Smokers’ Corner: Bananas - Nadeem F. Paracha - Sunday, January 30, 2011

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For long, many Pakistanis have wondered just how do certain Pakistani media men and religious leaders who have turned the obsessive act of badmouthing the US, Jews and liberals into a robust cottage industry, manage to travel so frequently to the US. Well, it seems the days of curiosity in this respect may be coming to an end. According to a front-page story in Dawn last Friday, four US Congressmen have asked Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, to refuse visas to those Pakistanis who are on record praising the killer of former Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer.

There are reports that the US government is now seriously contemplating refusing visas to a number of Pakistani media personnel, lawyers and religious leaders who have been reported to have condoned the ghastly murder. These also include TV and print journalists and religious leaders who travel regularly to the US (and Europe). Most Pakistanis who were shocked by the jubilant reactions of certain people at Taseer’s assassination have squarely hailed the report of a possible US visa ban on these men and women.

This hailing has nothing to do with some Pakistanis’ resentment of not being able to visit Disneyland the way all these so-called anti-West media folks, lawyers, politicians or religious leaders have been doing for many years. Instead, the welcoming gesture by them is more about the rather concrete perception that surrounds the ways of these obsessive anti-US charlatans in which they are seen as spreading political and religious hatred and arousing populist political chaos under the cover of being gung-ho patriots and people of faith who are out to warn the Islamic republic of the nefarious designs of Americans, Jews and Hindus.

But, of course, unknown to most Pakistanis is the startling fact that many such fiery journalists and men/women of faith are regular visitors to the US and European countries. Also, for long, a number of Pakistan’s staunch anti-West defenders of the faith and sovereignty have had close relatives, children and siblings settled in various western countries, while they urge Pakistanis to rise against ‘US slavery’ and to ‘crush America.’

The question always was, for how long could Pakistanis go on loudly supporting the rising and now almost entirely knee-jerk and rhetorical tide of anti-Americanism while at the same time be the first to join the long queues seen outside American and European visa offices? It is a bizarre sight, but come to think of it, the bizarre, especially in matters of faith and ideology, has certainly become the norm in this country.

We are quick to use terms like munafiq (hypocrite) for others, but we conveniently refuse to see that each one of us has become a raving, ranting hypocrite — a double-faced act that we then explain away as a reaction against corruption and ‘US imperialism.’ It’s a vicious cycle that denies us the patience and logic to reflect upon our own doings instead of always being on the look out for ‘bad Muslims’, ‘heretics’, foreign agents and media-made punching bags to blame our economic miseries, political chaos and moral confusion on. Worse are those who do so simply to bag cheap and instant applause from morally and intellectually bankrupt sections of society, or from a populace frustrated by living under the booming hammer of economic downturns, wobbly regimes and terrorist attacks. So much change (in the mindset and not just faces) has to be allowed and worked for if this unfortunate country is ever to finally take that turn towards some sort of salvation. And mind you, like it or not, this turn may also mean us having to embrace certain economic, social and political ideas and policies which, today, we are mindlessly rejecting as being western, Orientalist, secular or liberal.

I just cannot understand why so many Pakistanis clamp up when anyone suggests such ideas as solutions in Pakistan, whereas the same Pakistanis are okay living among these same ideas in western countries. But then, are they, really? For example, forget about nuts like Faisal Shahzad or prying puritans like Farhat Hashmi — their topsy-turvy ways are all too obvious — what about those Pakistanis who keep posting hate comments and speeches on the internet from various US cities? How did they get the US visa?

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