Pakistan in the US Media: Goes Best with Gulab Jamun

Posted on February 6, 2007
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Foreign Relations, Humor, Pakistanis Abroad, People
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Adil Najam

My dear friend (I should say mentor) and former colleague Anwar Iqbal – now the Dawn correspondent in Washington DC – was recently asked to speak on how Pakistan is portrayed in the US media at a conference organized by the South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA). Instead of giving the usual staid talk, Anwar being Anwar, crafted his talk with satire, homor and even parody to raise some poignant ideas.

Here is what he had to say. Please read it knowing the context in which it was give. Understand the humor for what it is. But also, please, understand the message behind the humor.

Pakistan in the US media: Onions, Gulab Jamuns and Islamic bombs

South Asia’s presence in North America is stronger outside than in the media. Where I live, we have a halal meat grocery, an all vegetarian grocery, a chutney restaurant and a Nirala sweets shop that sells gulab jamuns and burfis.

There are no gulab jamuns and burfis in the media. The US media, as far as Pakistan is concerned, are focused on the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the Islamic bombs in Islamabad.

So far no one has checked these bombs to see if they are properly circumcised to be Islamic. But everyone believes that the bombs will one day be stolen by the Osama bin Ladens and Mullah Omers of this word.

The media’s suggestion for snatching the Islamic bombs from Islamabad’s custody is easy: topple President Musharraf, have him killed or simply wait till he dies a natural death. Then bring the mullahs and hand over the bombs to them at a grand ceremony at Peshawar’s Nasir Bagh refugee camp, properly televised by CNN and Fox News.

London tabloid — The Sun — should have special rights to run uncensored pictures of these unveiled Islamic bombs, replacing its page-3 girls for a day.

I hope Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif are reading the US media to learn how to unseat the military. So far all their efforts to convince the army to return to the barracks have failed.

Pakistan is also often taken to task for allowing cross-border movement of the Taliban. I remember visiting the Taliban once in Kandahar along with Mr Karzai long before he became the president of his country. They were smelly, hardly took shower, ate onions and burped on your face. I do not blame the Pakistani government for sending them out. I would not want them in my country either.

Again, the media’s suggestion for getting rid of the problem is simple: invade the tribal territory separating Afghanistan and Pakistan, catch all bearded people, tie them to the nearest tree or the lamp post and shoot them. But the problem is that there are no trees and very few lamp posts in that area.

The other suggestion is to extend Islamabad’s jurisdiction to the tribal belt and all the Taliban will become law-abiding citizens of Pakistan. Unfortunately, Islamabad does not have enough clerks to extend its jurisdiction to this area. After all, you need hundreds, if not thousands, of babus to run a thousand-mile long territory.

If you do not have the babus, as the clerks are called in our part of the world, who will take bribes for telephone and electricity connections? Who will sell railway tickets in the black market? Who will prevent tribal children from enrolling at schools without bakhshish?

The US media are, obviously, not concerned with such mundane details. Their approach is nice and clean. Catch an unnamed US official source. Make him or her share the bright idea he or she conceived while reading the day’s newspapers in the restroom and there you go.

I shudder to think what bloodshed such a baseless allegation would have caused! This time all the mullahs, the babus and the misters would have joined Mr Karzai in waging a jihad against Pakistan.

And this would have been no vegetarian jihad. A lot of meatballs would have flown across the Durand Line in both directions.

One of my friends, when I asked her to explain what she thought of Pakistan’s coverage in the US media, said if you go by what the media, say everyone in Pakistan is a mullah.

Do the people focus on what an obscure or particularly funny priest says when they talk about the United States or Canada, she asked. Obviously not, she said. But when it comes to Islam, she, said, the media presents an obscure London priest called Bakari as the sole representative of more than a billion Muslims.

She said that Pakistan has four official and dozens of unofficial nationalities who speak their own languages, have their own culture and distinct musical traditions. But you see none of these in the media, she complained.

I do not. I wish everybody in Pakistan was a mullah. Then I would not have had to pay a mullah to bless my child after his circumcision. I would have simply gone to my next door neighbor.

See an earlier ATP post mentioning Anwar Iqbal, here.

15 responses to “Pakistan in the US Media: Goes Best with Gulab Jamun”

  1. omar r. quraishi says:

    Quite the contrary — Shaheen Sehbai has joined ARY One World in place of Shahid Masood, who has gone to GEO —

  2. Roshan says:

    I think Shaheen continued to maintain SAT website beside Pakistan government efforts to block it in Pakistan. Last year Shaheen announced that he could not carry forward SAT due to the workload. Therefore it was closed.
    During Musharraf’s visit to USA, Shaheen was contributing again for the News from Washington. There are rumors that he is going to join the The News as an editor again.

  3. PatExpat says:


    What happened to Shaheen Sehbai after Mush had his website shut down? Haven’t read from him for a while.

  4. Roshan says:

    By the way, I liked this article. I would say that Washington is blessed with team of very good journalists from Pakistan like Khalid Hasan, Shahzeb Jillani and Shaheen Sehbai.

  5. TURAB says:

    anwar iqbal is right on the mark…. had fun readin it but it is sooo true…..

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