Civis Romanus sum

So great is the power of Rome that any citizen harmed, or judged by anyone other than Caesar, would face the full strength of the Roman Empire. Granted, those who witnessed this power are no longer with us, but the history has lived on in the words they spoke. These three have inspired men for generations to something greater.

First spoken by Cicero, the Roman philosopher, politician and lawyer, these words echoed the guaranteed privileges and rights that were observed and protected by the Roman government for those who understood their obligations as citizens of the Empire. Many will recall reading from the New Testament, when Apostle Paul of Tarsus claimed his rights under Roman citizenship, while under trial in Jerusalem and was presented before Caesar in Rome. Most from our parents’ generation will recall a day in 1963, when President John F. Kennedy stood at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin declaring:

“Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was ‘civis Romanus sum.’ Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is ‘Ich bin ein Berliner.”

As I look at a Pakistan at war with itself, I wonder why we are not able to stand together in sixty plus years. We fight each other on every platform, but it is rarely for the rights of citizenship, honor or valor. It is usually in support of a political figure or religious character that is the flavor of the day, week or month. Many will blame the military for its “adventurism” in overthrowing democratically elected governments that were hapless to solve the people’s problems. Others will blame the elected governments for their corruption and non-existent governance. In both cases, it was the people of Pakistan that wanted these changes and celebrated when the change they demanded was followed. Forget that both the political parties have been tried and tested in the past and failed to deliver anything for the people that elected them. Einstein said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result. Is Pakistan, as a nation, insane? I would argue yes.

We don’t speak of issues, nor solutions, but problems and more problems. If I may ask, where are the obligations of citizenship to Pakistan that demand we be law-abiding, fair-minded and honest? No, those don’t exist because in Pakistan, we live by saying “Pakistan tu Pakistan hai” (Pakistan is Pakistan) or “Sab chelta hai yaar” (Everything goes). We are more comfortable paying a bribe to get something done and then complaining about corruption. We are more interested in using the influence of others to get things done, rather than finding a professional, honorable way to do it. If you don’t pay the bribe, where would the corruption go? If you don’t elevate the government officers to a level of power that requires their involvement in getting basic things done, where would their power go? My personal favorite is the government officer who has five state-owned vehicles at his home, paid for and maintained by the citizens, that his wife, children and relatives use while complaining about how the government doesn’t have money to solve the people’s basic needs.

And be clear, you can move from Pakistan to any country of the world, but you will always be Pakistani. You can’t change your genetic make-up. So learn to be respectful of the country while you are away from it. You don’t have the solutions to the national problems, so stop claiming that it would be a better place if it was more like America, Britain or any other place that you have chosen to take up residence, because we are not America or Britain. Stop calling the country garbage just so you can fit in with your group of friends who hate Pakistan for the stereotypes the media has created about it. No other country’s citizens are so spiteful about their homeland than Pakistanis. Stop being that voice and change the conversation. Start talking about how to fix the issues without a political party because the success of the countries that you aspire to live in are because of the citizens own moral and ethical strength, not the power of the government of the day. Unlike those governments, we believe that these are our rights, to be wasteful of public resources, to trample on the rights of those in a social class below us and to abuse those who don’t hold the same opinion we do. And you wonder why the international community laughs at Pakistan’s leaders.

We have embarrassed ourselves with our own choices. Our own choices.

Pakistan is in need of positive thinkers that can see the solutions through the bomb blasts, corruption and hate-speech. Pakistan is in need of professionals that recognize the potential of the country to be a regional and world leader, when industry experts are handling affairs of the state, economy and security. Pakistan needs you to be a citizen of the republic so that the republic may prosper and grow. The age of the sycophant is dead. Worshipping at the feet of political and military leaders is gone. The republic must stand on the deeds of its citizens.

So, today, let’s all vow to be better citizens of the republic. Choose to be law-abiding, so that we are no longer part of the cavalcade of criminals that flood our streets and lives each day. Choose to be fair-minded, so that we can make decisions on what is best for not only us, but those around us and the country as a whole. Choose to be honest, because without honesty, nothing else is possible. When we choose to honor our obligations as citizens of the republic, we can then demand that the republic honor its promises to us in terms of governance, security and economics. Until then, we are just part of the problem and never the solution.

One day, you will have to answer your children on what kind of Pakistan you have left for them. My parents, relatives and friends are already having problems answering my questions, so I can only imagine what kinds of questions my children will ask. Change the country by changing yourself. Show your strength today so that our children will be able to say, “Civis Pakistani sum,” with all the honor, privileges and protections that will be guaranteed.

This article was originally published on Khalid Muhammad’s Agency Rules website.

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