By Sarah Suhail
This is one of the most difficult stories I’ve ever written. It’s because I’m about to bash a country, a home that I truly love. But, for better or worse, these words need to be spoken, and this story needs to be heard. – Even if it is simply to tell those who are in Pakistan that I worry for you and for all the children. I worry about where the country is headed, and what opportunities are being taken away from the next generation.
For a very long time, we never wanted to leave the country. It was my home after all. But the decision to leave Pakistan was made one evening when we were coming back from the beach. It had been a gorgeous, rainy Karachi day – with just enough sun and clouds to bring a little piece of heaven to the side of the ocean. All of that changed on the way back home when we got stuck in a roadblock. Two boys had been kidnapped in this particularly rough neighbourhood due to a political rivalry.
Now my family was in two cars. We were two elders who had trouble walking, four kids and seven adults. The protestors blocked the roads off and began to burn truck tires close to us. Soon enough, the smell of burning rubber started coming into our cars and then came the aerial firing. If you’ve never been in such a situation you cannot imagine the painfully loud sounds of repeated gun fires. You can, however, imagine the fear that these sounds plant in the minds of children.
I put my daughter on the floor of the car, my cousin put her son on the floor, and we covered them with our bodies. Just in case a stray bullet came flying through the roof. That was the day I said to my husband,”Enough. It’s time to find a way out.”
After this incident, we went through a number of dangerous situations that people in Karachi have accepted as part of their daily lives. In most other countries, you’d think these things only happened in the movies. Once, there was a target killing at the gate of my daughter’s school. Another time, my husband and parents were held at gunpoint in our driveway, just as Aaliyah was about to go out and meet them. I can’t even count the number of times my husband couldn’t leave the office because it was just too dangerous. To receive calls from a loved one and hear gun fire in the background is just not something you want to experience on a regular basis.
We got lucky that our Canadian immigration came through before something worse happened. Many people in Pakistan have drawn a line in their minds – one which dictates when they’ve had enough. There are also the very brave and possibly stubborn optimists who have accepted that they are going to live and die in a country that is as volatile as the sun’s surface, The way I see it, sending a child to school in Pakistan is no less than fighting in the front lines of any war.
Can you even imagine what it’s like sending your most precious belonging, your child, to a place where terrorist organizations have clearly said they would target? The bravest people I know, whose job dictates that they remain strong when things get tough, no longer know what to say to make others feel hopeful and courageous.
Everyone I know back home accepts the situation they’re in and makes the absolute best of it. After all, the kids have to go to school, the parents to work – life has to go on.
I know from experience that in a city like Karachi, the fear of going out can cripple you. And if you let it, you live in fear of negatively affecting the development of your child’s confidence. It’s a real struggle: the pull of keeping everyone safe versus making the most out of a difficult situation. To everyone living there, especially my family and friends, you’re always in my thoughts – even if we don’t talk, even if I’m half a world away – I write this in honour of you. To let the world know how unbelievable brave you all are, every minute of every day.
More about the Author
Sarah Suhail is a momma of two – one on earth and one in heaven. She’s gone from being a teacher to a social media and human resource strategist with many professions in between. Writing started off as a passion to connect with awesome people around the globe. Her mommy blogging revolves around rediscovering the world through her daughters eyes by finding dragons in the clouds and painting fairy houses for their garden. She has written for tech giants, global consultants and writes for two of her own blogs: Trippy Traingle and JigsawHR. When not writing she’s crocheting, baking, drawing and watching cartoons with her daughter.
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I know that feeling. Our relationship with Pakistan is like a love affair. Passionate, complicated and extremely volatile. Karachi is a city like no other. Once you live there you’re affected forever. Thank you for sharing this because it does honour those living there regardless of choice or necessity. They are brave, surviving against all odds to live their lives fully, making the most of every moment. Always praying for you beloved country!
Karachi is an amazing city! The opportunities for business and family are endless there. It has such incredible potential and the people who grow up there are incredibly diverse and resilient. Here’s hoping to a stable and more prosperous Pakistan!
I would ask all those fellow Pakistanis who think they have left for greener pastures in a Foreign land without their Relatives/Families and Friends etc. Why leave for Canada,Australia,America,Dubai etc.? When Cities Like Islamabad,Rawalpindi,Lahore,Multan,Abottabad are Comparatively or relatively a safe heaven when compared with Karachi. Yes Karachi is a City with Law and Order Situation. Even I probably wouldn’t like to live there but fact of the matter is Karachi is not the whole of PAKISTAN. Is it far better to Live a Life of being treated like a 3rd rate Citizens? than living in your own country. On the other hand It is understandable that People leave bcz of their Children for Foreign lands but is it the only Solution ?
You put a valid question Jazzman. As someone who grew up in the states and then spend 20 years in Karachi I felt like I wanted my daughter to have the exposure and opportunities that are significantly more present in a developed country. I’m talking about things like camping, festivals, a multicultural society, museums and so much more. I also understand your thought on being a 3rd rate citizen but honestly in 4 months of being here, we’ve been only welcomed with open arms.
As for it being the only solution – no – there are always multiple solutions. Unfortunately, for a Pakistan to offer more for it’s younger generation, a very big revolution needs to be brought about. One which puts the powers that be in charge of improving society rather than being involved in very complicated politics. I’ve mentioned in my other posts how I was fortunate enough to create a very good environment for my daughter. But even that doesn’t cover it all.
I really really appreciate your thoughts and comments. This is a discussion that we could go back and forth on until significant change finally does come about in Pakistan. I hope that you find what you’re looking for, for your family wherever you are.
Sarah! I would tend 2 disagree with your point of view regarding having exposure and opportunities like u mentioned in your post such as camping, festivals, a multicultural society, museums and so much more. Come on Do u think these are only available in Karachi. Having Grown up in a family where we used to be posted in another city every 2-3 years including Karachi , i have roamed around the country and can quite easily say that these opportunities are available in our metropolitan Cities like Lahore- isb-Rwp etc etc.Correct me if I may be thinking it in a wrong way, but my perception is that according to you KARACHI is the only Developed City having a Multicultural Society presenting ample opportunities for Kids growing up? Is it so ?
On the other hand I hundred percent agree with you on Bringing about the Change, but the fact of the matter is, this change has 2 be brought by us , the citizens of this country, no-one elz is going 2 do it for US. We have 2 step up and make ourselves counted today for the next Generation. Why Cant we as a society Stand together to bring about the Opportunities and exposures for OUR KIDS in this age and time, Why do we wait for the POWERS in the Corridors to do it for the people of this country. We perhaps are sitting and waiting for Last 65 years for that to happen and perhaps we will keep on waiting for the next 65. My point is how Many of US will leave this country before things get better and Isnt it us who have 2 make a significant Change rather than keep on leaving this country and settling in another.
A healthy discussion is a Development of mind if taken positively and Like you said maybe It can make a significant difference for you or for me in one way or another.
Hi again Jazzman! I think we have a miscommunication. In no way am I saying these opportunities are available in only Karachi – all major cities across Pakistan are the same for me! 🙂 I did say developed country – and that’s why we moved to Canada.
And yes – we bring about the change. In my 20 years in Pakistan, I spent MANY years working with NGO’s and volunteering in my free time. Of course, there are phenomenal people and organizations who have done more than I have and will continue to do more. At this time, for me, it was time to move on for the sake of my daughter.
Please do connect with me on Twitter or Facebook!
Good post Sarah…. I strongly believe that it is everybody’s right to live where he/she feels safe but still I would prefer to live in Pakistan; may be it’s because I live in Lahore, a relatively safer city. Lahore has some very good schools where you get the same atmosphere as you get in a developed country’s school plus there are scores of festivals and extra curricular activities here.Living in a country where your family and friends live is very difficult to leave and personally, I feel raising daughters even sons is safe and easier here; easier in the sense that your kid will not feel alienated from his own country when he grows up because this is what I have seen in most families who decide to go abroad as people don’t feel comfortable visiting to Pakistan. But still it’s your decision and May Allah keep you n your daughter happy, healthy and safe:)
Agreed completely with your point of View and yes at the end of the Day Its your decision where you want 2 Live, but being Born and Bred HERE be it Lahore,Isb,Rwp,Khi has its own Charm.
Thanks for the lovely comment Sana. I feel fortunate that I had the first part of my childhood in the states and the second in Pakistan. I love Lahore – I have a lot of family there and it’s awesome culture wise.
It really is a very personal choice for everyone. My family is still in Karachi but I have family in this part of the world as well. I will always be Pakistani at the core, my daughter will always know her roots. It’s who we are. But we’re also expanding our horizons with the opportunities that have been laid in our path.
Have a great day!