Pakistan’s hurrah is for the Sayeedas, not the Shahzads

These days I’m quite an optimist when it comes to Pakistan regardless of the state of affairs associated with it. And then there is no dearth of Faisal Shahzads, Ajmal Kasabs and the likes, who leave no stone unturned when it comes to maligning an enterprising nation of 170 million people.

By Ishtiaq Ali Mehkri

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Published: Mon 17 May 2010, 9:59 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 10:27 AM

Characters like them and their extremist patrons in the shadows have to a great extent succeeded in portraying Pakistan as an a pariah state and its people as extremists, reactionary and untrustworthy.

In this gloom of pessimism, however, one sees a ray of hope, rather a new face of hope called Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the newly appointed full member of the British cabinet and minister without portfolio of the ruling Conservative Party. Baroness Warsi enjoys the unique distinction of being the first Muslim woman in the Queen’s cabinet. Her rise to a high public office in the House of Commons, world’s oldest and perhaps most refined democracy, underscores the distinction the world needs to make when it summarily dismisses Pakistanis as a spent force. There is no room for generalisation and the nation cannot be compartmentalised, come what may. Moreover, what makes Baroness Warsi, a senior MP, outstanding is that she hasn’t given up on her roots in Pakistan, unlike many others who treat their heritage with inferiority after managing to cohabit with races in the greener pastures. That was overtly reflected in the group photo of the newly sworn in cabinet in which Baroness Sayeeda Warsi was seen jolly fully clad in a Pakistani shalwar kameez. This is a moment of triumph and encouragement for the millions of people back home who believe in a future beyond the shadows of Talebanisation, and dream of raising a prosperous and pluralistic Pakistan.

In fact, I do not know her for reasons beyond my circumference. But as someone with the same roots, culture, history, language, religion and perhaps the sense of oneness to share, I feel proud of people like her. Her timely surge on the political canvas of a very important Western nation is more than enough to make an exception from stereotypes associated with us.

And, of course, she was liberal and politically mature enough to take on the far right British politician Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party, lambasting him for demonising Islam as well as Christianity — as is his style of petty politics. This sense of pragmatism entrusted in a woman of Pakistani origin is an achievement of great strengths. As a campaigner for legislation on issues like forced marriages and a host of social issues impacting the immigrants and expatriates in the West, she stands a chance to not only excel in her endeavour but also paint Pakistan in all positivity.

Many such people of honour are spread all across the West and elsewhere. But what is missing is the orientation to be seen in their background. Hundreds and thousands of expatriates from Pakistan in the USA, Canada, Europe, Middle East and Australia are a success story of innovation, resilience and enterprise. But what comes to spoil their reputation and trustworthiness are a handful of fanatics, who falsely take pride for their acts in the name of religion and nationality. This trend can only be reversed with the hard work and emergence of people who believe in loyalty to the land they call their home and where they have been blessed, and at the same time live up to the uprightness of their motherland and their moral values and beliefs. Reckless acts of individuals like Faisal Shahzads should not besmirch the great Pakistani traditions and ethos of hospitality, fraternity and loyalty.

Ishtiaq Ali Mehkri is Khaleej Times’Assistant Editor (Opinion).Write to him at

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