March 19, 2017

Pakistan’s unhealthy obsession with its military prowess

Pakistani F-16s
They say minstrels write songs about the military might of Pakistan. They say poets try to equate the omnipresence of God with the creation of Pakistan. They say even philosophers are forced to concede that the existence of Pakistan is a miracle.

Meanwhile in the mortal world, we’re left to wonder if Pakistan is so great, why the hell do they turn off mobile networks every time a bird sneezes?

The other day I went to McDonald’s. Right in front of me was a military officer wearing his uniform. He crossed the metal detector and was on his way. When I crossed the metal detector a security guard jumped out of nowhere and told me to stretch out my arms for the proverbial “checking.” I was outraged. Why did that security guard not “check” the military officer? To which that innocent, misguided, gullible representation of the Pakistani populace replied, “because he defends us. It doesn’t behoove us to check those who defend us.” Pure anger coursed through my veins. So the 70,000 Pakistanis that we like to bandy about before the international media, did they drop dead of their own accord? If these men of the so-called Allah’s army are supposed to defend me, why did the attack on APS Peshawar happen? Or the attack at Sehwan Sharif? Or the attack in Iqbal Park Lahore?

I’m not a fan of the military in Pakistan. This is the reason why: They get a free pass, every single time. And they’re allowed to get a free pass every time they want to show off their love affair with phallic toys. Like today.

I woke up today with fighter jets whizzing over my house. They were on their way to the military parade ground in Islamabad, for the full dress rehearsal that’s taking place, before the actual thing takes place on the 23rd. So I picked up my phone and tried to message a colleague, but the message wouldn’t deliver. And that’s when I saw that I had “No Service” instead of the bars of phone strength signals. So there it was again — a free pass. People’s lives can be damned; their inconveniences can be ignored; their priorities can be shelved, as long as the boys wearing camoflague uniforms get to show off their toys. And for what? What have these toys achieved? I still don’t feel safe going to a market, or a mosque, or a bazaar.

They say when you go to a foreign country, they treat you like a second class citizen. That’s a load of bullshit if I ever heard one. But what about being treated like second class citizens within your country? What do you think your status is when they shuffle you like sheep and ask you to “prove your identity” when they stop you at checkpoints and search your vehicles without warrants? Thatis called being treated like second class citizens. It doesn’t happen in America. It doesn’t happen in Europe. Or Canada, or any other country where the majority of Pakistanis want to escape to.

It is tme for catharsis. This country which we claim is all we need in the world is not great. It’s not even good. In this country we have problems of terrorism, extremism, corruption, lack of rule of law. Instead, what we’ve decided to tackle is free speech, the internet, the very existence of social media and inclusion. State agencies, without following due process, kidnap people who are critical of the state, and judges scream profanities when those same kidnapped people are recovered and try to find asylum abroad. I mean the sheer naivete and blindness that makes up the national character of this country astounds me to no end.

I don’t know. It’s the culmination of the little things that has boiled over. The terrible traffic, the electricity crises, the lack of due process, the relentless war on the freedom of speech.

And now, today, them turning off my mobile phone network.