Beggar at Ghazi Chowk


Rehman Malik, Please don’t make Pakistan another xenophobic society.

10 Oct 2010

So I just read this in Dawn,

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Saturday stated that Nato’s apology for violating Pakistan border limits has been accepted.Malik announced this in Islamabad where he was laying the foundation stone for the memorial being built for the martyred policemen. Malik said that the international community should recognise the fact that Pakistan has given countless sacrifices in the war against terrorism.

The minister said that the Interior Ministry will make a record of all the existing religious seminaries in the country and will also investigate [emphasis added] the students coming to study in these seminaries from abroad.

Malik also announced that a welfare housing society will be constructed for the families of martyred policemen. He appointed former Inspector General of Police Dil Jaan Khan as the chairman of the committee for this society. Malik said that Khan will also be appointed an an honorary adviser of the Interior Ministry.

He said that for the recognition of the sacrifices made by the police force, a national day will also be announced. – DawnNews

First off, I respect all the government’s stance on the killing of Pakistani soldiers recently. It was the right reaction, it was needed, and we needed to make it as big a deal as it was made. Especially with even ‘objective’ media in the US such as the New York Times reporting that the NATO forces fired in self defense, hence killing Pakistani personnel. Not saying that it was a mistake, hence giving off the impression that the Pakistan army too has gone rogue against the ‘good guys’. This was a horrendous breach of trust and good faith, and it was time Pakistan finally raised its voice.

I don’t think we had a choice to not accept the apology. But the fact that the US and NATO both saw how vital their supply routes through Pakistan are, makes a huge difference. As Akbar Ahmed pointed out to me a few days ago, this was possible breaking point for the Afghanistan War. Things could have gone south, really south.

But then Rehman Malik goes and commits this ‘investigation’ gaff. I understand where the need arises from. Religious seminaries, and many foreign students enrolled there (aside of Pakistanis) have been a source of rising extremist ideology in Pakistan. Note that these are perhaps not all religious seminaries, but some.

Even if I were to take on face value, that all foreign students at these seminaries are likely to become extremists, the fact that we are ‘investigating’ them, and using that word specifically, reminds me of the immigration control I go through every time I come to the US.  I’m only taken to a secondary inspection queue/room and asked a few more questions, others of course have been investigated even more, psychologically tormented and even deported, for no apparent reason than suspect value.

I don’t want to think of Pakistan as another place where this is happens. Pakistan and America were both created on the same grounds of freedom, especially freedom to practice religion. Pakistan has been famously cited for its hospitality (even if artificially so), and I want that to remain a living dialog.

Pakistan has never, especially not now, needed even more xenophobia, especially government sponsored fear and tyranny against foreigners. This is our chance to fix these gaping hypocritical policy flaws. We have seen them gone wrong elsewhere in the world, and have also seen how hard it is to get rid of them.

These little gaffs of vocabulary cannot be left loose.