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Mohammed Hanif's Ten Myths About Pakistan

Posted on January 11, 2009
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Books, Foreign Relations, Politics, Society
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Adil Najam

""Mohammed Hanif, the brilliant author of the engrossing book “The Case of Exploding Mangoes” (I have been planning to write about it ever since I first read it many months ago; and I will) – known to many for his stint at Herald before he joined BBC’s Urdu Service – has just written a most cogent and readable op-ed in The Times of India which is wroth reading; whether you agree with it or not. It is a good argument as well as a good read. And I say that even thought there are more than one points here that I might quibble with. But before we quibble, lets give Mohammed Hanif the floor – and a full and proper hearing. Here is the op-ed he wrote in The Times of India, in full:

Ten Myths About Pakistan

By Mohammed Hanif

Living in Pakistan and reading about it in the Indian press can sometimes be quite a disorienting experience: one wonders what place on earth they’re talking about? I wouldn’t be surprised if an Indian reader going through Pakistani papers has asked the same question in recent days. Here are some common assumptions about Pakistan and its citizens that I have come across in the Indian media.

1. Pakistan controls the jihadis: Or Pakistan’s government controls the jihadis.  Or Pakistan Army controls the jihadis. Or ISI controls the jihadis. Or some rogue elements from the ISI control the Jihadis.  Nobody knows the whole truth but increasingly it’s the tail that wags the dog.  We must remember that the ISI-Jihadi alliance was a marriage of convenience, which has broken down irrevocably. Pakistan army has lost more soldiers at the hands of these jihadis than it ever did fighting India.

2. Musharraf was in control, Zardari is not: Let’s not forget that General Musharraf seized power after he was fired from his job as the army chief by an elected prime minister. Musharraf first appeased jihadis, then bombed them, and then appeased them again. The country he left behind has become a very dangerous place, above all for its own citizens.  There is a latent hankering in sections of the Indian middle class for a strongman. Give Manmohan Singh a military uniform, put all the armed forces under his direct command, make his word the law of the land, and he too will go around thumping his chest saying that it’s his destiny to save India from Indians.  Zardari will never have the kind of control that Musharraf had. But Pakistanis do not want another Musharraf.

""3. Pakistan, which Pakistan? For a small country, Pakistan is very diverse, not only ethnically but politically as well. General Musharraf’s government bombed Pashtuns in the north for being Islamists and close to the Taliban and at the same time it bombed Balochs in the South for NOT being Islamists and for subscribing to some kind of retro-socialist, anti Taliban ethos. You have probably heard the joke about other countries having armies but Pakistan’s army having a country. Nobody in Pakistan finds it funny.

4. Pakistan and its loose nukes: Pakistan’s nuclear programme is under a sophisticated command and control system, no more under threat than India or Israel’s nuclear assets are threatened by Hindu or Jewish extremists.  For a long time Pakistan’s security establishment’s other strategic asset was jihadi organisations, which in the last couple of years have become its biggest liability.

5. Pakistan is a failed state: If it is, then Pakistanis have not noticed. Or they have lived in it for such a long time that they have become used to its dysfunctional aspects. Trains are late but they turn up, there are more VJs, DJs, theatre festivals, melas, and fashion models than a failed state can accommodate. To borrow a phrase from President Zardari, there are lots of non-state actors like Abdul Sattar Edhi who provide emergency health services, orphanages and shelters for sick animals.

6. It is a deeply religious country: Every half-decent election in this country has proved otherwise.  Religious parties have never won more than a fraction of popular vote. Last year Pakistan witnessed the largest civil rights movements in the history of this region. It was spontaneous, secular and entirely peaceful. But since people weren’t raising anti-India or anti-America slogans, nobody outside Pakistan took much notice.

7. All Pakistanis hate India: Three out of four provinces in Pakistan – Sindh, Baluchistan, NWFP – have never had any popular anti-India sentiment ever. Punjabis who did impose India as enemy-in-chief on Pakistan are now more interested in selling potatoes to India than destroying it. There is a new breed of al-Qaida inspired jihadis who hate a woman walking on the streets of Karachi as much as they hate a woman driving a car on the streets of Delhi. In fact there is not much that they do not hate: they hate America, Denmark, China CDs, barbers, DVDs , television, even football.  Imran Khan recently said that these jihadis will never attack a cricket match but nobody takes him seriously.

8. Training camps: There are militant sanctuaries in the tribal areas of Pakistan but definitely not in Muzaffarabad or Muridke, two favourite targets for Indian journalists, probably because those are the cities they have ever been allowed to visit. After all how much training do you need if you are going to shoot at random civilians or blow yourself up in a crowded bazaar? So if anyone thinks a few missiles targeted at Muzaffarabad will teach anyone a lesson, they should switch off their TV and try to locate it on the map.

9. RAW would never do what ISI does: Both the agencies have had a brilliant record of creating mayhem in the neighbouring countries. Both have a dismal record when it comes to protecting their own people. There is a simple reason that ISI is a bigger, more notorious brand name: It was CIA’s franchise during the jihad against the Soviets. And now it’s busy doing jihad against those very jihadis.

10. Pakistan is poor, India is rich: Pakistanis visiting India till the mid-eighties came back very smug. They told us about India’s slums, and that there was nothing to buy except handicrafts and saris. Then Pakistanis could say with justifiable pride that nobody slept hungry in their country.  But now, not only do people sleep hungry in both the countries, they also commit suicide because they see nothing but a lifetime of hunger ahead. A debt-ridden farmer contemplating suicide in Maharashtra and a mother who abandons her children in Karachi because she can’t feed them: this is what we have achieved in our mutual desire to teach each other a lesson.

So, quibble if you will. But do tell us what you think about the argument that Hanif is making.

Travel Channel is not for sale: Icahn. (Carl Icahn refutes rumors that the Travel Channel is up for sale)

Multichannel News September 30, 1991 | Greenstein, Jane Travel Channel Is Not for Sale: Icahn NEW YORK – TWA chairman Carl Icahn, the owner of The Travel Channel, insisted last week that the beleaguered network isn’t for sale or going out of business, despite persistent rumors that as many as four entertainment companies have looked into buying it.

Icahn told Multichannel News that he had received bids for the network, but said he was not certain from whom. However, he maintained, “I’ve made up my mind. It’s not for sale. We’re going to expand it.” It had previously been reported that Icahn was seeking close to $50 million for the network.

Sources say companies that have considered bidding on The Travel Channel in the past few months include Time Warner Inc., which has extensive cable holdings; The Walt Disney Co., owner of The Disney Channel; Group W Satellite Communications, part-owner of Country Music Television and marketer of The Nashville Network; and Landmark Communications, owner of The Weather Channel.

All the companies refused comment or couldn’t be reached at press time.

However, a source close to the situation said Disney had dropped out and Group W and Landmark were still poking into the matter.

“This thing is no great shakes. No one is knocking down his door to take the channel off his hands,” the source added. website bidding for travel

Rather than selling The Travel Channel, Icahn said he plans to infuse $10 million into the company, which either he, TWA or “sources outside TWA” would provide. Icahn said those outside sources are not the companies mentioned above.

Icahn also said he is planning to hire a new president within a month, but wouldn’t speculate on who that will be. web site bidding for travel

The network’s former president, William Scott, left the company during the summer, and the network has been run on a day-to-day basis by acting president Stan Nortman.

Nortman describes himself as an independent businessman who is a “troubleshooter” for Icahn. Asked if the network was in the red or the black, Nortman said only, “It’s a turnaround situation.” Over the summer, the network also lost advertising and marketing executives. Coupled with the network’s slow growth and Icahn’s financial troubles with TWA, the departures fueled speculation that the network was on the block.

However, both Icahn and Nortman said new promotion, marketing and programming plans are progressing.

Icahn was particularly enthusiastic about the network’s new programming, including a segment called Travel Bargains, a program that “provides the lowest available published airfares for viewers,” according to network publicity. Also, the network is sponsoring a “Countries of the World” sweepstakes, a monthlong consumer and affiliate promotion beginning Tuesday.

“We want to give the consumer benefit, not just be a travelogue,” Icahn said.

One investment banker said that although The Travel Channel is a “viable form of programming” that would have no trouble finding a buyer, “their contracts with operators are soft and they would have trouble transferring them if they had a new owner. Their subscribers would disappear if they’d start asking for money.” The network has 17 million subscribers, about 40 percent part-time, according to Nortman, and is given away free to operators. But one executive familiar with the exploratory talks said the channel has only about 40 percent full-time carriage, not 60 percent.

The network has always been plagued by weak distribution and has failed to gain distribution on Tele-Communications Inc. and Cablevision Systems Corp. However, Icahn said, “We’re trying to get into more systems.” Greenstein, Jane

163 comments posted

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  1. Avinash says:
    August 23rd, 2011 7:26 pm

    I really admire Mohammed Hanif’s writings and have always been impressed by his frank views.

    Regarding ISI & RAW I would just like to add that while ISI is strictly controlled by the army, RAW is always headed by a civilian. Plus ISI has draconian powers within their country (as mention in exploding mangoes), RAW (as far my little knowledge goes) does not interfere in internal matters.

  2. Aarti says:
    June 15th, 2011 10:32 pm

    I felt good reading the article. It is nice to know that there are serious attempts to get rid of the mutual misconceptions and distrust from the other side of the border also. I appreciate the effort. In this age of web technology we should not be dependent on the politicians to lead us to the path of mutual harmony and respect.

  3. Irfan Khalid says:
    March 10th, 2011 6:46 pm

    I think more than anything else, it may kindly be made clear in minds of many Indian friends that why they are so tempted to long for “re-union” of both countries! Why cannot we live side by side as two mutually respecting countries? They must understand even in a marriage spouses do not loose their identity. If someone suggests me to loose my identity, it will cause me deeply insecure.
    Irfan Khalid
    Lahore, Pakistan

Comment Pages: [21] 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 111 » Show All

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