Sunday, October 05, 2008

As long as the Sun & Moon shall be

(This is something pretty disjointed)

I was reading an article on MSNBC ( about Pakistan. MSNBC usually has a policy of Pakistan bashing that borders on the creepy sometimes. It seems like an obsession by the sheer number of articles that they write in favor of invading Pakistan.

Going through all the comments, there was so much hatred and negativity. Comments like 'Pakistan is the nerve centre of all evil in the Muslim world' really helps the American cause. Why should anyone love you then? Pakistanis are not obliged to love Americans when Americans clearly hate them. How many times have I read comments like 'drop a bomb and turn it into a desert' or 'turn it into glass'? Too many times for comfort.

Usually the articles begin with interviews with people who can't read or write. There's obviously a bias here to get the most negative comments from people who don't know much about anything in their own country, least of all the USA.

Yet, Americans and any number of nationalities have been given a right to hate us because of our apathetic behaviours in the face of the crises that are facing us. 

Right after the 26th September attacks on the Marriot Hotel in Islamabad, it was all either about our politicians (how victimized they are... ) or that 'it was part of a hotel chain by Americans' so that's why it was targeted. No, it wasn't. It was targeted because it is symbolic. There were many people who were there with their families after a long days fast to enjoy the evening breaking fast ritual with their families. This was a hotel, which was famous for drawing people from all walks of life, from businesspeople to diplomats to familes and journalists. It became a symbol to be targeted to make a point: we can hit you anywhere, anytime, we're not scared. Obviously, in the country called Pakistan, the point was not taken. If a world class leader like Benazir Bhutto (I didn't agree with her politics) could be murdered just like that, why would the government (of her own husband's party no less) care about other civilians?

Now let me share something that I've never wanted to speak of to anyone and that's disturbed me ever since I have known it.

I can't forget that I saw half a man on tv that day. Yes, half of him was gone. He was a security guard (he still had half of his uniform on). The people surrounding him were giving him water from a jug full of bloodied water and someone called his name, 'Basharat!' and I'll never forget it.

I'll never forget when my grandmother (may her soul rest in peace) and I were watching CNN (yeah, I'm a big fan of news) and suddenly these images of planes flying into the towers flashed on the screen. We were both crying like anything. Then the rest of the family joined us and we all cried because we couldn't believe what was happening.

That's to say not everyone hates USA. It's not even about just loving someone or something. It's a feeling that we are all human beings and that we all have families and friends and loved ones and that we all belong to God. We didn't know at that time who did it and it didn't matter. What mattered was that we were praying that people were actually able to get out. We were praying for the souls of the people in the planes. We couldn't believe that the planes had gotten inside the city and so close to buildings.

I can't forget the shocked faces of people running away. The shocked cries from all the people gathered in front of the tv when the first tower started to go down. No God, this can't be! Oh God, I hope they got everyone out.

I won't ever forget Basharat and I won't forget that indelible image of the plane crashing into the tower and my grandmother crying. We weren't in the USA. We were right here in Pakistan and perhaps one of the most hated corners of it, called Peshawar. (I also dislike my family's residence of choice, Peshawar; sorry).

I never wanted to write about these things. Not ever. This is such a personal pain and weirdly so acute that many people won't ever understand it (and I'm not going to try). The only reason that compelled me today was all this hatred.

Don't go hating people without knowing them. Media everywhere is so biased, not just against Muslims; in many other countries, it might be biased against one thing or another, which you would only realize is wrong from the perspective of an outsider.

The politicians coddle their public into thinking that the enemies are out there but I think they're the biggest enemies. To cover their ineptness, our leaders have, throughout history, blamed everyone but themselves for the mistakes that were made in their tenures. Since history is no science, it can always be written in a way that suits the taste of whomever it is being written about, we can't ever be sure, who was good and who was not.

All that comes to us is filtered through so many different sieves that when you take it, it's just a whole cup of vitriol and a sense that 'I'm justified in my beliefs, where everyone else is not'.

This is not to say that there aren't Pakistanis who don't hate the USA and obviously, this is not in their defense. What surprises me is why no one tries to find out why. It might not matter to someone living in the USA but since USA has been such a big part of our lives (thank you for the Mujahideen turned Taliban next door, who're now killing and beheading Pakistanis at whim), it should matter to a journalist.

People in general here have a very postive view of USA, as most people would tell you by their desire to move to the USA, given the first chance (yours truly being on top of that list).

The people who don't have a positive view are people who are usually
1. uneducated people;
2. listeners of mullahs (uneducated local clerics, who know nothing about Muslim laws but claim they are clerics based on the fact that they give call to prayers at local mosques);
3. unemployed youth;
4. entertainment starved people;
5. people with a point to prove;
6. psychos/terrorists;
7. people with personal agendas etc.

It's no secret that if one is not educated, one might be clever but one would still be ignorant. Lack of education is a big problem in Pakistan. Officially, the rate of education has increased to about 40% but unofficially it's around or somewhat more than 20% (sorry, I don't have any citations at this time). One reason for the high official rate: they even count people who've learnt to sign their names...

It's easy to ensnare the ignorant into illogical arguments or stupid actions by simply appealing to emotions. I understand that sometimes, education doesn't save one from falling for this fallacy.

Being ignorant means one is now susceptible to fall into word traps. Here come the people who listen to so called religious clerics. When I was at the University of Peshawar, we had heard of two clerics have a fight on the air in one of the tribal areas. It's a well known fact that tribals are not religious but deeply rooted in their own culture and don't like to bend for anyone. So it was amazing that here were these two apparently Muslim men who were not even from different sects, fighting over who's the daddy of the tribals in that certain area and the tribals not saying anything nor the government taking any interest.

Even all those years ago, I used to find it disturbing because things like these have a way of getting out of hands. Flash forward 2008, and we have the disciples of these two mullahs beheading the tribals, government officers, army men, engineers, socialworkers, marrying the tribals' daughters by force, setting fire to houses and schools and hospitals and other civic buildings, holding instant trials and sentencing 'spies' to death.

If someone's telling you that things have gotten better, they're lying. They've gotten worse but an attack at this time would take it from worse to worst. It's a real life slippery slope. The Government of Pakistan let the camel into the tent and now it's time for them to own up to the responsibility of removing it. In this case, the tent is Pakistan and the camel is all of the so called Islamists, Taliban etc.

As someone said, let someone run the government on contract basis and maybe we'll see an improvement. Is someone listening? Can you save us from ourselves perhaps except this time, don't screw it up like Afghanistan and Iraq?

Let's pray that the lyric from the old Pakistani song, roughly translated as
'As long as the sun and moon shall be, so shall Pakistan be',
stays true.

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