In mid-1993, my fiancé and I burnt our boats on pursuing the American dream of “kids in college, a yacht, a dog, and a house in the burbs”, and decided to return to our motherland upon graduating college. Like many a Pakistani student, we had also decided mutually to pursue not only our careers, but also to build and foster our personal and family lives as we envisioned this dream, our own dream - a wide circle of childhood friends; proximity to parents and family; the opportunity to travel for work and leisure; bringing up our children as carefree we had been nurtured; the perks of being “first class” citizens, all supported by that dream MNC job!

By no stretch of the imagination was this dream ambitious, neither fanciful. There happened to be a beckoning business-friendly government under Nawaz Sharif, and, elitist as it may sound, it would not be incorrect to state that a certain class of Pakistanis was flocking homeward, the new “greener pasture!” Whilst contemplating the decision Stateside, I had been filled in by family members and certain long-time professional mentors of only some of the many opportunities available to “you youngsters”. To state just a few, there were exponentially growing opportunities with the likes of Orascom and with Motorola in the cellular telephony area. For more adventurous sorts, and to add variety and spice, Levi’s initiatives in procurement and merchandising from motherland Pakistan were propelling a mushrooming growth in buying houses. The young conservative-types drawn towards banking would easily be absorbed by none other than Citibank itself, for the Nawaz regime had liberalised foreign exchange, and young bankers were not only peddling wholesale consumer banking, but offering hitherto unknown branded services. Well, Pakistan offered a more-than-buoyant stock market valued then at over $12 billion, and the hard-core financier had his pick of a milieu of state-of-the-securities securities’ firms. International road shows to further excite investor confidence were nearly a biweekly affair. Pakistan, it appears now, had much to sell back then and may even have lost focus along the way. Our own homegrown and perhaps workable IPP policy was a baby of those years that unfortunately never ever matured, though we did manage to set up Pakistan’s flagship HUBCO, a 1392MW near-behemoth. In short, Pakistan circa 1993 meant “possibility”.

The country needed economic managers extraordinaire and in large numbers. In order to train them, there were schools, such as LUMS, attracting international students and faculty, as well as international donors. The MBA class of 1995, which I was a part of, had, among many, a young Pakistani boy who had graduated Cornell, and had worked at Sun MicroSystems in the US before wagering on Pakistan. One of my closest friends during those years was a young Pakistani girl, who finished University of California Irvine, shrugged employment offers Stateside and bet for Pakistan. There were so many others that I cannot even begin to recount them. The overall sentiment was to go entrepreneurial, and a spirit to mould Pakistan through service, whether at an MNC or a local corporate. Graduates routinely willingly refused blue-chip corporate offers to assist small-time leather manufacturing firms in as “un-alluring” of locations as Sialkot.

When I look back, my generation, growing up, was lost to Ziaul Haq’s shenanigans. What with there being all sorts of arbitrary laws such as any female accompanying a male in an auto vehicle ideally carry their nikahnamas lest they be charged and indicted for adultery! And this in the name of Islam. And this to legitimise an illegitimate government.

While successive sets of rulers erected their own versions of colourful, dreamy facades, no one ever led us in a manner to have us see a single one of those dreams to fruition. While governments fell left, right, and centre on charges of corruption, the day has perhaps come now when our symbols of national pride and the ultimate guardians of our soil would be criticised for failing more than somewhat in their duties to painstakingly patrol our front, and this despite every blue-blooded Pakistanis’ monetary, physical, and psychological sacrifices to support them all through the years. Admittedly, it is no time to play the “blame game”. For the generation that has followed me know not even whom exactly to blame in a long parade of equally guilty criminals.

While I, like most Pakistanis, wonder even today if we actually do live like “first class” citizens within our own country, most of the MBA class of 1995 have realised their dreams. However, they are not economic managers here in Pakistan, but have shifted their loyalties elsewhere. My class fellow from Cornell and Sun MicroSystems doesn’t wager on motherland Pakistan anymore. He lives with his family in Canada. The female LUMS student from University of California, Irvine is married and settled in California. She does not even entertain the idea anymore of a visit to Pakistan. And why? For they, like many others, have been robbed of their most valuable asset ever - their dreams. But which set of rulers is to answer?

My wife and I have doggedly lived in Pakistan, more or less, all the way since 1993. We are amongst those who continue to hope someone somewhere would hear our sounds of silence and, if not us, at least allow our children a wholesome life!

The writer is a financial consultant and a teacher; and still pursues the Pakistani dream.

Email: taimurtsh@gmail.com