Et tu, Fatima Bhutto?

Published: October 27, 2010
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Fatima Bhutto can write a book about her trials and tribulations but an American pilot is not entitled to a blog post?

A few weeks ago, I came across a blog on this website by an American pilot, John Bockmann. John was part of the American flood relief mission to Pakistan and he wrote about taking rice, flour, blankets, housing materials, cooking oil and other materials up and down the Swat and Indus River Valleys. He also spoke of bringing sick, injured, and displaced people to hospitals and hometowns.

Although he missed his family and his home in Alaska, John said that he had been warmed by the hospitality that he was shown here.

Sometimes, fancy phrases and flowery words are not needed to convey emotions. Simple, matter of fact, straightforward words are more than enough, because there is a rare beauty in simplicity. After all, it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?

The soldier’s blog struck a chord not only within me, but countless other readers too. Some confessed that they were moved to tears. Amidst invitations to host John’s family in Islamabad, John’s mother, Maggie Brockman, said:

“I’m privileged to know you, to be your mom. And now, through loving you, I find I am loving the Pakistani people in a very personal way, for they are now part of you.”

In his comment, John expressed the hope that “everyone could come to know Pakistan as I have: a place whose great beauty is matched by its people.”

One reader replied:

“Thank you for coming over and doing your bit in this time of our need. People-to-people contact can make a difference in hearts and minds. This is a lesson to open our hearts to each other, respecting the differences and finding the commonalities. I agree our foreign policies may make both the countries seem crude, insensitive, selfish and heartless. But one thing is for sure – humans, people like you, caring individuals live here as well as there. Not everybody with white skin is going to ‘bomb us to the stone age’ and not every brown skinned person is a hostile terrorist.”

Browsing through these eloquent comments, I couldn’t help but revel in the power of the pen, which can help foster better understanding and hope amongst people across continents.

John did say that “some who read this will question our intentions and some may even wish us ill.” The one person who took umbrage to this heartfelt blog was the educated, beautiful, righteous, perpetual damsel in distress, Fatima Bhutto. In fact, so upset was she by John’s blog that she couldn’t stop tweeting about it.

  1. You must be joking Express Tribune. No mention of drones+other tales of the US army’s heroics in recent months. RThttp://fb.me/A8gfrlL6
  2. Fuming.
  3. The US army is really quite sweet, it turns out. Exhibit a) “The captain was talking to a Pakistani man who’d been helping us..
  4. …the man shook my hand and looked me in the eyes. “Thank you for coming to my poor country,” he said quietly.”
  5. No mention of what the US helicopter crew was doing in the area in the first place or of renditions or NATO killings or drones. Funny that.
  6. @nizamani How embarrassing that a Pakistani paper would put forward such an outrageous pro US army piece. Horrific.
  7. @electric589 You would think it should. And then you read the comments under the article..

So what ails Fatima? She can write a book about her trials and tribulations and deride everyone within arm’s length, using her family name to sell books, but woe betide an American pilot who has the audacity to pen his thoughts in a Pakistani newspaper about his humanitarian mission. Why should John not have the right to tell his story? What is so wrong about helping out people in need, irrespective of differences and boundaries?

The blog clearly stated that this was John Bockmann’s first mission – so there is no question of “what the US helicopter crew was doing in the area in the first place” – as it wasn’t even there. The drone attacks were not mentioned, much to Fatima’s disappointment, but then this soldier wasn’t a drone pilot, was he? Is this all it takes to make her “fume,” one wonders?

Why is there this tendency to tar all Americans with the same brush just because of their government’s misdeeds? Since when did we all become extensions of the state? Are we not all living, breathing, thinking individuals in our own right? The inability to separate the individual from the collective is something Muslims and Pakistanis – especially intelligent ones – should be able to understand.

While Fatima is certainly entitled to her rants, she seems to epitomize the mindset of the Pakistani “parhay likhay jaahils” running amok; those who embrace American education, culture and aid, but cannot resist running down the US at every opportunity. The anti-America rhetoric seems to somehow reinforce and garnish their “liberal” credentials.

This begs the question: Does this kind of maladjusted behaviour not smack of hypocrisy and a warped vision? What is the difference between such people and those who attack foreign aid workers in Pakistan? Recently, eleven prominent charity aid organizations like Save the Children, Oxfam, and World Vision recommended the removal of USAid logos and the words “from the American people” from relief goods, because of the risks associated with “branding in environments where one’s association with foreigners can turn a humanitarian worker into a target.”

Certainly, the US is not a paragon of virtue by any standards, but neither is it the evil, hydra-headed, devouring monster Fatima chooses to depict. Let us at least have the decency and grace to accept any goodness and trust which is extended to us in our time of need.

Maheen Usmani

Maheen Usmani

A freelance writer who has covered subjects ranging from socio-political issues to women's rights to counter terrorism, sports, travel, culture and music. Maheen tweets @MaheenUsmani (twitter.com/MaheenUsmani)

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