Mohammad Hanif is (not) my hero

Published: August 24, 2010
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While the world wrongly ties terrorism to floods, Pakistan wrongly tries to avoid the issue.

Mohammad Hanif has scored again in terms of developing a ‘soft image’ of Pakistan for the world to lap up. His recent article featured on the BBC website, Pakistan flood victims ‘have no concept of terrorism’ has been making the rounds online, with us desi-folk going all teary-eyed, fist raising and shouting, ‘yeah Hanif! Sock it to the world! Show them we’re more than terrorists’.

This is quite comic.

Here on one side of the proverbial boxing ring we have ‘the world’ all hissy and mean and saying we’re all terrorists floating in floodwater and on the other side we have Pakistan, the nation, standing around looking bruised, wet, used and so, so deeply misunderstood.

Both these images are a farce and skirt around what both parties are trying to say of course, but the media (the world’s and ours) loves presenting this loony image to their audiences, who just love lapping it up.

I’m not here to argue about the above-mentioned intricacies to what the world is trying to say and what we are trying to convey as a nation. I want to talk about writer cum journalist Hanif and his heart-felt article which falls smack-bang under the category of ‘lame but appropriately time pro-Pakistan piece which feeds right into the ongoing meta-narrative perpetuated courtesy the media circus’.

Now let me tell you what I think of its principle arguments (skirting around the layers and layers of fluffy descriptions).

Three weeks after the start of the floods in Pakistan, a fifth of the country is under water. More international aid is now reaching the country – but the world’s media finds it hard to stop talking about terrorism.

Did you not notice the multiple terrorist activities which take place every day? Should I perhaps pick out an assorted few to show why their perception is (fairly reasonably) focused on terrorism?

Did everyone happen to miss out on 30 people being killed (including a prominent cleric) and 40 wounded in Wana just days ago? How about the four people killed in an IED blast on the same day? Oh wait, so these incidents don’t indicate that terrorists are alive and active in Pakistan? And do you really believe they’re not using these floods to their advantage?

Now lets move on to the rural folk of Sindh and Punjab.

These areas are of no strategic interest to anyone because they have neither exported terrorism nor do they have the ambition to join a fight against it. The word terrorism does not even exist in Seraiki and Sindhi, the languages of the majority of the people who have been rendered homeless.

They belong to that forgotten part of humanity that has quietly tilled the land for centuries, the small farmers, the peasants, the farmhands, generations of people who are born and work and die on the same small piece of land.

So, just because the word terrorism doesn’t exist in a language means terrorism does not exist within those people? This is ace rhetoric and makes for good headlines but is a really, really sad argument.

Let’s quit the semantics and fluff shall we?

I am so tired of the delusions we love to perpetuate, whether it be by the right-wing nut jobs or the left-wing civil society types. Yes, yes, the land of jageerdar’s, karo kari, truly hideous abuse against women, (and the occasional lynch mob) resplendent with a documented network of extremist groups has no notion of terrorism and this is all just a collective delusion the world has gotten fixated on.

My point is not to slam on flood affectees. What I am trying to say is that just as it is wrong to use the present flood crisis to highlight a ‘dire terrorist threat’ growing in affected areas as described by Hanif here:

The reporters look for a banned militant organisation involved in relief work, usually some random men with beards will do. And we are told, in good faith I am sure, that if the victims are not provided with relief, they will all turn to the Taliban.

It is equally wrong to use chicken-tied-to-neck man to wax poetic on how he is a symbol for the innocence of all:

A puzzled relief worker wondered aloud why the world would think that this man who has just swum cross a raging flood would want to bring about a bloody Islamist revolution in a far-flung country that he has never heard of? Is it not obvious that he just wants to save his chickens?

Verdict: Hanif’s article is once again perpetuating a myth which we should all seriously try to rise above, no matter how sweet it sounds. I applaud his initiative to milk the world of more aid money by tackling the terrorist issue, but romanticized visions of a Pakistan with no serious concern regarding how the floods crisis can and will be used to the advantage of terrorists is pure folly. At least Mosharraf Zaidi, who is towing a similar line (heroes aren’t we all?) in a recent article of his own said:

The net result of Pakistan’s own sins, and a global media that is gaga over India, is that Pakistan is always the bad guy.

Key words: ‘own sins’

My next post: 10 ways I would use the floods crisis to my advantage if I was a terrorist outfit in South Punjab (and how tying a chicken to my neck can help). I’m sure you guys can think of a few too.

Nadya.v

Nadya V

Social critic and part-time gossip monger

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