A debate derailed

“Oh and please, try to stay a little light hearted about this one”

by Asif Akhtar       cross-post from Dawn Blog, Nov 20th, 2009

Last week, in a blog titled ‘The Convenient Curtain of Myth‘, I tried to show the dangers of viewing international politics through popular mythological conceptions which produce theories like the India-US-Israel triangulation as a conspiracy to destroy Islam and Pakistan. Little did I know this would turn into a hotly debated topic fueled with national pride and egoistic emotions. I figured I should utilise my slot this week to respond to some of the eye-catching comments, while covering different themes of the debate, and at the same time injecting some much needed humor into the situation.

One factor which triggered, and possibly catalysed the response was the fact that a lot of Indian readers of the Dawn Blog took a liking to my article, sparing no compliment to laud my criticism of their neighbouring country. While some of them were possibly well meaning, and some of them were likely out of spite, it saddened me to see the comment board for my deeply introspective article turn into an Indo-Pak conflict zone, largely defeating the purpose of my initial attempt. I am certain that if the Indian comments had been absent, the comments from my Pakistani brethren would have taken a different course.

The deeply rooted mistrust of the motivations of the Indian readers is evident in this comment:

TR Says:

One look at the article and I knew there would be more responses from across the border than within. A positive article will find these people absent. The same article if written in our ‘neighboring nation’ would have been greeted with a severe backlash by these same people

Clearly TR was more interested in the comments section as soon as he saw the article; I wonder if he even bothered reading it or skipped straight to the comments.

Another sceptical Pakistani writes:

Akil Akhtar:

By writing such articles all the writer has achieved is a fan club in India and opportunity for the fan club to bag Pakistan.
…all nations are extremely intolerant toward other races and religions and blind Nationalism is their god. Same is true for India which blames Pakistan for everything so what is the difference if we blame India for the terrorism in Pakistan.

Something positive here: at least Akil realises that nationalism with a capital ‘N’ is a god with a small ‘g’ – isn’t it time we smash this false idol? And if ‘they’ want to kill us, and we want to kill ‘them’, then what’s the difference, we’re all dead at the end of the day. Please get over your insecurities.

The confusion manifest in this ‘us-vs-them’ thinking is evident from the comment below:

Saud Usmani Says:

If it is not Islam or Pakistan ‘they’ are against and if our neighbors are not the ‘foes’ as we were told since the day one, and if there is no international conspiracy, who are THEY?

I wonder myself sometimes, what is this ‘They’ at the end of the day? You hear things like ‘they are out to get us,’ or ‘it’s all because of them.’ What is this ‘them’? Do we even have a cohesive concept of ‘us’ yet? Isn’t it wrong to single out someone due to the location and circumstances of their birth?

If I thought I was on to something for a second, I should realise that there are equally silly people across the border as well:

verming Says:

Jews and Hindus have not much time for the nation Pakistan. In any case why should we (Hindus and Jews ) waste our resources on you when your nation is quite capable of taking Pakistan down.

We Hindus and Jews? What?! They have actually banded up together! I’m sure verming has all the time in the world to scour strange comment boards to say that they’re just too busy for this nonsense.

If we step away from the cross-border skirmishes for a second, we find that apart from Pakistan and India, people just love comparing Islam and the West. I’d called this a false dichotomy in my article, but this respondent clearly likes his ‘way of life’ theory:

Hasan Says:

Well, Islam not just a religion, it’s a ‘deen’, a way of life / a worldview just as the West is a way of life / worldview. So, in that sense, they are comparable.

Yes, and in the sense that both you and an ape are primates, both of you are comparable as well. Sorry, I should just let the other comments deal with this one:

Ayesha Khan Says:

The world view of Indonesia is in no way similar to Saudi Arabia. If the world view of all Islamic people was the same, Iran and Iraq would not have had a war either.



unfortunately every religion of the world claims the same that it is not a religion it is ‘the way of life’.

I guess I was foolish to think that I could just walk away from the Islam v. the West debate:

Sadia Says:

Again the coin has not been viewed from both sides. It is not only the Muslims from Pakistan getting caught in the resonance of ‘faux-mythologies’, it is the West as well.

Why can’t we look at our side of the coin first, clean it up nice and shiny before we move onto the other side of the coin? It’s easy to point fingers all over the place, I’m not saying there aren’t false mythologies in Europe – look at Nazism. That doesn’t mean we use it as an excuse. After all, don’t we have a human responsibility?


Muhammad Tariq says:

I think the writer need to know that humans cant live in the vacuum, one has to have some source of inspiration and these are religion, history, culture etc.

Yes, and I think the commenter needs to know that we as human beings have the responsibility of creating our own culture, values, art and aesthetics, and all those things that could inspire us to be great. Why should we abuse these ‘inspirations’ and use them as scapegoats, and easy excuses, and turn them into some sort of conspiracy factory?

But wait, there’s still more:

Malik Assani Says:

…a humble request to you to be a little careful with our race, roots, religion, spirituality, identity, dignity, name, honor, integrity and other things we are proud to be the possessors of. As for you, I have sympathy for you as you must be regretting to be born here in the ‘east’. Equally but much less bothersome is my discomfort to have you here amongst us.

In an equally humble retort I would argue that we should be critical of all these ideals instead of merely being ‘proud’ of them, that way maybe we can craft a better more amiable identity for the future. And isn’t pride the reason why the devil was scorned from the heavens by the divine?

And what is this ‘East’ that you’re so proud of? As soon as you hit the eastern edge of your border you start getting all queasy. I can only wonder how broad this East is if it starts and ends with you.

And just when my fellows started getting uncomfortable at having me on this side of the border, I get some reconciliation from the other side:

Sunjoy Says:

Asif: You are on the wrong side of the border. Sane people like you need to be on this side of the border.

If that were the case, I wonder what Sunjoy is doing on that side of the border. Stop oversimplifying things, there are equally insane people on every side of the border, get with the program… man!

And finally I get some relief from both sides of the border, that thin line which defines our ‘peoples’:

Omar Says:

as a Pakistani I don’t find the article demeaning at all. Once we start asking the tough questions we will start getting some answers. Questioning the purpose and direction of the nation in no way undermines one’s patriotism. The same applies to our interpretation and practice of our religion.

Sanity! Oh I must either be dreaming, or must have accidentally stumbled on the other side of the fence. Thank you for having a critical eye. Omar, my friend, we need more of you.

But wait, there’s more encouragement from the other side of the border:

Jai S Says:

There is an inclination amongst the Pakistani people to brand anybody who tells the truth as a traitor.

Pakistani people? Truth? Traitor? Forgive me for betraying my own fan-base for a second, but what about poor Jaswant Singh? All the man did was write a book, and guess who called him a ‘traitor’? Not the Pakistani people for sure.

Oh, and here’s that humour I promised in the beginning – enough with the seriousness, I say.

lucky Says:

I think Pakistan needs to be ruled by taliban for few years. Since Pakistan had also faced martial law. And after that only they can decide what they want and where they are heading to.

Yes, I think we need to try everything from the buffet table of governing systems, maybe a little bit of authoritarianism, with a side of autocracy, perhaps we need another despot. That ought to show those Pakistani people, whining about the Taliban. Maybe after we’ve had our just desserts we just won’t be hungry for all these governmental systems anymore.

And if you talk about democracy, our prized and cherished democracy, here’s my favorite response of the lot:

rangeela re Says:

Why can’t the taliban / TTP stand for elections in Pakistan. If they win then let them have their Islamic state. whats wrong with it?

Sigh! Why can’t we all just be friends? Heck I don’t know, maybe all that desk banging that goes on in the parliament gives the Taliban a headache; maybe they think Nawaz Sharif should be disqualified for ball tampering. I don’t know, there are a million answers to this one, and I’ll let the comment board debate why the TTP aren’t calling for a midterm run-off.

Oh and please, try to stay a little light hearted about this one. Let’s try another shot at commenting, and this time, if we could leave putting each other down for once, that would be great. Would it be too much to ask for everyone to be civil and have an informed debate for once?


for those who may be interested, here are a few examples of comments in response to Asif’s article:

Kavitha Shetty, Mumbai Says:
We will be judged on what we’ve built, not what we’ve destroyed. Pakistan in now reaping the fruits of the seeds of terrorism it has been sowing in India.
Let us take responsibly instead of blaming others for our failure, this attitude can help us to improve. May God protect Pakistani women and children.

vt Says:
@ MM : even your politicians are not observing silence for your lost ones. Its your problem and you got to face yourselves. Since the post Afghan war its your army who helped those militants for destabilizing India and now they turned against you.

@ Ahmad malik; India has produced half a dozen dossiers containing proofs. We never blamed you without any proof.
Aftab kenneth Wilson Says:
Take it easy Asif, now there is Democracy in Pakistan and as such every one has the right to say what they want to. Remember people don’t have that much time to go through an article which has an academic value and if they do then you have to show patience which you have failed to do. Anyway go on writing the way you think is best as does NFP. There is a lot of creativity in what ever you pen down. God Bless you.
Concerned American Says:
Americans, Indians or European are visiting Pakistani newspapers and blogs because they are at the receiving end of the Islamist Jihadi terrorism.

How many Indians/Hindu, Buddhist in Thailand, Christians in US and Europe have been targets of Pakistani Jihadi citizens?

How many Hindus from India, Christians from Philippine, Europe and America’s, and Buddhists from Thailand, in individual capacity have targeted Pakistani citizens?

We also have to consider the fact that the worst human genocide and uprooting of natives happened in 47 and 71 the Pakistan of today and of the past. In 71 3 Million Bangali’s, mainly Hindu were slaughtered.

Given this background, the world has a stake in finding out how Pakistani think, if nuclear weapons are safe in Pakistani hands.
Wasim Khan Says:
What I fail to understand is why you find it so utterly unbelievable that foreign hands might actually have a little something to do with whats happening right now? What special inside knowledge are you privy to that gives you the right to call this idea of “foreign hands” a conspiracy theory? The mere fact that taliban have managed to wage a war against the Pakistan army for the last five six years, should give you some clue that someone outside Pakistan is most certainly financing and arming them.

But I guess such ideas would make you look like a run-of-the-mill journalist, while people like you think that being controversial and self loathing is a guaranteed road to being declared a “refreshing” change by our friends to the east. And which Pakistani worth his salt doesn’t want recognition in India.
Abdullah Hussain Says:
The author says:

I am certain that if the Indian comments had been absent, the comments from my Pakistani brethren would have taken a different course.
LOL, the Indians have a well defined road map, their comments about Pakistan and Pakistani will always remain the same. The dream of a big brother’s attitude, more than that. Each and every time this happens the pen gun will let loose. What then is the answer: Equality and no Attitude projection?

Dr Anand Virgincar Says:
Dear Asifbhai,
India was at the crossroads between a path of developement and a path of religious fundamentalism in the late 90’s and early 2000’s ( with the increasing dominance of the BJP / Shiv Sena and their ilk ). She chose the former. And is thriving thanks to this decision.

Pakistan is at a similar crossroads now. She would do well to ignore all these red herrings of conspiracies and ” external ” threats and choose a similar path.

Salvation lies within.

warm regards ( and thanks for an insightful article )


Oxford,UK / Goa,India
taj Says:
This is encouraging that more and more people are now starting to question otherwise our media has created hysteria and an insane environment by stopping all rational debates. The biggest problem with our country is that we have not yet resolved the basic questions which are related to politics: Secular or theocratic; Federal or Unilateral; Role of Army in foreign and strategic policies. Without properly addressing the above policy issues we will remain directinless.
Hassan Cheema Says:
Hey Asif I like your professional and intellectual approach. But I am really sickened when you and NFP etc imply that there is support for taliban in Pakistan. Dude people were confused but now its clear that they are enemy. Why do you label anyone who disagrees with US, as pro-taliban?

Sam Says:
I would request Indians to stay away from commenting on Pakistani blogs.

Whatever you write, will be not be taken positively.

So please stay away.
If you agree with the author, the author would be blamed for trying to have an Indian fan club.

If you disagree, they will not give importance to your comments anyway..

Bob Says: 
Its always easy to blame others than to admit your own fault and be responsible for ones own errors, remember, when you point one finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at you.

Abbas Says:
Keep it on.I still have faith we as Nation can do whatever we want unless we decide what is our direction. Hopefully democracy can flourish and we can start listening to each other.


Filed under Blogging, Humour, India, Pakistan

8 responses to “A debate derailed

  1. mohammad

    India israel america cooperation wow, I am not sure about its anti islamic roots unless someone enlightens me on that. It seems whatever happens in ME has a huge hangover effect in pakistan, whether it is iranian israeli potential conflict to palistinian imbroglio. On the other hand IIA military co-ordination is worrisome for everyone in pakistan,as with israeli radars indians can monitor every activity in pakistan, which can be used by indian air force equipped with american made jets.If not on pakistani rockets and nukes, in a conventional war fare india can easily strangulate our communications systems. Given these sensitive conditions pakistanis have very reasons to be skeptical of IIA arrangements.

  2. vajra


    Were your remarks serious or were you pulling our legs? I don’t want to make an ass of myself (I can hear Bloody Civilian muttering to himself that there’s no point discussing a done deed) if I can help it. Please confirm this, and be nice and let me down easy: if you were being humorous, leave it at that.

  3. mohammad

    I am more of a peasant than a defence analyst. : )

  4. Concerned About Concerned American

    Concerned American says:

    “We also have to consider the fact that the worst human genocide and uprooting of natives happened in 47 and 71 the Pakistan of today and of the past. In 71 3 Million Bangali’s, mainly Hindu were slaughtered.”

  5. YLH

    I am really concerned about the concerned American as well.
    That last bit is historically false- completely and totally.

    Far from it that I quote Harvard’s Sarmila Bose on this but even the claims made by Bangladesh government were much lower in the 1970s.

    And I didn’t know Bangladeshis were Hindu majority- wow.

    I doubt that the concerned American is an American ..but this shows the kind of education that passes in America for education.

  6. P Gill

    I am an Indian and I try to keep up with the news from Pakistan.
    What happens in Pakistan concerns us deeply.
    Firstly because only you can be our real friends or real enemies, so what you do effects us I know there are people on both sides of the border, who would like Pakistan to be magically cut away from India and pasted to Arabia. But we are “stuck” with each other by geography. And history too – all of which was not bad, there is plenty of good history to cherish.
    Secondly you are talking about the fate of millions of human being. What happens in Pakistan concerns us as human beings. Yes, there are some Indians who gloat over the problems in Pakistan, but there are plenty with just plain human anguish at unnecessary suffering of their Pakistani brothers.
    Thirdly Pakistan is fast becoming a laboratory of conflicting ideas. We would like ideas of tolerance, democracy to prevail.
    Wishing Pakistan best of luck (except in cricket matches against India)

  7. Milind Kher

    India and Pakistan are joined at the hip, and therefore we swim or sink together.

    Given that it would be really shortsighted for anyone from India to gloat over what is happening in India. God forbid, if the Taliban were to gain the upper hand in Pakistan, it would spell trouble for India too

  8. foolsparadise

    Hi Asif,

    One of the reasons why world is watching Pakistan (including Indians like me) is of pure academic in nature. Pakistan in political science is gaining a stature of a classic and would not surprise me if even becomes a complete chapter in coming days.

    for more watch out this like of Vali Nasr an Iranian-American in Holbrooke’s team, as he studied Pakistan all his life and picked up by Obama’s distraction.