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:


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.

The Death Penalty Delusion

public hanging

Nawaz Sharif has lifted the ban on death penalty, and Gen Raheel has signed the death warrants for six convicted terrorists. The reaction has been fairly predictable, with right-wing hypernationalists beating their drum to hang someone, anyone, in the streets and left-wing human rights activists worrying about whether death penalty makes us no better than the killers we are killing. I have a different opinion than either of these. I’m not going to lose any sleep over whether a terrorist loses his life. Hang him if it makes you feel better. Hang him from a lamp post if something about that makes you feel more like a man. But don’t expect me to be there cheering it on, either, because it won’t matter. It won’t make one bit of difference.

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Gazans of Pakistan

Members of the Ahmadi Muslim community hold the names of victims as they stood over their graves in Chenab Nagar, located in Punjab's Chiniot District

Members of the Ahmadi Muslim community hold the names of victims as they stood over their graves in Chenab Nagar, located in Punjab’s Chiniot District

The terms ‘apartheid’ was first used to describe the political situation in South Africa when the country was divided along racial lines. South Africans with light skin were a class above South Africans with dark skin who were treated as unequal and unwanted in their own country. Dark skinned South Africans were denied housing, jobs, justice, and even killed due to their race. Eventually, the entire world could see the injustice in this political system and it South Africa was forced to change. A similar hope is for the future of Palestine, that the world will see that Israel is a new apartheid state that denies housing, jobs, justice, and even life to innocent Muslims only because of their religion.

But there is another apartheid state that exists today, which sadly is Pakistan. It is here that a group of citizens is legally declared to be unequal and are denied housing, jobs, justice, and even life. These are the Gazans of Pakistan, victims of economic and political discrimination and even genocide. I am talking about the Ahmedis of course.

In the most recent incident, a mob of 250 so-called men has murdered innocent children in Gujranwala. Are the lives of these innocent children worth less than the innocent children of Gaza? Where is the outrage? Where are the street protests? Where are the tweets of Maleeha Lodhi and others condemning the world’s Muslim leaders for their silence on this barbarity?

Maleeha Lodhi can Tweet and Moeen Ali can wear wristbands for Gaza, but who is the celebrity that make a public statement apartheid in this country? That is who will show true courage.

Gaza Can’t Be Saved With Religion

Religion and War

Israel escalated it’s attack against Gaza yesterday by launching a ground invasion, adding tanks and soldiers to the already indiscriminate air strikes. Hamas has refused any offer of cease fire and warns of ‘heavy price‘ for the latest invasion. Meanwhile, the world is struggling to find a solution that will stop the unnecessary killing. Well, most of the world. In Pakistan, our leaders and supposed ‘security experts’ are trotting out well worn emotional responses without a hint of reason.

I have already discussed the insanity of PTI’s suggestion that Pakistan nuke Israel, though I did not even bother to mention then what such an irrational policy would result for Pakistan itself.

Ansar Abbasi has made a similar suggestion recently, except not just for Pakistan but for all Muslim countries to launch a joint military operation against Israel.

Maleeha Lodhi, may be more sophisticated, but she appears to have the same suggestion also, although presenting it in a more subtle, plausibly deniable way.

Maleeha Lodhi obviously doesn’t mention war by name, but since Egypt, Turkey, Qatar and Pakistan have all been working to try to negotiate an end to the violence, it is not unreasonable to assume that diplomacy is not a satisfactory means for our ex-diplomat.

Details aside, the idea is always the same – that the Ummah is under attack from Jews and all means necessary to secure the Ummah against the Jews is justified. Ironically, this is essentially the same idea that is guiding Israel’s policy of state terrorism against Gaza – a religious obligation to kill.

Gaza can’t be saved with religion. That does not mean we should not pray to Allah to intervene and stop this madness, but it means that giving the same prayers that the Israelis are giving – ‘Oh God Kill Our Enemies’ – is part of the problem not part of the solution. In the meantime, we need to start looking for solutions that do not involve religious violence. Both for Gaza, and for ourselves.

Of Monsters and Men

Taliban killing woman

A tweet by Maleeha Lodhi caught my attention today as it hinted at the type of story that makes any sane person despair: Military ordering the killing of children as an act of war.

This story includes themes that press on many of our greatest emotions, doesn’t it? The foreign monsters who hold our lives in so little value that they systematically target and murder our own children to advance their imperialist agenda, and the troubled conscience that opens someone’s eyes to the evil committed by their own hands, driving them to regret and despair.

Then I actually read the story and was surprised to find something very different. Continue reading