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Pakistan's Image Abroad

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    Pakistan's Image Abroad

    From the pages of THE DAWN, Karachi.

    Our image abroad
    By Irfan Husain

    IF the average Pakistani knew of the low esteem much of the world held his country in, he would be most unhappy. Luckily, there are no opinion polls to confirm this view.

    On the other hand, most of us who suspect this state of affairs probably ascribe it to an international plot. For these conspiracy theorists, our actions and words do not warrant any reaction abroad. Just consider a few recent gems to understand why we are increasingly seen as an incomprehensible, irrational rogue state by those foreigners who are aware of and interested in what is happening here.

    While I will discuss the Kargil fiasco at greater length in another article, let me say that the rest of the world is appalled by the recklessness of the entire episode. I was abroad for the last six weeks, and can report that the stories and editorial comments published on the affair were almost uniformly critical of Pakistan. That a nuclear power could be irresponsible enough to launch such an adventure was horrifying. And while reporters and editors did write that the Pakistani government denied a hand in the whole affair, nobody really believed it. In fact, no Pakistani here or abroad swallowed this fabrication either.

    But if the initial blunder wasn't bad enough, we have the spectacle of thousands of people demonstrating against the decision to call a halt to the fighting. How should foreigners view such a bellicose reaction? It would have been perfectly proper for a popular response against the government for instigating hostilities, but instead here are people demanding that the killing and dying continue in the mountain wastes of Kashmir.

    Then we have the spectacle of the government hounding a respected journalist. On my return flight, I noticed a New York Times story carried by the Khaleej Times of Dubai. The report detailed Najam Sethi's trials and tribulations at the hands of the Nawaz Sharif government, including the attempt to declare The Friday Times editor a non-Muslim. I then picked up Newsweek, and found another major story on the subject there. I am sure millions of people around the world are now aware of this vicious vendetta against a journalist.When I was in London recently, several people asked me why the government was gunning for Sethi, and the only reason I could think of was that he was doing his job and exposing corruption in high places. What should foreigners think of a government and a country where journalists are arrested, beaten up, incarcerated without charges and their faith called into question? To top it all, the Election Commission is examining in all seriousness the "charge" that Sethi is a non-Muslim. In case I have such doubts about somebody I dislike, I trust the Chief Election Commissioner will take similar note of my suspicions. In fact, this is a novel way of harassing opponents, and one that seems destined to become a popular pastime.

    In another move to hassle him, 52 income tax-related cases have been slapped on the editor. This blatant misuse of state power to silence dissent is repellent to all those concerned about democracy and the freedom of the press. Sethi now faces the very real prospect of having his house confiscated, his weekly's office sealed, his book selling business seized and his bank accounts frozen. He has already been stopped at the airport and his passport taken away when he was leaving for London recently to accept an award conferred on him by Amnesty International.

    Then we have the bizarre indictment of the national cricket team for having lost the final of the recent World Cup. Apparently, effigies of players were burnt, their houses stoned, and inquiries launched into the causes of the defeat. Nobody abroad can understand why the loss of a game should inflame such passions and arouse such hysteria. The English press had been full of praise for our team, calling it the most exciting and talented squad in the tournament. And when it lost by such a humiliating margin, it was put down to inexperience and nerves. Nobody suggested that they had deliberately thrown the match, and the accusations appearing in the Pakistani papers were quoted with amusement and amazement.

    There have been stories in the British press of late detailing the sad saga of many girls born of Pakistani parents who are forced to marry against their will. When one such girl eloped with the man she loved, she was murdered at the behest of her parents. There are bounty hunters who track down young women who flee their homes to avoid forced marriage. These mediaeval acts in their midst shock average Britons who have been amazingly tolerant of the most bizarre behaviour by many of those who have chosen to settle in their midst.

    The defence most of these parents give in court is that they acted according to the norms prevailing in Pakistan, and all too often, they get off with only a mild reprimand. Unfortunately, it is true that they took their barbaric notions from here, although they should certainly not be permitted to put them into practice in a civilized country where young men and women are free to marry according to their choice once they have reached the age of consent. So even when our countrymen who have settled abroad choose to act in a barbaric manner, their attitudes do reflect on us as a nation.

    So far, I have not even mentioned the drug smuggling, the illegal immigration and the rabid fanaticism our countrymen are known for across the globe. But all these traits have gone a long way in giving Pakistan and Pakistanis a very unsavoury image and reputation abroad. We may choose to close our eyes to this reality or ascribe it to an international plot against us. But it is more difficult to face the truth and try to do something to change the image we have built for ourselves abroad.

    I stopped in Turkey for one glorious week on my way back with a very old and dear friend on the Aegean coast at her summer house in a small village. Keep in mind the fact that until relatively recently, Pakistanis were warmly welcomed in Turkey. Anyway, Deniz and I walked into a village shop for some groceries, and my hostess introduced me to the shopkeeper as a visitor from Pakistan. The man looked at me and said, "Ah, Pakistan!" I swear I could hear the pity in his voice.

    hummm...i donot know what is u tring to proof.

    if i want to critcize this artical i can find so many things as u ppl try to find problems in Pakistan.

    i know v have so many problem in Pakistan, but u money hunger JOURNALIST can't u find any better thing in Pakistan. If u'r answer is no then leave Pakistan.

    It is my request to All Pakistan lover, try to solve our own problem in Pakistan don't ask Western world or sell stories to Western media.

    Remember, If v will not respect Pakistan No on will respect us...