FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Letter From a Wretched Pakistani

by SHAFQAT HUSSAIN

Jab zulm-o-sitam ke koh-e giran

Rooyi ki tarah ur jayenge.

When the weighted mountains of tyranny

Will fly off like cotton whisps.

— Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

This memorandum is addressed to you. You know who you are. You are the “international community.” You watch us on television, or not. Either way you have ideas about us, fears about us.

We, the Pakistanis, feel under siege. We feel under siege from our government policies at home and by how you see us, as worthless and terrifying. We feel directionless and lost.

Our rights are violated, our expectations dashed. You scorn us for these miseries. We have lost all dignity in our own eyes. We ask, “how can this go on? How can the masters of our country take us to ruin? What is it that they see that we do not see? Whose interests do they serve if not ours?”

We find no answers. We realize that no one is listening.

Our rulers and masters are powerful; their power comes from their ability and authority to control us and keep us poor and wretched. Tragically, or ironically, our rulers’ rulers don’t even know that they have us in the small of their hands. We are so insignificant, that our tormenters don’t know we exist. We are like ants beneath the feet of a giant who cannot even see them.We have been fantasized and re-fantasied as part of other people’s world.

We, the Pakistanis, are of no interest to anybody. We are poor, dangerous, disorganized, unfamiliar and chaotic. We can’t control geopolitics and we don’t have any overlapping interests with the superpowers. We want to have peace, security and dignity.

We have lived and we can live under difficult times, we have endured the burden of poverty for a long time, but we have never been so thoroughly condemned and humiliated as now. Compared to our current moral bankruptcy and shame, our past, albeit full of poverty, seems like a golden age.

The power of global politics and control is a glamorous and seductive business. We neither have the acumen nor the perspicacity nor even the desire to appreciate it. But we are still part of it.  We are like the extras in Hollywood and Bollywood movies who spent all their lives thinking that one day they will get a break. Their lives are full of false hope and optimistic explanations, but deep down their hearts they know that they don’t have control over that great leap into Success.

Just like them, we too will perish nameless. We will be talked about and written about in historical narratives, but only as objects of other people’s histories and destinies. We have no destiny.

A text message whizzes around the social media in Pakistan: “Pakistan has become so dangerous that even OBL is not safe here.” OBL. That’s Osama Bin Laden, who lived his last days in the cantonment town of Abbottabad. Even refugees from war torn Syria would refuse exit visas to Pakistan.

But we hope. We hope that in the end, everything will be all right. Or at least not as bad as it is now. We hope that the drunken stupor of the powerful will result in a hangover of reconciliation – that they will see the error of their ways and somehow treat the rest of us with some decency.

We endure the shame and denigration today in the hope that someday, in the near future please, our leading families will stand up for us. Dil, Dil Pakistan, goes the anthem from a band whose name reveals our hopefulness, Vital Signs. Reading the signs, we hope that from some corner will emerge someone who can emerge and take us out of this bad period, our champion.

Our national policies and priorities are set by the military, or what Ayesha Siddiqa calls Military Inc. (it has vast business interests, selling us oil through its Fauji Oil Terminal and running computer training workshops through Fauji Soft – Fauji being soldier). Dislike for the civilians is promoted through an army culture in which anyone who has had not gone through the discipline of army training is deemed an idiot and unprofessional. Professionalism comes from disciplines and discipline means obeying order and doing the training.

Intellectualism is abhorred and looked down up as a sign of free ranging thoughts. Intellectuals who are not yoked to the Fauji Foundations are seen as out of control and in need of discipline (either through the seduction of grants or the mediation of jail). These idiots are to be controlled and made subservient to the interest of the military. Proxy wars, defense contracting, and arms trading are some of the main functions and interests of the military. The Military creates an aura of perpetual decay of all national institutions, so that justification for the pursuit of their interests can be presented as a solution to all of these failures. They present their interests to us as ours.

You indict us, us, who are wretched, broken, dis-reputed and disenfranchised. You tell us that we hate you because we hate your freedom. You may be wrong but not totally. We don’t disagree with your freedom; in fact we would like to have nothing to do with your freedom.

We only hate you when you support dictators and a dictatorial structure that take away our freedom: our freedom to determine our values and our interests. You support those who decide our values and interests, without ever bothering to know what they are.

Both you and they call it the best thing in our interests. But the interests are yours, and theirs. You make alliances on interests, we want alliances on principles. You align interests of everyone with yours. You never think of aligning your interests with others. Your principles are slave to you interests. You support democracy, a principle, when it is in your interests. But you also topple democracies when it is in your interest.

You watch us on television. We create anxiety for you. But we have interests too, desires too. We, the wretched, do not feature anywhere in the scheme of your interests.

Shafqat Hussain teaches Anthropology at Trinity College. He likes to spend his days in Gilgit, chasing after snow leopards. He created Project Snow Leopard, an insurance scheme in several valleys of northern Pakistan that compensates farmers for goats killed by the big cats. It has saved the lives of between 25 and 40 snow leopards.

More articles by:

Shafqat Hussain teaches anthropology at Trinity College. He is the author of Remoteness and Modernity. Transformation and Continuity in Northern Pakistan. Shafqat is the recipient of the National Geographic Society’s Emerging Explorer Award.

November 21, 2017
Gregory Elich
What is Behind the Military Coup in Zimbabwe?
Louisa Willcox
Rising Grizzly Bear Deaths Raise Red Flag About Delisting
David Macaray
My Encounter With Charles Manson
Patrick Cockburn
The Greatest Threats to the Middle East are Jared Kushner and Mohammed bin Salman
Stephen Corry
OECD Fails to Recognize WWF Conservation Abuses
James Rothenberg
We All Know the Rich Don’t Need Tax Cuts
Elizabeth Keyes
Let There be a Benign Reason For Someone to be Crawling Through My Window at 3AM!
L. Ali Khan
The Merchant of Weapons
Thomas Knapp
How to Stop a Rogue President From Ordering a Nuclear First Strike
Lee Ballinger
Trump v. Marshawn Lynch
Michael Eisenscher
Donald Trump, Congress, and War with North Korea
Tom H. Hastings
Reckless
Franklin Lamb
Will Lebanon’s Economy Be Crippled?
Linn Washington Jr.
Forced Anthem Adherence Antithetical to Justice
Nicolas J S Davies
Why Do Civilians Become Combatants In Wars Against America?
November 20, 2017
T.J. Coles
Doomsday Scenarios: the UK’s Hair-Raising Admissions About the Prospect of Nuclear War and Accident
Peter Linebaugh
On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest
Patrick Bond
Zimbabwe Witnessing an Elite Transition as Economic Meltdown Looms
Sheldon Richman
Assertions, Facts and CNN
Ben Debney
Plebiscites: Why Stop at One?
LV Filson
Yemen’s Collective Starvation: Where Money Can’t Buy Food, Water or Medicine
Thomas Knapp
Impeachment Theater, 2017 Edition
Binoy Kampmark
Trump in Asia
Curtis FJ Doebbler
COP23: Truth Without Consequences?
Louisa Willcox
Obesity in Bears: Vital and Beautiful
Deborah James
E-Commerce and the WTO
Ann Garrison
Burundi Defies the Imperial Criminal Court: an Interview with John Philpot
Robert Koehler
Trapped in ‘a Man’s World’
Stephen Cooper
Wiping the Stain of Capital Punishment Clean
Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
Ryan LaMothe
A Christian Nation?
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Finger on the Button: Why No President Should Have the Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons
W. T. Whitney
A Bizarre US Pretext for Military Intrusion in South America
Deepak Tripathi
Sex, Lies and Incompetence: Britain’s Ruling Establishment in Crisis 
Howard Lisnoff
Who You’re Likely to Meet (and Not Meet) on a College Campus Today
Roy Morrison
Trump’s Excellent Asian Adventure
John W. Whitehead
Financial Tyranny
Ted Rall
How Society Makes Victimhood a No-Win Proposition
Jim Goodman
Stop Pretending the Estate Tax has Anything to do With Family Farmers
Thomas Klikauer
The Populism of Germany’s New Nazis
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail