Truth exists in the world…whether we like it or not

Abdullah posterAs a blogger, there are two categories that one finds oneself placed into: Are you #PakPositive or will you be labeled as “anti-Pakistan”? Being PakPositive is easy. You simply re-Tweet certain accounts, post nice articles about youngest Microsoft certification or some obscure economic news or ready made photos of Gen Raheel and move on to the next thing. It requires no thought. Thinking will get you in trouble. Thinking is the fastest path to being labeled ‘anti-Pakistan’. This is because thinking requires facing difficult and uncomfortable truths. Truths that we wish didn’t exist, and don’t give a good image to the nation.

Every nation suffers from uncomfortable truths. I could fill an endless timeline of tragedies taking place in India and I would be labeled as pro-Pakistan. How is it pro-Pakistan to talk about India’s troubles, though? If I blog about rapes in India, does it make women safer here? Will blogging about Hindu extremists prevent another Taliban attack in KP? If I write an expose on oppression of Dalits, will Ahmadis be treated better? Complaining about the stench coming from your neighbors house will not put out the fire raging in your own. That requires first pointing out that there is a fire and second figuring out how to put it out.

But what if you are not allowed to point out that there is a fire? This is becoming the case increasingly, where not only do you run the risk of being labeled as anti-Pakistan but if you have a loud enough voice you may never be allowed to speak. This is the case of Hashim Nadeem’s latest film Abdullah which was blocked by censors for being anti-Pakistan. What was anti-Pakistan about it?

The film is about the Kharotabad incident of May 2011 that claimed the lives of five foreigners, including two women, one of whom was pregnant. Frontier Constabulary personnel deputed at the Kharotabad checkpost in Quetta claimed the foreigners were suicide bombers and gunned them down brutally.

The incident was caught on camera by a local journalist and aired on news channels, which then reported the five were innocent. Later, a police surgeon who had conducted autopsies on the five victims was shot dead. The surgeon had contradicted claims made by the police and FC personnel that the five were armed and were suicide bombers.

This is actually a very important story. Who is right? Could there have been a mistake? How can such mistakes happen? Unfortunately, even as adults we are treated like small children who are too simple and naive to understand such complexities. These uncomfortable truths are hidden away. However hiding them does not erase them. Censoring news or films about the surge in encounter killings does not mean that no innocent people are killed unjustly. Hiding the details of over 8,000 missing Baloch does not make them all terrorists.

If we are going to solve the problems that the nation faces, we first must be willing to admit that the problems exist. Then we must have an open dialogue about how to solve them. There is nothing to be gained by hiding uncomfortable truths. That is what has brought us to the sad state we are in now. As the poster for Abdullah notes: Truth exists in the world…whether we like it or not.

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.

“Homeland” Problems – Theirs…and Ours

homeland

Today in Pakistan, we face a number of growing problems. From the skyrocketing of preventable diseases to poverty and corruption to the spread of violence fueled by religious extremism, Pakistan has become engulfed in crisis. Instead of working to fix the problems, however, too many of our ‘best and brightest’ are expending their energy to cover them up in a well intentioned but misguided effort to improve Pakistan’s image.

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