Every now and then, there’s a soft piece in a foreign publication that essentially tries to eschew the prevalent narrative about Pakistan – that it’s populated by beards and terrorists, that the women are uneducated and oppressed, that arts and culture are non-existent and that we’re all baying for western blood.
Every now and then there’s a prominent Pakistani (fashion/music/arts/politics) who’ll be decrying that narrative. They’ll talk about how Pakistan really isn’t all that, and to an extent there’s nothing wrong with that. The narrative mentioned above doesn’t explain Pakistan, much like any label or narrative ignores/excludes exceptions and minority behaviour. It’s nothing new – Switzerland e.g isn’t chocolate and watches, nor is Scandinavia IKEA and porn.
The problem, however, arises when the rent-a-quote Pakistani idiots in these soft pieces offer up examples of why Pakistan isn’t a misogynistic, fanatical hell-hole. The problem is when someone calls Pakistan out on being a fundamentalist state (we’ll conveniently ignore that our Constitution relegates Ahmedi’s to second class status) and the reply is not far removed from, “But I drink beer! And I’m going to a rave this weekend!”
Pakistan’s seemingly famed party scene doesn’t exist for everyone. I’d like to know that when some weapons grade twat talks about booze being readily available, how many people out there actually know his bootlegger? How many people can actually afford to pay for booze, let alone have access to it in the first place. What’s conveniently forgotten is that there’s booze and sex and drugs and parties and raves in Pakistan, but only if you know the right people.
That’s what’s left out every time Buntie Aunty decides to mouth off to a broadsheet. That’s what’s left out every time SomeoneStickAnOilRigInMyHead guy talks about doing tequila shots.
But even that’s still a minor prick (no pun intended) compared to the absolute uselessness of talking about Pakistan’s soft image.
When Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won her Oscar for Saving Face, everyone rejoiced (aside from a few prize assholes). That’s fair enough – a successful Pakistani woman won a prestigious award. Did it show up Pakistan’s soft side? “Finally some good news for Pakistan!” was the refrain heard around the world.
But one of the many inherent gifts of being a Pakistani is a wonderful lack of self-awareness. Even if you manage to overcome it individually, as a collective whole there’s no escaping it. SOC (name’s a mouthful, don’t mind me) winning was rightly lauded, but amidst all the high-fives everyone seemingly forgot what her documentary actually was about; a Pakistani doctor coming back to help victims of acid attacks.
How many hacks with tweets and facebook statuses and blogs and op-eds, writing about SOC’s win, dealt with the very severe issue of what her documentary touched on? How many actually thought, ‘oh shit, she won an Oscar! let’s watch Saving Face and try to raise awareness of victims of acid attacks, or at least find a way to donate/fund Dr. Mohammad Jawad? Hell, how many ended up watching the documentary itself?
Pakistan’s not a great country. Pakistan’s not a lovely country. Pakistan’s an absolute mess – a cesspit of misogyny, rent-a-tit politicians, corruption, reckless amoral journalists, a ratings hungry self-flagellating media, violence, sectarianism (institutionalized and otherwise), regressive social conservatism, religious fanaticism, and finally, a military establishment that embodies all of this.
The sooner Pakistanis realize that very real and absolute nature of this ‘lovely country’, the sooner relevant pieces can be torched and rebuilt.
And fuck Hello!