Memogate Mindset

As the memogate saga continues to drag on long after its expiration date, it occurred to me that Memogate is about much more than the accusations underlying the case. How else could one man with quickly sinking credibility manage to so completely capture the attention of the nation? What I’m proposing, though, is not that memogate is a conspiracy – I don’t know if it is or it isn’t. What I’m proposing is that memogate reflects a mindset that cripples our ability to get things done.

In this mindset, despite the bizarre claims, the countless contradictions, and the weak and unimpressive ‘evidence’, we get swept up by a dramatic narrative in which we chose a villain and then become fixated on catching the villain and punishing him. In the process, we ignore all facts and reason. In the memogate case, Dawn captures this perfectly:

Three serving chief justices of high courts are spending long hours wrestling with borderline silly claims and counter-claims in Islamabad while the infinitely more serious work of managing high courts weighed down by myriad administrative problems has been sidetracked.

But it’s not just secret memos that we allow to distract us from pressing issues. Drones, too, have become a fixation of the national mindset. You don’t have to support drone strikes to realize that they aren’t the biggest threat to Pakistan right now. Facts are facts, and the facts are that while hundreds of innocents have been killed by by drones, but over 30,000 have been killed by extremists. But you wouldn’t know that from the way we talk about the war on terror here. We turn a blind eye when militants hold public rallies, but we suspect every American of being a Raymond Davis.

Imran Khan says the killing of Osama bin Laden was the greatest humiliation for Pakistan, but what about the fact that the world’s most wanted terrorist not only felt safe living for years in the shadow of Kakul. Was that not a greater embarrassment? Dr Afridi has been charged with treason for helping expose the terrorist leader, but nobody has asked who helped this terrorist to violate Pakistan’s sovereignty and expose us to international humiliation.

Imran Khan termed the killing of Osama bin Laden as “cold blooded murder”, while his good friend Munawar Hasan terms Osama as “the greatest martyr” – but martyr for what? Certainly not for the Islam that is practiced by hundreds of millions of Pakistanis – a humble, peaceful, merciful, loving Islam. We have picked our villain, and it is America. Facts and reason be damned.

This mindset is holding us hostage. Just as the continued wasting of precious time and resources on the word of a single discredited source keeps us from relieving the suffering of countless Pakistanis who are crying out for justice, our obsession with America as a villain keeps us from seeing the forces who are actually carrying out attacks against our people and our targeting our military assets. If we truly want to defend Pakistan, we need to change this mindset now.

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