George Fulton bade farewell to Pakistan. He is not the only one. But his departure will be explained away as a ‘naive gora’ fleeing in panic, suffering from the security syndrome endemic in all the foreigners in this country, or a seriously paranoid soul eager to take flight lest he is mistaken for Raymond Davis or confused with someone that might have supported Taseer or Bhatti — when the two were alive, that is. All other reasons are meaningless ravings of a man who never belonged here.
It may be unusual for George to part with a sense of ‘melancholy’, having spent only nine years here, but for many Pakistanis who mull over this route, fearful it might be their final fate after having spent a lifetime here, it is not just melancholic; it is heart-ripping. And more so when a majority of them are educated, liberal, forward-looking and honest Pakistanis. As George leaves now, it may not be surprising that many like him have already left silently or are quietly flexing their tired wings for the final flight.
The rising trend in a growing number of educated and harmless Pakistanis, to acquire foreign nationality, no matter how infinitesimal a percentage they make up of the 170 million, is a glaring sign that the water has reached dangerous levels and, if not checked, will be over the bridge soon. These are perfectly sane people, clear-headed and not led by any self-styled misconceptions. Among many other disadvantages of education is one that it induces rational thinking. And this is where all the arguments for this country run into a mesh of failed indicators; not all economic in nature by the way. While fiscal problems can be fixed no matter how dire, how does one deal with mental deviation, rational absurdity and straw-thin parochial perspectives trapped in diminutive minds simply incapable of harbouring a broader, all-encompassing vision?
As an increasing number of thinking, scared Pakistanis seem to be working on an exit strategy with the same seriousness as they plan their monthly budgets, it is common to observe daily conversations turn invariably to this subject. How a foreign passport can be a backup guarantee — a lifesaver when the going gets tough — is the oft repeated concern of people trying to think and decide rationally. One wonders at all this confusion sprouting from the best of minds having razor sharp views about integrity, honesty and a deep seriousness of purpose. These characteristics may be the precursors of a reasonably good and successful life in any civilised society but not in ours. Or so it appears.
What makes the situation even more alarming is the fact that people who have literally pushed the country to the precipice (as George observes), also have an escape strategy up their sleeve. There are, therefore, two distinct categories looking for a safe exit. Those, who feel intellectually suffocated, emotionally repressed and hounded by the consequences of saying and doing what is right, and those who have so much ill-gotten wealth piled up on their platters that they can conveniently stash away a part of it in foreign and offshore bank accounts, either investing in foreign citizenship or shoring up for a trouble-free life in a safe haven away from the turbulence when the rocking boat finally capsizes. It is even more upsetting to see that a large number of these dual nationality seekers belong to none other than the political and bureaucratic circles, in charge of and under oath of allegiance to the country, planning to abandon ship at the first sign of danger.
So, all the heaviness of heart is for George to bear; nothing to grieve for those who are glad to get rid of anyone and everyone who dares differ with their views and beliefs. As for those awaiting a lifetime of luxury in foreign lands once the heap of gold is big enough, they are least confused about identities. Money, as is said, knows no boundaries, no nationalities. So, don’t take it to heart George. You are not the only one!
Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2011.
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