Where Is the Good News?
By Anjum Niaz
“Why Is Pakistan Such a Mess? Blame India”. This headline is a show-stopper. Written by Nisid Hajari in Foreign Policy magazine, the column is a must-read for the Pakistani media, which rushes to judgment on the failure of its own country. As a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board, Hajari blames the Indian founding fathers who from the very start “set Pakistan up to fail”. Gandhi, globally revered as a pacifist, was in fact, a nationalist at heart who “helped breed the fears that still haunt Pakistan today”. Hajari quotes the great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy: “His [Gandhi’s] Hindu nationalism spoils everything.” Tolstoy called him a “rabble-rouser”.
Why would the world think that Pakistan is a mess? We should blame Gandhi and Nehru for wanting the new state of Pakistan to fail and planting the seeds of suspicion between the two neighbors. “With rabid 24-hour satellite channels seizing upon every cross-border attack or perceived diplomatic affront,” writes Hajari, “jingoism is on the rise.” War-talk aside, the Pakistani media has its own way of serving bad news to the believing public 24/7. Every other day there is some scandal or the other that makes the talking heads on television wax eloquent on the basis of their half-baked knowledge. The pessimism of these pinheads is contagious and travels beyond our borders. The end result: the outside world gets a bleak picture of Pakistan, which remains permanently fixed.
Whose fault is it then that the real progress in Pakistan goes unreported? For starters, ask Pakistanis who travel around the world on business. They have a multi-dimensional view of their country and the forward direction it is moving towards. “Who says Pakistan is a mess?” a fellow passenger seated next to me on a flight from America to Dubai happens to glance at the Foreign Policy story by Hajari that I am reading on my laptop. The next couple of hours go by quick as my interlocutor outlines in simple terms the areas of progress that go unnoticed. “Don’t discuss the sleaze in politics or the poor governance our country has been plagued with — that’s the job of the analysts with stunted thinking whose brains cannot get out of the box, talk to me about development,” he shuts me up as I quickly have my say about the flight of capital — $379 million gone from our shores to Dubai in the first three months of this year and invested in real estate in the UAE. “While these guys prefer to invest their money in Dubai instead of their own country, just look at the money coming into Pakistan from other countries, especially China,” the lateral thinker says. “The Chinese are very smart investors, they would never put down money in our country if they thought it was going down the tube. They will make sure such a thing never comes to pass.”
My interlocutor travels through the Middle East on work.“Did you know that Pakistanis, more than any other nationality, are heading organizations in the Middle East? I say this because we are far more sophisticated than the others in the region — this is no idle boast, but the truth!” It’s my turn to speak. So, I turn his attention towards the airline we are seated in. It’s highly rated by most Pakistanis who prefer not to travel PIA. This is my first experience with this airline. “I am not too impressed — look at the bland food and the shabby service,” I say. “Ask for an extra blanket, ‘Sorry, we have none’ is the answer. Ask for a vegetarian meal, ‘Sorry, we have run out of them!’” I tell my companion that as someone who has always used PIA when travelling from America to Pakistan, I enjoy the food, service and comfort, most of the time, if not always. We are ready to criticize PIA for its shortcomings, but when we see the same afflicting a foreign airline, we meekly accept and do not complain. Why?
“This is the mindset that needs to be changed,” my companion has the last word, “think positive, think Pakistan!”