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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Pakistan: An image problem

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Tariq Al-Maeena

Pakistan has become a front for the proxy war being fought by the US and NATO against Al-Qaeda. And in the process, it is in danger of losing its sovereignty. Joseph Biden in his debate with Sarah Palin last Thursday referred to Pakistan as a “dangerous” state along with Iran. The Pakistanis, through no fault of their own, have become victims of senseless crimes, all directed against the innocent. Saman Ali Abbasi, a Pakistani, who was horrified at the events surrounding the Marriott Hotel bombings in Islamabad recently, writes:

“On Sept. 20, 2008, I turned on my TV and switched the channel to my favorite Pakistani channel Dawn. The screen was full of horrific details about the bomb blast at Marriott Islamabad. I froze and watched in horror as the sketchy details became longer.

“I called my family and friends residing in Islamabad to find that they were all fine. I recalled how many times we passed that hotel on our last trip to Pakistan. In the 1990s Muddy’s, the discotheque, at Marriott was the talk of the town where everyone thronged on weekends.

“Last year for our vacation we traveled to America and decided to land at New York. It was that day that I realized that my green and gold passport and the words that ‘I am from Pakistan’ could cause trouble to my family and me. It took us two hours to clear immigration.

While we were sitting and waiting, I saw an old Pakistani lady sitting alone. She was continuously turning her prayer beads. I sat down next to her. She told me that she has come many a time to US but this time she came with her youngest son Osama! It took her son four hours to prove that he was not Bin Laden.

“A few days later while we were in Orlando, the fuel gauge in the car showed nil. I got panicky and stopped the car at a fuel station. It was then that I realized what a pampered life I lead in Saudi Arabia, where we sit in our air-conditioned cars and just nod to the attendant to fill the tank. I was clueless, my eyes searched desperately for an attendant.

“I had the brainwave to walk inside the minimart at the fuel station. I requested the owner to help me out. He asked me where I was from. Very reluctantly I told him that I was from Pakistan but living in Saudi Arabia. To my surprise, his response was in sharp contrast to that of the immigration staff. He asked me a few more questions with a pleasant smile, filled fuel and wished me a good day.

“Last month we decided to travel to Bahrain from Saudi Arabia to watch some movies. Very proudly, I wore one of my new ‘shalwar kamiz’ and decided to take my abaya off once we reached Bahrain. After buying popcorns and nachos, we chose the movie ‘Iron Man’ as Robert Downy Jr. is one of my favorite actors. We were laughing and talking in ‘Urdu’ while others were settling down in their seats. The hall was full with Arabs, Americans, Indians and many other nationalities.

“The lights were dimmed as the movie began. Suddenly, there was a terrorist on the silver screen killing and cursing in ‘Urdu’. I lowered my head feeling a little embarrassed. Please, there is more to Pakistan than terrorism, I wanted to tell everyone. How can we change the tarnished image of our country? As one of the analysts on TV was saying yesterday, ‘not only the government but we all have to play our role in stopping these acts of terrorism and changing the image of our country’.

“One of my Palestinian friends once told me, ‘Saman we were surprised to see you for the first time as you were wearing trousers and talking in English.’ I turned around and asked her why. To my chagrin, she told me that she always thought that Pakistan was like Afghanistan where women wear shuttlecock ‘burqas’ and never went to school.’ That is how they show your country on CNN, she confided in me.

“Last week my daughter had a school project of a slide show ‘about your country’. We were both excited and searched on Google to get the best pictures. We tried our best to at least convince those 11- to 12-year-olds that not all Pakistanis are terrorists, our women are educated and capable, our villages are still green and children are innocent, not all of them are trained to be suicide bombers. I wish we succeeded in doing so.”

Well said, Saman. We understand your concerns and pains. In the process of helping fight terrorism, the Pakistanis now find themselves unjustifiably wearing that badge. Should we all not help erase such an unwarranted stigma?
Courtesy Arab News

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Azhar Masoodhttp://
Azhar Masood is Controller of News in PTV, and Chief Instructor of PTV Academy, working for Arab News. He has Covered Iraq War from Baghdad for CNN, BBC, FOX News, and Al-Jazeera and other regional channels. He covered conflict in Bosnia Herzegovina. He interviewed Yasir Arafat of Palestine, Paul Wolfoweit, Prime Minister Jean Ghteyan of Canada, Dr. Amar Musa of Egypt, Mr. Haris Slajic, Prime Minister of Bosnia Dr. Akbar Ali Vallayati, former Foreign Minister of Iran, President Kumaratunge of Sri Lanka, Mr. Kumar Su Bramanyem, Director of National Defence Institute of India, Mr. Hamid Karzai President of Afghanistan, Dr. Ahmad Chalabi of Iraq National Congress, Mr. Hoshyar Zubari, Vice President Kurdish Democratic Party of Iraq
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