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19/09/2018
SUPERPATRIOTS
On Pakistan's attitude to intellectuals from minority communities.

Patriotism is when I believe in my country and another does not.  Who is a true patriot? The man who obeys the Constitution, one who enforces it, one who abjures it, or the one who suspends it?  Who is qualified to determine how one’s nationalism is to be judged? Or is there a master genus of superpatriots?   

We Pakistanis are unicellular patriots. We are prone to what the Chinese leadership warns as ‘splittism’.  We may not know who we are, but we know for sure who else should not be us. Gradually, the line drawn by the Quaid-e-Azam between the green and white on our national flag is petrifying into an impermeable barrier as forbidding as the Great Wall in China and the Berlin Wall ever were.

It will take years of political surgery to remove the scars left by the ostracism of our first Nobel prize winner Dr Abdus Salam and the recent excision of Dr Atif Mian from the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council. History never had the chance of knowing what contribution Dr Salam might have made to fostering science in our country. Now, we will never know what sort of life-altering advice Dr Mian could have given to revivify our nation’s economy.

Few will be able to rationalise how we can cadge billions of dollars off the IMF but cannot borrow ideas from an economist anointed by the IMF as one of the ‘25 brightest economists in the world’. What is unarguable is that Pakistan needed Dr Salam and Dr Mian more than they needed Pakistan. Islamabad lost wisdom to Trieste and Princeton.

Yet, if one runs through the list of intellectual imports from Washington over the years, one cannot recall any of them being disqualified because of their religious convictions. Remember the  Mammonites: M. Shoaib, Syed Shahid Husain, Moeen Qureshi, Dr Mahbub ul Haq, Shahid Javed Burki, and most recently Shaukat Aziz.  The Economic Advisory Board constituted in 1999 by Shaukat Aziz died after the first two days. Twenty years later, its avatar under Imran Khan is stillborn.

Understandably, Imran Khan has left complex financial matters to his Finance Minister Asad Umar to resolve. As prime minister, Mr Khan has enough learning to do as he ascends through the kindergarten of governance. Such training on the job carries risks. The danger is not that he will learn too much.  The danger is that he will not learn enough, in sufficient depth and breadth, and in time.

Since taking over, PM Imran Khan and his ministers have been given briefings from the major organs of government, spending eight hours at GHQ and then another six hours at the ISI HQ, and some at the Foreign Office. His latest briefing will be in Saudi Arabia where he will meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the cypher King Salman bin Abdul Aziz. It is within the realms of possibility that the resolution of the porcupine case of former PM Nawaz Sharif may find its way onto the agenda.

If Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan had been on talking terms, Nawaz Sharif might have told his successor what to expect, for this would not be the first time the Saudis have extended a protective bisht over Nawaz Sharif.

During the Kargil confrontation in 1999, the Saudi Ambassador to the US Prince Bandar bin Sultan and Bruce Riedel (a State Department functionary) brokered the fateful meeting on 4 July between a ‘distraught, deeply worried’ Nawaz Sharif and an ‘angry’ but helpful President Bill Clinton.

Historians forget. History remembers Riedel’s record of that meeting, and its aftermath: ‘Sharif came to the White House early the next morning for a photo op with his family and the President. His mood was glum, he was not looking forward to the trip home. The Prime Minister knew he had done the right thing for Pakistan and the world, but he was not sure his army would see it that way. He stopped in London and Riyadh on the way home. Both our allies gave him their support.’   

Since the 1950s, both the Saudis and the US have been generous to Pakistan -the Saudis with money and oil, the US first with wheat under PL 480, then weaponry, including recently eighteen F 16C aircraft costing $1.43 bn. plus 500 AMRAMM air-to-air missiles at $629 m. Perhaps on our next list of desideratum, we might also include the sage utterance of a former US President (General) Dwight D. Eisenhower. ‘‘I don’t think [we] need superpatriots. We need patriotism, honestly practiced by all of us, and we don’t need these people more patriotic than you or anybody else.’

Our countrymen voted for change. They are justified in expecting improvement. That is why the forfeiture of every gifted mind is an irreversible national loss.

 

©  F.S. AIJAZUDDIN

[DAWN, 20 Sept. 2018]

 

   

 
19 September 2018
 
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