When are we going to open our eyes?

Published: September 19, 2011

The writer is consulting editor, The Friday Times

Recent reports quote General Kayani saying that Pakistan-US relations are “good” and were “improving”. These remarks follow hectic parleys between various levels of Pakistani and US officials in the recent weeks. The zealous hyper-nationalists of Pakistan found aplenty in the Urdu press, among the TV anchors and right wing politicians, were surely weakening the case for Pakistan as it struggles to manage internal insurgencies and handle a war on its northwestern front. I recall that Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, Hussain Haqqani had pleaded for reason, not letting emotions override serious business like foreign policy. The security establishments’ engagement with the US counterparts, therefore, is nothing but a ‘realistic’ move to repair ties that need to be repaired. Without a cooperation framework how can Pakistan even think of succeeding to retain its influence in the region?

At a recent seminar in Islamabad, organised by the Centre for Civic Education, a speaker remarked that the most illustrative aspect of Pakistanis resilience was the ability to survive, despite cognitive dissonance. Our civil-military elite have nurtured cognitive dissonance for decades, leading to a widespread disturbance of thinking and perception of reality. Our leader of the opposition in the parliament, who thunders against the US at the drop of a hat, was rattled by a WikiLeaks cable that exposed how his family members were US citizens! He organised a press conference and defended his anti-Americanism. A good psychologist would decipher the language used by the maverick politico and identify how he, not unlike many others, intensely suffers from cognitive dissonance.

Forget the leader of the opposition. The great polemicist, Qazi Hussain Ahmad of the Jamaat-i-Islami, who leaves no opportunity to identify and condemn ‘agents’ sent his children to the US for college. Reportedly, few of his children are also US nationals. His credibility would have nosedived, if there were a rational media and a rule-based society. Not in Pakistan, where lame and indefensible explanations of this untenable situation will be cited by the apologists.

Our view of India in the public domain also suffers from royal hypocrisy. A leading TV anchor held special programmes on the invasion of ‘Indian culture’. The same media group is venturing to build peace efforts with the ‘enemy’. It is beyond ironic that the TV channel regularly airs Bollywood films, dance and music shows — exactly the kind of stuff, which is threatening the ‘Ideology of Pakistan’ — a perennial refuge for numerous scoundrels in the country.

The anti-Americanism paranoia about India, imagined plots to steal our nuclear weapons and the ultimate ‘terrorists-cannot-be-Muslims’ mantra have entered the popular imagination of Pakistanis. These days, there is an overt attempt by several analysts, opinion-makers and even academics to rationalise conspiracy theories. Reportedly, a UK-based Pakistani academic delivered a talk at a Karachi seminar, rationalising the conspiracy theory that the infamous Blackwater (a US contractor) was responsible for attacks on mosques and shrines in Pakistan.

This is no longer a laughing matter. It is a serious state of collective denial that needs to be unpacked and rectified for our long-term stability and survival. This will lead us nowhere: we deny that there is violence against women, we deny that there is rampant child abuse; and we reject that we have allowed for a large section of society to get radicalised in the recent decades. We deny that our textbooks are poisonous for young minds, for the hate they spread, and we refute that sermons given in the name of a peaceful religion actually talk about killing non-Muslims. Above all, there is a widespread denial that minorities of Pakistan are increasingly under attack, including the Shias, Ahmadis, Zikris, and not just non-Muslims.

Nation-states, which take mythologising the past and present a bit too far, start to disintegrate. In 1971, we witnessed one such moment. Such geographical dismemberment is not likely but what will happen when a country and its elite are suffering from doublespeak, rank opportunism and hypocrisy?

Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th,  2011.

Reader Comments (31)

  • Ali Tanoli
    Sep 19, 2011 - 10:52PM

    I think they should put it this in school text book exam too Who is more patriotic pakistani
    the answer gonna be Any one with foriegn passport specialy U.S.A .Recommend

  • Mastishhk
    Sep 19, 2011 - 10:56PM

    @ Raza Rumi..Thanx for ur relentless efforts to wake up fellow Pakistanis from this endless slumber. You are so right when u state that we are a nation in Denial. Just as a mother never believes that her son can do any wrong, Pakistanis never believe that other Pakistanis or Muslims can play havoc with their lives. We also are a nation of Hypocrites. We hate US , still queues outside US embassy seeking visa are getting longer and longer !!

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  • sadhana
    Sep 19, 2011 - 11:22PM

    “a speaker remarked that the most illustrative aspect of Pakistanis resilience was the ability to survive, despite cognitive dissonance.”

    Considerable credit for Pakistanis’ survival needs to go to Pakistan’s ‘enemy’ states, India US and Afghanistan, who have not retaliated in kind despite losing their citizens and soldiers to Pakistan’s cognitive dissonance for years.

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  • fahim
    Sep 20, 2011 - 12:53AM

    reach home safe man.. there are only few sane thinkers left that is still trying to tell truth beyond the millions of layers of blatant lies told by a “system” which functions only to its benefit.

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  • Faisal Kapadia
    Sep 20, 2011 - 1:32AM

    Today…one of us just did after he read what you wrote!!

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  • Ziyad Faisal
    Sep 20, 2011 - 1:39AM

    It is disgusting to see how people’s feelings are played with. When a state apparatus which depends on the US also promotes a cheap anti-Americanism while repressing the actual opponents of state brutality, one can only be disgusted.

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  • rana
    Sep 20, 2011 - 1:53AM

    a great article, but these days my criticism starts and end at PAK ARMY,i think they are majorly responsible for messing most of the things,i mean , if you and i as normal,average pakistanis,how much can we influence things, the education policy for example. im sure not even the parliamenterians can do that, but raza has tackled the issue very articulately of us being a hypocritical society.

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  • Frankly Speaking
    Sep 20, 2011 - 2:06AM

    Although the hypocrisy is real, (Much of the mess is self made) one has to understand there is a huge Indian lobby in the US and EU to contain and possibly politically and economically dominate the Indian Subcontinent. The Foreign nations have only self interest in mind…all else is collateral irritations.
    …..
    The conceived or real Pakistan disintegration threat has some pressure and backing from foreign elements no doubt (Baluchistan for example) … but internal implosion is even greater.
    …..
    The radicalization gains its fuel from radical extremist religious teachings, poor education, corrupt leadership, and ethnic racism.

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  • Jawad
    Sep 20, 2011 - 2:26AM

    impressively written…

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  • IMAM HUSSAIN
    Sep 20, 2011 - 2:44AM

    In Short Pakistani population can’t walk with the TRUTH ,Can’t walk with JUSTICE, Can’t Walk with INNOCENCE ,They are Supporter of Barbaric MURDERES ,KILLERS.

    Seems like last Shred of Being Pakistani Pride has Left you long Ago.

    Cowards Die Many times before their Deaths,Valiant never taste of Death but Once.
    You are dying everyday when you see innocent woman and kids die on street of Pakistan.

    Ashamed of yourself.

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  • shakir s
    Sep 20, 2011 - 2:48AM

    great artile,very nicely done and i like how its direct n simple.

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  • Tariq Bashir
    Sep 20, 2011 - 3:03AM

    The narrative released to the public by the military elite is that what they decide like a medieval patriarch is always right. This narrative has many faces and names, basic democracy, partyless elections, strategic depth and proxy fighters, to name but a few. While they themselves live a life of discipline, relative comfort and financial security but have to rely on illiterate countrymen to do their dirty work when it comes to hurting India in Kashmir. Not only are their war manuals outdated and very cold war but their political strategic understanding is also simplistic at best and outrightly naive at worst. Like Asma Jehagir says, these generals or fauji bhais should leave the country alone and do what they are supposed and paid to do, defend the country and obey civil authority under all circumstances and not try to run it through its intel agencies. What hope does a country have whose mil cadets motivate themselves on the blood curdling hate speeches against India and carry this gospel truth in the form of their core ideology till they retire?
    We have to open our eyes now or it will be too late starting with our military.?

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  • Mj
    Sep 20, 2011 - 3:22AM

    Brilliant article. I hope it gets printed in Urdu newspapers, having majority readership, and being the origin of many conspiracy theories.

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  • Truth Seeker
    Sep 20, 2011 - 3:51AM

    The person suffering from ‘cognitive dissonance’ is not aware of the fact, hence how can a nation realise that it is suffering from it. Only a foreign nation can tell a suffering nation and the anamoly is that nation is the enemy of this nation (which is suffering and so paranoid) so it will remain a catch-22 situation.

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  • Josh Shahryar
    Sep 20, 2011 - 8:41AM

    Raza Bhai, nailed it.

    You’re right. I think there needs to be a re-evaluation of almost everything that is being fed to the Pakistani population about the Foreign Policy that has been pursued for decades now. While at home, they’re told that “Pakistan is great!” Abroad, it’s a totally different story. Hence, when people hear stories about Pakistani leaders bowing to international pressure, they wonder how a mighty nation cannot seem to be able to hold its own in the foreign arena.

    This madness needs to stop, if not for the sake of the current generation, then, for the coming one. Pakistanis deserve truth and nothing but!

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  • MF Hussain
    Sep 20, 2011 - 9:36AM

    We Wont!

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  • MAD
    Sep 20, 2011 - 11:10AM

    We’ve all closed our eyes hoping that all thats happenning will go away. At best we’ve painted our eyelids to make it seem like our eyes are open when infact they’re closed and we’re all slumbering away.

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  • vasan
    Sep 20, 2011 - 11:12AM

    You cant wake up people pretending to be asleep.

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  • Rana Safvi
    Sep 20, 2011 - 11:15AM

    I have read numerous articles by Raza Rumi over the past one year that I have been following him and a few other Pakistani journalists on twitter. Pakistan does indeed seem to be living in denial and no problem or society ill can be cured unless it is first accepted.In this very well written article Raza Rumi talks of cognitive disonance and I think he hits the nail on the head. I hope this article finds some resonance with the powers that be and steps are taken.

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  • mazen
    Sep 20, 2011 - 12:31PM

    one may see myriad of conspiracies theories in most of Pakistani TV channels and newspapers. These conspiracies theories, most of these, are being hurled by many prominent columnists and TV anchors. One could assume that the above-mentioned proponents of conspiracies theories are either ill-informed or furthering their emotive rhetoric. I don’t want to indulge myself into the reliability and authenticities of the various conspiracies theories that has been hovering around for quite a long time, but one thing is sure that these conspiracies theories are doing more harm than good.

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  • Feroz
    Sep 20, 2011 - 1:35PM

    Illusion will inevitably lead to delusion. If from birth to death a citizen is only fed falsehood his ability for rational thinking is severely compromised. Subsequent efforts to correct this imbalance will naturally fail. The level of jingoism seen today would have been under control if deceit, duplicity and propaganda had been exposed.
    If anyone were to counter the ongoing artificially constructed narrative with reason and logic he would definitely be a RAW/CIA agent because that is what has been taught – that the countries problems are because of these dangerous foreign agents. Pointing out that Muslims have killed over 30000 Muslims in the land of the Pure in the last 10 years, simply cannot be accepted. Osama being killed in Abbotabad is a plot to defame. Quadri is a hero, that he killed Taseer another Muslim is irrelevant. Those killing Muslims in Mosques, Hospitals and Funerals are all foreign agents. No, Haqqani and Mullah Omar are not foreign agents only TTP cadre are.
    Things are getting very critical for citizens because a dangerous time bomb may be ticking in every home without the family members getting to know that their loved one is up to no good.
    The Nation like an individual needs counseling and very fast, if precious lives are to be saved.

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  • Zubair Faisal Abbasi
    Sep 20, 2011 - 4:23PM

    I think, Raza has raised very important points which mention the centre and off stage activities of our collective social being. Our state institutions have love for being overt on one score and covert on the other. On being overt, they follow a certain type of ideology which creates a sense of absolute unity without any diverging voices. The love for absolute unity sometimes becomes oppressive to the extent that people chose covert activities to express their real selves. Well done Raza!Recommend

  • Khurram
    Sep 20, 2011 - 10:21PM

    Pakistan is a lost cause!!! It is now up to the world comity to decide how they would save themselves from us!!

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  • MD
    Sep 21, 2011 - 4:34AM

    There was a news, a school bus in Pakistan was attacked by the Taliban “warriors”, they not only sprayed bullets on the bus, but, also, threw grenades at it, killing four or five children and fatally injuring many others. I thought, this is it, the whole world would rise and protest, particularly, Pakistanis would be so furious that, it will shake the foundations of the power structure in Pakistan and the whole country would rise like a single man and demand blood of perpetrators of this unbelievably inhuman crime.
    But, alas, that didn’t happen, all I saw was that, it was taken as a routine day to day happening, no more significant than a car or motorbike accident. The world too ignored it completely, there were no special programmes on BBC, CNN, FOX, NDTV, Times Now, CNN-IBN, no I didn’t see any kind of outrage expressed anywhere in the sub-continental or in the media elsewhere.
    Therefore, Mr. Raza Rumi sir, I appreciate your valiant effort to wake up the conscience of your country, but, it makes me sad to say that, there is very little hope left, simply because the feudal lords of Pak establishment, distorted the Pakistani society beyond recognition. However, hope and optimism do represent life, let’s be hopeful of Pakistan’s future.

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  • Cynical
    Sep 21, 2011 - 7:11AM

    @MAD

    You are spot on. We are like ostrichs in a desert storm.

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  • Mirza
    Sep 21, 2011 - 8:46AM

    Raza, you said it man! I am proud of you. Please keep up the good work! More power to you. Keep safe, you are a national asset!

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  • N
    Sep 22, 2011 - 7:31AM

    Our eyes are wide open. It is just that years of indoctrination makes us see things that you don’t. We believe what is not and deny what is. Facts are our enemies and conspiracies our friends. What do you expect? There is nothing wrong with our outlook! .

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  • R. Khan
    Sep 22, 2011 - 12:24PM

    Pakistani nation is fast asleep since 47 years & let them sleep since they will get the shock of their life when they will understand where they are & how much the world has moved forward. They will keep on denying the realities of life & continue blaming others for their problems. Muslims have been going down the drain since ages & will continue to go down since they are themselves their own worst enemies. They will never change their course of destruction. In a recent ADB report in 2050 the GDP per capita of Pakistan will be $ 5300 per annum whereas in 2050 the GDP per capita of India would be $ 57000 per annum. Just imagine where they will be & where we will be standing with a biggest begging bowl ever made in the world. They don’t want to hear the truth & want to live in Cuckoo Land of their make believe World.

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  • WhatsInAName
    Sep 23, 2011 - 12:12AM

    What your article is doing is removing the devide between facts and conspircy theories. If one fiery anchor, writer or a scholar is known for his use of conspiracy theories in his reasoning and debate. And he says something that is in actual a fact and truth, then his voice goes unheeded, especially if he is the only one saying it.

    Your article instead of greateing this divide is removing it.

    For e.g blackwater do exist in Pakistan and have been proved to be notoriously involved in extra judicial killings in Pakistan and worldwide. those praising your article will be in a mindset to rebuff this also.

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  • Salma
    Sep 25, 2011 - 5:15PM

    This leads to further Denial atleast that is what I get out of this article….advising to get out of denial on some issues but at the same time advising denial on other issues…there are some bitter truths which we fail to swallow A half truth is always more dangerous this article is only the half truth.

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  • Dr.A.K.Tewari
    Oct 11, 2011 - 8:00AM

    Bitter truth , hard to swellow .
    Good effort .

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