa Khawaja