Critics are calling on President Musharraf to apologize to Mr. Mohammad Ziauddin, a senior editor with the Pakistani Dawn newspaper, for calling him anti-Pakistani and questioning his patriotism.
At first glance, the journalist is vindicated. He simply asked Mr. Musharraf why he was trying to convince his western audience of the professionalism of the Pakistani security institutions when recently a wanted terrorist slipped away from the custody of Pakistani police. The President’s view went something like this, ‘Why a Pakistani journalist is asking me this question that embarrasses Pakistan , in London , in front of a British audience at a British think tank, when not a single European journalist posed this question to the Pakistani president throughout his nine-day visit?’ So, who is right? Mr. Ziauddin or Mr. Musharraf?
You will hardly find Turks or Iranians who wash their dirty laundry in the bright glare of world cameras the way Pakistanis do, and, to be more precise, the way Pakistani politicians and media do.
Even exiled Iranian liberals, who disagree with the mullahs in Tehran , calibrate their criticism when it becomes too focused on Iran . The Turks just won’t hear it against their country. The Israelis are as protective about Israel as a jealous wife, which is surprising because cynics tease Israel by saying it has so many ethnicities it can’t be a nation. Indians are a good example too. India has been anxiously building up its nationalism over the past decade in order to bolster its claim to a military superpower role. Since there is no precedence for Indian nationalism in the strict sense of the word, New Delhi has turned to its film industry and expensive PR advertisements on CNN to prop up a newfound sense of patriotism.
Pakistanis have not met a single Indian visitor to Pakistan who would be willing to speak against India on any issue on Pakistani soil. This is impressive since tens of delegations of Indian professionals and activists, from all shades of Indian opinion, have visited Pakistan over the past four years as part of the peace dialogue.
In contrast, members of Pakistani delegations visiting India during the same period have given scores of interviews criticizing their own homeland for everything under the sun. Our own hero, Mr. Imran Khan, recently selected an Indian city, Mumbai, as a venue for a huge press conference where he accused Pakistani military and government of assassinating Benazir Bhutto. If his choice was not intentional, it certainly was in bad taste. There are millions of U.S. citizens of Chinese descent, disconnected from mainland China for three or four generations. But even during the height of Sino-American political tensions, I have not heard or seen a single U.S. citizen of Chinese descent agreeing to write or speak against China in the same way that other American commentators do. Out of more than a billion Chinese, hardly any Chinese in the West is ready to form a political association to work against China ‘s interests. There have been a few dissidents but they never had an impact. In Pakistan , ordinary Pakistanis have no problem with Pakistani nationalism. The real problem lies with the intelligentsia, mainly journalists and politicians. In six decades of Independence , the Pakistani intelligentsia has failed to build and evolve a sense of Pakistani nationalism. This failure becomes clearer when compared to China , Israel and Turkey , where politicians, journalists and thinkers led the nation in building and consolidating their own nationalist identities.
The Pakistani intelligentsia has always justified its lack of interest in a Pakistani nationalism by pointing out that Pakistan consists of several ethnicities and languages and cannot be united on a single nationalist platform. Of course, this is a brazen excuse. Pakistani thinkers, journalists, and politicians have either been preoccupied by communism and socialism or simply held back by incompetence to ever think about Pakistani nationalism. (What I keep telling you of the specific cartel, their covert anti state activities, and rewards for carrying them out, etc.)
This is why it is understandable that in the seconds before he actually stepped up to the microphone to ask his question, Mr. Ziauddin never thought for a second whether his question is ‘good or bad for Pakistan .’
He never for a second thought to himself, ‘Well, it is good that nine days in Europe and nobody questioned the President on the escaped terrorist. Musharraf is defending the Pakistani record and the audience appears to be genuinely listening. I oppose Musharraf, but here, in London , he is the President of my country. I won’t question the competence of Pakistani security institutions before a foreign audience.’
Would Mr. Ziauddin have been wrong if he restrained himself in this way? Many Israelis disagree with Israel ‘s policy of killing innocent civilians during conflict. But so far no Israeli journalist has embarrassed the Israeli president and prime minister this way on their many foreign tours. Many Indians disapprove of the systematic Indian atrocities in Kashmir . But how many Indian journalists have confronted their leaders with this fact on foreign soil? A western journalist will not understand this mindset. That is why I am not very bothered by what the British media has written about this spat between our President and one of our senior journalists. Politics in Europe have evolved so much that patriotism and nationalism have been rendered obsolete, at least at the official level. But, for God’s sake, this is a country under attack. Pakistan has enemies even when we are not involved in Kashmir or Afghanistan . Pakistan ‘s detractors are bent on proving to a global audience that this country is a rotten apple and it’s okay if we invade it.
We need to prove this is not the case, even as we deal with our internal problems. That’s what our President, whether you like him or not, was doing in Europe . Was that too much for a senior journalist like Mr. Ziauddin to understand? This is why President Musharraf owes an apology to no one. It is time someone took a stand for Pakistani nationalism.