Pakistan-Bashing in UK
By Dr Shireen M Mazari

The Blair and Charles Windsor visits notwithstanding, one can see a concerted effort in Britain, both at the official and media levels, of targeting the Pakistani state along with the growing targeting of the British Muslims. Nor is this merely conspiracy-theorizing. Rather, this view is based on prevailing realities on the ground.
To begin with, having got their citizen Tahir Mirza out despite the death penalty awarded to him and despite the numerous poor Pakistanis still languishing on death row, the British refuse to sign an extradition treaty with Pakistan. This allows them to continue to harbor criminals wanted in Pakistan, including Mr. Khokhar, the owner of Margalla Towers, on the pretext that they cannot sign an extradition treaty with a country that has the death penalty. Why are Pakistanis so eager to handover British citizens to Britain without an extradition treaty? Is there no notion of reciprocity anymore in the case of Pakistan? Are we to be pushed around at will by all and sundry in the US and Europe? How long do we have to succumb to a psychological confidence deficit post-9/11?
Nor is British duplicity confined to the extradition treaty issue. Recently, the Foreign Policy Centre (FPC) in London publicised the holding of "an event" on "Why Balochistan matters: Insurgency and the politics of military rule in Pakistan." The event is to take place in the House of Commons on December 4, 2006.
There are six speakers listed for the event, out of which three are Pakistani -- Asma Jehangir, Javed Mengal and Senator Sanaullah Baloch. Then there is that perennial Pakistan-basher, Selig Harrison, along with an old Czech communist, now a member of the European Parliament, Jaromir Kohlicek and the FPC's Philip Fiske as the chair. Having checked with Asma last week, I discovered that, as she put it, "I have neither been invited and nor will I be going to London". Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that only one viewpoint from Pakistan has been sought in what is clearly an intrusion into our internal affairs.
This suspicion is bolstered by the writeup in the copy of the invitation from the FPC which makes a clear distinction between the Baloch and Pakistan -- which as a Baloch I find insulting. Of course, reference is made to "resource-hungry" China -- as if the US and others are not equally resource hungry, despite the onslaught on Iraq -- but the most damning revelation of the FPC's agenda is the sentence that states, "In 1998, Pakistan escalated the regional arms race by detonating a nuclear bomb." Even the most ardent Pakistan-bashers can hardly lay the onus for a nuclear arms race in South Asia on Pakistan, given the fact that India tested first. Anyhow, the FPC feels that Balochistan should be on the radar of the international community but surely with all the attacks on Muslims in Britain and Europe, and the oppression of the Muslim identity, the FPC would have served its cause better by putting its own country and Europe, or the United States for their actions in Iraq and elsewhere, more squarely on the international radar.
But isn't this what free speech is all about, readers may well query? Of course it is, but then divergent viewpoints must also be heard unless there is a preconceived agenda. It is not so much a question of the Pakistani government sending speakers, which would immediately raise issues of credibility, but of the FPC inviting opposing viewpoints if it really was interested in understanding Pakistan's internal affairs.
However, there is an even more serious issue linked to the FPC, and that is its linkages and funding. It is not exactly independent in the proper meaning of the word since, according to the FPC's own website, it was launched under the patronage of Prime Minister Blair while its membership scheme was launched from the Office of the then British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. And membership was not for the public at large but strictly by invitation. So clearly the FPC has links to the British government and is also funded through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, British Council, National Audit Office, Home Office and so on. But like some other government-funded institutions, the FPC also gets funding from foreign governments and the corporate sector. In this context, it should be interesting for Pakistan to note that apart from the Norwegian, Danish and Swedish governments, the FPC is also funded by the Brunei government. Among its corporate sponsors are Nestle and Reuters. Given the large market Nestle has in Pakistan, do our people know that Nestle is also funding Pakistan-bashing agendas as is our supposed ally, the state of Brunei?
All in all, clearly the British government has an agenda for Pakistan that is negative and damaging for our country. It is time the Foreign Office protested strongly to the British Foreign Office and sought an explanation as to what the FPC is really up to especially when it deliberately distorts facts, such as who actually started the nuclear arms race in 1998 in South Asia; or makes wild assertions with no facts to prove these such as the statement relating to China when it declares that China sent "security officials" for the construction of the port at Gwadar.
If one were to make a rational educated assumption it would be that this FPC program on Balochistan is linked to the US-UK agenda of redrawing borders of the Greater Middle East which sees the establishment of a large Kurdish state and an independent state of Balochistan carved from Iran and Pakistan. Ironically, the Brits themselves are not prepared to even let go of colonially occupied territories of Northern Ireland and the Malvinas. What is the linkage here between the FPC program and the redrawing of borders issue? The FPC invitation letter which declares that Balochistan matters (to Britain that is, since it will always matter to us as it is part of our country) because it "crosses the states of Pakistan, Afghanistan (sic) and Iran and in some ways (one wonders what they may be) is the 'Kurdistan of Central Asia.' More absurdities follow because, according to the FPC, it is Balochistan that is a "crucial element to Britain's relations with Pakistan and the Pakistani community in the UK." Could one dare ask, since when?
It seems that our pliancy towards demands from the UK and our reticence to be more assertive on crucial issues has been misconstrued by the British as a sign of weakness. Meanwhile, our tolerance for abuse at the hands of foreigners seems to have reached new heights -- in contrast to our intolerance within the domestic context.
Apart from our tolerance, our self-deprecation also continues ad nauseum. So we see ourselves as being uncivilized because our men stare at foreign women, but what about the Brits spitting at and abusing burqa-clad Muslim women in their country? Where is the real and dangerous intolerance for diversity? It is time we looked more questioningly both at the official and civil society levels as to what the British agenda is towards Pakistan and Pakistanis -- beyond the occasional appeasing rhetoric.
(The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The News)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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