BAHRAIN, SWAT: This is with reference to two recent articles that have appeared on these pages on the notion of ‘ghairat’. The first was by Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy titled “Let us become — proudly — bayghairat” (May 7) and was followed by Maria Waqar’s “I’m still — proudly — ghairatmand” which was published a week later.
Mr Hoodbhoy, a well-known rationalist and pacifist, took the notion of ghairat in our national discourse and critically examined its consequences. Ms Waqar tried to rebut him and ended up, like many young people in this country, relating ‘honour’ to religion and condemning Mr Hooodbhoy for his favourable view of modernity.
I am neither a sociologist nor a psychologist but an ordinary bayghairat Pakistani; and that was taught to me by ordinary people like a Mr Jalil, an illiterate elderly waiter at a hotel.
Back in 2001, when the US and Nato attacked the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, Jalil and I were sitting at a local hotel where Jalil worked. A group of politically literate people were discussing the attack and the Taliban resistance and all of them were of the view that the Taliban regime would not fall because it had the power of faith on its side. After hearing this conversation, Jalil stood up and asked: “How will you win a fight where you have a scythe in your hand while your opponent has things bigger than a deodar tree falling from the sky (he was referring to missiles, of course)?”
‘Qaumi ghairat’, like religion, is a weapon in the hands of our rulers and they use it to prolong and legitimise their rule. Instead of offering practical solutions to our many problems, what our leaders end up doing is brandishing this magic wand out of which comes ‘ghairat’ and make ordinary people think that it will solve their problems.
They can organise countrywide strikes and protests against the Salala incident where 24 of our brave soldiers were martyred but, at the same time, they ignore equally brutal attacks by the Taliban killing Pakistani soldiers. Why is this moral outrage and mention of ‘ghairat’ so selective? Of course, this is intended as a rhetorical question because I wouldn’t expect these people to bother responding to such questions.
Since I am a Pakhtun, may I add another point, especially as far as the whole ‘ghairat’ debate is concerned? Pakhthuns are usually praised for their valour and ‘ghairat’. But I think this is done in order to use them, when the need arises, as emblematic of the national interest. On the other hand, most Pakistanis also ridicule them or look down on them for their ‘simplicity’ and ‘way of life’.
Slogans like ‘qaumi ghairat’ and ‘milli yakjeheti’ are meant to keep us deluded so that we think that we are the greatest nation on this earth and that we can do no wrong.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 18th, 2012.
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