Dear Indian patriots, my criticism of Pakistan isn’t for your benefit!

Published: October 28, 2013
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A Pakistani liberal and an Indian patriot can become good friends. After all, they both bash Pakistan.

A signature feature of a liberal is his scathing, almost treacherous, criticism of his own country’s culture and political policies.  On the other hand, the mark of a nationalist is indiscriminately defending all that occurs on his side of the border, while flinging mud on those beyond. Hence, it isn’t difficult to understand why a Pakistani liberal and an Indian nationalist would naturally bond over a cup of coffee.

Ever since I decided to ‘betray’ my homeland by consorting with the liberal folk, as some conservatives would put it, my list of Indian friends has been snowballing. I am not in any way insinuating that they like me simply because I denounce the traditional maltreatment of women and minorities in my country, as well as the rising extremism in Pakistan. After all, they are all exceptionally rational people.

I have, however, been ignoring an increasing number of friend requests on Facebook from Indian nationalists. They seem to have misconstrued my constructive criticism of Pakistani affairs, as a deliberate service to the anti-Pakistan, ‘hand-of-ISI-in-everything’ ideological machinery.

Although I stand committed to what I write, it is distressing to know that someone has been digging into my blogs to gather informational ammo against my country, and use it in ways that I have never intended for it to be used. On the contrary, my objective as a Pakistan-bashing Pakistani, is to shed light on socio-political problems so that they can be rectified, and progress can be made. The way I see it, staying mum would mean guaranteeing their continuity, and the unchecked devastation that they would bring.

Therefore, my objective is not to deliver smug satisfaction to malicious elements, and help reinforce their biases.

These biases and consequent bashing, run both ways. Just recently, while Indian liberals were loudly and rightly, condemning the rape culture in their home country, some Pakistani flag-wavers were feeding off those diatribes and regurgitating them at Pakistani liberals known to admire India.

Moreover, the problem becomes especially apparent when certain Indians advocating secularism for Pakistan, become unflinchingly defensive about discriminatory laws in some Indian states, or objectionable moves by their own right-wing groups.

So, if you keep liking, upping, and recommending liberals’ on-line comments decrying restrictions on selling chardonnay in Pakistan, I shall assume you are also against religion-inspired laws restricting beef production and trade in India. Likewise, if you applaud our support for our local liberal heroes and nemeses of the status quo, like Asma Jahangir, then you shouldn’t be caught off guard when we extend the same respect to Arundhati Roy.

As if the ordeal of trying to push liberal ideas through the right-wing cacophony was not enough, liberals often find themselves being re-tweeted by outspoken Pakistan-haters, and then have to explain their controversial fan-following to angry countrymen. I imagine that Indian liberals would feel uneasy as well, if an acerbic Pakistani jingoist unilaterally allies himself with them.

So this is what I have to say:

“Dear Indian friends, it’s one thing when we condemn something of our own; it’s quite another when you pile on to that condemnation.”

Just like when my kid sister calls me chubby, it is endearing; but when a stranger points and laughs, it becomes awkward. Simply put, it is not that this person cannot safely voice his negative opinions, but common propriety demands just a wee bit more diplomacy than what is expected from one’s own sibling.

Clearly, this goes both ways.

Moreover, it is usually not enough to just learn about the crises next door. One must keep an eye on the situation at home where lessons learnt from across the border may be applied. After all, the odds are that the problems on one side are, in some form or the other, being mirrored across the picket-fence.

Faraz Talat

Faraz Talat

A medical doctor and bubble-wrap enthusiast from Rawalpindi, who writes mostly about science and social politics (and bubble-wrap). He tweets @FarazTalat (twitter.com/FarazTalat)

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