EU's Hostility
By Shireen M. Mazari

We Pakistanis are certainly not without our many faults, most of which we admit to but fail to rectify as a collectivity. As for the state, its shortcomings have been only too evident in recent months. In terms of faith of the majority, we have never been in any doubt as to the commitment to Islam but we are a diverse and homogenous nation and have undertaken our religious commitments in our own way having had the advantage of not needing a formal -- and hence doctrinal --church or clergy. That is why when the state decided to takeover the function of zakat, it not only had to make exceptions for some sects but also failed in performing zakat distribution effectively without favor. Instead, a new avenue was opened for politicization and corruption.
In the same way, blasphemy laws promulgated by the state have been abused in such a manner that they are simply indefensible. They have become a tool for repression, discrimination and terrorization not only of minorities but Muslims as well. That is why in our now almost receding vision of enlightenment and moderation, given the ever-increasing absurdity of the state's continuing indulgence of the Jamia Hafsa-Lal Masjid extremists, we should not even attempt to defend this law in any manner whatsoever.
Why do we doubt our own people on their commitment to Islam? And are any of our upholders of "the cause" on morally sounder grounds than the average citizen? Now that personal mud raking and sleaze are becoming an integral part of our political culture, much in the way that the Nazi party used such tactics in Germany, it will be difficult for any member of the ruling elite to sustain the impeccable high moral ground, since all of us are human beings endowed with human failings.
The point I am making is that we do have failings, but that is no reason to constantly be put on the defensive by our external detractors who have equal vulnerabilities. The most recent case in point is the growing hostility being displayed by the EU towards Pakistan -- a hostility that is becoming ever more irrational and shows the continuing anti-Islam thread that still runs through the white European psyche. Behind the high moral ground the EU tends to adopt of human rights and freedom, there is an underlying political duplicity and hypocrisy at work. For instance, where was the voice of the EU when the massacre of Muslims happened in Gujarat, India? Also, we see no mention of the persecution of minorities in India despite attacks on Churches and missionaries. Nor has the EU ever sought to condemn the caste system for its discriminatory nature. In any event, such issues have certainly never been raised in discussions on economic issues.
Undoubtedly it is our own fault. Take the case of the EU on Kashmir. First, no one in Pakistan sought to use pro-activism to point to the EU Parliament that in the highly politicized dispute of Kashmir, an EU Rapporteur, who heads the India caucus, can hardly be balanced. Instead of raising valid objections at her appointment, and simply refusing to work with her, we thought we could "charm" her through some of her so-called Pakistani friends. Even here we were then not prepared to pay the price she was seeking, so at the end of the day, her Report on Kashmir is a bizarre document that seeks to pass judgment on Pakistan's internal dynamics as much as on Kashmir. Unfortunately, she basically submitted a document that was as Indian in content as anything the Indians could have produced.
Yet even at that time, our decision-makers thought, rather naively, that we could rationalize with the EU parliament to see the bias and distortions in her draft. Again, our strategy, flawed as it was to begin with, failed miserably and the final Report, which the EU Parliament approved earlier this month, basically reflects the Indian posturing on Kashmir. This is unfortunate and perhaps the Kashmiri and Pakistani Diaspora in Europe can now begin to become a more effective force in EU politics -- aside for once.
That Baroness Nicholson is fast turning into a mouthpiece for the Indian state is becoming ever more abundant if one looks at her response to the letter written by Pakistan's ambassador to the EU on May 8, 2007. In fact, the whole debacle of the EU Report on Kashmir is one of the clearest reflections of a complete failure of our policy in this regard, but will we accept this reality and learn from it? When mid rank diplomats proclaim that they do not read newspapers because they get misguided since there is no correct information in them, then one can only wonder at the level of information and awareness that prevails in the overly-sanctified atmosphere of Scherezade Hotel! As for belittling the media, it seems to have become the favorite pastime for officialdom at large.
With our diplomacy seemingly in a state of strange suspension -- or at least lethargy -- the EU feels it can attack Pakistan at will. It is no wonder then that the EU Parliament's resolution of 24 May 2007 on Kashmir: present situation and future prospects, makes a totally out-of-context reference to the CJP issue and the internal politics of Pakistan! The reference is not only incongruous but reveals the innate hostility that still dominates white Europe's thinking on the only nuclear Muslim state, Pakistan.
This growing hostile trend towards Pakistan has been there within the EU for a while now. After all, we have had the EU decide to have an FTA with India but not with Pakistan and then we have been told that this will not impact us! Are we really taken to be such fools? More recently, we have just seen the ludicrous situation of an EU delegation coming to Pakistan for trade discussions and then raising unrelated issues like demanding the sending of observers for the elections.
It is not that Pakistan would object and the EU has always sent observers -- including the hostile Mr. Cushnahan -- but was an economic forum the place where this issue should have been raised? Especially since we in Pakistan have yet to be told of the date for the elections!
Is there a logic to the EU hostility? Not really. Instead, there are two main factors that may be generating this hostility -- other than our nuclear capability, of course and the historic legacy of the crusades which continues to underlie the discourse of the EU even with Turkey and of the Vatican with the Muslim World. There is the growing and increasingly assertive Muslim population of Europe -- in some countries comprising primarily of migrants with Pakistani ancestry. The EU is unable to accept that it has a bias against these migrants, especially the Muslims. Some of these biases are actually reflected in laws -- others are reflected in practices.
So when EU representatives choose to discuss our indefensible Blasphemy Law, let us accept its shortcomings and instead seek a discussion on their discriminatory laws and practices against Muslim minorities (earlier columns have cited a few). Why should only Pakistan's internal dynamics be up for discussions in what is supposed to be a bilateral dialogue? We have our faults and our problems and we need to face up to them, but let the EU move beyond its duplicity and hypocrisy and also accept its shortcomings.
(Dr Shireen M. Mazari is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The News)

 


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