Rising intolerance in India is no secret. Lynchings of Muslims by Hindu extremists have made international headlines, and the world has taken notice of Modi’s unwillingness to show sensitivity to his country’s minorities. So when Amir Khan said that he too felt alarmed by the growing incidents and even his wife had asked if they should move, it should have come as no surprise. However, the reaction – both here and in India – tells a lot.
In India, Amir Khan has been termed a traitor by right-wing hyper-nationalists, with even Shah Rukh Khan thrown in for good measure. In Pakistan, however, Amir Khan is being treated at a martyr who is being persecuted for doing nothing but telling the truth. This is the correct response, and it should also come as no surprise except when we remember how we treat our own Amir Khans.
The list is a long one: Asma Jahangir, Pervez Hoodbhoy, Marvi Sirmed, Hamid Mir, Husain Haqqani, Raza Rumi, Mama Qadeer…the list goes on and one. Anyone who dares to stand up for Ahmadis, question Army’s actions in Balochistan or support for jihadi groups like Jamaat-ud-Dawa, or apologises for treatment of Bengalis before 1971 is branded as a traitor and threatened with their lives. Are we hypocrites? Or can we not see that we are acting exactly like the Hindu extremists we claim to be against?
We have long known that terrorism is not natural to occur in Pakistan. The footprints of American CIA and Black Water agents, Israeli Mossad, and RAW have been found at the scene of every act of violence. Rehman Malik warned that foreign elements were spreading terrorism in Pakistan when he was Interior Minister, and Chaudhry Nisar has continued the same during his term. In the media, retired military officers have been protesting that India’s intelligence agency is behind every act of terrorism in the country, but this week charges of Indian responsibility for terrorism were given the ultimate stamp when GHQ made the accusation in an official release from ISPR. The question now is what happens next?
When Najam Sethi discussed the assassination of Sabeen Mahmud on his show, an interesting thing happened. The audio feed cut in and out during the program. Many viewers ignored the brief periods of silence, chalking it up to technical problems with their sets or with the the transmission. Only later was it realised that the missing audio was probably not an accident.
The historical irony that a military dictator ushered in an era of journalistic freedom has not gone unnoticed. Gen Musharraf unleashed the media dogs, and the media dogs bit him squarely. For the next few years, the media served a purpose, though, keeping check on our new democracy by showing no restraint against any civilian politician. But as the curtain begins to close on Pakistani democracy, the era of media freedom too appears to be drawing to a close.
The important role of our countrymen living overseas cannot be overstated. In addition to sending billions back home in remittances, overseas Pakistanis are having a major influence in politics by funding political parties. However, it is not only influence inside Pakistan that is taking place. According to a new report, a shadowy organisation in London called the ‘World Congress of Overseas Pakistanis’ has arm-twisted Oxford University into canceling speaking invitations to Hamid Mir and Malala Yousafzai. This report is disturbing enough by itself, but it also raises questions about how certain vested interests may be using overseas Pakistanis to promote a particular agenda in foreign countries.