Syed Ali Zia Jaffery |
While reading one of the seminal works of the doyen of the US strategic community, Henry Kissinger, I thought about writing my next piece on the futility of the new South Asia policy. However, I aborted plans to write it after I saw a seemingly innocuous yet utterly disturbing tweet. I will come to it in a tad. But after being cajoled by a friend, I felt that there was a pressing need for me to delve into an important issue.
My country is rife with troubles; it has been marred by bad governance, self-inflicted pains, foreign meddling, and extremism. We, as citizens have all the right to criticize the follies and highlight glaring blunders of the men in Islamabad or the “boys in Rawalpindi”. Nobody can snatch this inalienable right from us the citizens. Writing for The News last month, I contended:”Jingoism is inimical to the very concept of patriotism, especially when embedded in state policies.”
But I am well aware that when those on whom this piece is written will reach the second paragraph of this longish piece, they will declare me a lackey of the “boys”. Certainly, they will believe that my assertion that Pakistan has been damaged, among other things, by foreign intrigues and interferences is a figment of my imagination. Dare I say, but anyone who talks about Ashoka Raina’s book or Indra Gandhi or Field Marshal Manekshaw does not have a brain and basically is an ardent student of Pak Studies.
The 75-year old Larry Pressler was the most truthful man on the planet until he thanked Mr. Haqqani for changing sides!
But I am ready to be jeered at on Twitter. After all who doesn’t want to be grilled by people with unmatched acumen and academic flair. How can I,25, compare myself with people who even put Kautilya and Bernard Brodie to shame with their esoterics?
How dare I talk and write about deterrence when we have the likes of Mr. Haqqani shedding light on the arms race in South Asia along with none other than the lawmaker from South Dakota? The 75-year old Larry Pressler was the most truthful man on the planet until he thanked Mr. Haqqani for changing sides!
Little did they realize that Chabahar is not in any way a threat to Gwadar. But this amplifies the fact that many of our luminaries appearing on TV have no idea about how Iran conducts its foreign relations.
But what I don’t realize is that there is good realism and bad realism. Mr.Haqqani and his ilk are proponents of US Exceptionalism and of course, Woodrow Wilson. But of course, offensive realism becomes a taboo when adopted by Pakistan.
Perhaps, Pakistan is the only irrational actor in world politics. Dressed neatly, journalists take to prime time talk shows and Twitter to take swipes at the country’s strategic planners. The initiation of the Chabahar Port was used as a convenient excuse to laugh at Pakistan’s obsession with CPEC. Little did they realize that Chabahar is not in any way a threat to Gwadar. But this amplifies the fact that many of our luminaries appearing on TV have no idea about how Iran conducts its foreign relations.
But again, it is their democratic right to speak up. However, with journalists having various platforms to disseminate news and analyses, the responsibility on them increases manifold. I would simply attribute their dualism to them lacking nous of world politics.
Let me expound upon the tweet that I alluded to in the beginning of the piece. I was unhappy as to why Verna was not released on time, for I believed that rape is fast-becoming endemic in South Asia and there is a need for people to be aware of it. Even otherwise, films are not harmful by any means; if anything, crimes such as rape must be made a punishable offense. But the following tweet disturbed me immensely.
So further updates from Absurdistan: While the Islamabad meeting continues, the Karachi premiere tomorrow has also been cancelled. Turns out the Sindh certificate is still not in the distributors’ hands though they’ve been told it will be ready tomorrow morning. But since…>
— Hasan Zaidi (@hyzaidi) November 15, 2017
How can a delay in the release of a film make someone tweak the name of our country? How could, suave, well-dressed and somewhat eloquent people go on to disparage the name of their country? Expectedly, upon confronting the author of the tweet, I was shunned away as a “hyper-patriot”.
If politely requesting someone not to tinker with the name of a country comes in the ambit of hyper-patriotism then I will take the accolade every day of the week.
Here in lies a conspicuous dichotomy. Freedom activists were fully supportive of the ban on the film Maalik exactly one year ago. Perhaps, we must tread towards the concept of good-films bad-films pretty soon. Regardless, I am happy that Verna is being released. As a plank of soft power, our film industry must be strengthened.
Preachers of tolerance are found blocking those who disagree with them. While discussing how to handle contrarian views with a renowned U.S scholar, I said paying respect to the flag and the name is a basic etiquette; it is not even patriotism.
Had any person from a relatively less affluent family complained about a doctor sending a friend request, these very people would have quashed him away as a disciple of Mualana Samiul-ul-Haq.
Why is it that Ayesha Gulalai’s ever-changing story is taken on face-value but that of Ayesha Ahad brushed aside? Why isn’t harassment condemned in all forms and manifestations? Why isn’t casting aspersions on a 65-year old considered wrong? Are we being made to believe that leveling accusations sans evidence is acceptable just because the one accusing is a woman?
Read more: Pakistan’s private media: Free or captured?
Had any person from a relatively less affluent family complained about a doctor sending a friend request, these very people would have quashed him away as a disciple of Mualana Samiul-ul-Haq. Thank God, it was Sharmeen, otherwise, an article would have been written on the “return of Taliban” to Karachi!
Shall we also believe that Captain Safdar’s rants against the Ahmadis are not related to Nawaz but certainly those by Abrar ul-Haq are related to Imran? Can’t our journalists condemn both statements while using the same benchmark?
But wait, if I tell this to a closet Jiyala, I would be labeled as a Youthiya (a derogatory term I must say) Perhaps, sarcasm, jibes, and haughty behaviors are acceptable but the word “oye” isn’t.
One prominent columnist just called Ahmed Noorani’s demand of hanging Imran Khan “stupid” but grilled people who called him a biased reporter. The irony is evident but hardly surprising. Where is the much-needed level-headed criticism? What about the ethics of journalism? Clutching at straws, talking about demure conduct, such columnists are typified with haughtiness and a sense of infallibility.
While I am no one to dish-out certificates of patriotism, I certainly have a right to call out those who utter profanities galore but fail to take criticism. While we must criticize state policies, we cannot get away by dining with those who are bent on destroying it.
It is about time that the power of the pen and camera is used constructively. The only thing that lies between the collection of news and writing a credible story is “honesty”.
The modern-day Thomas Schelling who is pandering to the US needs to be reminded that he will remain famous for being a turncoat!
For all those who find it classy to bash their country must realize that they still need a green passport which has Pakistan written on it instead of “Absurdistan”. Since the film has been released, will Mr. Zaidi apologize or join the gang that never feels indignant about the very many concocted stories it floats?
Unfortunately, much that they consider many of us infused with Pak Studies, little do they fathom that we are not dumb enough that we cannot pick up blatant discrepancies. Speaking for myself, I do identify sanctimonious people in a jiffy.
P.S Just visit the Twitter timelines of people who castigate and vilify the utterance of “oye” by the man who bagged 362 Test Wickets!
Syed Ali Zia Jaffery is a Research Analyst and Sub Editor at Global Village Space.He frequently writes on defense and strategic affairs for various national and international platforms. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.