Did you hear the one about the Pathan?

Published: August 18, 2010
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The stereo-typical image of Pakhtun's is offensive to many young Pakistani's

It really annoys me when I hear fellow Pakistanis complaining about racism – not annoyed because of their racist attitude but because we don’t look at ourselves before we point our fingers at others.

I had a nasty experience the other day when I was talking to someone on an online forum. He was pleasant enough until I told him about my ethnic background when all hell broke loose. His comments were so nasty that they would put the KKK to shame. He blamed the entire Pukhtun race for all of Pakistan’s problems interspersed with four letter words and accusations of us smelling like sweat and curry. It took me a minute to realise that it was another Pakistani who had insulted me and not some foreigner. It was far more shocking.  I still can’t believe the day has come where we are at each other’s throats.

Pakhtuns: Always the punchline

The worst thing about this racist trend is that all jokes related to stupidity and sex are relegated to the Pakhtun community while all the (sick) money jokes are about Memons. I do give the Memon community points for taking it in their stride and still achieving what they are good at (it is their right to spend money the way they want as they earned it.)

However, I personally believe Pathan jokes are not appropriate in this day and age. People expect you to actually listen to a joke and be cool about it. My Pakhtun friends have gotten tired of it and don’t even bother taking a stand when people make Pathan  jokes since they know people won’t stop.

But I believe that if you don’t take a stand people will never stop. One of my friends did take a stand against these jokes and now no one dares make any in front of her. Why don’t people make jokes about African American people? They won’t do that because African Americans won’t stand for it. That is one reason why only African American people can use the N word – they are the only ones who have the right to use it.

This same principle can also be applied to scenarios when Pakistanis hate people using the word “Paki” as it is derogatory for them.  It is wrong for others to make fun of us but it is right to make fun of each other over here. I do not buy the excuse that it’s all in jest because you can crack jokes without referring to the ethnicity of a person.

We are all Pakistani and yet we discriminate against each other on the basis of caste, sex, religion and class. I wish there was more unity amongst Pakistanis but unfortunately no matter how educated or uneducated you are there will always be some differences between people. It is truly annoying when we beat our chests and wonder what we went wrong to deserve such treatment. I believe we deserve what we are getting because we have not put our own house in order.

Why is it that no other jokes are made about people of other ethnic backgrounds? Why do we have our favorite whipping boys just like the Indians have Sikh jokes? Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about the positive factors such as their hospitality, bravery etc? Why is it that people who only think that the Pakhtun are only meant for menial blue collar work and not good for anything else?  Have people forgotten that there are illiterate people in each province? There are also a sizable number of literate Pakhtun people in Pakistan. Do we hate them so much that we only have the most vile jokes for them?

These jokes existed even before we knew of the terrorists who are partially from that province. If that is the reason for the hatred then why is no antipathy targeted towards Punjab where many terrorists hail from as well? That should not be a reason to hate someone.

I am also disappointed with some of our nationalist Pakhtun people who dislike our Punjabi brothers, mock them for their capitalist ways and blame them for all problems. Then there are some in Karachi who mock people from Punjab and call them ‘paindoos’ while they refer to Karachiites as ‘Baiye’ ( this does not apply to everyone.)

Pakhtuns: Whipping boys and terrorists

If there is a terrorist attack all fingers are automatically pointed at Pakhtuns.

Why do people get annoyed when we talk about the Punjabi Taliban?  We have to realise that they are simply terrorists and not classify them based on  their ethnic background.  The fact is that both the Pakhtun and Punjabis are involved in terrorist activities (along with foreign collaborators) and yet whenever something happens only the Pakhtuns are  blamed. Why can’t we just adopt a stance and pin it on someone after we gather  evidence?

I don’t think anyone can forget the horrific Ashura bombing and its deadly aftermath. The impact of the incident was such that the twittersphere was abuzz with some people making all sorts of claims. Some had established the ethnicity of the  terrorists  who were responsible for the incident  based on CCTV footage. A brilliant way to make such a claim indeed, as we all know CCTV images are in HD and they also fill you in on a person’s background.  (In case you can’t tell I am being sarcastic.)

Now what they could have done was say “oh, we will wait for the investigation to end and then we will let you all know.” But most people on Twitter are armchair analysts who seem to have an answer for everything. They automatically came up with the most logical thing they could think of. It isn’t their fault as they have been conditioned that way. (This of course does not apply to everyone but only a small cross section of people.)

This attitude only breeds bitterness and does nothing to bring them together. Karachi has been affected by target killings recently and a lot of lives were lost. The city went under a lot of tension recently after a Legislator from one of the coalition parties was murdered in cold blood. Countless innocent people were murdered in retaliation for the murder. I can’t put the blame on two of the parties who blamed each other as they are both sharks in their own way.

Why can’t both parties work together and do something instead of creating potential race riots?

It really saddens me because this attitude has sown the seeds of hate amongst our people. The Baloch population hates the Punjabis and the assassination of Akbar Bugti only made things worse. They are now forcing Punjabis to move and there is a large number who had to sell everything and leave their livelihood.

Pakhtuns: Just like you

Looking at this whole situation, it is really sad to see this sort of attitude in our people. I really believe that everyone plays an important role here. If we were not discriminating against each other like that we would have gone far ahead. I know we are all hypocrites as we may have trashed someone or the other based on his/her ethnic background. I am ashamed to say that there have been times in the past when I have done so too. But there is still hope if we repent and change our ways.

We are supposed to live together as a nation and not live in our own self imposed, virtual ghettos. A person only needs to look deep inside and do what is best instead of emulating others. Why can’t we all say we are Pakistani instead of sticking to our ethnicity? It’s only dividing us further instead of bringing us together.  There is nothing wrong with being proud of the fact if you are fluent in Sindhi, Punjabi, Pashto, Balochi, Seriaki, Hindko, Memoni or Gujrati. Everyone is proud of their own culture and traditions but does that give anyone a valid reason to trash the other person via such jokes? How can we expect prosperity in our own country when we are not united?

I thought Pakistan was a land for everyone and not a place where you are judged on your ethnic background. There is always mistrust everywhere and this is the fear which has led to people being divided even though some maintain a united front. We would have never had these problems if we thought outside the basis of race. I am fine with everyone no matter what race, religion, caste or background he/she is from.

I repeat: people should look at themselves and set their own house in order instead of pointing fingers at others.

Shoaib Taimur

Shoaib Taimur

An IT graduate from Middlesex University who has been blogging for the past 7 years. He is a big fan of tennis, house music and Bjork.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.