Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bashira In Trouble

Most Pakistanis with an interest in the foreign press have heard of The Guardian but not The Telegraph. The Telegraph, a British publication informally known as the Torygraph to those who find still find British politics interesting, for example British people, American neocons and possibly Elmo from Sesame Street because that’s just the sort of Muppet he is, is the UK’s highest selling broadsheet. In politically correct terms that means it is the ‘house newspaper of the Conservative Party’. In other words it is the print refuge of choice for (mostly) white people who have issues with multiculturalism, single parents and a world that just does not understand how much (mostly) white people who may or may not have been conceived within the bounds of the blessed British isles have contributed to civilization itself dammit.

UK PM David Cameron: "building the negative narrative" apparently (Photo: PA/The Telegraph)

This Weltanschauung is aptly illustrated by two commentators whose reactions to UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s flying visit to Pakistan were published in its World and Politics sections on April 5th and April 6th. Both were irked by Cameron’s remarks to a group of Pakistani students and academics. Answering a question about how Britain could help resolve the Kashmir issue he said, “I don’t want to try to insert Britain in some leading role where, as with so many of the world’s problems, we are responsible for the issue in the first place.”

The first, Peter Oborne, was kind enough to consider justifications for PM Cameron’s inexcusable nod to the gods of veracity, saying:

“The Prime Minister was doubtless seeking to please a skeptical and perhaps hostile audience, angered by our military presence in Afghanistan. There was a smidgen of truth (though no more than that) in what he said. He was in the middle of a long and grueling trip, and may have felt tired and jet-lagged.”

The second, Ed West – who describes himself as ‘Prematurely Right-wing’ on his Twitter profile and thus saves me the effort of establishing his embryonic moronicness – was not so kind, and agreed with still other British voices who were calling Cameron ‘na├»ve’ and ‘schizophrenic’ and helpfully pointing out that looking back “50-odd years for the problems facing many post-colonial nations adds little to the understanding of the problems they face.” He further pointed out:

"Apologising only builds the negative narrative, so that Pakistanis keen to play on the downsides of British rule can now say to their countrymen: “Look, even their prime minister says so.” That’s human nature. And apologising while handing over hundreds of millions of pounds in aid certainly does not encourage gratitude – only resentment."

Both agreed that focusing for a second on all the things Britain might (or might not) have taken away from this rollicking continent of still rollicking natives – for example wealth, time, love, tenderness AND peace – was a needless distraction from all the things Britain had given it instead. These include, in no particular order, “parliamentary democracy, superb irrigation systems, excellent roads, the rule of law, the English language and, last but not least, the game of cricket.”

 Oborne and West: Tag team duo of the defenders of the British Empire

Mr. Oborne felt that over-education, in the form of years at Oxford University where he “read Philosophy, Politics and Economics, a degree course notorious for skimming the surface of understanding and historical knowledge,” was responsible for Mr. Cameron’s temporary lapse of reason. Mr. West felt that it was PM Cameron’s desire to be liked that was behind his “tendency to go to countries around the world and tell them what they want to hear.” Had PM Cameron been protected from this wishy washiness, he implied, much like the natives had once been protected from the evils of higher education in their own backyards, he would not have bounced like a mudskipper on the surface of diplomacy and focused instead on the things that British people really want to talk to Pakistanis about, i.e. our inexplicable fondness for the “Koran.” And “cousin marriages.”

Mr. Oborne felt that these extenuating circumstances, as well as the millions of pounds of aid his country offered us when twenty million of our people inconvenienced the entire world by going and internally displacing themselves, were reason enough for PM Cameron to never have to play “the politics of apology.” Mr. West went one further and added that the way his ancestors had chosen to “undermine traditional family, clan and religious structures and loyalties” should make it apparent why, for him, sorry seems to be the hardest word.

Mr. Oborne’s editors at The Telegraph were less parsimonious with their use of the dreaded ‘S’ word, opting to title his piece “Sorry, but it’s not right to apologize.” Their gratuitous use of it caught up with them the next day though, and they had to resort to echoing the views of (possibly) a lot of its readers with the heading “Pakistan’s problem is that we did not make it British enough.” In the piece accompanying the latter headline, Mr. Ed West – apparently the Ed Wood of social commentary – weighed in with gems about how the linguistic apartheid enforced by “England, and a host of other, smaller countries in north-west Europe” had helped hostage populations free themselves from the shackles of “Urdu, Persian or Arabic”, replace them with English, and thus “create societies with wide circles of trust.” This is the reason, in his opinion, the world speaks English today. Nothing to do with the legacies of colonial imperialism and global power dynamics, you understand. Mr. West, who is also features editor of The Catholic Herald, omitted to mention that his forebears had also neglected to mention the safeword to the natives.

In a nod to another sadly unacknowledged trend the British gifted us with, i.e. a propensity for foreign correspondents, we turn now to our own resident Pyala in London, Bashira, for further insight into the matter...

Khi Pyala: Bashira, why Cameron in trouble?

Bashira in London: He go put foot in mouth instead of axe in head.

Khi Pyala: Bashira, why saying sorry is wrong only?

Bashira in London: Because if you open floodgates the Indus will do the dirty with your plumbing only.

Khi Pyala: Bashira, they say we not British enough. How we get more British?

Bashira in London: More bad teeth. Why you think Lala bite ball only?

Khi Pyala: Bashira, why British columnists stupid like Pakistani columnists?

Bashira in London: Because that once angry generation of pseudo leftist radicals in the UK grew up and started leaning right when they realized viscerally introspective discourse on wrongs would not help their children gain entrance to public schools. The world goes further into lager every day. And when I say lager I mean pints not defensive wagon circles ala the Boers.

Khi Pyala: Bashira, why they so angry about cousin marriages?

Bashira in London: Because inbreeding is the exclusive preserve of the monarchy (don’t be worry, I read these two from cue cards held up by cousin at SOAS)

Khi Pyala: Bashira, how they make sure this not happen again?

Bashira in London: That Cameron, next time he go talk to Pakistani primary school students instead of Pakistani academics.

Khi Pyala: Bashira, why these chittas think denial is a river in Egypt still?

Bashira in London: Because that was Thames, this is now.


Shahid Saeed said...


Anonymous said...

A very boring and dull read, i got through a few paragraphs before i hit the X. Try to be more interesting in the future.

NarayaN said...

I understand this is supposed to be some-what a mixed bag of humors. Dry, sarcastic, dark - whatnot. But, honestly, I did not like it - it just was lost on me.
If you're the type that thinks the reader should bear the brunt of understanding the goobledygook that a nincompoop author blathers about - then, you're spot on. I'm not that kind of a reader.
If you think it's the author's responsibility to reach out to the reader, then, I'm sorry your *this* article was a abyssmal failure.
Try 'Cranks Corner' on Google Search - columnist K. Balakumar is the author. Not sure if you can relate to South-Indian (& not just Indian) items he pens about, but it usually is very nice.

TLW said...

Well that was a downer of a comment. Don't worry MSS. Your Pakistani (and partially Western) audience got it.

Excellent post. Should sting 'em upside the Tory.

Ayesha said...


Indian Atheist said...

Well, definitely all the points mentioned in the Ted West article may not be completely correct, but if you think carefully, some of the points do really need introspection.
For example, it is indeed true that Pakistani constitution says that - " no law shall be enacted which is repugnant to the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Koran".
Now can't help feeling that this statement is a little weird and mislaced for a constitution of a nation state of 21st century !!

Mohid Aamer said...

Mmm .. well, okay. Well written but no bite at all.

But, Pyala saheb, what's with Pyala's rightwards move lately?

Seriously, in last few posts you guys have sounded like Imran Khan (that is, if he had a sense of humour).

Come on guys, let's get back to what what you guys used to do best. Enough of these weepy sarcastic jibes against India, fashionistas, et al. Let our TV anchors humour us with that.

I mean, why should I come to Cafe Pyala now when I can go to Geo for the same weepy I-hate-India/West/liberals/etc. stuff, hein jee?

Dost Mohammad said...

MSS This refers to your usage of "SAFE WORD", are you implying that some how the colonialism was self serving to pleasure us, and we enjoyed being buggered, at least this is what I was able to gather as the word SAFE WORD was linked to Wikipedia article.

TightDhoti said...

Telegraph: Nauseating

Anonymous said...

Pyala people being media people, i think its a right time for you to desc a comprehensive picture of media industry, print and media, mrkt share, salary segment and especially their tax proportion and tax dues and policies and politics of diff media houses

Anonymous said...

The telegraph blogger had the right approach but the wrong execution.

He tried to kill Pakistan with Elgar.

He should've killed Pakistan softly. With Samba.

Pakistan's problem is not that it is not British enough. Pakistan's problem is that it is not Brazilian enough.

Imagine Seaview with pecs and biknis.

Imagine qawwali dance carnivals through the Mall Road with big assed women leading the way.

Imagine playing cricket as they play football (actually, we already do in a way) but with a plan and actually winning 5 World Cups and being the envy of the world.

Imagine having a socialist president who cares for the poor while bringing up the nation into an economic powerhouse for the future.

Imagine all the people singing 'Pakistan, La La La La La La La La, La La La La La La La La, La La La La La La, Pakistan, Pakistan.....'

karachikhatmal said...

Anon 1648 FOR PRESIDENT!!!

Vagabond said...

Good one.

Pyala, just a request. We'd love something on the news ticker issue between PAS (Pakistan Advertisers Society) and the news channels. Advertisers claim that they pay their media houses to buy the entire screen for a particular spot and thus, tickers should be stopped whilst showing their ads. This is currently a serious, irksome dispute in the industry.

Bolshevik said...

Bestest Pyala post EVER!

And Anon1648: BESTEST!!! COMMENT!!! EVER!!! :-D

Bolshevik said...

PS: I agree with Dost Mohammad. Using 'safe word' in this context would imply that we enjoyed being fucked over by the goras. Did we?

Anonymous said...

To all the haters:
"you bloody Indians and Pakis - you are not enough British"!!!

Anonymous said...

there is evidence to suggest that those of 'us' in power still do.


Anonymous said...

The comments to Osborne's article are truly worth reading. What a bunch of pompous farts!

Anonymous said...

Just wondering what is the diff b/w Hazare Anna and imran khan?

Anonymous said...

Good morning Pakistan!

Sakib Ahmad said...

Truth hurts, eh? Pakistan's Brown Sahibs do bend over backwards to ape the British and the Americans, fake accents and all.

The last time I was in Karachi I was taken to a posh eating place where the glossy menus were in English and the Brown faces around me self-consciously chattered on in Pakistani English. I asked the waiter for a menu in Urdu but I was told - a bit contemptuously? - that there wasn't one. I rose to leave the place but I was persuaded to stay with a promise that I could make a formal complaint, oral and written, to the restaurant manager. So, as we waited to be served the dishes we had ordered, I scribbled a note of complaint in Urdu which I handed to the manager afterwards.

The Brown Sahibs of Pakistan are held in contempt abroad, if only they knew!

Aftab said...

Why does Sakib Ahmad hate himself?

Living in England must be torture for him. Why not come home and make things better?

Sakib Ahmad said...


You miss the point. Abroad, I can at least live on terms of equality. In my own homeland I become a second class citizen because of my total inability - call it a psychological barrier, if you wish - to use English in Pakistan.

People who can barely put together a decent paragraph in English go around in Karachi with a copy of the worthless Dawn under their arm, and they look at me askance because I prefer to read Jang!

Get it?

just a desi said...

I get what Sakib Ahmed is saying.

He wants to live in vilayat because its a better place to be, speak Malika sahiba ki angreji there and go native when he comes visiting the desiland. He hates it when the desis spoil the illujion for him. Don't you get it Aftab? He wants to be a white sahib of the Raj rather than a brown sahib!

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Sakib Ahmed demands Urdu menus at Wagamama in Pakistani-majority parts of Bradford or the Gurmukhi script for menus in the Southall Nandos? Or even an English menu in a swanky French restaurant in Knightsbridge...
Dear Mr Ahmed, please move out of your small ghetto in Clifton and you will find Urdu alive and well on shop signs, buses and just about everywhere else in Karachi. Just don't ask for a menu in a restaurant as they are often replaced by rat-a-tat waiters telling you what is on offer.
And thank you for your great concern for the welfare of your fellow (former) countrymen. We will try to look after ourselves and our culture despite your absence.
Btw have a nice flight back love!

Sakib Ahmad said...

I hold a Pakistani identity card with my signature in Urdu and I am proud of my Pakistani origin. People who frequent this website and the one that the bloggers here like to refer to - Express Tribune - have no idea what love of one's homeland really means. Living in Pakistan today means you often have to throttle the voice of your conscience.

These two websites are beholden to the Americans - the Express Tribune being financed by American funds - and they tend to squeeze true patriotism out of their readers. These websites will never criticise the destructive actions of American governments anywhere in the world. Cafe Pyala tolerates my criticism because it is a prisoner of its oft-repeated claims that it does not operate censorship.

The Tribune has frequently censored my critical comments. It has really plumbed the depths by suppressing my comment on Pervez Hoodbhoy's article, which I posted in response to one by "Sara" (the very first comment below the article) . It read as follows:


Your comments in bastardised English show what is wrong with education in Pakistan. You typify millions of so-called "educated Pakistanis" who have turned their backs on the lingua franca, Urdu, which they use every day to communicate with fellow Pakistanis, and have slavishly adopted a foreign language as the medium of instruction. This simple fact is the greatest single cause responsible for Pakistan's ill educated population, steeped in inferiority complex in relation to the Americans and the British.

Why don't we follow the example of the Chinese, the Japanese and the Koreans and reserve the use of English (and German, French, etc) only for those who need to engage in scientific research and international affairs/trade? That way we will make the most economical use of our limited resources by successfully tapping the intelligence of the entire population of Pakistan, poor and rich alike. What's more, we will emerge as a self-confident and proud nation in the world.

Let me illustrate my point by giving you the example of the only Nobel Prize winner that Pakistan has produced, Professor Abdus Salam. He was sent to an Urdu-medium school where he completed his matriculation. This is a very important point that any child psychologist will tell you: it is so much easier for a child to get to the root of the subjects he/she studies if the teaching is conducted in the language spoken all around him/her. Once young Abdus Salam had acquired that basic understanding it was easy for him to go on and learn English. The rest, as they say, is history. The moral is that if you wish Pakistan to produce more Nobel Prize winners you have to make sure ALL Pakistani children - not just 3% of the privileged section of the population - are able to really understand the subjects that they study. If you teach them in a foreign language they will lack real understanding and will rely on learning by rot."

The true rulers of Pakistan today are the Americans, whose aim it is to suffocate dissent and independent thinking. Do you see now why it is necessary for so many Pakistanis to live abroad? They can help the motherland more effectively that way - unless they happen to possess the courage and strength of Imran Khan.

Anonymous said...

Sakib Ahmed, I almost feel sorry for you. You clearly yearn for the mother land. But then I see your inability to see that you, and your experiences, are not actually the center of the world, plus the fact that you think Imran Khan is a role model instead of a male model, and I don't feel sorry for you anymore.

It doesn't matter what language you speak but what you do, what you think and how you express it. A lot of people in Pakistan don't speak Urdu, true, but then they don't English either. According to your twisted logic, because of language both are somehow less than you. And you don't even live here and yet think that the best way to help Pakistan is from abroad! that is so stupid it boggles the mind and is not worthy of a response.

So here is the best way for you to address both your need to feel connected to this country AND express that bitterness/denial/sadness you are hostage to. Pick a blog in the country you have adopted. Any blog. Share your prattle with them instead. And leave those of us who actually live here to go about the business of loving it in peace.

boy oh boy how irritating are 'i can't live in pakistan so i must make myself feel better for deserting it by running down people who do'.

Sakib Ahmad said...

Cowards who hide behind a mask when discussing issues of fundamental importance to their fellow countrymen - the 97% of the population being exploited by the other 3% - are, in my experience, insincere at best (what they are at worst, I'll leave to other people's imaginations). It simply is not possible to have a sensible discussion with such people.

By the way, stop imitating the trashy western ideas and looking for a "role model". If you were a true Pakistani you would have known that you are a unique individual and you have to be true to your own individuality, not imitating others. However, you can still acknowledge and applaud manifestation of good qualities in other people. Imran Khan is, in my opinion, the most courageous politician in Pakistan. That's all - but I accept that a small minded person, for reasons of his own, may derive pleasure in denying the obvious. Go ahead and make a fool of yourself by calling Imran a coward, weakling, whatever.

The reason why I put in an occasional appearance at Express Tribune and Cafe Pyala ought to have been obvious from my last post. If you haven't worked it out, you might consider consulting someone a bit less dense in the head.

MSS said...

Sakib Ahmed,

I'm going to bite and ask why you post here.

I would also, if I had intestines for brains, wonder why you think Imran Khan is a role model, but part of me says 'don't touch that with a barge pole'. Only in, you know, Urdu. Khair, do tell.


Anonymous said...

Let me get this right. Sakib Ahmed loves Pakistan and the essence of Pakistaniyat so much that he can't possibly live here because, well, it's not Pakistani enough.
He comes here, dines at posh restaurants with no Urdu menus and freaks out. He reads the Express Tribune and cafepyala websites and freaks out. No wonder he supports the ultimate hypocrite Imran Khan!

Anonymous said...

I have met many Sakib Ahmed's here in US, many left Pakistan 20, 30, 40 years ago yet if u go to their homes they will drive you nuts about their massive ideas about Pakistan.

Sakib Ahmad said...


Thanks for shedding the burka but why keep on the thin "harem veil"? Throw that away, too, and let's see you in your full radiance.

sharbet said...

Great post, very very entertaining. I guess I understood it as I have lived in London for a few years. You make me wish I had paid more attention in my Media and Politics class at uni.

Perkunas said...

It's all Adam and Eve's fault.

Anonymous said...
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