Whether the relations between Washington and Islamabad are good or bad, Pakistan as a country, for the most part, finds itself at the receiving end of the critique in Washington more often than not. Hollywood has frequently shown Pakistan in a negative light just as it has historically depicted Arab men as terrorists and ragtag crazy lunatics. That was one of the main reasons the late Edward Said had to start writing and speaking about it.
Create mess, blame Pakistan
Movies and TV shows such as Zero Dark Thirty and Homeland respectively bend backwards to repeat the lies, all in the service of having the people deeply internalize those lies. Netflix has jumped on the hottest selling recipe too.
I came across an otherwise mildly entertaining political thriller called Designated Survivor with the lead character President Kirkman played by Kiefer Sutherland. While the show is about the American presidency and the day to day turmoil of the Oval Office, there is one scene where the US president is in Afghanistan and some terrorist attack happens. Kiefer Sutherland, as President Kirkman, instantly scapegoats Pakistan. And that is when it hit me; it keeps happening. And while I personally get deeply, very deeply offended by it, I perfectly understood why it keeps happening.
Whether Washington, New Delhi, Hollywood, Bollywood, or even Netflix; Pakistan is the punching bag everyone is happy and ready to use whenever they want to find a scapegoat for their own mess. Afghanistan’s instability is due to Pakistan, India’s worsening economy is because of the ISI, Brad Pitt broke up with Angelina Jolie because of Rawalpindi, Prince Harry left the Palace because of Imran Khan, and so forth. You can cook up anything and pin it on Pakistan.
Pakistan tolerates humiliation, Turkey doesn’t
The same show depicted the Turkish president as a villainous and an irritating man. Turkey moved heaven and earth and forced Netflix to remove that episode from the show in Turkey. The world outside Turkey can still see it but that is not the point; the point is sending a message that we are not going to sit idle if you disrespect us. Netflix and any other entity for that matter understands the language of toughness and arm twisting. When a dog barks you don’t ask it with a smile to stop the barking. Some dogs you must throw a heavy stone at or kick the hell out of them.
The Turkish move has an unmistakable lesson for Pakistan if it is willing to pay attention. Pakistan keeps getting bashed in Hollywood, Washington, and American academia (I have seen this firsthand) because, like it or not, we allow it. We do not raise our voice against the way Pakistan is portrayed as this villainous rogue country. When Pakistan does something positive, it doesn’t get much credit for it, doesn’t get applauded for it.
There are even many self-loathing Pakistanis living in America that strive to turn this fake image of Pakistan into a reality by adding to the credibility of the Pakistani bashing rhetoric because they get paid to do so. Many of them are employed in the Virginia area where they are literally given a script every day for their social media posts. What is even worse is that many more write for leading newspapers who get paid to write the same unhinged nonsense.
Good gestures are not fit for media coverage?
Pakistan helped the United States rescue the Canadian and American family held hostage with the Taliban for 5 years. How many people know about it? Which Hollywood or Netflix show has or will depict it? How many Pakistanis are promoting such good gestures of Pakistan? Pakistan is helping America end its longest war in history. That Pakistani role alone should be a testament of Pakistan’s unquestionable friendship with America. I will wait and see how many movies and TV shows would be made applauding this positive role of Pakistan.
Prime Minister Imran Khan handed over the Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman back to the Indians after the Pakistan Air Force shot down his plane when he violated the Pakistani airspace. What good did that do for Pakistan? I can go on and on with many examples. The point is that Pakistan is bashed and talked about in a grim manner because Pakistanis do not care.
How many complaints have been registered with Netflix for that show or many other shows? I am more than sure that if I brought up this issue with many Pakistanis living abroad, they might find me as someone with psychological problems. They will advise me not to waste my time and focus on becoming rich every day. When I saw the said scene where Pakistan was bashed, I quickly went to Netflix customer chat and complained vehemently about it. It fell on deaf ears because what can one man accomplish?
The Turks were able to change Netflix’s attitude because they threw their weight behind it quite forcefully. They took it very seriously. In future, when Netflix is making more shows, they would think a dozen times before approving any script that would insult the state of Turkey or the office of the President of Turkey. Turkey is behaving like a true nation and Pakistanis are acting like a crowd; a crowd of baffled, clueless, directionless people. And the leadership at the top? Don’t even start me on that. One article is not enough for that. I must write a book on that.
Because here is a simple question: Where is the Pakistani consulate office that works toward bettering the image of Pakistan abroad, especially in America? What are they doing toward that end, that is to assume they really are doing something? People don’t respect you because you hold Iftar parties or distribute free masks. My advice is to stand up hard and aggressive for the dignity and respect of your country. Try doing that for a change and see how it feels like?
It deeply saddens me and angers me when I see Pakistan bashing and scapegoating. If some people make a living out of selling their mothers, then my advice to them is to sell their mothers elsewhere. Leave Pakistan alone.
Imran Jan is a political analyst. He can be reached at email@example.com, Twitter @Imran_Jan. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.