Another Embassy Blunder

It’s barely been over one month since the last blunder in Washington, but the Embassy has done it again. This time it was the new Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry who gave an appearance at US Institute for Peace in Washington, a favourite venue for state officials to give presentations no doubt thanks to the placement of Moeed Yusuf who believes Pakistanis need to do more to defend Pakistan’s narrative at US think tanks. Unfortunately, even Moeed was unable to prevent the Ambassador from reading from a set of talking points that left the world laughing. However, was it really a blunder? Or is this a perfect case of our diplomatic corps reflecting our preferred strategy for international diplomacy.

What gained the most attention was the Ambassador’s bizarre answer to a question from the audience about state persecution of Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan. Here is the question and Ambassador Aizaz Chaudhry’s unedited answer:

The ridiculous non-answer was immediately met with ridicule on social media.

Denying state persecution of Ahmadiyya community is impossible. When police demolish places of worship, and when Courts order police to take action against a religious community, that is state persecution. The persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan is decades old and extensively documented. So how can the Ambassador say with a straight face that no persecution exists, and even go on and claim that Ahmadis are treated equal in Pakistan?

Before we come to understand the answer, let us take note of another claim made by the Ambassador.

If this is true, what is Zarb-e-Azb? What is Radd-ul-Fasaad? Why does COAS Gen Bajwa and Gen Raheel before him claim that terrorists are defeated because of Army? Is the Ambassador Aizaz Chaudhry terming the Army chiefs as liars?

No, of course not. This has been the line fed to American officials since long in order to convince them not to interfere with our issues but only to give the Army more money and weapons. We tell them that there can not be any military solution to terrorism because we do not want Americans to ask why we are not willing to help against Taliban in Afghanistan or groups like Jamaat-ud-Dawa who entire world sees as terrorists but we see as patriots.

Actually, even though the Embassy has looked foolish to the rest of the world, the powers that be probably believe it was a huge success. Ambassador’s answers make no sense, but they are the official narrative that is being presented. He is not going off his scripted talking points and admitting any mistakes or problems like some previous diplomats whose tendency toward honesty on sensitive issues has resulted in being black listed at home.

There is another point, also. As usual, I can find no trace of any American or Western media paying any attention to this event. The Ambassador gave a presentation, but it is as if it never happened except in Pakistan. Here the Ambassador’s remarks are spun as a huge success of presenting a positive image of Pakistan in front of an audience of foreign dignitaries and scholars. For most Pakistanis, the truth of what happened will never be known. But maybe that was the point anyway.

Religious Tests: Theirs and Ours

American protests

Following massive protests blocking US airports, an American judge has blocked an order by the American President blocking citizens of Muslim countries from entering the US. It is an incredible moment that is unfolding before our eyes. While Pakistan was not included in the first list of countries banned, we do not have to stretch our imaginations to predict that we could be next.

Though should express concerned about the spread of bigotry and intolerance in the world, we should also take this moment to reflect on our own bigotry and intolerance. Some have asked if there could be a religious test forced on Muslims.

Have we forgotten that Muslims have already been forced into religious testing, not by the Americans, but by ourselves? Every time you get or renew your passport, you are forced into a religious test.

religious testWhere are the crowds blocking airports in Islamabad and Karachi demanding the rights of Ahmadis? Is there a judge in this country courageous enough to block this act of bigotry and intolerance?

Donald Trump’s orders are extremely worrying, but it is comforting to see the resistance of the American people. We can see the madness in Trump’s bigotry. When will we wake up and fight back against the Trump-ism that has already taken root here?

Nawaz Sharif just dealt an important blow to extremism

Muhammad Abdus SalamPrime Minister Nawaz Sharif has dealt an important blow to the forces of obscurantism and extremism today by renaming of Quaid-i-Azam University’s (QAU) physics department to the Professor Abdus Salam Center for Physics and creating a new programme named the Professor Abdus Salam Fellowship to grant five annual fellowships for Pakistani PhD students in the field of Physics.

Dr Muhammad Abdus Salam is a national hero, though he has been treated very badly and nearly forgotten only because of his religious sect. By openly recognising Dr Abdus Salam in such a public and lasting way, PM Nawaz has dealt an important blow to extremism in the country. It is a first step only, but it is a crucial one to undoing the normalisation of hate and sectarianism that has taken root in so much of our society.

 

Honouring Dr Muhammad Abdus Salam (1926-1996)

15th October 1979: Joint Nobel Physics prize winner and Imperial College of London professor Abdus Salam, originally from Pakistan. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

15th October 1979: Joint Nobel Physics prize winner and Imperial College of London professor Abdus Salam, originally from Pakistan. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Today is the 20th death anniversary of Dr Muhammad Abdus Salam, the first Pakistan to receive a Nobel Prize, which he was awarded in 1979. He was also awarded Sitara-e-Pakistan (1959) and Nishan-e-Imtiaz (1979) along with dozens of other honors both nationally and internationally. In a just world, he would be honoured as a hero. But the respected physicist did not live in a just world. He lived in Pakistan.

Dr Muhammad Abdus Salam was not only the first Pakistani to receive a Nobel Prize, he was actually the first Muslim to receive the Nobel Prize. After his death, this honour was noted on his headstone. Today, however, his grave has been defaced and the word ‘Muslim’ removed on the orders of government officials. His crime? He was an Ahmadi Muslim.

Dr Muhammad Abdus Salam grave

Today we express our sadness not only for the loss of Pakistan’s great hero Nobel Prize winner Dr Muhammad Abdus Salam, but for our own country that is so psychologically insecure that we cannot even honour its greatest citizens.

The Nightmare Comes True

Trump Muslims

Their country was founded as a homeland where they could finally be safe. Their religion would not be an issue. Their mosques would be be secure, and their children would not face discrimination. Here, their community members flourished. They were in government, they were successful doctors and scientists. Alhamdulillah, life was good.

Then something happened. A dark fog began to gather in the words they were hearing in the streets, and they began to worry that even here they would not be safe. They tried to protect their children, shooing them out of the room when the TV anchors were talking about politics. There was talk about banning their religion, demolishing their mosques, turning them into second class citizens in their own country.

They told themselves it couldn’t happen here. The father of the nation had declared this nation would be a homeland for them, too. But it did happen. The political movement was too strong, their neighbors were too apathetic, or did they secretly hate them too? The constitution was amended, and their religion was blacklisted. They found themselves attacked with impunity. Their mosques were demolished. They were forced to endure every type of humiliation. They were mocked and ridiculed and their faith was spit on.

The nightmare came true.

Anti Ahmadi Sign