For too long, the Indo-Pak dialogue has been held hostage by bellicose jingoists on both sides, and Faisal Qureshi’s video response to Saif Ali Khan’s controversial film epitomises our countries' combined misfortune.
It must be admitted that Saif’s statement about losing faith in Pakistan because of Phantom being banned is somewhat lacking in awareness of how India itself deals with Pakistani art productions, which get banned over there too.
Mahira Khan never shook her fist at Maharashtra, after Bin Roye’s screening was inexplicably prohibited there, ostensibly under pressure from Bal Thackrey’s ultra right-wing Navnirman Sena – an organisation often implicated in violent Hindu-Muslim clashes.
Regrettably, it happens often in our countries where freedom of artistic expression remains limited; and getting offended by even mildly unflattering depiction of one’s country as a cause of cross-border strife, has achieved the status of a national hobby.
Far more obnoxious, however, was TV persona Faisal Qureshi’s 12-minute video in response to an ignorant, yet harmless statement by Saif Ali Khan.
Brazenly stuffed with threats and counter-threats to India’s integrity as sovereign neighbour, the video embodies the worst of Pakistan that the nuanced arbitrators and rationalists here have long battled.
Using ad hominem attacks galore in place of real argument, Faisal Qureshi launches a puerile diatribe against Saif, at times in a mortifying baby-voice.
The video is a fact-checker’s waking nightmare.
He flatly dismisses the claim that watching pirated movies is common in Pakistan. A show of hands, all readers below 35 years of age who think a ‘torrent’ is just another word for a ‘rapid stream of water’?
He proudly states that Pakistanis don’t like spending their money on “ghatiya” Indian movies; evidenced, of course, by recently packed theaters all across Pakistan playing Bajrangi Bhaijan.
He chides India for having no capacity to respond to Pakistan’s (justified, by his assessment) attacks on Indian soil, and smugly throws in a Tiger Hill, Kargil reference. Blissfully, he ignores the fact that India has nearly twice as many troops as Pakistan, with a clear head-start of 24 years in militarising atomic energy.
The object is not to undersell Pakistan’s own military capabilities, but to address the commonly-held delusion that our unique valour and conviction in our own righteousness will alone, somehow, disarm the neighbor and helps us overrun it.
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Given the brutal, internecine nature of the wars previously fought, such pugnacity is perched on a high degree of historical ignorance, and should be best avoided like a used syringe.
A good part of the video is spent fulminating against a contentious line in the film delivered by Saif Ali’s Khan’s character as he vows to infiltrate Pakistan for killing terrorists hiding here; treating it as the actor’s personal aspiration.
Qureshi’s inability to distinguish an actor from his character is as absurd as a person refusing to attend Heath Ledger’s funeral for his role in blowing up a hospital and nearly killing Batman.
On numerous instances, we find Qureshi standing on the verge of making a reasonable counterargument, but never quite gets there as he invariably ends each point with hollow chest-thumping and bald-faced muscle-flexing.
In fact, the sanest part of the video, is the 100-second clip of Modi’s interview by Karan Thapar, being served as Qureshi’s argument-by-proxy. The remainder of the video is spent establishing Qureshi’s political ignorance and outright inability in making a point without resorting to insults.
Which brings me to the most embarrassing part of the video.
Faisal Qureshi puts his raging misogynism on exhibition for both our nations to marvel at, by using female words like “sahiba” and “bachi” to degrade Saif Ali Khan and delegitimise his stance.
Portraying Indo-Pak conflict as a territorial dispute among siblings, he purposely jibes India as the ‘behen’ in the relationship. He ends his video with a scene from one of Saif’s movies where he dances in drag to ‘Sheila ki Jawani’, implying that Saif is too feminine to be taken seriously.
Given the degree of overlap between jingoists and misogynists, as both represent people unable to process the humanity of ‘outgroups’, it is likely that both these kinds of Pakistanis howled “Yeh cheez!” before hitting the ‘like’ button on this 12-minute travesty.
All others stood in awe of the depths we’ve fallen to, knowing that this video would be eviscerated by Indians on social media as effortlessly as Pakistanis spoofed the over-exuberant Indian anchor who recently found “proof” of Dawood Ibrahim living in Karachi.
I would not be commenting on videos such as these if they were merely distasteful. We have a responsibility to be able to distinguish patriotism from blind nationalism, and messages such as these being aired from both sides of the border, do nothing but maintain our fondness for mutually destructive warfare.