Dawn News

A world without the West

A LITTLE over a week ago, Pakistani youth activist Malala Yousufzai was shot in the head by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. The country, already bearing the burden of daily barbarities, stood stunned.

And then, the world found out — the Western world with its generalities and reductions, a world intent on insisting that all Pakistani women are hapless and miserable and all Pakistani men are brutes. There were paeans to Malala in the New York Times and in the Washington Post.

In Pakistan, this made some squirm, including those genuinely affected by Malala’s plight. What is Western, after all, is unequivocally bad. Some made excuses, saying that they didn’t agree with the mass outpouring of emotion; others made up conspiracies or pointed fingers.

Pakistanis, especially those of the urban educated middle class, are the most recent conscripts of the anti-Western rampage that was until recent years only a staple of Islamist politics on the Pakistani far right.

Many would argue they have good reason for joining the ranks. The decade after 9/11 has seen a slow, steady throttle — leaving Pakistan’s technical exports, its doctors, computer engineers, software programmers, without a route to the jobs abroad that sustained their educational aspirations.

The United States, for example, has denied visas to Pakistani doctors often even those with the highest scores possible on the US medical licence exams. The fate of those bound for Canada, the UK or Australia has not been markedly better.

As those degree-toting individuals, rejected by foreign consulates, will gladly tell you, the skilled Pakistani worker, the computer scientist from Karachi, the doctor from Lahore or the engineer from Quetta is not in demand in the world.

Labels have been indiscriminately, even cruelly, applied to those who never had even the barest sprinkling of terrorist sympathy and spent their lives condemning extremism but who have now been left suddenly with the burden of those whose acts condemn them to global isolation.

Understandably then, if the West rejected Pakistan without logic, so too must they reject the West with an equal irrationality.

The rejected workers are not the backbone of anti-Western sentiment in Pakistan but they add a crucial element to the argument of those with no hope of participation in a globalised world.

With their joining together, the illogicality of isolationism has burgeoned from something on the margins to a national fungus, its tentacles cast into a variety of issues, treating each with an alarming superficiality.

One of these has been the recent debate in parliament and the Supreme Court on the issue of dual nationality and political office. The avowed intent of restrictions on dual nationality is to ensure that only the most loyal, interpreted as those holding only a Pakistani citizenship, can have the opportunity to serve the country.

However, in the tradition of what is illogic, the mechanisms have been shoddy. At the core of the relevant constitutional provision’s failure is its blindness to the fact that the wealthiest Pakistanis, each holding more than $2m in foreign bank accounts, can easily purchase in a short time citizenship to a variety of Western nations through investor programmes.

In this way, the dual nationality provision would enable action only for the culprits easiest to catch.

Instead of including in this ambit those hiding their money abroad while merrily being patriotic Pakistanis with a single passport (for the moment) it would penalise those who may have run off with medical degrees, made a few pennies abroad and then returned to Pakistan under the misguided impression that their skills would be welcomed at home.

Because the logic of anti-Western sentiment targets those easiest to catch or those already hated, Pakistani women have borne an inordinate share of accusing fingers.

Whether they are gang-rape survivors like Mukhtaran Mai or Oscar winners such as Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy or now activists like Malala Yousufzai their patriotism, achievements and courage are all open to question once they are unfortunate enough to be the subject of global attention.

Those Pakistanis infected by the feverish irrationality of the most superficial anti-Westernism will judge them then not for their bravery, honesty or capacity for aspiring to a vision. Their words will be weighed not for their truth but always against some invisible standard of loyalty, one that crucifies every success and stubbornly demands the correction of centuries of each and every western wrong.

Sitting in the path of convoys for wars they did not start, dealing with debts taken by politicians they do not represent, plagued by poverty and terrorism and unemployment, an energy crisis and a revenue crisis, Pakistanis can certainly claim the position of the world’s most disgruntled nation.

Anti-Westernism is a useful panacea in this regard, allowing for vast stores of helpless hatred to be directed somewhere outward at those who have options or escapes.

Arguing for some doses of logic to break this fever of hating the West is much like trying to rehabilitate the most unwilling of addicts. Nevertheless, the distinction may be instructive for those who can take out a moment to consider its implications.

While redemptive for the moment, the all-consuming wish for a West-less world also represents a suspension of ethics and morality. In a Pakistan where acts of bravery and service are judged not on the basis of their own value, it is not religion or ideology that determines whether something is good or bad. What determines the latter is the single, crucial test of whether or not it is tainted by the corrosive, impure influence of the West.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.


Rafia Zakaria is an attorney and human rights activist. She is a columnist for DAWN Pakistan and a regular contributor for Al Jazeera America, Dissent, Guernica and many other publications.

She is the author of The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan (Beacon Press 2015). She tweets @rafiazakaria

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (37) Closed

Deepen C
Oct 17, 2012 06:56am
The entire fundamental doctrine of hatred towards this and that including the west, India, other religions, other ways of life has pushed Pakistan in the bottomless pit of misery, all self created. Now it has gone so deep down in this dark pit that it is practically impossible to come out of it. The whole fractured nation has to push the reset button, mostly destructively now.
Sue Sturgess
Oct 17, 2012 04:04am
It is easier to unite people if you give them a common enemy to hate.
Eqbal Khan
Oct 18, 2012 04:52am
This is a well written piece on the logic or illogical discrimination and hatred on both sides. The author raised most critical questions that neither west nor Pakistani elites and intelligencia wants to hear. Of course there is instant condemnation of the article and the writer, see the comment by OBSERVER. Again, thought provoking article.
Oct 17, 2012 03:53am
Hating the West for the Pakistanis is like eating the cake and hating it too.
Oct 17, 2012 05:41am
A thought-provoking article that explores several layers of prejudices.
Oct 18, 2012 03:40am
Yes, many foreigners love it when they live in devloping countries. They have well paying jobs. They live in large houses with servants. Such luxries ofcourse are not available to them in their home countries. Secondly they want to be politicaly correct, not to offend their host country. Now let's compare an averege Pakistani rarely making it and concerned about his own safety. For sure Pakistan Zindabad.
Oct 18, 2012 02:30pm
Go Amreeka Go, Go Amreeka Go, Go Amreeka GO
Oct 18, 2012 03:39am
I think that's where Pakistan failed. For the state of Pakistan, everyone other than Sunni Muslim is an enemy. Hardliners like Hafeez Saeed spouts hatred against India, Hindus, Ahmadis, Shias, Jews, Bahais, Christians etc. but roams freely in Pakistan. Multiple targets are sapping their energy
Oct 18, 2012 03:45am
You mean in the wonderland, created by conspiracy theories
wajahat khan
Oct 18, 2012 02:29pm
America and NATO are an enemy of muslims and Pakistan and should be viewed as such. no two opinions about this issue.
Oct 17, 2012 02:49pm
If there is a Noble prize in ranting and raving it will definitely go to Pakistan. If in your opinion Pakistanis are not wanted in the West what is the reason for that ? That was not the case until late 90's. Pakistan was a blue eye boy of the West. Instead of blaming Western prejudices why dont you do some introspection ? Also, if Pakistan is a disgruntled nation because of things like poor governance, corruption or mismanagement so are many other countries. It is not West's fault. Solution has to come from within. But when the very foundations of national glory and well being are built on hatred against others, and goal of dominating and defeating 'infidels', you dont need West's prejudices to harm Pakistan.
Syed -2
Oct 17, 2012 08:43pm
I fully agree with the observer (he got keen observation). I also couldn't comprehend the article. However I stopped reading the article midway, and started reading the comments, thinking, I might get a clue, but still nothing.
Oct 17, 2012 06:39am
The prejudice mentioned in the article runs both ways and the 'common man' of both east and west are getting unfairly tarnished by a small group of people determined to ruin peace for everyone. I am a westerner with no blood ties to Pakistan, yet I live here with my family and love it. Despite what is told of the people of pakistan in western media (the only media I read before coming here) I had an open mind and the wisdom to know that we are all human, all bleed the same should we get cut and other than our cultures and religion we are no different. In my opinion the western government/ politics/ hate stirrers should stay out of Pakistan and let the common men of both nations live in harmony with each other. Stop breeding hatred and educate the common man of both sides to the true nature of people on the other side. Pakistan Zinderbad, Western countries Zinderbad.
Oct 17, 2012 01:29pm
Again an appologist looking for fault elsewhere. Pakistan is doomed. No attrocity is going to inspire the imagination of the people of Pakistan to rise above their narrow vision of the world and religion (Islam). It is a fire that will consume them. The fact is that Pakistan needs the west if it does not want to live in the dark ages. The current world and its technology is developed and own by the west. They, therefore, have the right to dictate there terms and they have the resources to do it too. All we have is a massive lot of semiliterate mob, fueled by zeal of religion and hate that can destry nothing but themselves and others around them.
Oct 17, 2012 07:13am
I don't know what the author of this column has tried to argue. If Western countries have decided to isloate Pakistan and pull out their business interests from Pakistan, does Pakistan also stop trade with them? Will it not mean rushing to the 'stone age' that Pakistanis seems to be so fond of experiencing. Remember, integration with international community is the only way for Pakistani economy to survive. No country can be better off in international isolation. Take Iran as a case in point. Sooner than later they will have to change their iron curtain policies.
Oct 17, 2012 12:19pm
Totally nonsense. Does US allows dual national to hold electoral office??. Infact you have to be American born not just American citizen to be able to run for the office of President and what about the drama which has been going on for over 4 years now about Obama's birth certificate. Mr Zakaria and his like will always find problems people of countries like Pakistan but nothing with their own adopted country.
Oct 17, 2012 05:47am
The argument in the article is pretty frivolous. Anti-American sentiments in Pakistan might arise due a some bias but not the one discussed by the author.
Oct 17, 2012 12:06pm
Your last sentence " It is not religion or ideology and ending in impure influence of the west" seems to imply that the west is responsible for all your faults.It is not the west coming to your country looking for jobs or adobe but it is the other way around.He who gives lays down the terms. You should know that.If India can have a vibrant outsourcing industry making billions yearly without it's people leaving the country, what is stopping your people from doing it without trying to emigrate and face rejection? Think of the millions your country can gain.
Oct 17, 2012 11:39am
Conflating dual nationality to this issue is an attempt by the author to hide the fact that people who have taken an oath of loyalty to another nation should not be allowed to serve in senior elected or beaurcratic positions...irrespective of why they took another nationality...also i have yet to meet a dual nationality owner who was stopped from coming to Pakistan and starting a business or practice to serve the local people this is purely an attempt at misguiding the public that if dual nationality holders are stopped from entering parliament then they will not want to invest or come back to Pakistan.
Oct 17, 2012 05:59am
The West has done that very well. Muslims are it.
jay komerath
Oct 17, 2012 09:45pm
Using this same logic,one can justify anything other than islamic ideology.YOUR commens are absurd..You want everything islamic-instead of trying to synthsesize what is good in the western culture and from others.YOUR IDEOLOGY WILL ONLY LEAD TOISLAMISATION AND THE RESULTS ARE CLEAR- LOOK AT THE ISLAMIC WORLD1
Syed -2
Oct 17, 2012 08:50pm
Err, a very appropriate example, but only for the people who have migrated to USA, and still reading Pakistani Newspapers, watching PTV, Doordarshan,... By the way do you read and comment on the American newspapers, the same way, as you do here, or are they out of your liking?
Oct 18, 2012 03:02pm
good article.
Oct 17, 2012 06:47pm
Thats how the very nation of Pakistan was created! In fact the country was very strong (perceived) with that sentiment (hatred) by directing it against one eternal enemy (you know what it is) until they got divided (by support for /against the US). I guess i do not need to go into details but I have to agree with what you said. Whoever is the enemy, it doesn't matter...lets have a enemy!
Oct 17, 2012 06:32pm
(19) Al Quaida persons were trained in Pak-Afghan and sent to USA for flight training, how can you expect to trust pak? Most terrorist come from pak and are openly allowed to roam in pak which are LeT operative proven terrorist by western intelligence and India.Pak is still backing Taliban and read yesterdays news in Dawn that pak government is not going to do anything in NW and FATA under one or other pretex who shot Malala.Pak is unrealiable country and its citizens support lot of terrorist groups so it is hard to know who is one & who is not.Pak origin military doctor in Texas shot dead 13 of US soldiers who he is supposed to treat.Can we trust pak or even muslim from Pak for any matter? Muslims are known for back stabbing their own people in the history.
Oct 17, 2012 09:36am
What that even means?
Oct 17, 2012 06:13pm
Means .....pl leave the world alone and stay in your wonderland
Dr. D. Prithipaul
Oct 17, 2012 05:54pm
This is another article which leaves the reader utterly confused about what the author is trying to say. Nevertheless there is one point which one can safely make: what is Truth in the context of the events and social complexities the author is trying - but fails - to analyse with a definite purpose. Who is right in Pakistan? Who is not obscurantist? Is there in Pakistani society an absolute reference for the right perception of Truth, and if there be one, what is it? Who embodies it as an existential reality?
Oct 17, 2012 05:37pm
All west-hating pakistanis, given a chance would migrate to USA in a heartbeat
reality not selected truth
Oct 17, 2012 04:57pm
The problem is neither does the west want to be the case which needs eating nor does the east want to eat and if anyone of them wants this then they both are getting nowhere.
reality not selected truth
Oct 17, 2012 04:55pm
I dont know what you are complaining about. Is the idea that pakistan should have two ideological extremes best for the writer. So what is disliked is the fact that the silent majority who doesnt scream one or the other way has an opinion too. In any healthy society there is permission to criticise anything that is wrong not only go along with the existing trends or groups.
Oct 17, 2012 04:10pm
Well said, Nasah.
Oct 17, 2012 04:10pm
NO, Zazi. Muslims have earned every bit of it.
Oct 17, 2012 02:53pm
35 people so far have understood the comments made by Mr.Malik very well, excluding you and me. lol!
does not matter
Oct 17, 2012 02:49pm
So what author means is that the middle class Pakistani, having some sort of degree in engineering or medical, are better than the rest and deserve to be allowed in Western countries whether they are required or not and if Western countries deny them then these people have all the rights to hate them. She is probably also implying that the Pakistan is too bad a place for these professionals and they want to get out of Pakistan as soon as possible and the Western countries are ruining their chances of better life outside Pakistan while the politicians, having all sort of black money, can easily buy citizenship. It sounds like most of the educated lot in Pakistan is desperate to get out of the country.
Oct 17, 2012 02:11pm
Why can't Pakistan create jobs for its skilled and educated youths to the benefits of its own public and economy? Once you start this process, and invest in your own youths, it is bound to bear some fruits in terms of lifting the welfare of the masses. An employed person creates cash flow that benefits the community and businesses around him/her.
Oct 17, 2012 03:49am
Pakistanis should stay in their wonderland and leave the world alone.