By Rajeev Sharma
Call it the curious case of George Fulton and his love affair with Pakistan that has come to an abrupt end. The case reflects the current state of Pakistan.
British journalist, George Fulton, who was conferred Pakistani citizenship by the Musharraf regime as a token of his unalloyed love for the country, has decided to move out of the land. Writing in the Pakistani newspaper, Express Tribune, he said that he could no longer put up with all that he saw around him; and his decision to say ‘Khuda Hafiz, Pakistan’ is supported by his Pakistani mother-in-law.
His two-part article conveyed a sense of betrayal by the nation he had come to love. He began by noting that Pakistan is one of the most violent nations on earth. Created as a safe haven for the Muslims of pre-partition India, it saw a section of its Muslim population fight for freedom (Bangladesh). When Governor Salman Taseer was killed by his guard, hailed universally as a hero, the ‘hope for Pakistan’ had died. The assassin of Taseer represented the Pakistani ‘mindset.’
Extremism has permeated ‘all strata of society and socio-economic groups’ in Pakistan, who attribute all their ills to the Hindus, the Jews and the Americans. The recent detention of Pakistani singer, Rahat Ali Khan, at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, following the recovery of a huge amount of unaccounted cash was a conspiracy by the wily Hindus out to malign the ‘fair’ name of Pakistan. That Ali had violated the law on baggage was not material to these Pakistanis, nor is the observations of the singer himself that he was not ill-treated during his detention and that he would not stop going on concert tours of India.
Fulton observes that the jehadi forces and religious bigots act as tools for influencing both domestic and international policies. He believes the Pakistani military, the defenders of the faith and the nation, is becoming the ‘catalyst for its cannibalisation.’ Neither of these observations comes as a surprise to the keen watchers of Pakistan scene in Washington and London.
As the British journo turned Pakistani reality TV show host notes, the military became more brash and arrogant after the entry of Pakistan in the nuclear club in 1998. The years that followed saw adventurism in Kargil, terrorist attacks on Indian parliament and terror mayhem in India’s commercial capital, Mumbai. It is evident to all, save the Pakistani military, that it is going to be the cause of the country’s eventual downfall.
Finally, despite all the orchestrated anti-Americanism, the Pakistanis suffer from ‘chronic servitude’ of the Americanism and are happy to remain a client state of the US, says George Fulton in what is certainly a blunt comment for a Britisher known for understatements. What he doesn’t say and for which we have to read Margaret Bourke-White’s ‘Halfway to Freedom’ (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1949) is that the roots of present day Islamist ascendancy and subservience to America were laid when Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the Quaid-i-Azam, was wearing a ‘triple crown’ (Governor General of the new nation, President of the Muslim League –Pakistan’s only political party of the day, and President of the country’s lawmaking body, the Constituent Assembly). Margaret’s books makes great reading, offers invaluable insights into the past, and provides lessons for the future.
In so far Fulton is concerned he appears to justify his conclusion by pointing out that the hue and cry that the government raises regularly against America ends in a whimper, always. Witness the manner in which all sections, government included, had first demanded death to the American Raymond Davis on a charge of murdering two Pakistanis, and then quietly released him.
L’affaire Raymond Davis shows Pakistan is finding it hard to continue to stretch its luck too far in playing games with the US. The pledge of unswerving loyalties to ‘Western’ values, like respect for individual freedom and rule of law, not to speak of its will to fight terrorism, is being exposed as downright sham in the nuclear-armed nation that is also a big basket case in today’s world.
And in these days of ‘meltdown’, the West is no longer in the benevolent mindset of the Col War days. Witness the way IMF has arm-twisted President Zardari to announce a mini-budget that is designed to cut (Pakistani) Rs173 bn in expenditure and collect (Pakistani) Rs 53 billion in new taxes. When Pakistan is hit by anti-Americanism epidemic, the White House knows it will have a tough time in the Congress by being generous with gifts of lethal arms and ammunition and easy visas for the Pakistanis of all descriptions- the families of victims of American Robinhoods ala Raymond Davis are an exception, of course.
As George Fulton’s Khuda Hafiz Pakistan brings into sharp focus, the exposure of the dangerous, if not nasty, face of the major non-NATO ally of the US has come in rapid succession in recent weeks, chiefly with the controversy over the blasphemy law. The exposure served as a wake- up call. Emerging from deep slumber, the West finds that Pakistan is marching on the path of extremism and intolerance. It shows little concern for Christians and believers in other faiths. The country preaches hatred for them through text books, sermons from the pulpit and stereophonic media blitz.
Pakistan is a country created for the believers of a religion that teaches tolerance and mutual respect above all things but as Asif Nawaz, Abbottabad based medical student, who writes for The News, says in his Express Tribune blog post (Was Jinnah’s Pakistan ‘Islamic, Dec 11, 2010), it is hypocrisy and force that enjoy supremacy in the country today; people hit the road the instant they hear or told that some thing happened to the Quran in California or a cartoon of disrespect appears in a newspaper they can neither receive nor read. And decibel levels of protests go up if France bans burqas in schools and offices even as ‘others’ find it difficult to follow their faith amongst a see of people who have leaned to ‘determine the piety of a man by the length of his facial hair and his nobility by the time he squanders on the prayer-mat’.
No surprise therefore, the ‘liberal’ voices in Pakistan, whose views are aired more before a foreign or English-speaking audience than their own compatriots, are opting to go silent as they, in their own words, are too scared to speak anything that was not acceptable to the fundamentalists and extremists. It surely point to the tenuous moorings of liberal traditions in Pakistan. No surprise, a BBC survey places Pakistan in the company of North Korea and Iran, the countries most negatively seen in the world. The survey critics are silenced by Fulton’s fulminations and by the fundamentalist and extremist forces, who are out to grab de jure power from their de facto proxies in Islamabad and Rawalpinidi.
(The writer is a New Delhi-based journalist-author and a strategic analyst. He can be reached at [email protected])