By Fareeha Qayoom
n Friday afternoon, (March 4, 2011), I was engrossed in writing my cotton report when one of my colleagues handed me a print-out and told me to read it now. It was the farewell speech from George of Pakistan, published in the Tribune.
I read it through. It was superficial look at Pakistan even if George had apparently lived in Pakistan for an age. I mean, there was nothing new here except the old rhetoric that most foreign journalists indulge in – you know, stuff like Pakistan is on the brink, it is almost a failed state, terrorism and bigotry are on the rise, blah, blah, blah. Sometimes, I think as if I am divorced from reality (in the sense that I don’t see what they see) the way the media goes on and on. I mean they insist on staging hysterical fights on current affairs’ talk shows. They insist that our society is getting polarized. They insist that we are being taken over by the fundamentalist fringe. They insist the government is powerless. They insist that Pakistan is on the brink. Listening to them you would think Pakistan is full of Afghans, Talibans and home-brewed terrorists. It’s beside the point that majority of those guests have probably never met a real live terrorist in their life. How can they speak for them? For that matter, they probably have never met a bigot in their life either bar themselves and their fellow guests. I mean, according to official figures the minorities are only 3 percent of the entire population, in other words, a mere fringe – besides, I don’t see a representative of the minority in these discussions either. (For example, I didn’t even know the name of the Federal Minister for minorities before he was slain – let alone his views on the blasphemy laws! Most of the people are like me, they don’t even know half the names of their government officials if they are not visible on TV or in print!). On top of that, the so-called terrorists (TTP) are imported/immigrant fringe group from Afghanistan’s northern alliance waging a war with Pakistan and its people. Yes, they recruit little children from our part of the world, brain wash them and then allow them to blow themselves and innocent folk around them, however, the fact remains, majority of Pakistanis have never met a single TTP guy. I mean get real. They are a fringe of a fringe. We are a nation of 180 million strong if you take the TV’s word for it. (Just do the math). And they (the panelists on TV) are only a group of three representing the so-called majority groups. The politicians do not represent the people. The journalists also do not represent the people – both groups represent the politicians and journalists of our society respectively and since they never invite a cross-section of the entire population, you hear only views of the journalists and politicians on TV. How can that be balanced reporting or analysis? It’s skewed. Also not a single rational voice is allowed to be heard on TV.
Yes, the Americans also like to indulge in the propaganda that the so-called Afghan resistance is being fought from Pakistan border area. Apparently a group of maybe a couple of thousand (that’s being ambitious – we don’t have real numbers!) are apparently strong enough to penetrate the border, launch attacks on a super power and its allies and then come back to their safe havens this side of the border without losing a single hair. (I don’t know how they can afford the equipment though. I hear buying a single machine gun is apparently a costly business for an average Joe. They have rocket launchers by the dozens!). We all seem to have bought that argument as well. (I don’t know what the Afghans on that side of the border are doing though. I guess, they are tame folk and are all allied with the NATO forces?) Drone attacks are part and parcel of that ‘war on terror’ – people die every day by drone attacks and bomb attacks – move and counter-move, in the meantime, we as a nation have grown comfortably numb and are the real collateral damage.
We tune out the horror and get on with our lives. Death is no longer news. It’s only an occasional headline. We are in a state of war. The problem is we don’t know with whom. The enemy is invisible. The only visible people are the Afghans and Americans; so most of us blame the visible problem – the Afghans and the Americans. We as a nation know that terrorism was not a problem within our borders before the so-called U-turn by former President Musharraf in our foreign policy back in 2001 – when the Americans decided to bomb Afghanistan back to Stone Age and asked us if we were with them or against them? So we helped them start a war within our own borders too.
So what am I really saying? I am saying all this (media) hysteria is make-believe and a product of their own collective imaginations. Majority of Pakistanis are just keeping their heads down and trying to make a living in difficult circumstances. We are no terrorists and we have no reason to become one. FYI, Pakistanis officially or even unofficially don’t believe in Pan-Islam. (I mean, get real – we can’t keep our own house in order – would the Pakistani people or even for that matter the establishment really be capable of taking on the problems of the world?) Blaming Pakistan for all evils of the world is stretching the media hysteria too far especially as we can’t even run our own government without IMF, WB, ADB’s hand-outs. Besides, this region has a long history of invasions starting from the year dot. The last one ended only less than a century ago. This seems no different. Invaders come, invaders go. The people of this land just get on with their lives – they are resilient and they are adaptable. They move with the flow – Its business as usual. ■