Don’t judge Pakistan too hastily

Reading a few articles exhorting people to donate to the Pakistan floods, I literally feel sick by the hateful and ignorant comments posted on the articles. A case in point is an article by Ethan Casey that appeared in the Huffington Post. The comments range from paranoid Pakistan-bashing (‘what unites Pakistanis is their hatred of India’) to more widespread concerns about corruption and terrorism.

A few days ago I had read another article in the Telegraph titled ‘Pakistan suffers- but our wallets remain closed‘ and the comments on that one just horrified me because they were so downright racist. In stating their objections to helping out Pakistanis, some people had gone into everything they hate about Pakistanis and Muslims.

I realize that these may be some of the most ignorant and bigoted people out there and perhaps a minority. But when the majority of the comments are so hateful and people are ‘recommending’ (similar to the ‘like’ button on facebook) the nastiest ones, you just stop and wonder: Is this what the majority of the people out there think?

Maybe being surrounded by amazingly tolerant and respectful people at work (and before that at uni), I’ve developed a naive understanding of the world devoid of people’s prejudices.

Of course I also have to face the reality that things don’t grow in a vacuum. People who comment on the corruption or links to terrorism in Pakistan have some basis in reality (albeit exaggerated). I don’t want to get into all the structural arguments for why we are where we are, but it really saddens me to think that this is what my country has been reduced to.

Perhaps people’s short memories would make them believe that Pakistan has always been like this. But that’s not the case. And it doesn’t have to be either.

Yes, we’ve been a politically fragile developing country for most of the 63 years of our short history. But there have also been great moments. We’ve seen periods of remarkable growth and stability. Pakistan has produced some world famous inspirational people and the country has a lot to offer at so many different levels. It’s not all been perfect and I’m not glorifying the ‘past’. I’m just trying to put things into perspective.

Most nations go through periods of ups and downs. Afghanistan was a relatively ‘normal’ country in the 1960s showing similar development levels as its neighbours and look where it stands today. As late as 1990s, Iraq had one of the highest literacy and life expectancy rates in the Middle East along with its rich cultural and civilizational heritage (I’m not brushing under the carpet the abuses of the Saddam regime) and we know what’s become of it today.

On a positive note, South Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world in the 1950s and today it’s one of the strongest economies in Asia. Not too long ago, Ireland was mired by terrorism, instability and poverty (and some really horrible stereotypes were associated with that nation too) and today it is a respected member of Europe.

So all I’m saying is: let’s not give up on Pakistan so easily.

Let not Gojra happen again!

What happened recently to Robert Fanish Masih is not an isolated incident of violent injustice against Christian citizens in Pakistan.

The horrific memories of Gojra had barely subsided when this new incident took place. Many of us know that rarely if ever is there an actual case of “blasphemy” behind these incidents and yet what we continue to hear is that pages of the Holy Quran have been defiled. And even if, for the sake of the argument, there has been blasphemy it does not in any circumstances justify such vigilante violence to take place.

As the fact-finding mission carried out by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) found in the case of the Gojra massacre, these ‘alleged’ cases of blasphemy have their roots in disputes over money or land. In the Gojra incident, the HRCP report found that a number of panchayat members “had been blackmailing Talib for money, threatening him with the registration of a case for alleged defiling of the Holy Quran if he did not pay up.” 

It also seems that the authorities were negligent and did not take sufficient measures to protect the community. A day earlier, announcements had been made from at least 5 mosque loudspeakers in the community that Christians had committed blasphemy and the Muslim community should ‘protest’ (while one mosque incited them to violence).The report mentions that while policemen were present the next day, they lacked the necessary equipment or numbers to disperse a mob of that size. 

It is obvious that blasphemy laws are used to carry out the worst crimes in the name of God. Who are these laws trying to protect anyway? God? The 98% Muslim majority? Or are they just used as pretexts for settling scores against minorities in Pakistan? Let us not forget that these same laws have also been used againt the Ahmedis on numerous occasions with the same allegations of defiling the Quran. It seems ludicrous to me that despite their small numbers and vulnerable situation in the country, all minorities are collectively hell-bent on defiling the Quran! Is that logically even possible? I’m sorry if I sound facetious but you would think that perhaps now they would come up with more creative ways of ‘blaspheming’ since they tried and tested method of Quran defiling has just led to their own detriment. WHY they would want to incite a 98% majority is of course a totally other subject.

In the Gojra massacre, scores of houses were torched and 7 people, including women and children, were burnt to death in their home. Hundreds of people had to flee their homes. It will take them years to recover from the scars of this violence. And now we have yet another inhumane atrocity against yet another Christian. Enough is enough! Too long have the minorities in our country been treated as second class citizens. 

We must all shout out against this atrocity and send a clear message that we do not support such violence or such crimes against humanity in the name of God.

Crime against God (in the name of God)!

Day in day out we are bombarded with news of atrocities committed against minorities in Pakistan. But who cares? Robert Fanish Masih is yet another victim of the blatant racism that both the state and the society are guilty of. While the ‘baray log’ play their filthy game of politics, the common man keeps on suffering. He does not give a damn about Musharraf’s trial or Zardari’s deal. Continue reading Crime against God (in the name of God)!


I wrote this on our way to Dublin and posting it now:

I’m reading Obama’s “Dreams from my father” in which he explores issues of identity and race and the prevalence of racism and bigotry. And tonight at Holyhead port leaving for Dublin we encountered the worst racism ever (not directed at us thank God!). A man was shouting abuses at the only black man (and his family) standing in the queue waiting to board the ferry. We were right behind in line and I was terrified to be honest. They had to call security and then the police to deal with the guy.

The white man was drunk, but that is no excuse and the sorts of things he said I was shocked that people even THOUGHT such things any more: “I can’t stand the colour of your f***ing skin; I’m going to beat up that black face of yours”. And this hurled at the guy for absolutely no reason whatsoever! The black guy looked like a professional (smart clothes, specs, smart luggage, nicely dressed children– here I go stereotyping!) and remained absolutely calm and even smiled at the guy. When the police arrived, he dismissed the incident and did not want to press charges etc.

Later when we spoke to him asking him if he was alright, he laughed it off saying the guy was drunk so doesn’t matter. If I were him, I would’ve created such a fuss.  Maybe he has a good sense of humour (although there was nothing funny about it– the ticket lady at the port counter said her hands were shaking and she had never experienced anything like it before) or maybe he was in a hurry and didn’t want to be delayed or maybe he thought it didn’t make much of a difference to get the guy reported– the police would just give him a warning either way.

The most disturbing thing for me was that the guy’s young children were also there and this must have been an awful incident for them- perhaps even their first encounter with racism: a “loss of innocence” as Obama calls it.