Tolerance or Apathy?
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 levels?
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 News)


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