Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rejecting hyper-nationalists

Rejecting hyper-nationalists


Mosharraf Zaidi, The News, November 10, 2009

The voice of Pakistan’s emerging middle class will not always be amplified in ways that serve Pakistanis’ collective interests. The overwhelming majority of the Pakistani middle class takes great pains to conduct and promote an honest and open debate about the issues. Part of taking those pains includes introspection. There is an increasingly important deviant strain of hyper-nationalism mixing itself in with the voice of the Pakistani middle class. Pakistanis need to tackle it with the same integrity and purposefulness that has enabled the establishment of this middle class voice in the first place.

While it remains true that the majority of critique of the Pakistani media is malicious and motivated by attempts to delegitimise the country’s fragile middle class voice, it is also true that the low quality of research, fact-checking and integrity among Pakistani hyper-nationalists makes their work dangerously counter-productive, and hardly strengthens the case of Pakistan. Hyper-nationalist pundits always find America and India as the root of all evil. Hyper-nationalist newspapers seem to have all the news scoops about the evil designs of the enemies, without any evidence. Their abuse of the freedoms that technology and economic growth have afforded to Pakistan is a threat to the growth and influence of the organic middle class — of whom they represent no part.

It was not so long ago, that Pakistan was forever stained by the blood of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. The safety of foreign correspondents should be of paramount interest to anybody who loves Pakistan, and is interested in protecting its reputation, and its potential as a place where foreigners can be safe. Even the most egregiously intellectual light-weights among Pakistanis would want to ensure that foreign journalists would never again have to endure that kind of threat again. It is therefore particularly mind-boggling that in their irrational, unsubstantiated and blind rage, Pakistani hyper-nationalists thought nothing of making a target of Matthew Rosenberg, yet another Wall Street Journal reporter, causing him to be evacuated out of the country, and sending ripples of fear and trepidation among the corps of Pakistan’s foreign correspondents. Accusing someone of spying for Israel, in a permissive environment (for a reporter working for the Wall Street Journal, no less) would only be funny if it was fictional. It’s not. It is deathly serious. Already, other correspondents (like Marie France Calle of Le Figaro) are asking questions about their own safety.

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