US-bash­ing is scape­goat­ing at its best


“The United States is be­hind the in­crease in di­vorce rates in Pak­istan.”

If you live in Pak­istan, you must be used to hear­ing — and per­haps mak­ing — such and even more out­ra­geous state­ments. But not I.

I ar­rived in Pak­istan last week. Even be­fore my Pak­istan In­ter­na­tional Air­line plane took off from Toronto air­port, my fel­low pas­sen­gers had al­ready re­sorted to what I know now was their fa­vorite pas­time: Amer­ica bash­ing.

“Shuja Khan­zada was as­sas­si­nated be­cause he was about to ex­pose Amer­ica’s in­volve­ment in ter­ror­ism in Pak­istan,” whis­pered my fel­low pas­sen­ger, while we were de­layed by an hour on the tar­mac.

With hun­dreds of mil­lions spent on public re­la­tions, and bil­lions more in hu­man­i­tar­ian aid, Amer­ica con­tin­ues to strug­gle to build a pos­i­tive im­age in Mus­lim coun­tries. With ex­trem­ist mul­lahs on one hand and So­cial­ists and Marx­ists on the other, the anti-Amer­i­can pro­pa­ganda in Pak­istan thrives in madras­sas and univer­si­ties alike.

What dis­tin­guishes Pak­istan from the rest is how read­ily will­ing its ed­u­cated class is to fall for pro­pa­ganda.

I was sur­prised, to put it mildly, when I heard a rather distin­guished group of Is­lam­abad-based male pro­fes­sion­als nod­ding in agree­ment to the claim that the U.S. was be­hind the sud­den in­crease in di­vorce rates in Pak­istan.

I couldn’t re­sist to probe, “How so?”

“Well, Amer­i­cans are award­ing thou­sands of schol­ar­ships for higher ed­u­ca­tion to Pak­istani women. On their re­turn, these women are more in tune with the Amer­i­can val­ues than they are with those of their home­land. They ul­ti­mately leave their hus­bands,” ex­plained one.

That this state­ment is fac­tu­ally un­true is a mi­nor con­cern to me. I am alarmed about the fact that it is vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble for a few hun­dred ur­ban women to in­flu­ence the di­vorce rates in the largely ru­ral Pak­istan.

Let’s look at this in a sys­tem­atic way. First, has there been a dra­matic in­crease in di­vorce rates in Pak­istan?

I be­lieve the sta­tis­tics are not avail­able to make a con­clu­sive state­ment. The pub­lished re­search is rather shoddy.

Lawyers in­ter­viewed for re­cent news re­ports did not at­tempt to hide the misog­yny-laden twisted logic and ar­gued that ed­u­ca­tion has led to fi­nan­cial in­de­pen­dence for women, who are now in­creas­ingly ask­ing for di­vorce in­stead of “com­pro­mis­ing.”

It is strange that those who hold such an opin­ion do not ques­tion the prac­tice where Mus­lim men can ar­bi­trar­ily di­vorce their wives and are not bound to any com­mu­nal or le­gal ar­bi­tra­tion.

“I di­vorce thee” times three is the trump card Mus­lim men have used to break off mar­riages in­stan­ta­neously.

How­ever, when women re­quest for ar­bi­tra­tion on di­vorce, these men see red.

Let’s an­a­lyze the claim about the Amer­i­cans ex­clu­sively fund­ing Pak­istani women for higher ed­u­ca­tion, which the con­spir­acy the­o­rists be­lieve is caus­ing the surge in di- vorces in Pak­istan.

The Ful­bright pro­gram in Pak­istan, for in­stance, pro­vides schol­ar­ships for doc­tor­ate and mas­ters stud­ies abroad.

In 2015, the Ful­bright pro­gram in Pak­istan en­rolled 180 stu­dents. A sur­vey of 86 of the 180 re­vealed that a mere 27 per­cent of the 2015 class were women.

So from a to­tal of 180, I ex­pect fewer than 60 to be women.

Even if the en­tire lot of Ful­bright women — who will even­tu­ally grad­u­ate a few years down the road — di­vorce their spouses, they still can­not pos­si­bly in­flu­ence the 90 mil­lion Pak­istani women on the mat­ter of di­vorce.

An even stronger strand of an­tiAmer­i­can sen­ti­ment comes from cer­tain mem­bers of the mil­i­tary.

Se­nior dec­o­rated army of­fi­cers may be equally gullible or bi­ased. Con­fi­den­tial diplo­matic dis­patches from the U.S. em­bassy in Is­lam­abad re­vealed that Anne Pat­ter­son, the U.S. am­bas­sador to Pak­istan in 2008, “re­ceived as­ton­ish­ingly naive and bi­ased ques­tions about Amer­ica” when she ad­dressed the Pak­istan army’s Na­tional De­fence Univer­sity in Is­lam­abad.

“The elite of this crop of colonels and bri­gadiers are re­ceiv­ing bi­ased NDU train­ing, with no chance to hear al­ter­na­tive views of the U.S.,” the dis­patch quoted the am­bas­sador.

Not much has changed since then. The tit-for-tat song, “Aisi Taisi Hypocrisy,” writ­ten in re­sponse to the In­dian Aisi Taisi Democ­racy is yet another ex­am­ple of the flour­ish­ing anti-West sen­ti­ments in Pak­istan.

Writ­ten by Has­san Mi­raj, a ma­jor in Pak­istan Army, and sung by my younger cousin, Mu­jtaba Ali, the song draws a con­trast be­tween the ills in In­dia and Pak­istan. How­ever, the song squarely puts the blame for Pak­istan’s ills on the white race (a eu­phemism for Amer­i­cans), Arabs and the news media. Scape­goat­ing at its best. Amer­ica should not be judged only for the mis­deeds of the CIA and Pen­tagon. The same goes for Pak­ista­nis, who should not be seen in the nar­row con­text of mar­tial laws or the in­tel­li­gence in­trigues.

Amer­i­can univer­si­ties may be ex­pen­sive, but they are the best in the world. That Pak­istani stu­dents are wel­comed in the U.S. is no in­trigue.

Pak­ista­nis should welcome peo­ple-to-peo­ple con­tacts with the rest of the globe and re­sist nar­cis­sist xeno­pho­bia that feeds con­spir­acy the­o­ries.

As for the surge in di­vorce rates, maybe, just maybe, it is time for Pak­istani men who beat their wives to stop do­ing so.

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