Foreign Journalists and the vision problem

It is sometimes the clearest of accusations that one must be most weary of. These accusations, like the one Christine Fair levelled on Pakistan – You are the enemy of the US – that imprisons Pakistan within its own narrowest allegiances. We take on the eyes of the seer as we size ourselves up. Often without much deliberation – and this doesn’t help anyone. Not the US, not Pakistan.

This outside-looking-in view of defiling the identity of Pakistan by journalists with crowned scholarly affiliations is like it has always been in the past – The treacherous west; the uncivilized dark continent; the uncouth Jews and as it stands now, the boat people. In this case the cautions are the same: Pakistan plays dubiously, it sneaky in its transactional deals, takes money to control terrorism on its Afghan side but redirects it to create insurgencies in India.

When faced with this charge, be it only of an overambitious journalist’s – we have no choice but to fault our military for being less transparent and more ambiguous. The mismanagement of Baluchistan only adds fuel to fire. Its inability to contain terrorism as evident with the APS incident in Peshawar on December 16, 2014 is down right deplorable. The fact that we haven’t been able to move towards peace with India, missing out on the inevitable prosperity, can also be faulted to the military.

These are the very narrow alliances we are forced to define ourselves with, shattering both our identity, and its various interconnected parts and our sense of hope for the future of this country. I have two issues with these guns pointed towards Pakistan – the pointer’s credibility is just as much in question and also the mistrust-our-allies fear mongering serves as propaganda in the US to argue for more control.

The Pakistan army’s missteps can easily be tracked to the US government’s echoing steps from Charlie Wilson’s Afghan war to the War on Terror. If there is truly a desire to stop terrorism, a good place to start would be to stop participating in it. It isn’t just Pakistan that the US’s military strategies went awry in, there is Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Latin America. The US has led several covert operations and then there was also the Contras.

India is home to several insurgencies, and it is difficult to convince anyone that they are Pakistan-funded. The iron handed Kashmir policy has led to a landfill of human rights violations. The deaths on the line of control notwithstanding, there is an Amnesty International call to bring to justice several state agents that were systemically involved in rights abuses in Kashmir.

The point is not that Pakistan’s military antics should go unchecked and that they be infringed from democratic processes. The point is that there is no locus standi of any journalist to go muckraker on this small state when considerably larger military empires, joined with full industry support, are not judged on the same scale. Admonish all or admonish none and certainly don’t pick on the smallest state with its own implosive problems with outlaws and terrorists.

This dehumanizing talk, the language of impunity and the general disregard of the 80,000 Pakistanis that have perished in the demonic war of terrorism since the War on Terror is what Orwell referred to as universal deceit. It takes effort to create context, to eliminate binaries and to see the people behind the powers that represent them. By obliterating how Pakistan ended up in a terrifying place, in the first place is a disservice to the institution of journalism which was created to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. Not the other way round.

If it is a rock star complex, I don’t know what it is to think that writing a piece of literature in a respectable journal or paper is going to change the course of a few war hungry generals on all sides. The only thing a whipping of Pakistan will ensure is that people like us, the Pakistanis who want to bring more accountability and transparency, will be pushed in the corner to reject the vitriol in its entirety. Our identity encapsulates our original fight for self-determination. We are willing to fight it again, even if the oppressor changes or the platform is more evasive.

Pakistan has a vibrant opposition, a sensitized judiciary and a man at the helm of its military that has seemingly less ambition to become royalty and more to put an end to his beheaded jawans. Perhaps for the first time in many years, the structure is solidifying in the benefit of the people of this country. Let it solidify.

Don’t sell us the orientalist jargon.

 

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