Nicholas Kristof in his June 4 New York Times op-ed referred to Pakistan as “a low-tax laissez-faire Eden.
And in an article "From Abbottabad to Worse” in the July issue of Vanity Fair, Christopher Hitchens declared that “...our [America’s] blatant manipulation by Pakistan is the most diseased and rotten thing in which the United States has ever involved itself”.
With reactions like these, Pakistan is fast on the verge of becoming a swear word in global vocabulary.
There is no denying that Pakistan has dug its own grave after the Abbotabad incident. There is also no denying that we were given the shovel by someone else. But the fact that we chose to accept that shovel is also a reality that we keep denying ourselves.
But another reality is that Pakistan isn’t doing much to improve the situation either. Speak to most ordinary Pakistanis and hardly one in ten of them will paint you a positive picture. As they swelter in 45 Celsius degree heat without any power, its hard not to be negative, especially when you are surrounded with madness that is often, beyond comprehension.
Only last week, a young man was shot at point blank range and left to die by the Rangers, an elite, para-military security force brought in to counter urban lawlessness. The incident took place in broad daylight, in a posh Karachi neighbourhood in a public park named after Benazir Bhutto. The government covered up the story by claiming he was a criminal killed in a police “encounter”. But morbidly enough, the murder was caught on tape by a television cameraman, exposing the brutality to the world. An inquiry has now been ordered, but most believe, it will be yet another sham cover-up by the state protecting its own violent interests.
Kristof pokes fun at “the hum of diesel generators by night” in affluent Pakistani homes. But only a fraction of Pakistanis are affluent. The rest just want to be like them. The young man who was murdered, probably did too. So do most young men and women in Pakistan, who dream for a better, safer and more respected life. Just like anyone in the United States for that matter.
Interestingly enough, both Kristof and Hitchens point to the flaws in the United States political system that have either contributed to or exacerbated Pakistan’s problems.
But is Pakistan the world’s only problem? And does maniacally using it as an example of the big bad wolf help with ridding it (or the world) of its problem?
Granted, things are now far more exacerbated because of Pakistan’s own domestic policies and complexities. Instances like the Karachi murder and other countless episodes are as dangerous and important an issue for us as finding Osama in our backyard. Which is exactly why Osama’s death did not bring people out onto the streets in Pakistan, as was expected.
But then neither did this year’s national budget, which once again allocated an 11% increase in defense spending, while education was down 1.3% to GDP as compared to last year.
And that is the crux of the matter. The world can bash us as much as they like for being a terrorist state, while completely ignoring their own contributions to the situation. Pakistan does have a counter-answer to these accusations if the latter is pointed out intelligently enough, while accepting our own contribution to it as well. Here, the issue is definitely not one-sided and never was, as history has shown.
But Pakistan has no real answer to the questions Pakistanis themselves pose. Why do we not have a stable political system? Why are we still governed by private dynasties? Why don’t most Pakistanis have access to basic social services? For not having answers to these questions is why we really deserve to be maligned, not necessarily by the world, but more by ourselves.
Issues are only as important as one makes them out to be. If the United States and its allies continue to make Pakistan out to be their most important “frenemy”, they will continue to overshadow the real issues of Pakistan such as unemployment and economic and social security. For them, none of this is of any importance unless its connected to terrorism. And viewing economic and social benefit under the lens of counter-terrorism is simply looking at the problem the wrong way.
Lets face it. The Taliban were created out of political and international alliances and not because of poverty or lack of education. If that were the cause, Pakistan would have disintegrated decades ago. And their threat towards Pakistan (and the world) is increasing not because of lack of healthcare and women’s rights, but because of the power struggle between military and civilian governments.
If the Western world wants to paint us as “humorless, paranoid, insecure, eager to take offense, and suffering from self-righteousness, self-pity, and self-hatred” (according to Hitchens), so be it. But it must eventually realize the interconnectedness of these accusations to international politics.
What Pakistan must realize however, is that now, the bashing we are set to receive for our performance as a democratic nation, is connected to our performance alone. Its time we forgot the Taliban and began to focus on ourselves.