Dr Aafia, Faisal Shahzad are not Pakistan's heroes
We have personified mortals like Aafia Siddiqi and Faisal Shahzad into mythological figures simply because they were confronted by external forces - this is pseudo-patriotism.
The Faisal Shahzad case is a Western conspiracy, and I’m an idiot for not believing it.
Why am I the idiot? Because when a US district judge passed the final sentence on the 31-year-old, condemning him to a lifetime imprisonment, I for one was glad that such a menace to society will stay behind bars until he dies.
Somehow, I know that if I say this to my fellow Pakistanis, there will be little, if any, acquiescence. Mostly, I will get expressions of bemusement or disgust, as if I’ve uttered a swear word. That will be followed by long sermons on how the entire Faisal Shahzad debacle was a case of an innocent Pakistani boy being targeted by the West to give Muslims a bad name and extend the immoral war on terror and that opinions like mine are exactly what America wants to achieve.
Yeah, it’s definitely a conspiracy, even though he has admitted his guilt from the start. Even though there are videos of him declaring war against the West. Even though he met TTP Chief Hakimullah Mehsud personally and was caught on tape doing so. Even though his parting words to the judge as he left were, “Brace yourselves, because the war with Muslims has just begun. Consider me the first droplet of the blood that will follow.”
But yeah, it’s all a conspiracy, and I’m an idiot for not believing it.
It is the same attitude that I see towards the public’s perception of neuroscientist Dr Aafia Siddiqi, or, as she is commonly called in Pakistan, “qaum ki beti.” Her capture, incarceration and sentencing have been mired by human rights violations, maltreatment and injustice and for that I am sympathetic towards her. But somewhere along the line, she became an emblem of resistance against the brutal Americans, a rallying cry for the cruelty suffered by innocent Muslims by the imperialist swine, and a champion for the cause of Islam and indeed Pakistan, as was exemplified by a recent walkout of parliamentarians at the National Assembly.
But, wait a minute. Where did all this come from? Dr Aafia Siddiqui did not do anything to become the projection of what she is touted to be, but as word of her capture became news, the country’s ardent ‘patriots’ suddenly transformed her into a pan-Islamic super heroine!
Does anyone even care that there are some serious concerns over Dr Aafia’s alleged ties to Al-Qaeda, as confessed by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad? Does anyone care that between 2003 and 2008, she disappeared from the radar, without any explanation? That perhaps behind her pro-Muslim rantings in New York, there may be a hidden extremist agenda?
That may well be the case. But I fail to see such introspection on part of our fellow countrymen. And whenever people have mustered the courage to do so, they are made to regret their decision, because when they do, as PMLQ MNA Marvi Memon found out, the reaction is just explosive. Once again the sermons follow, placing the US as once again the harbinger of chaos and doom, which arrested and tortured an innocent Pakistani to once again subvert our nation under the throes of its might. And we as Pakistanis must rally to her cause. She is the “qaum ki beti” after all.
Personifying mortals as mythological figures can only be called what I refer to as “pseudo-patriotism”. A nation, with its image and power battered, clamouring for its pride, tries to find a way out when it is confronted with an external threat. New heroes and heroines are created, to take up the mantle where others have failed. It does not matter how flawed these figures are, but the fact that they are Pakistanis fighting “external oppression” is in itself a feat.
The US is seen as the external oppressor and the war on terror as its instrument of oppression. But no one wonders whether the militants that the Americans are fighting may be the same ones that are creating chaos and anarchy here at home. It explains why everyone is quick to point out about the civilian casualties in the CIA conducted drone strikes, but no one questions whether perhaps some of those people actually deserved to die. It showcases how people like Aafia Siddiqui or Faisal Shahzad are projected as the new face of pan-Islamism falling prey to Western conspiracies, but yet will never be subject to the same scrutiny that is reserved for the West.
For a nation that puts its leaders through a baptism of fire every time there’s a political scandal, we sure fail to apply the same standards to ourselves.
But then again it’s all a conspiracy and I’m an idiot for not believing it.