Foreign journalists and the vision problem
It is sometimes the clearest of accusations that one must be most wary of. These accusations, like the one Christine Fair levelled on Pakistan — you are the enemy of the US — are what imprison Pakistan within its own narrow allegiances. We take on the eyes of the seer as we size ourselves up, often without much deliberation — and this doesn’t help anyone.
Not the US, not Pakistan. This outside-looking-in view of defiling Pakistan’s identity by journalists with crowned scholarly affiliations is akin to how people from both sides of the divide view each other — the treacherous West and the uncivilised dark continent. In this case, the assertions are the same: Pakistan plays dubiously, it’s sneaky in its transactional deals, takes money to control terrorism on its Afghan side but redirects it to fuel insurgencies in India.
When faced with this charge, be it only of an overambitious journalist, we have no choice but to fault our powers that be for being not too transparent in the way they decide matters of national importance.
The mismanagement of Balochistan only adds fuel to fire. Our inability to contain terrorism as evident with the APS incident is downright deplorable. The fact that we haven’t been able to move towards peace with India, missing out on inevitable prosperity, can also be considered a fault of the Pakistani deep state.
These are the very narrow alliances we are forced to define ourselves with, shattering both our identity, and its various interconnected parts and our sense of hope for the future of this country.
However, I have two issues with these guns pointed towards Pakistan — the credibility of those who make accusations against Pakistan is just as much in question. And secondly, the fear-mongering that Pakistan is subjected to by these elements serves as propaganda in the US to argue for more control.
The Pakistani establishment’s missteps can easily be compared to the US government’s echoing steps from Charlie Wilson’s Afghan war to the war on terror. If there is truly a desire in the US to stop terrorism, a good place to start would be to stop participating in it. It isn’t just Pakistan where the American military’s strategies went awry; there is Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Latin America.
India is home to several insurgencies, and it is difficult to convince anyone that they are all Pakistan-funded. The iron-fisted Kashmir policy has led to a landfill of human rights violations. The deaths on the Line of Control notwithstanding, there is an Amnesty International call to bring to justice several Indian state agents that were systemically involved in rights abuses in Kashmir.
The point is not that Pakistan’s antics should go unchecked. The point is that no journalist has the locus standi to go muckraker on this small state when considerably larger military empires are not judged on the same scale. Admonish all or admonish none, and certainly don’t pick on the smallest state with its own explosive problems with outlaws and terrorists.
This dehumanising talk, the language of impunity and the general disregard of the 80,000 Pakistanis who have perished in the demonic war of terrorism is what Orwell referred to as universal deceit. It takes effort to create context, to eliminate binaries and to see the people behind the governments that represent them. By ignoring how Pakistan ended up in a terrifying place in the first place is a disservice to the institution of journalism whose purpose it is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. Not the other way around.
The only thing a biased whipping of Pakistan ensures is that people like us, ordinary Pakistanis who want to bring more accountability and transparency, are pushed further into the corner. Our identity encapsulates our original fight for self-determination.
We are willing to fight it again, even if the oppressor changes. Pakistan has a vibrant opposition, a sensitised judiciary and a man at the helm of its military, who does not seem to have the ambition to become royalty and seems more focused on putting an end to the beheadings of his jawans. Perhaps, for the first time in many years, the structure is solidifying to the benefit of the people of this country. Let it solidify. Don’t sell us the orientalist jargon.