After completing my Master's from London, and while I waited for my visa to come through for Saudi Arabia (the country I grew up in), I had a chance encounter with a strange phenomenon in Pakistan: corporate (oblique; society) alienation.
It started like this: at a friend's recommendation, I decided to join a banking institution of international reputation during the period of transit. He had a few connections and felt it would do me some good, from my credentials and professional experience point of view. He was also sure that the interview process would be a breeze.
That it was, certainly. Not to come across as boastful, but I was able to impress almost every one of the senior management I was asked to meet. It should then come as a surprise, that despite their positive attitude, I did not even get as far as an official offer letter.
At first, I felt it was human error; Human Resources is nobody's favourite the world-over when it comes to sensitive matters like these. They might have forgotten to post it. Or perhaps they got the address wrong. Or it got lost in the post, even. Calls with various people were established to understand the issue. My early acquaintances shrugged it off, telling me not to worry and that the letter will show up eventually. It did not.
Weeks went by.
Ramadan came along. I began to wonder whether my fasting brethren were finding it difficult to cope with the work during the day. (Much later I was told that several working folk could not cope with the workload during Ramadan, and therefore, found it convenient to not fast. Just a side note for your information, to keep the post positive and relevant to the topic).
To conclude, I was awarded an exhaustive (and exhausting) list of excuses, from incomplete documentation (that was provided at the interview stage) to sudden organisational restructuring. There might have been some truth in what I was told, who knows. But the prolonged delay pointed to another fact (also experienced by a close friend of mine, with a similar educational track): territorial marking.
It was a rather gentle way of prodding me to pack my bags and leave. Somebody(ies) was afraid of getting replaced. It made sense, since most of my matters were being handled by my colleagues-to-be who took it in turns to comprehensively question my background (including, where did you get your accent?).
I may be wrong, but this is what sense my instincts fed me at the time.
I refer to this phenomenon as strange, because our media (the only source of news I have abroad) paints the very opposite picture on the subject. Television shows and dramas are teeming with overseas Pakistanis boasting foreign accents and nationalities. And all of them seem to have found decent work, with old and renowned faces still holding on to their share of the cake.
Which makes me wonder: was I not returning to Saudi Arabia, would I have been given a chance to squeeze into the corporate world of Pakistan? Ever? I mean, accent or not, without a job I too am an "unemployed" citizen.
I even get it that the country is going through a difficult time (probably its worst): the persisting energy crisis, an incumbent government and rising inflation are not making it easy to earn a decent living. But is attacking other's bud the only way to secure your own bloom? Isn't this the Islamic Republic of Pakistan that follows the Islamic principle of a man's rizk being predetermined by the Almighty?
Why are we afraid, then? Why can't we learn to share, then?
It's nearly midnight. At the stroke of twelve, the calendar would read August fourteenth: our much awaited independence day. So, in-between all that spirit of patriotism, the anthem-singing, the parading, the flag-hoisting, can we not vow to change ourselves?
Can we not embrace a fellow Pakistani irrespective of whether he speaks Punjabi or Pushto, wears skull caps or shorts, is fluent in English or not, wants to be an actor or a doctor, drives a Corolla or a Cultus?
I dream of that Pakistan. And I know that it is very much there - tucked in the far corner of every Pakistani's heart. I see the glimmer.
All it needs, is a little initiative.
To make this sab ka Pakistan. A Pakistan for everybody.
P.S: congratulations Pakistan for lasting this long. I hope you last longer.