Why Nayyar need not worry - Zafar Hilaly - Saturday, March 26, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=38225&Cat=9

Kuldip Nayyar, the eminent Indian journalist and tireless protagonist for better India-Pakistan relations, told an audience in Islamabad the other day that peace between the two countries was vital. Otherwise, he added, “I feel Pakistan will move towards Arabs in the absence of an opening with India.” Mr Nayyar need not worry. Pakistan has been trying to befriend Arabs (mostly the Gulf Arabs), but in spite of our best efforts the vast differences in our mental equipment and outlook has ensured we remain apart, and this is not about to change.

There is very little that Pakistan has not done to earn Arab favour. We have gone so far as to place Pakistan at their disposal; we have offered our land to feed them; our army to defend them; our labour to build their infrastructure, at trifling salaries and in living conditions which a conscientious slave trader would have difficulty in accepting; we have offered our wildlife and fauna as a free range for their falcons; and God knows much else, some of which can never be mentioned.

If that were not enough, we named Faisalabad, Faisal Mosque, Faisal Avenue, Sharah-e-Faisal, Shah Faisal Colony, Faisal this and Faisal that, as further signs of our regard for them, and especially the richest of them, the Saudis. But so unrequited has been our love in this respect that not a single street or highway, to say nothing of a city, was named after the Quaid in any of these Western petrol stations of the Gulf.

Z A Bhutto blazed the trail by offering up “the army of Pakistan as the army of Islam, in 1974 at the Lahore Islamic Summit; although Bhutto was being Bhutto, mostly promising what he could never deliver. In September 1970, the man who was to be his nemesis, Ziaul Haq, had already led a Jordanian army division in a war, not against infidels who coveted Arab land, mind you, but against fellow Muslims – the hapless Palestinians. He did such a good job in routing them that he received Jordanian accolades and a bauble from King Hussein. And, of course, he earned Pakistan the enmity of the Palestinian leadership.

In return for their cringing, our leaders also obtained from the Gulf Arab ruling families a safe haven, money and land for themselves and their relatives to enable them to start businesses and homes, whether or not they were in exile, so that they can live and spend their ill-gotten gains in comfort. In return, the Arabs claimed and obtained for themselves the right to be not merely an observer but a participant on the Pakistani political scene (Wikileaks).

Needless to say, they used this valuable entree for their own benefit. They funded religious political parties by buying up all the literature these organisations published and which no one else would bother to read; and when that ran out, they simply handed out sackfuls of rupees. They financed the publication of religious textbooks for schools which insinuated their own take on Islam to the exclusion of others’ and funded madaressahs that spewed sectarian venom.

Gulf Arab leaders are in the habit of summoning our rulers and heads of our lay political parties to their palaces and desert hunting grounds to impart instructions. And, just so they are listened to attentively and obeyed, give a mite or so of their astronomical earnings every now and then to earn our gratitude and help the army purchase upmarket American weaponry. As for the Pakistani awam, they prefer to keep them at arm’s length.

In an earlier article I had described the incarceration and expulsion of a Pakistani worker in the UAE merely for making a rude finger gesture to a local who had insulted him, which, at most, should have drawn an admonition. I had further recounted how I had personally witnessed a bewildered Pakistani labourer on arrival at Jeddah airport having the “taweez” worn on his arm prised off by an iron comb and thrown to the ground and stamped on by a furious Saudi security official. In Pakistan such an act would have had hordes of baying fundos demanding his head.

Regrettably, this trend of hostility against Pakistani people, which is so pervasive in the Gulf states, continues unabated. The latest example is the harrowing accounts on the internet of the treatment meted out to Pakistanis by their Arab “brothers” in Bahrain during the ongoing civil unrest there. According to an eyewitness in Manama, “the medical staff of a hospital, including doctors, took out bleeding Pakistanis from the ambulance as though animals, with hands tied behind their backs, and kicked and beat them,” only because they were Pakistanis. This was preceded by the killing of four Pakistani-origin members of the Bahraini police, while their Bahraini officers were left unmolested.

Sadly, these incidents received scant attention in our press, whereas intrusive questioning or a body search by a Western official of some Pakistani official at, say, Paris or Washington airports, raises a howl of protest. It may be part of human nature to hate the man you have hurt, but to hate a man before you hurt him, purely because he is a Pakistani, amounts to xenophobia and racism.

Some will say such atrocities these days are the exception, and not the rule, in the Gulf, and explain it away by putting it down to the exceptional times and the historical changes that the Arab world is witnessing. But nature, though often hidden and sometimes overcome, is seldom extinguished. Besides, Arab history is a long and virtually uninterrupted saga of Muslims killing Muslims on account of differences in race, sect, creed and colour, notwithstanding the Quran, which abhors such practices. In fact, Arabs have killed fellow Muslims with greater glee and ferocity than the infidel. In just about every Arab country today, not excluding Palestine, a fellow Muslim or a foreign Muslim is the greater enemy. Whether it is the Shia-Sunni, Arab-Persian or secular-religious divide, they are all hand-me-downs from the early days of Islam when the Abbasids, Fatimids, Umayyads and subsequently the Ottomans and the Arabs were busy slaughtering each other.

In the circumstances, Mr Nayyar has no need to be concerned or in a hurry. He should continue his work in bringing Pakistan and India closer together. Whether or not the “opening to India” takes place, he can rest assured that the Arabs will continue to bristle with prejudice when it comes to dealing with the poor people of Pakistan.

The writer is a former ambassador. Email: charles123it@hotmail.com

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