Raza Habib Raja
During my last semester at Cornell, I was requested by one of my Indian friends to give a presentation on Pakistan. The topic was “Pakistan and Extremism”. I was required to speak in front of a mixed crowd of various nationalities though South Asians were obviously more prominent.
It was an international forum and I was representing Pakistan. Before me, people representing their countries had projected a very positive image of their country.
In my opening sentences I said that I was not going to project a positive image. I would just speak my mind. I said that patriotism for me is not getting defensive when my country is under the critical microscope of the outside world but to introspect as to why it is under the critical microscope in the first place.
The crowd included both Indians and Pakistanis , and as per expectations, my journey of “self-introspection”, was appreciated by the former while at least some of the latter got a bit embarrassed. I criticized the way Pakistan movement unfolded; the treatment of Bengalis; use of Islam as statecraft to build civic nationalism; Pakistan’s army’s obsession with India and use of non-state actors to wage proxy wars; and our national denial with respect to extremism in our midst.
Later on, my Indian friend told me that one or two actually lodged a complaint with him and remarked that it was an Indian “mischief” to invite a person like me to speak.
I responded by repeating that we as a nation have to understand that there is a reason as to why Pakistan is being placed in some of rather less enviable categories such as: a failed state; a hotbed of terrorism; and the most dangerous place in the world. The world already knows about these things. Our job should be trying to make sense as to why we have reached here. And there is no point hiding it as the world knows it already. Speaking openly will not spill some national secrets here.
Some of my Pakistani friends still insisted that I should have given a positive spin. I heard some remarks which suggested that I was saying all that to win admiration of Indians and Bangladeshis at Cornell and for that purpose I was ready to insult my country.
In short, I was not patriotic and was sucking up to Indians to gain “popularity” amongst them.
This is something I have commonly heard about myself and journalists who belong to the same “unpatriotic” and “Indian appeaser” category. In fact I am not even that famous whereas some of the unpatriotic ones are big names like Najam Sethi, NFP, Raza Rumi etc.
I have often heard that views like that of mine are used by the rightwing Indians to boost their case and to make them comfortable in their instinctive hatred of Pakistan. “Before you bark about peace, please bother to go to their websites or see their electronic media as to what is their true opinion about us. They hate us and “naïve” people like you have no clue about their hatred. You think that writing stupid articles in your Indian infested website will make you dear to them”.
Yes I do not hate India and want that both countries should bury the hatchet and move forward. I feel connected to those who are living in modern political India through an overarching identity which is independent of any political configuration. I have already articulated this identity in my article “I am a Pakistani Indian”( http://pakteahouse.net/2012/04/27/i-am-a-pakistani-indian/) and it is this identity which connects me to those who live in modern political India.
But I agree that India too has people who are hate mongers. Pakistan after all was carved out of India and there is a bitter legacy of bloodshed and rioting that took place in those fateful times.
Khuswant Singh once said in an interview that wounds of Partition have perhaps healed but poison still runs through our veins. It is that poison which is making us continuously talk in bitter and hate-filled rhetoric.
And I know I cannot win over those who have become extremely hate filled. There are many from BOTH the sides who would laugh at the idea of peace and friendship.
Some Indians think that ever since India has become a global economic powerhouse, Pakistanis like me have suddenly discovered their Indian roots. I have been taunted that only after the economic success ( by the way which is still disputable as poverty is still very high in India), I have realized that perhaps partition was not a good idea.
Yes, I admit that I cannot convince such people. I can only try to connect with those in India who are like me and understand that hate does not breed anything constructive. And I know there are many in India who think like this. My job is to connect with them and hope that they can affect the collective discourse in their country.
And contrary to what some of my countrymen think, my heart also burns when utterly one sided and selective diatribe is launched on Pakistan by some Indians. But once again, my reaction is to think as to why these Indians have some so much material which they can throw as “evidence” in their hate filled diatribe. Even that becomes chance for me to reflect as to why hate filled rhetoric is coming with some facts which are frankly irrefutable. Rather than getting angry and responding in the same tone, I think it is important for Pakistanis to realize that if they set their own house in order, the hate mongers on the other side won’t be able to present so many facts as evidence.
In Pakistan’s case, our national identity has been constructed in such a way that anti India sentiments have become a part of our instinctive make up. The partition and its rationalizing narrative and the subsequent developments have ensured that a majority of our urban middleclass, particularly that of Punjab, would remain hostile towards India while loving Bollywood flicks. Fear and hatred of India has been systematically used to keep us together and also justify huge spending on military.
I will not say that the fear is totally misplaced or cooked up. But times are gradually changing and as our neighbor zooms ahead, I doubt it has that much interest left in re-annexing Pakistan. If anything, their leadership (irrespective of ideology) would not like to see Pakistan destabilized as it would cause them problems.
For those amongst my countrymen who doubt my patriotism and accuse me of Indian appeasement to get “cheap” publicity, let me spell it clearly: I was born in Pakistan and despite being critical of its affairs, I love this country. In fact criticism is emanating of patriotism, but this is patriotism of a different kind. Rather than getting angry over “insults” I like to reflect on the reasons as to why we have this reputation. Pakistan is all what I care for.
For me patriotism is not hatred of India and United States while watching Bollywood flicks and begging for US visas.
Patriotism is not getting angry over a sixteen year old girl (who was shot in the face by TTP) for “insulting” Pakistan. It is not her who is insulting you in the international arena, rather it is those monsters (for whom you are offering apologetic defense) and their barbaric ways, which is the real cause for insult. If her ordeal is pointing out that Pakistan is a cruel patriarchal society then for God sake try to address the real issue which is the patriarchal cruel society. West is merely noticing it because of what happened to her due to this society.
And by the way, by calling her a Western stooge, you are yourself adding to the insult. If you get angry over Hakim Ullah Mesud’s assassination while hating a little girl who was almost killed by his men, then frankly do not be surprised by what the world thinks about you.
Patriotism is working towards removal of the real reasons behind your bad reputation. The day when you start working towards improving environment for your minorities, ensure better treatment of your women, and control your Bonapartist army, your reputation will improve and no Hinduvta brigade would be able to insult you.
Getting angry at people like me for being an Indian appeaser and “playing into the hands of Hinduvta brigade” is not going to solve the problem. This is our screwed up mindset that instead of the real cause, we get angry over those who are trying to point out that there is perhaps a problem with us and the rest of the world is merely noticing. Instead those who point it amongst us become the culprits and villains.
I am not insulting you my dear Pakistanis, you are insulting yourself….