An Open Letter to Charles Windsor
By Dr Shireen M. Mazari

Prince Charles, Your visit to Pakistan is a trifle mystifying, but in the traditional Islamic and South Asian traditions of hospitality you will not find the Pakistani state wanting on that count. In fact, to prove this state's commitment to the US-led war on terror, your visit was marked by the bombing of a madrassah in Bajaur, which also led to the death of many innocent children. But then Muslim civilians have become the usual collateral damage in this increasingly contentious war. So on the issue of the war on terror you can reassure your country's leaders that Pakistan is going even beyond the extra mile and at great cost to its own citizens — despite the continuing Pakistan-bashing and army-bashing at the hands of the British media and defense establishment, including your rather ill-informed Defense Academy, which produces factually incorrect analysis with dangerous repercussions.
However, coming back to the timing of your visit, what purpose will the visit serve? For Britain certainly it will be a major showcase for appeasing its Muslim citizens, especially those whose ancestors are from Pakistan. For us in Pakistan, your visit brings back bitter memories of the "historic ties" between Pakistan and your realm. After all, it was the betrayal of the Indian Muslims by your uncle, the late Mountbatten, and his collusion with Nehru and the Congress leadership that sowed the seeds of the prevailing Kashmir dispute. Just as some Muslims remained fooled by British doublespeak then, so many even today continue to be fooled by such doublespeak and hypocrisy. So it would be better if you and your state would focus less on these "historic ties" which led to great injustices being perpetrated on the Indian Muslims and the emerging state of Pakistan.
As for the British legacy -- it is a mixed bag with a cumbersome bureaucracy but a viable educational system and a most useful legacy of the English language. Unfortunately, as the education system in Britain deteriorates so does the O- and A-level system in Pakistan. To our shame, we have not been able to evolve a viable and efficient indigenous educational system to replace the old colonial structure which means the British Council earns a respectable income from this poor country since every parent has to pay almost Rs5,000 for every O-level and a little more for every A-level paper a student appears in apart from the fees of the private schools! But this fault and continuing dependency is entirely ours.
As for the stated main purposes of your visit "interfaith harmony", which could also be linked to multicultural harmony, surely at this point in time you would have done better to speak on this to your countrymen, especially your political leaders. After all, with the veil being seen as evil and every Muslim student being spied upon by university teachers and Muslim parents being told to also act as spies on their children, what hope is there for the interfaith harmony you seem to be seeking?
Not that our declared Islamic society is perfect but you should begin preaching in your own backyard first. What are the British values your political elite want all British citizens to commit to? Are they white Christian values or truly multicultural values, which means accepting the diversity of your society?
Of course, to some extent Britain will remain a Christian rather than a secular society since the Queen is head of the Church of England. But we have been told by your publicists that you want to be seen as a "defender of faiths" so perhaps you could remove the blasphemy laws in your country or at least make them applicable to all religions rather than just Christianity. As for preaching peace and tolerance, there has been much focus on the role of war in Islam. But what about the warlike battle hymns in the Church of England's hymn books? You have the power to have those removed so that Muslim preachers can then be honestly exhorted to also stop their violent preaching -- which, in any case, are anti-Islam.
So "interfaith harmony" seems to be more urgently required in your own realm, but as far as we in this Islamic country can see you have maintained a strange silence as your countrymen have unleashed a concerted attack on Muslims -- from their dress to their beliefs. If British Muslim youth are alienated there is a fault within your society that is responsible for this, not a two or one week visit to Pakistan.
While you remain concerned on this subject of "interfaith harmony", how about visiting your Dominion, Australia, where the prime minister has drawn the Muslim community into a farcical and ridiculous controversy which has brought out the worst on both sides: an obscurantist cleric on the Muslim side and a rabidly anti-Islamist prime minister and white Christian Aussies on the other. Given that the Queen is still the head of the Australian realm, it would be better to first establish "interfaith harmony" in that disturbed realm. Also, perhaps you could remind them that "Australian values" in terms of the Whites may not be worth propagating given how the foundation was and the massacre and practical elimination of the Aborigines from mainstream Australia. Of course you see the Aborigines when you visit officially because they are made to appear in their tribal costumes to dance before you. But do tell Mr. Howard to examine "Australian values" with true honesty before upbraiding Muslim Australians for not imbibing these "values".
Finally, the sensitive issue of the capital punishment sentence on a British national for murder in Pakistan. There are many of us who feel capital punishment should be abolished and have said so repeatedly. But to make an exception simply in one case, because of pressure, threats, "requests" -- call it what you will -- is not only unjust, it sends the wrong signals to the citizens of Pakistan. After all, many British citizens have been executed in the US also but one has seen no threats or special visits to rescue these British. We all know that the judicial system in both Pakistan and the US -- as well as in most parts of the world -- is faulty. So why should Pakistan be singled out for attack by your officials and media? You are right to refer to Pakistan as an "amazing country" -- it is truly amazing and bestowed with so much. But there have to be limits to our amazing level of tolerance for abuse by foreigners.
As for serving the cause of justice, I am sure you would like to help and so perhaps we can gain something positive from your visit if wanted criminals like the owner of Margalla Towers can be removed from the protection of the British state and returned to face trial here. This would be one positive result of your visit for us. Post-9/11 we have sacrificed a lot as a nation -- it is time for your people to acknowledge and respond accordingly. Don't be fooled by our hospitality -- we as a nation have had enough abuse from the West.
Wishing you a safe stay in this wonderful land,
From a non-veiled passionate Pakistani,
Shireen M. Mazari
(The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The News)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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