American nightmare for Pakistanis

Published: January 30, 2017

I was recently at the Lahore airport to see off my sister on her way to New York and it turned out to be a more than frustrating experience. The pandemonium at Departures was horrendous, the cacophony deafening. We looked on helplessly, so did the Civil Aviation staff as people jostled, groped and pushed their way around. It was classic management failure. Now there is no rocket science to forcing people to stand in queues and wait for their turns. You got to see Pakistanis at the Dubai Airport and how the Arabs force civility and order out of them. Heathrow and JFK are some of the busiest airports in the world but somehow manage to handle the nightmarish traffic with aplomb. Airports remind me of Spielberg’s, “The Terminal”, which is about an immigrant who is stranded at the JFK airport and forced to take up residence there on account of quirky circumstances. Tom Hanks plays the immigrant who is denied entry into the USA and can’t go back to his own country due to an unfolding coup. The comedy showcases the plight of the traveller stuck at the airport as passengers from all over the world whiz past him. The airport of the movie seems warm and friendly, an island of sorts and not to be confused with what Pakistanis experience at home or what the world is going through now at the American airports. JFK is in the news for the wrong reason. Donald John Trump.

Bilawal warns Trump against travel ban for Pakistanis

Saturday saw a federal judge overturning the sweeping Trump order banning visitors from 7 Muslim majority countries and entry of refugees in the USA. Following the executive order, hundreds found themselves stuck at the USA airports including green card holders. To be fair, Donald Trump’s win took the whole world by surprise, literally sending down shivers down the American spine. As if nobody in the electorate had really expected him to make it to the hallowed office. But he did riding a wave of xenophobic blue collar, white America. Trump’s inauguration was followed by the one of the largest protest rallies in the history of America. A million marched against Trump trying to dissuade him from coming good on his campaign promises. The march was momentous for multiple reasons. That it was mainly led by women spoke volumes of the cleavage of opinion and a polarised America. That it happened only a day after inauguration indicated disbelief, apprehension and the fear how Trump might unravel the American dream, the pluralistic values it has stood and fought for. The latest news from America are heartening as lawyers turn up at the airport offering free services to the detained, as common people come out on the street in support of the immigrant communities and as America defies the despotic sensibilities of a business baron.

Interestingly, there was hardly any debate on the size of the protest rally or for that matter the crowd that had gathered on the day of residential inauguration. Comparisons were drawn between Obama and Trump inauguration and how Obama’s was way bigger. The size of the crowd is a hugely contentious issue in Pakistan, as claims and counter-claims completely mystify the issue. The rallies at home are beamed directly into our living rooms and some have been impressively big but dismissed by the opponents as puny. It is not difficult at all to estimate the crowd size with reasonable accuracy using simple mathematical extrapolation. But who cares. My younger sister is at New York University and had the good fortune to experience the American elections from the pre-election presidential debates to the post-election gloom sweeping America. She told me the entire university seemed to be in mourning as results poured in and Trump’s victory became imminent. People were seen in huddles, sobbing with long faces. Many including teachers took the next day off, the pangs of guilt on the morning after were too much to bear. The pride of America, the policy of multi-culturalism that embraced all without discrimination was under threat by one of its own, by someone America had chosen itself.

‘The Daily Show’s’ Muslim correspondent tears into Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’

Trump’s appearance, his hair puff and orange tan, his highly sexist remarks, his racist tweets have inspired a slew of internet memes and jokes. Poking fun at appearance is hardly civil but Americans driven by repulsion are indulging in it with relish. The stark contrast with Obama in the realms of attire, oratory and how he conducted himself around his wife are now part of the folklore. The issue is Trump is not helping himself at all. His tweets and knee jerk comments allegedly inspired by the conspiratorial FOX News draw sniggers and giggles across the world and American don’t like that at all. Trump wants to build a wall to ward off Mexicans and the Mexican goods. Mexico finds it insulting and rightly so in a globalised world. Trump wants to charge Mexico for the wall and Mexico refuses. Mexico should pay to stop fleeing Americans from entering Mexico, as my friend wryly put it. For many in the Third World, the ascendance of someone like Trump is perversely pleasing. We in this part of the world are pretty used to autocrats and tyrants and bullies. Americans are not. Well, brace up America for a Third World ride.

What happens next? A country can’t be run like a profit hungry corporation. Executive orders seem to gratify Trump’s ego, massage his own sensibilities, perhaps a natural consequence of being a billionaire CEO raised on obeisance and submission. He seems to be on an ego trip bent on reversing Obama’s decrees for no rational reason, high on the presidential powers vested into him. In the process, he is riding roughshod over the cherished American principles of pluralism, tolerance and equality. “Buy American, hire American. American universities are flush with money but there is no knowledge. This American carnage stops now”, he thundered in his inaugural address. Perhaps for the first time ever, a president took a direct jibe at the outgoing incumbent. America today looks eerily Orwellian as Trump administration’s embrace of “alternative facts’ is compared with the “managed truth” of George Orwell’s, The Animal Farm. Orwell worked for the BBC during World War II and had observed how its “news” was falsified to control public opinion. Trump continues to call media a bunch of dishonest liars and both Orwell and Trump seem to ironically converge on this. The dystopian tale of The Animal Farm teeters dangerously close to coming to life again.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2017.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • Feroz
    Jan 31, 2017 - 2:11PM

    America like every vibrant democracy will find its way. it needed a catharsis to relearn how to compete by working harder and getting over the syndrome of entitlements that have crippled it. The election of Trump may not have been the best way in going about the process, however a new beginning was urgently needed. Now that a new process is underway, with a few twists and turns at times in the wrong direction, course correction will happen. Others need not worry about America a country that has found its way through much larger challenges.Recommend

  • Humanity
    Feb 1, 2017 - 6:37AM

    As much as this current chaos helped surface the need for reforms and transformation of American, it actually shed a bright light to expose the dysfunction of the Ummah in general. Their legitimate hue and cry at being ill treated is understandable. But do their hear the hue and cry of their own marginalized citizens within their own borders?Recommend

  • Xnain
    Feb 1, 2017 - 10:40AM

    Okey let me sum up the article to save readers time
    1-Pakistanis lack civic sense
    2-Tom hank was awesome in “The terminal”
    3-The crowd number matters
    4-Trump looks funny
    5-Trump needs to stop and back out on his electoral promises. Recommend

  • antistatusquo
    Feb 1, 2017 - 11:46AM

    @Xnain…….let me summarize it for your intellect….
    1=Pakistanis are civilized when there is good management..

    2=psychological stress count more than physical stress

    3=Democracy definitely counts the numbers but WHAT?, when it comes to headcount and the one with blue eyes and golden hair is counted as equaling 10 to those with black hair and pale/black skin.

    4=Trump is funny BUT funny in his full consciousness,

    5=America not Trump needs to act positively in the wider interest of the worldRecommend

  • BrainBro
    Feb 1, 2017 - 12:23PM

    @Xvain. Cheers bro. My day is made now.Recommend

  • Junaid Janjua
    Feb 1, 2017 - 12:50PM

    A balanced article. I agree that although not right but the POTUS is exercising his right as voted for the American people. Recommend

  • TT
    Feb 1, 2017 - 1:25PM

    fully agreed. Recommend

  • Atif
    Feb 1, 2017 - 1:34PM

    This is a boon for Pakistan. LUMS is no less than MIT. The brightest Pakistani students will now vie for admission inside Pakistan.

  • Rex Minor
    Feb 1, 2017 - 2:38PM


    The article is beating about the Bush, your comments summarise it. However, this does not justfy the Trumpers reality show: The fact being ignored is that the US is now in the grips of a fascist regime which cannot introduce reforms but a havoc in the world order. Those who have experienced or read the history of the third Reich kno that Adolph Hitler was also democraticaly elected chancellor of Germany. For muslim intellects it is a wake up call to avoid going to America who are on the top of the list for becoming the 5th columnists in Trumpers America..

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • kemosabe
    Feb 1, 2017 - 3:08PM

    Lemme bring you uptospeed: Pakistanis are civilized only when British officers threaten a lathee-charge, period !Recommend

  • kamal
    Feb 1, 2017 - 5:20PM

    The Americans chose Trump. Fine. Their right. Trump wants to keep America secure by restricting Muslim troublemakers. Fine. Their right. Trump wants to make in America by America for America. Fine. Their right.

    What we ask in return that America stays out of other countries and does not force its way in. If that is not OK with America then they no right for any of the above and it is the beginning of the 100 years war with 1.6 billion as its foot soldiers.Recommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Feb 1, 2017 - 6:15PM

    We demand Afghan refugees to be kicked out our country. We want every Jew to be kicked out of Holy lands. We have already kicked out almost every Hindu and Sikh from Pakistani Punjab. Our treatment to our own minorities is disgusting yet we are shamelessly criticising those who are simply following our footsteps. Thank God we are not alone. We should be proud of Trump.Recommend

  • Tyggar
    Feb 1, 2017 - 7:12PM

    Hasn’t Kuwait stopped giving visas to people from several Muslim countries (including Pakistan) for its protection, so why these double standardsRecommend

  • Abhi
    Feb 1, 2017 - 8:33PM

    Ur article made my day.Recommend

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