Shame on us

Published: March 30, 2012
The writer is author, most recently of, The Apricot Road to Yarkand (Sang-e-Meel, 2011) and a member of the Royal Geographical Society

The writer is author, most recently of, The Apricot Road to Yarkand (Sang-e-Meel, 2011) and a member of the Royal Geographical Society [email protected]

The contents of Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s film were known in some circles in Pakistan, though not widely enough to be common knowledge, and there was no celebration in this blighted land prior to her winning the Oscar. No one acknowledged the courage of Ms Obaid-Chinoy to talk about something we would rather not know. No one celebrated her mastery over the craft of film-making.

Then, word came from across the seas of this wonderful young woman winning that coveted award. An award from the government, it was suddenly decided, was very much in order. So lacking of finesse was the haste in announcing the local award that it was obvious the babus were goaded out of their sleep only because of the Oscar.

Imagine what would have happened if Obaid-Chinoy had not won the Oscar. Since we do not wish to acknowledge the darkness of our souls, she would have been hounded to the far side of hell for revealing our evil. Her documentary about victims of acid attacks would have been a ‘nefarious act to defame the country’. We kid ourselves, because the country is already infamous for the various forms of evil we practice.

Shortly after the Oscar was won, while most of us yahoos were celebrating Obaid-Chinoy’s feat –– because the West showed us the way –– there were murmurs from envious detractors. Why had she worked on some Western agenda to smear the good name of Pakistan, it was said. In the event of there having been no Oscar, I would have been surprised if the keepers of public morality and Pakistan’s honour (read: TV anchorpersons) hadn’t forced this brave and talented woman into exile for fear of her life.

Now that Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy has the Oscar and some medal or the other from the now-awake government, what about Dr Mohammad Ali Jawad? This kindly-faced, bespectacled angel practices plastic surgery in London and comes out every summer to rebuild the faces of those unfortunate women who have suffered acid burns. He leaves a thriving practice in England and does this work in Pakistan free of charge.

Since he features in the documentary, why have we Pakistanis not celebrated his name together with Obaid-Chinoy’s? Will he have to be knighted first by the Queen of England for us to simply acknowledge, if not celebrate, his acts of kindness? Here, I must hasten to add that I hold no brief for the good doctor. He is not a relative and is a friend I have never met.

We are a peculiar people. We do not recognise our heroes and the great spirits who lighten up the dark landscape that Pakistan has become. Obaid-Chinoy forced us to look into our souls (the gareban of Urdu), albeit rather begrudgingly because we do not wish to acknowledge our own brutality. Dr Jawad brought the lives of so many victims as close to normalcy as was possible under the circumstances. Shame on us for singing our documentary maker’s name only after the Academy honoured her. And ever more shame on us for not even being aware of Dr Jawad.

For us, a hero is only an uneducated lout who plays cricket. No other sport matters, nor any achievement in any other field. If sports are our only producer of heroes, how many people know of Nazir Sabir, the first Pakistani to summit Mount Everest and the greatest alpinist the country has ever produced? How many know of the feats of Colonel Sher Khan or Ashraf Aman? Indeed, how many have ever heard of the pluck and perseverance of supermen like Little Karim, Rajab Shah and the countless others who have done wonders where no Pakistani television reporter has ever dared to be?

Shame on us, for we do not even know our heroes from the con artists among us.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2012.

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Reader Comments (25)

  • Talha
    Mar 31, 2012 - 12:12AM

    Shame on us indeed.

    This is a country where villians are celebrated.


  • Salman Arshad
    Mar 31, 2012 - 2:13AM

    Good. But you missed Muhammad Bin Qasim, the First (honorary) Pakistani to have taken Allah’s name in a throughly kaffir land.
    No cricketer can match that hero. Not even Imran Khan.
    You are right we really have so many heroes that its hard to remember all of them.
    So its better to honour Islamic heroes on priority as it is worth more Sawab.


  • Timorov
    Mar 31, 2012 - 2:18AM

    @ the author

    I love Sabir Nazir – I met him in Skardu in 2000. I also love Captain Karnaal Sher Khan (not Colonel). But your main point is right, there are too many unsung heroes in this country of ours!


  • Arpit
    Mar 31, 2012 - 2:57AM

    great article. kudos !!


  • Babloo
    Mar 31, 2012 - 3:00AM

    Please tell tales of how turks and Arabs came and massacred the population living in the territories that make Pakistan and spread light in this dark world, killing, maiming and looting. How many did they klil ?
    They are the real heroes of Pakistan. Please name them so that more missiles can be named after them.


  • avrom yarushalmi
    Mar 31, 2012 - 4:50AM

    We did same with our only Nobel laureate . Shame on us indeed. but there is a way.
    Somehow if any of our prolific self proclaimed defender of our glorious past(fabricated in most of the cases) can discover that Shermeen’s ancestors came from Arab via Mawraunnahar killing hundreds and thousands of infidels on the way(read looting and plundering) and in a small basti near present day Karachi established a small Muslim fiefdom.Only then she can get a recognition.
    The next step would be to Naseem Hijaziaze( this is my invention! of course you know the meaning) the whole story.As he is dead now so any of his followers including one of the publicity stunt managers of sultan e Khwarzm( who wrote in his praise a couple of weeks ago) can do this baptism.
    Sorry Sharmeen. We owe you much.


  • saleem
    Mar 31, 2012 - 5:10AM

    @ salman arshad, without the burden of religion , just imagine in 2012 a gang of robbers jump from ships onto karachi or sindh , destroy the govt and all buildings kill as many as possible , loot the place dry and then move all the way to Multan doing the same . In 711 thats what happened. But then history can be seen as you wish


  • AJ
    Mar 31, 2012 - 5:25AM

    Shame on ET for this article.. nothing in it, same old one-sided, over-done effort to push one’s late-night idea.. shame on the idiots who take such opportunities to spit out their hatred for the very foundations of Pakistan.. and NO, before the thought comes to your narrow-mind, I don’t like Pak-Talibans!! IDIOTS!


  • Nargis
    Mar 31, 2012 - 6:18AM

    Salman Arshad: Recognize Mohammed Bin Qasim because its more sawab??? You are the darkness that has engulfed Pakistan and Muslims in general. God, let there be light.


  • ishtiak
    Mar 31, 2012 - 10:06AM

    well said sir,,,,,,, we r missing our real heroes and supporting some fake heroes………..


  • Questioner
    Mar 31, 2012 - 10:17AM

    Salman Rashid Sahab: I, like many, am ignorant of these people. Please share more information about them.


  • Maulana tharra
    Mar 31, 2012 - 12:14PM

    @avrom yarushalmi: One has to be “The Chosen One” to earn recognition:)


  • avrom yarushalmi
    Mar 31, 2012 - 12:53PM

    @maulana tharra
    Maulana please add “self proclaimed” before chosen one.


  • zalim singh
    Mar 31, 2012 - 1:33PM

    @ Salman Rashid Sahab

    it looks like Men in Pakistan can get away with any crime they wish to commit. No doubt, they are getting bad name allover the world.


  • Sajid I. B
    Mar 31, 2012 - 1:49PM

    Excellent sir! We don’t even posses the decency to admit our faults, and we have always failed to recognize our true heroes. What a sad and depressing people, so unfortunate. You can even see the amount of negativity, the bad-faith, and cynicism and weakness of heart in comments section for instance. We are a people who would rather hide the truth because it stings instead of talk about it and make amends to our shortcomings with courage, we don’t do that, of course, because we have got used to do things that demand no courage! Sharmeen has done a great job! and all those people who have been bad-mouthing Sharmeen and her work are like an ugly customer in a photoshop fighting with the photographer because his picture turned out to be ugly! Shame!


  • Ali Khan
    Mar 31, 2012 - 2:29PM

    Salman – your writings are getting dark and bitter. You write great travelogues, delighting readers with the idiosyncrasies of average Pakistanis in the hinterland. Don’t lose your spirit – continue to delight us with stories of the simple Pakistani and his view of the world.


  • mrk
    Mar 31, 2012 - 2:56PM

    We are such losers really for beating down on the country and its people. Yes unfortunate acid attacks happen in the country and Ms. Sharmeen made a documentary on it that garnered praise abroad. But what does Mohammad bin Kasim has to do with this?
    When pilgrams came to North America not in 710 AD but just over 2/300 hundred years ago, they reeked havoc on the north american continent killing tons of native inhabitants. Wo what? They are considered heros, aren’t they? Why do we need always an example from others to hit home a simple point?

    The practice of unsung sports heros is not Pakistan – it’s the same for almost any nation. Can a poor western mountain climber winner even dream to compare himeself with billionaire Michael Jordan ( children across the america were singing ‘like mike – want to be like mike’ in the 90’s) or similar for Sachin in India etc.

    Pak is not the only country in the world with problems – India has killed over ten million of its girls in the last decade. The Imran Khan that you ridicule wants to bring this country towards progress so that our heads can be held high also. Recommend

  • Ch Allah Daad
    Mar 31, 2012 - 5:52PM

    Excellent article..


  • prabhjyot singh madan
    Mar 31, 2012 - 6:34PM

    How many of you know about Maharaja ranjeet Singh of the Lahore darbar ? If he had not wrested away Peshawar and frontier provincial areas what kind of Pakistan would you would have after partition. Please pondor on local heroes. He was the first local to kick the durrani empire and stacked and won from the east to west. Arabized people trolling here, please refer to third party history book if you all disagree. I am a proud Indian Punjabi and accept facts . Abdali was a looter, we have a saying by a famous Punjabi poet of his era “Jo khada apna, baki shah abdali da ” and a missile is named after a looter. Sat Sri akal. Salam, cheerio. Take care


  • Maulana tharra
    Mar 31, 2012 - 9:09PM

    @avrom yarushalmi: @maulana tharra
    Maulana please add “self proclaimed” before chosen one.

    “avrom yarushalmi” Real or a pseudonym?
    If real and with in the confines of our Land of Pure; then it is a pleasant and welcome surprise and keep safe!
    Unfortunately all are “self proclaimed” be it from Mecca, Sainai or Bet ul lahm.


  • Anon
    Mar 31, 2012 - 10:27PM

    I think even the author is forgetting the real heroes here…the women who have been burnt by the acid and survived to live and not just live but have the courage to tell their stories and go through the motions of life as if it was life as usual…their spirit is worth saluting…


  • SaudiRules
    Mar 31, 2012 - 11:59PM

    Vote for PTI! Once he is in power, he will give well deserved recognization to all the past-present and future heroes just with in 90 days.


  • A Aslam
    Apr 1, 2012 - 12:17AM

    Great movie and great cause. And also the craft of filmmaking. And we actually felt over the top after it received an Oscar. Great work by the visiting plastic surgeon from UK; though it was a little ironic that the NGO looking after the acid attack victims chose to ignore their main surgeon who had treated well over 250 cases of such kind (voluntarily; and free of charge, of course), including the initial treatment of the central character. Probably the local, homegrown service couldn’t have been portrayed glamorous enough!


  • Cynical
    Apr 1, 2012 - 3:41AM


    You are right on target, as usual.Among the unsung heroes in the field of sports and adventures you could have included the legendery squash player Jahangir Khan.
    What an achiever he was.


  • Apr 12, 2012 - 4:33AM

    Where ever we feel as Pakistanies we all do what ever we can…..I run an organisation called Pakistani achievement awards in london every year. This year celebration just before Olympics.

    You can visit our website as above ad see dr Jawad there being celebrated as star of Pakistan years before any body knew of him in Pakistan.

    Yes you are right he now being nominated for British knight hood, yet again by Pakistanis.

    We all do little bit what ever we can.

    Let’s stop complaining about others and continue good work.

    Jawad Raza


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