By Shireen M. Mazari
Given the abuse
the Pakistani nation is taking from outside the
country and from within, we can only be suffering
from one of two maladies: excessive tolerance or
sheer apathy. In either case, we stand to lose out
in the long run.
Dealing with the abuse from outside, we have had
the publication of a highly twisted, factually incorrect
report on Kashmir by MEP Baroness Emma Nicholson,
and we have had an inexplicably mild response --
no protest, no exposing of the half truths and lies
contained within the report.
Worse still, Mr Karzai from a besieged Kabul, seems
to be losing increasing touch with reality and has
his daily diatribe against Pakistan which sounds
ever more fanciful. The latest was his claim that
Pakistan wanted to enslave the Afghans. Given that
it has always been Afghanistan that has had irredentist
claims against Pakistan, his statement is a trifle
absurd. Our passion for having the Afghans free
of all shackles has been proven time and again --
from our support for the war against Soviet occupation,
an occupation which India, now Karzai's great "supporter",
refused to condemn; to our allowing the Afghan refugees
free access across our country; to our support for
a war against terror which is proving to be costly
for us on many counts thanks to the erroneous policies
of the US and its Western allies. Had we wanted
to enslave the Afghans, our policies would have
been very different. In any case, at present Afghanistan
has so many occupying/liberation forces that Mr.
Karzai needs to look closer within his own country
to see who is enslaving whom.
Nor is this all. We have tolerated, and continue
to tolerate with not even a whimper of protest,
the threatening Indo-US strategic partnership and
its critical component, the Indo-US nuclear deal.
As our soldiers and civilians have laid down their
lives for the US-led war on terror, we have had
to suffer, ad nauseum, US leaders explain the nuclear
deal in terms of India's "uniqueness".
Yes, it certainly is a unique country -- where democracy
notwithstanding, religious minorities suffer violence
and death, often supported by state governments.
It is not just Muslims, but Christians also -- remember
the setting on fire of the Australian missionary
and his two sons while they were in their jeep?
Of course, the massacre of the Muslims in Gujarat
elicited not a word of condemnation from the US
and the hate mail I received from Hindus over my
last column suggesting that communal hatred was
a historical reality merely proved my point. Most
recently, the desecration of Maulana Thanwi's grave
in Uttar Pradesh showed the continuing communal
hatred that exists in India today. In our love fest
with India, we in Pakistan have maintained our silence
over these abuses of Muslims. Yes India is unique
because it can literally get away with murder --
not to mention a terrible nonproliferation record.
Should we put all this down to simple US ignorance?
In the case of Pakistan, not a single erroneous
hiccup of ours goes unnoticed.
Coming back to our excessive tolerance or apathy,
we continue to give open access and facilities to
foreign scholars who continue to heap abuse on us
with equal regularity. Yet we give them the access
they seek to give their works credibility -- despite
the biases and half-truths contained in some of
their writings. When will we learn to deny such
biased "scholars" the free access they
seek? More important, would our scholars get similar
access to officialdom in the US?
On the issue of tolerance, my daughter made an interesting
observation the other day when she commented that
all our urban centers, including Peshawar, sell
Christmas decorations and cards, and create a festive
environment around Christmas time; but in Europe
one does not see any public commercial display of
Eid cards or Eid bangles and so on. Yet we are labeled
as intolerant while the Europeans are supposed to
be the tolerant ones. How true. Pakistan's Christian
population comprises under two per cent of our total
population, yet Christmas celebrations are given
time on state TV and there is no dearth of public
displays of Christmas trees, Santas, decorations
and so on. In contrast, take the case of Europe:
in France, Muslims comprise almost 10 per cent of
its total population yet there has never been a
public display of any Eid festivity.
This cannot be the result of the French secular
creed since Christmas festivities are very public
and December 25 is a public holiday -- not so Eid
of course. As for Germany, its Muslim population
comprises almost four per cent of its total population
and the same absence of Eid in terms of public holiday
and public displays is seen there. Coming to Britain
and we all know the massive Christmas lights and
commercial hype. Now Muslims comprise 3 per cent
of the population of Britain, and 52 per cent of
their non-Christian community, so should they not
have some public display of Eid and perhaps a public
holiday or two? Getting TV time would probably be
asking for too much from the "secular"
Europeans! So before Europe cashes in on its labels
of tolerance and secularism, let it take a hard
look at what it is really all about.
I suppose if we as a state and nation are so tolerant
of abuse from outside, it is not surprising to find
us taking similar abuse from within. It is not religious
extremism that is our real national problem -- since
the bulk of the populace is comfortable with its
moderate Islam -- but corruption and the present
sale of our national assets to external buyers --
including strategic islands near Karachi (and we
do not know the component of Indian investment in
these Gulf companies). True, there are voices of
protest, but they have been muted, as if the nation
has gone into a state of complete apathy.
How else can one explain the silence over the revelation
that the record of $13 billion losses of the KSE
crash have simply been wiped out from all three
computer sources: KSE, the brokers and the SECP.
With all the firewalls modern systems have, is it
believable that such a failure could have happened?
Is anyone bothered -- both at the official and unofficial
Nor is anyone bothered that we are fast becoming
a land for the rich only --with public land being
sold dirt cheap for expensive housing schemes and
golf courses. The CDA, of course, has not bothered
to hold any public meeting before it undertakes
controversial projects, despite being required to
do so by its own laws. As for the Constitution and
the Environment Protection Act of 1997 -- they seem
to have become irrelevant in the present scheme
of things in terms of public land usage. Nor is
the problem limited only to Islamabad -- this disease
of giving away public land and assets cheap to private
developers is rampant across the country. And the
exploiters, both within and outside the country,
are relying on our national apathy -- call it tolerance
-- to get away with whatever excess they wish to
perpetrate against the Pakistani nation.
(The writer is director general of the Institute
of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The