Six months after APS Peshawar, we have lost the plot completely

APS Peshawar

16th December was supposed to be a turning point. The brutal massacre of hundreds of innocent children at APS Peshawar had finally awoken the nation and united our resolve to defeat the real enemy – the jihadi extremists that had killed tens of thousands of Pakistanis since the last ten years. It is almost six months since that black day, and where are we now? The truth is not encouraging.

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The problem with #PakPositive

People rarely get the whole story about Pakistan. In the global imagination, our nation is perceived as a filthy, dangerous place fueled by violence and hatred. Hollywood films like “Homeland” reinforce these stereotypes while ignoring all the wonderful, beautiful things about our homeland. In response, many well meaning individuals have embarked on an effort to promote a #PakPositive image for the country. While well intentioned, this effort has an unintended side effect which is actually self-defeating.

Maleeha Lodhi

Many of the supposedly #PakPositive stories are relatively harmless. World records for giant human flags are interesting and give a patriotic feeling. Others, though, seem a little desperate. Highlighting the fact that Maleeha Lodhi is the “first Pakistani woman” to hold the position of Permanent Representative to the UN ignores the fact that this is a position appointed by Pakistan. Isn’t promoting our willingness to appoint a career diplomat to a diplomatic position even though she’s a woman setting the bar a little bit low for #PakPositive?

Worst, though, is when #PakPositive is used as an excuse to avoid dealing with the problems that plague our nation. Malala Yousafzai was targeted by militants for wanting an education. Despite being nearly murdered, she never gave up and has been recognized by the world for her courage. She has been given large cash awards, and has donated that money to improving schools in Pakistan and Gaza. This is something we as a nation should be very proud of, but instead she is defamed by many Pakistanis for talking openly about Pakistan’s problems.

Unfortunately, this attitude has become part of our political and diplomatic strategy. The following Tweets by Taha S Siddiqui perfectly illustrates the problem:

#PakPositive

The diplomat was 100 per cent incorrect. We do not need “positivity” at a regional seminar on radicalization, we need solutions. Otherwise the respected diplomat should seek a job with PTDC.

There is nothing wrong with promoting positive stories. When our daughter is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, we have the right to be proud. However, there is a difference between being proud of our achievements and ignoring our problems. Terrorism, extremism, polio, lack of education – these are not a drunk uncle who can be hidden away in the back of the house. They are serious problems, and they deserve to be treated seriously. Every nation has problems. It is how a nation faces those problems that determine the nation’s image. If we want to improve our image in the world, we need to be seen as taking our problems seriously, not trying to sweep them under a rug.

Whose Agenda Is Being Promoted?

World Congress of Overseas Pakistanis

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.

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Ideology and Education: A Deadly Combination

Ahmed al-Ghamdi

Ahmed al-Ghamdi is no unbeliever. He is not even a liberal. The conservative Muslim lead the mutaween in Mecca. One day, he was devotedly studying Qur’an and Sunnah when he discovered something that surprised him:

“I wanted to go to their underpinnings, so I began collecting all the texts relating to [gender mixing] from the Quran and the Sunna. My conclusion was that not a single text or verse in the Quran and Sunna specifically says that mixing is haram. The word ‘mixing’ is not even in the Quran.”

When Al-Ghamdi reported his discovery, he was fired from his position with the religious police. He was fired not due to his being wrong, but because his discovery had challenged the ruling power structure. In this instance, education and critical thinking were seen as a threat to the status quo and were therefore punished. In Pakistan, we are experiencing a similar backlash against critical thinking and education, but the stakes are much higher than merely losing ones’s job.

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