News that five Pakistanis were arrested in Uganda for being members of the al Qaeda-affiliated Al Shaabab rebel group should come as no surprise at all, despite the fact that Pakistanis should have little interest in what is going on in Uganda or have any cause to join a Somali militant group. Al-Shaabab is the group responsible for an attack two years ago, at a restaurant, where people were watching the football World Cup final. Its focus is exclusively local, making it even less relevant to the lives of Pakistanis.
Yet we have made it our business to poke our noses where they don’t belong. This fervour for meddling in the affairs of others began during the reign of Ziaul Haq, who employed religious rhetoric and the concept of the ummah to encourage Pakistanis to fight in Afghanistan and Kashmir. At least we could justify these incursions since we share a border with both Afghanistan and India and have laid claim to the territory of Kashmir. Less explicable is the manner in which we transferred this enthusiasm to faraway lands like Bosnia and Kosovo, hijacking their freedom movements in the name of jihad. The righteousness of the Muslim cause in the Balkans masked what had become a worrying trend: Pakistanis were now willing to fight anywhere in the world for people with whom they shared nothing in common but religion.
Our ability to show up in any part of the world to engage in militancy should be brought up the next time we complain about the increased scrutiny we receive when applying for visas. We should also not be surprised if our own government starts screening those who want to leave the country to see if their visits are legitimate. Globalisation was meant to facilitate greater trade, cooperation and understanding between countries. Some of us seem to have taken it a step too far by connecting to the rest of the world through our insatiable appetite for meddling in the affairs of others, instead of taking out time to rid ourselves of our own flaws.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2012.
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