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Pakistan: Fighting Stereotypes and Celebrating with India on Independence Day

Pakistan is, without a doubt, stranded in a plethora of problems. Mainstream and social media is usually fraught with issues ranging from terrorism and sectarianism to economic and power crisis.

However, there comes a day, once every year, when even the most cynical tend to let go of their skepticism and dwell in a rather romantic notion of hope. That day is August 14, the day Pakistan got its independence from British Raj.

Google doodle

On social media, the day kickstarted with a discussion of a special Google doodle that Google Pakistan rolled out on its Pakistan page.

Google Pakistan's Independence Day doodle featuring Truck Art

Screen grab of Google Pakistan's Independence Day doodle on August 14, 2012.

The doodle features truck art, a popular art form that is inspired by commercial transportation in Pakistan which is adorned with colourful paintings and poetry. It has attracted international attention and acclaim over the years and it was truly heart-rendering for Pakistanis to see their cherished art featured on Google's home page.

Cross-border wishes

There was also a lot of cross-border talk in this year's Independence Day discussion in Pakistan.

Pakistan's Independence Day is August 14 whereas India's is August 15, so jubilations can go hand-in-hand. But this year's social media talk hinted that animosities between the two nations have significantly diminished.

Indian Twitter users actively congratulated their Pakistani counterparts and soon, a hastag #IfThereWasNoPartition was trending, which was coined pretty much to show how the two nations continue to be bonded, culturally as well as socially. [Note: Partition is the term used to describe the division of the Indian Subcontinent into India and Pakistan by the the British Raj in 1947.]

Journalist Omar Waraich tweeted from his profile:

#IfThereWasNoPartition South Asia could well have been nuclear-free.

Journalist Shiraz Hassan said:

#IfThereWasNoPartition then one could have breakfast in #Lahore and Lunch in #Amritsar daily

Speaking about Zaid Hamid, a popular televangelist who has a knack of basing his patriotism on anti-Indian sentiments, blogger Shahid Saeed wrote:

#IfThereWasNoPartition Zaid Hamid would've been jobless.

 AM, from the other side of the border, tweeted:

 #IfThereWasNoPartition folks from Lahore would party in Delhi on weekends and Delhiwallahs would drive down to Lahore for shopping & food.

Fighting stereotypes

While a few spoke about the issues plaguing Pakistan, most restrained themselves to positive aspects, motivational quotes and the hope for a better future. Mehreen Kasana, an avid blogger based in Pakistan who also runs an incredibly popular Tumblr account, decided to launch a new Tumblr, titled ‘Pakistanis Against Stereotyping’ on August 8, which now has over 1000 pictures like the one below.

From the 'Pakistanis Against Stereotyping' Tumblr. Image used with permission.

From the ‘Pakistanis Against Stereotyping’ Tumblr. Image used with permission.

The description of the Tumblr page states:

We’re here to tell the world that it is virtually impossible to stereotype a population of 190,291,129 est. people into one racist, demeaning, hurtful character.

We’re diverse, we’re different, we’re humans just like you. Stop stereotyping. Stop the hate.

When I asked Mehreen Kasana what was it that persuaded her to do a collage of sorts about stereotyping towards Pakistanis, her response was:

I run a Tumblr where thousands follow me and it's always fun interacting with them but more often that I'd like to have it, I get these anonymous or even people with real IDs asking me whether Pakistan is really what the media portrays it to be, are we all terrorists, are we all angry and hopeless people, do we really kill and set things on fire all the time. It made me laugh until it got annoying. So I thought why not take folks on board with pictures and tell the world that no, we're not what the media portrays us to be. There's a lot more to us. I want to tell the world that it is virtually impossible to stereotype a population of 190,291,129 est. people into one racist, demeaning, hurtful character. Not only is it wrong, it is unfair. It is dangerous. It justifies all sorts of discrimination and bigotry against us. People need to rise above it.

I went with it on 8th August and received more than a hundred replies in the first hour. It eventually reached to more than a thousand photos that I'm trying to upload one by one. What started off as a one day project thing is now a Tumblr for everyone everyday. I just want racists to learn that people should never be typecast. Humans don't deserve that.
It is indeed true that Pakistan is in the eye of the storm and has a long way to go towards being more progressive, tolerant and economically viable. But then, none of that is possible without relentless hope. And on August 14, one gets to see a lot of flickering hope among Pakistanis.

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