Thinking About Pakistan in Buenos Aires

Posted on August 31, 2010
Filed Under >Aisha Sarwari, Pakistanis Abroad, Society, Travel
34 Comments
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Aisha Sarwari

I was in Buenos Aires recently attending a conference. During the daily commute to the conference venue I couldn’t help but be taken by the city’s grandeur, beauty and its ‘first world’ feel. Inquiring on their struggle with democracy, international pressures and the fear of being overshadowed by neighboring Brazil, the country’s similarity to Pakistan struck me as comforting.

During conference discussions, my nationality – like everyone else’s – was a common first question. Upon my response, “I’m from Pakistan” my business suits would prompt questions about the niqab. “That’s a personal choice in Pakistan. The niqab never enjoyed legal prescription in Pakistan as it does so in other countries” would be my response.

My urban adventures ensued with but one aim in mind; to understand how they got here and conversely could we? This whimsical feeling quickly wore off one day when I asked the hotel reception to call a taxi and when it arrived. Not only was the driver drunk, spoke only Spanish but he also chose to interpret my entire conversation with him mid journey as a refusal to pay. However upon arriving at the conference venue, I inquired about the fare and found that he had doubled the bill for no apparent reason. I didn’t fight it because I don’t haggle as a policy. But later in the night as I returned to the hotel I passed on this terrible experience to the front desk and requested that I may be called a more professional cab driver next time.

The next morning as I rushed to the last day of the conference I had an envelope in my name, which I opened expecting a message from the embassy, but it was plain cash – A reimbursement from the cab company. “But”, I protested, “this is much more than what I paid”. I was told it is what the company sent when the complaint was lodged. As I put that money in my purse, I was moved.

Argentina is haunted with the same terrors as the ones we are living, their history is replete with the same problems that Pakistan faces today. Argentina is a quoted case study on how IMF destroys economies through its ‘one size fits all’ policies. They too have suffered on the hopes of Peronism as we have in our dynastic politics; they too house many slums that grow faster than their ability to sustain the people; they too have an overzealous and intruding military. But Argentina has managed, in their 200 year history, to establish the supremacy of law.

In a recent ill-advised viewing of the Sialkot video of the lashing of the two boys I got the chance to appreciate the scale of the human rights outcry. So excessive was the man with the unrelenting stick, that he seemed almost mechanical, almost inhuman. His unsympathetic swings seemed without purpose other than to inflict pain. The violence of the act was so pronounced that one wouldn’t even know until the dust settled whether the purpose of the act has been served. Mob mentality is characterized as liberating and guilt-less with the anonymity that any one individual within the mob enjoys. However, the fact that among such a large group of people not a single person flinched, tells the story of a society that has seen far too much rage.

Pakistan is fighting a war with a phantom limb, one that was first created by the Washington Consensus to counter the red scare. After the fall of the iron curtain and the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan, these men left without an enemy to fight and without a state to incorporate into, become a powder keg and implode, unleashing a decade of violence. This mental model of a persecuted global minority is real, and the defense against it is also real. Pakistan is persecuted, by its own leaderships’ inability to represent the people and hence creates a god-obsessed nation willing to go down fighting, without examining if the purpose of fighting is being served or not.

While the developed world enjoys a much higher standard of living and communal life, we are faced with a famished idea: The idea that God will provide. We fail our cricket matches because we don’t believe in the science of precision and preparation, we fail to predict floods because we haven’t invested in the concept of possibilities, we haven’t invested in adequate water management because these don’t buy votes. No country that today enjoys success got its success without the blood and sacrifice of its leadership.

In Boston, Massachusetts, 1770, John Adams witnessed the brutal torture of a British merchant at the time when the state of Massachusetts amongst others in the union was in the middle of brewing and negotiating an independent nation. The mob on the port of Boston, stripped the British merchant, mounted him on a cross and poured melted tar on him and paraded him in the streets while people threw feathers. Many watched where John Adams protested furiously. So ingrained was his sense of loyalty to the law that he once even defended British guards against the politically motivated independence rebels.

Pakistan is fortunate enough to have a founding father who was raised from the mantle of traditional English law that Johan Adams followed. Mohammad Ali Jinnah always sided with the law cautioning against conservatism, always accompanied by his sister, leading by example in his speeches he spoke about the rule of law, of justice, impartiality and fair play above all else.

We need to go back to our roots, and to our Founder’s vision. We need a little help.

Aisha Sarwari was in Buenos Aires for the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies’ (WAIPA) annual meeting; Pakistan secured the Directorship of the South Asian Region for the Punjab Board of Investment and Trade (PBIT).

Photo Credits: here and here.

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34 responses to “Thinking About Pakistan in Buenos Aires”

  1. Nafji Fatina says:

    3 things go from pakistan . Pakistan will progress’
    1 Amercan heated policy
    2. Saudi 2 face policy
    3. Jamati Islami old slang says fly will not kill you, but make you stomach upset to throw . This is JI

  2. Haroon Amin says:

    Hello,
    I am planning to visit Buenos Aires next month, can you kindly give me some information regarding food, places to visit and local behaviors.
    I wish my message get your attention
    Hope to hear from you
    Haroon

  3. Aamir Ali says:

    @readinglord Indian

    check these posts and you will find plenty of Pakistanis looking inward and searching for solutions. However your agenda is to discuss Indians favorite topics, which Pakistanis are not interested in.

  4. Indo-pak says:

    Amazing how so many good blogs and subsequent opinions are defaced by YLH’s grandiose entries.

    Everyone is allowed an opinion, whether you agree/like it or not. Everyone is allowed to lie or distort facts, because in their eyes, YOU might be the liar or distorter. History is written by the winners – so your ‘facts’ may not be so.

    Also, repeatedly (just google your previous posts!) questioning the knowledge of other people is, simply rude and arrogant. You think you have a lot of knowledge? May be you do, but maybe you are fool. Who knows. Who are we to judge? Get over yourself and your attitude!

    And finally, who cares what Jinnah wanted and what he pronounced? Yes, he was the driving force for the formation of Pakistan – but not the owner. Pakistan is owned by Pakistanis. If the majority want to live in a hell-hole run by theocrats, that’s called democracy. It’s not up to you alone to decide what is right for Pakistan.

    You are entitled to your opinion. I am entitled to my opinion. At least have the courtesy to spare the assumptions about people’s knowledge and intelligence. You don’t do yourself justice as a lawyer when you ‘speak’ in you posts as you sometimes display no manners!

    Okay rant over. Prick!

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