The Rare Proud Moment of the Kartarpura Corridor

Source: Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Dawn

Today is Gurpurab or the Birthday of Baba Gurunanak, the founder of the Sikh religion. On the occasion of his 550th birthday, Pakistan and India achieved something unprecedented and historic. The Kartarpura Corridor was opened to the Darbar Saheb Gurudwara from Amritsar. Prime Ministers of both the countries inaugurated their respective sides of the Corridor.

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Source: Nighat Dad facebook

Source: Nighat Dad facebook

However, there is a shade of doubt behind the Kartarpura Corridor as well. The opposition is raising questions about the funding of the project, considering its efficient and speedy construction and completion within months. Many believe that the project comes directly from the Army Chief General Bajwa, whose interest in it makes more sense than that of Imran Khan. Others believe that Pakistani intelligence has pushed it to help encourage the Khalistan movement in Eastern Punjab.

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Furthermore, leaders of progressive parties are also raising the issue that the farmers whose land has been withheld by the state for building the corridor and the temple complex infrastructure have still not been compensated. Opposition leaders are even asking the tough questions regarding the funding of the Kartarpura Corridor, let alone the idea of opening the border in Punjab when civil freedom in Kashmir has still not been restored ever since the passage of the revocation of Article 370.

There is little doubt that this project was instantly initiated and completed because the Pakistani military was behind it because such efficiency cannot be expected from the PTI administration. You also cannot expect the PTI administration to have the courage or imagination to launch such a huge infrastructure project. This is why it is unfortunate that such projects with India can only be initiated and realized when Pakistani generals push the idea. Otherwise, any civilian leader like Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, who also tried taking similar initiatives, were dubbed pro-Indian traitors by the deep state.

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But is it a project initiated completely out of malice? And can Indians trust the Muslims of Western Punjab with their strangely newfound love for their Sikh brethren? These are not unreasonable questions to ask. At the same time, it is the kind of passion that only a Punjabi can understand. This project was completed out of the shared love and reverence of Baba Guru Nanak, who is revered by both Sikhs and Hindus and even Muslims. He is an undisputed saint, if not a manifestation of God. It is out of reverence for him that even Prime Minister Narendra Modi swallowed his pride and inaugurated the Indian wing of the Kartarpura Corridor in Eastern Punjab in the presence of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

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With all its misgivings and flaws, and perhaps even the evil intentions of the Pakistani military establishment, Kartarpura Corridor is worth it. It has made possible for Western Punjab to celebrate a Punjabi religion in the 74 years of its post-partition history, or in my living memory at least. It is also evident by the Government of Pakistan taking initiative to mint commemorative coins on the 550th Birthday of Guru Nanak Dev. These words from Indian cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu perfectly elaborate it, eulogizing his friend Imran Khan for making history with this huge step.

The memories of United India are still etched somewhere on our DNA. Those forgotten moments come to life again with Kartarpura Corridor. No words can describe what seeing our own pilgrims returning home feels like. I never thought this would make me emotional but it did. Perhaps we could never appreciate what it means to be together until we are separated. Muslims and Sikhs massacred each other for a partition based on faith and are today embracing each other for the same faith. It is surreal.

 

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The Kartarpura Corridor only reminds us of the sheer disaster that was the partition of Punjab, and the partition of India in general. When we see Punjabi brothers and sisters from both sides of the borders embracing each other, we realize what our shortsighted forefathers have taken away from us out of their bigotry and insecurities.

They have taken away from us that little India that existed in every town and village in United India. They have taken away our Sikh and Hindu brothers and sisters in our neighborhood. They have taken away our shared celebrations of Eid, Diwali, Holi, Dussehra, Vaisakhi, and Gurpurab. And it simply cannot be put back together even if we unite Punjab and India again. It is a venom that even Shiv’s throat cannot hold.

It is the kind of hate that even God cannot contain, let alone undo.

To Support Maulana’s Azadi March or Not

Source: geo.tv

Life throws some tough dilemmas your way. As if your everyday moral questions were not enough, history brought people to a crossroads which surely disturbed them in one way or the other. And sometimes the choices you make tell a lot about where you stand. Especially if they happen to be Pakistanis who are secular liberals and anti-establishment.

To support Maulana’s Azadi March or not.

There are many secular leftists who have simply rejected the idea of a Maulana vehicle being an ideal platform for the promotion of democracy. The likes of the Awami Workers Party and Jibran Nasir, who are always proactive on social issues, chose not to support the march because of the religious card, bigotry against Ahmedis, and the exclusion of women from the platform, something which Marvi Sirmed also pointed out.

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Most of the pro-establishment and/or pro-status quo or pro-Imran Khan liberals completely reject the notion of the Azadi March because it is being led by a religious party or because of the “religious card.” The religious card here particularly being focus on preserving the finality of Prophethood or Khatm-e-Nabuwat, a fancy name of the anti-Ahmedi movement in Pakistan, and against attempts to amend the blasphemy law. Many of these critics agree that anti-establishment liberals are compromising their principles by cheering for Maulana’s march.

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Other anti-establishment center-left and right liberals, especially those sympathetic to the current cause of PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif and the emerging anti-establishment leadership of Maryam Nawaz, are not playing so safe. They are fully behind the march and even taking jabs at those sitting out citing the religious card, including the pro-establishment liberals who are subtly supporting the Imran Khan administration.

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The politically incorrect Gul Bukhari is, of course, all for the march and disappointment at the PML-N for their half-hearted support.

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The PTM has distanced itself from the march citing its impact of perpetuating an “obsolete system of government,” albeit supporting their right to protest. PML-N and PPP, meanwhile, are partially participating and avoiding the march for some mysterious reasons only known to them.

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Many anti-establishment seculars tend to agree but acknowledge at the back of their minds that some kind of resistance needs to be offered to the current government.

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There have been no shortages of false comparisons with the Khomeini-led revolution in Iran to discredit the march and even dismissals mentioning that it is no Hong Kong or Beirut protest. Indeed this march is neither. But surely, it has been facing a media blackout which has become the characteristic of the Bajwa-Imran regime. These visuals were nowhere to be seen on national TV.

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As of today, the Awami National Party, which is as secular a party as they come in Pakistan, Another secular nationalist party Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP) of Mehmood Khan Achakzai had joined the march right from the start in Karachi on October 27.

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The Maulana’s caravans might enter Islamabad any hour now and the procession which was supposed to happen today has been delayed until Friday afternoon prayers, partially because of the Rahimyar Khan train tragedy.

It is clear that Maulana’s party does not see this march as a mission to enforce Sharia in the country, as much as some people trying to make it sound like that. It is indeed not directed against the military but it does channel some of the frustration of the public against the Imran Khan administration, if not against the Bajwa-Imran regime. It may occasionally mention the selectors but it is surely not against them.

So are you supporting the March too? I am not “supporting” a Mulllah’s party either but I sure as well don’t mind it is happening. And pretty much agree with all its objectives other than “protecting the Islamic provisions of the constitution.” If the capital can be paralyzed for the good part of the year for discrediting a legitimately elected government and for rigging allegations for four constituencies, it can surely be shut down for locking up the entire opposition and almost killing a three-times elected Prime Minister. And the latter is my biggest reason to march against the current administration.

The only problem is that the agenda of this march barely mentions that.

Imran Khan’s Global Priorities and the Entertaining UNGA Address

Source: Waseem Altaf

The moment had finally arrived. Perhaps the moment for which Imran Khan had been dreaming to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan. The moment, which in his mind and in the mind of his followers, had been preordained and predetermined by the Divine power. Perhaps his most remarkable mark on world history, his address to the United Nations General Assembly. And perhaps one of the most entertaining UNGA addresses, right up there with Arafat, Netanyahu, and Gaddafi.

Starting this historic address with his party’s fascist slogan of “eeyaka naabudu wa eeyaka nasta’een” (Thee alone we bow to and thee alone we seek help from), the Prime Minister immediately reminded of his partisan agenda on the global forum. Going well above his allotted time on the forum, the Prime Minister continued to speak for about 51 minutes to make a point, and his self-important mannerism was evident from the start.

However, to the credit of Imran Khan, very few speeches on the forum would have been so personal and passionate. He passionately presented the case for the plight of the people of Kashmir, while taking jabs at the fascist Modi administration. While only Imran Khan could have delivered such an emotional speech, and while Kashmir was one of its more appreciable highlights, it was not without its diplomatic flaws.

Senator Sherry Rehman, the former ambassador to the United States, had criticized the speech for not covering Kashmir in greater detail, as well as failing to remind that it is disputed territory between India and Pakistan. Imran Khan’s speech treats Kashmir as an Indian state in which human rights were suspended. There was no specific mention of the UN Resolutions about Kashmir which had provisions to hold a plebiscite in the disputed state under certain conditions, which included demilitarizing parts of Kashmir occupied by both Pakistan and India.

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Since intellectual and moral dishonesty is the hallmark of the Pakistan Government, so they always conveniently ignore the human rights abuses committed by the Pakistani state. Imran Khan, however, takes it to another level by pretending that India-Pakistan history started with his assumption of office. He again reminded about his disappointment on Modi refusing to reciprocate his gesture for peace. There, of course, was no concrete measure of taking action against terrorism.

Here is the UNGA address of Prime Minister Imran Khan in full.

Only he could have made this speech, though momentarily his mind always wandered to the protest container. He only stopped short of ranting endlessly about the opposition complaining about the corruption in the country and instead attacked the ideas of tax havens, while conveniently forgetting those in his parties holding such secret accounts, especially the ones funding his campaigns, including himself. However, he made an interesting point about wealthy countries not doing enough to block the flow of wealth from poor countries.

He appreciably reminded the world about the problem of Islamophobia and Muslim communities being targeted for their faith around the world. However, he skipped both the mention of Uighur Muslim communities in China and also the Apartheid-like treatment of non-Muslim minority groups in Pakistan.

However, the biggest revelation in Imran Khan’s speech was that blasphemy had become such a major global crisis. As he has done before, he outrageously compared it to Holocaust denial and called on the Western world to sacrifice their ideals of free speech to prevent hurting the feelings of the Muslim community. But for his concern about the offense of Holocaust denial, he was hanging out with the perfectly wrong people during his tour.

During his UN mission to the United States, Imran Khan got together with Turkish President Recep Teyyip Erdogan and Malaysian President Mahathir Muhammad, both of whom had their own theatrics to display at the forum. With folk such as Erdogan and Mahathir with their remarkable record on antisemitism, Imran Khan found the perfect company to launch a campaign for the cause.

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They got their heads together and decided that the best solution to fight Islamophobia around the world was to establish a BBC type English language TV channel to highlight Muslim issues. As if Al-Jazeera English was not enough.

But probably here’s the reason why we need a new channel to fight selective Islamophobia. She probably forgot the mentions of Yemen.

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Coming back to his UNGA address, while his message on Kashmir was on point, as India’s martial raw deserves global condemnation, he may be sabotaging the cause with his constantly bringing up nuclear war. He said he expected “bloodbath in Kashmir” and “another Pulwama,” while criticizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the “Nazi-inspired” RSS, of which he was a lifelong member. Following the mention of nuclear war, he went a step further by creating a hypothetical scenario of a 7-times smaller Pakistan having no choice but to attack India with nuclear weapons to defend itself. And that the confrontation in Kashmir will lead to it. He mentioned that the nuclear war will eventually impact the whole world. He said that “our belief was “la ilaha il Allah” or “There is no God but Allah.”” Who knew what he meant by this.

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Who knew if Imran Khan was trying to intimidate the world or impress them with his brand of “peacemaking” but someone should brief him that the world is more concerned about Pakistan’s nukes, not India’s. This irresponsible threat on such a forum was seen as a brave display of force by many loyalist nationalists back home.

Since Imran Khan is known to be prone to gaffes and emotional impulses, you would expect that saner heads must prevail in the bureaucratic government. However, the Government of Pakistan felt compelled to report and publish the bizarre threat by Imran Khan in writing in this tweet to double down on it.

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Perhaps, those celebrating his hyperbolic speech could learn a thing or two from India’s composed but solid reply to Pakistan’s narrative.

In Pakistan, Imran Khan’s speech is being seen by his nationalist liberal and conservative followers as the irrefutable evidence of his competence as a global statesman. They are also insisting that the military establishment has done the greatest favor to Pakistan by selecting Imran Khan. Despite the dismal performance of his government so far, which has reduced the growth rate of the country by more than half since last year and has seen a surge in foreign debts, his role as a divinely sanctioned Messiah, not only of Pakistan but that of Muslim Ummah, is being reinforced and any opposition to him is seen as traitorous behavior.

Even the otherwise composed military officials cannot contain their partisan excitement by, something which clearly reflects their political involvement and partisan bias. Here is the DG ISPR in full troll mode in response to criticism of Imran Khan’s speech by Muhammad Taqi and Gul Bukhari.

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The totalitarian nationalists celebrating his speech will fail to even acknowledge the media curbs and the worst crackdown on dissenting opposition in recent history in Pakistan. They probably would like those authoritarian measures to become even worse against anyone who dares to criticize the divinely “selected” Imran Khan.

Imran Khan recently made a comment expressing his disappointment over the lack of response from the international community on Kashmir. As citizens of Pakistan, we are disappointed by world leaders too. For not calling out Imran Khan on his hypocrisy.

The Deadly Faux Pas by Pakistan’s International Man of Peace

Source: ET

Imran Khan is having a ball. He is having the highest point in his sad and depressing career as a Prime Minister ever since he took office. Actually, the Kashmir crisis that coincided with his administration came as a heaven-sent blessing to give Imran Khan’s egotistical ramblings as a self-important and supposed international man of peace.

He has been criticized by the opposition for being selected by the military establishment in Pakistan. Especially, after the current military regime of General Bajwa took upon itself to destroy the political career of former and deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for baseless reasons when Dawn Leaks occurred. Dawn Leaks, which was a leaked report of the Sharif brothers, then in power in federal and Punjab provincial governments respectively, advised the military to curb extremist and terrorist entities in the country. It is ironic that the same leader whose supporters thrive on declaring Nawaz Sharif a traitor would today justify his statements.

In his latest gaffe, Imran Khan revealed that “Pakistan Army and the ISI trained Al-Qaeda” and you can easily hear it in the following statement.

 

He also said that “Pakistan made a huge blunder by joining the US war on terror.” I cannot think of a more disastrous statement coming from a Pakistani head of the government representing the country on such a diplomatic forum is nothing short of disastrous. At least, there is consensus in the international community about the need to dismantle the terrorist Taliban regime in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks, since Osama Bin Laden had been given state asylum over there.

While I personally don’t mind the statement about the military training Al-Qaeda and there are a lot of people pointing out that there is finally a leader who is speaking the truth about the military, it is not exactly historically accurate. The Pakistan army and the ISI never trained Al-Qaeda, the Islamist terrorist organization inspired by Syed Qutb in Egypt and which stemmed out of the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Pakistani Army instead trained and helped arm the Mujahideen, which later would become the Taliban, who would fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan and then with the help of Pakistan would establish an Islamic Caliphate in the country suspending all human rights and persecuting the local population.

For his dream run, this is a massive PR disaster which was being vehemently defended by government and PTI spokespersons, the military, and the nationalist liberals and conservatives who sympathize with him. But it is a costly gaffe to make on a forum like Council on Foreign Relations, even if Imran Khan had confused Mujahideen with Al-Qaeda. This counters the narrative of Pakistani urban nationalists who voted for PTI that Imran Khan is more effective or shining on the international stage. What Imran Khan undoubtedly has is charisma and surely that causes the world to pay attention to a “handsome” celebrity as opposed to serious leaders like his predecessors. But actually, his speaking from the heart often proves damaging to Pakistan’s cause. This is just another example.

Consider this tweet about the support for Kashmir from a UN body.;

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Not sure who briefs Imran Khan on foreign affairs but it clearly was someone overzealous who was overstating the number of member countries in the United Nations Human Rights Commission. And also, it is not the only blunder by the foreign affairs team of the ruling party. Pakistan also missed the deadline to submit the resolution for Kashmir at United Nations Human Rights Council, so there is a lot more trouble on the foreign affairs front for this administration than just the trainwreck tour of the Great Leader.

Here is the full video of Imran Khan’s talk at the Council on Foreign Relations.

 

Ghotki Riots and Medina State

Source: Screenshot/Dawn

Last week saw some of the worst anti-Hindu riots in the past months in Pakistan, and especially since India revoked Article 370 in Kashmir. So the story is that a Hindu principal of a local school in Ghotki, Northern Sindh, was accused of blasphemy by a 14-year-old student. Human rights activists Mukesh Meghwar and Kapil Dev were one of the first people to break the story on twitter along with other Hindu human rights activists on the ground in Ghotki. Gradually, the mainstream journalists starting responding to it, spreading the word.

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The fires of hate were honed by the infamous Mian Mitthoo or Pir Abdul Haq, who is known for inspiring several forced conversions targeting Hindu Girls. It is interesting to note that you will barely ever hear about a Muslim woman marrying a Hindu woman in Pakistan so it is more about enforcing the supremacy of one community. The man reportedly led the march to the school and also incited destruction in local temples. The Hindu population in the city was reduced to their homes out of security fears. Later, the Sindh government registered a case of religious bigotry against the violent mob but kept a careful distance from Mian Mitthoo himself.

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Communal mob violence is a common trait across the Indian subcontinent, if not beyond. However, the form it takes in Pakistan has been particularly facilitated by the state and government of Pakistan over the years. It was great to see people gather in the vandalized temple, assured the community of their safety, and even the police filing a report against the violent mob. However, the reality of the peace and security of the are far from being that convenient.

There is little doubt about the negative role of the State of Pakistan in general in terms of minority rights in the country. However, where the Ghokti episode turned disgusting was the reaction of Prime Minister Imran Khan to it. He continued shamelessly propagating the abstract of Medina-State, the supposed principles of the state created by Prophet Muhammad, even though there is little evidence or knowledge of what it was like other than undemocratic autocratic tribal rule that likely imposed its faith on vanquished Arabian tribes.

Furthermore, the recent propaganda against Hindu nationalism, comparing RSS and Modi with Nazism and Hitler, all over the place in Pakistan as a part of their response to the revocation of Article 370 in India. Not sure if that had exactly helped people’s views of the Hindu community and this came from an administration that claims to treat Hindus and all other minorities as “equal citizens.”

The Pakistani state has been selling these lies since its creation but never like Imran’s Khan hypocritical “Medina State” philosophy. The worst part is lying to the face of the minorities and expecting them to pledge allegiance to a communal contract which they obviously do not consider fair.

Imran Khan not only refused to acknowledge that minorities could not be safe under a theocratic state and needed a secular contract but even went one step further. He declared the Ghotki incident a conspiracy against his United Nations General Assembly Address. Let alone the filthy politics he is playing with the repressed and brutalized Hindu community in Pakistan, his own men must be behind this conspiracy against his address himself, if anyone at all, since Mian Mithoo has gotten fairly close to his party.

Imran Khan’s statement is only reflective of his megalomania and self-obsession as a messianic peacemaker on a global level. Unfortunately, to him, everything centers around him, from India-Pakistan relations, to Kashmir, and to his. This is the central thought behind his delusional and hypothetical Medina State and hypocrisy and lying are its core principles. But of course, only idiots are not according to the dear leader.

Pakistan’s Screwed Up Priorities

You would think that Pakistan has learned its lesson after all these years. You would hope that finally, the custodians of this state have decided to put the prosperity of the people ahead of their egos and pretentious nationalism. But it seems we may never live to see that day.

Just when Pakistan is preaching to the world about peace, “Nazism,” and “averting nuclear war,” its military has chosen to send a message to India and the world. Probably anticipating war on the Kashmir front, they tested a nuclear ballistic missile with the sinister name of “Ghaznavi,” named after the Afghan Turkic warrior emperor Mahmud of Ghazni, who invaded several Hindu temples in India.

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Ironically, the government plans to send a very different the next day with observing its first-ever Kashmir Hour. Something that they want to model after the Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel as a part of the rhetoric strategy of the government.

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The recent posts comparing Modi with Hitler and RSS with Nazi Party are evident of that notion.

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Many people supportive of this form of protest believe that it will project a positive image of the nation around the world. However, the appropriation of the Holocaust and Nazi rhetoric is far more problematic than PTI can imagine. But let’s ignore that factor for a second and let’s appreciate the non-violent line of protest Pakistan is taking.

Still, acts such as intimidating India with nuclear ballistic missile tests with this symbolism is not only disturbing but duplicitous. It does not add any confidence whatsoever in a nation which holds the reputation of not staying true to its word whether it comes to eradicating terrorism or supporting or financing terrorism from its soil.

Then again, the international community is not naive enough not to understand the state of democracy in Pakistan. They are aware of the dual narrative from the Pakistan military and the civilian government. But the Pakistani citizens satisfied by this line of rhetoric by the Prime Minister should really be disappointed by the recent missile test. Because there goes your image of being a peace dove in the region.

Unleashing Cricket Bigotry

Source: The Sun

The Pakistan Afghanistan cricket game in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 was perhaps the darkest moment in the sporting event, politically speaking. Even though I cannot speak much for the Afghan side, but it is safe to say that the game brought out the worst in both the nations, at least among the rioting fans in the stands. Afghan and Pakistan fans brawled on more than one occasion after the game, clearly due to the verbal exchanges.

The game surely brought out the ugly, racist, and xenophobic side of Pakistan. The Pakistan twitter was terrible enough to trend “Pakistan v Namak Haraams,” an expression used for unfaithful traitors. Pakistanis particularly have a problem with the Indian Cricket Board supporting the Afghan team and providing it with a home base, something which the Pakistan Cricket Board offered earlier. Of course, the Indian “interferences” in Afghanistan, whether political or sporting, threaten the national security of Pakistan. So while we hate the Afghans, we need to be in charge of everything about Afghanistan.

In order to eloquently express and represent the sentiment of the nation about their Afghan brothers, Rawalpindi fast bowler Shoaib Akhter stepped up. With all the anti-Afghan bigotry he could absorb from my hometown, he repeated all the usual tropes, only stopping at not directly calling the immigrants parasitic, though he pretty much implied it. He probably took it down from his twitter later but this video has been saved for all posterity.

Even in Leeds, the venue for the game, the political atmosphere was full of tension. The Baluch and Afghan political activists found it the perfect opportunity to highlight the human rights violations in Baluchistan. A skywriting plane was carrying the message of “Justice for Baluchistan” and “End Forced Disappearances.” The “End Forced Disappearances” campaign has been making its appearance on public signage and newspaper front pages as well, which the patriotic British citizens of Pakistani origin have been tearing and destroying every chance they got in their exercise of “free expression.”


The playbook of the Pakistani xenophobes and racist nationalists, who are far worse than Trump’s base, attack Afghans in a standard fashion. For the usual part, they blame them as burdens on the economy and a source of crime. You can safely say that this xenophobia is prevalent from Peshawar and Gilgit-Baltistan to Islamabad and Karachi. The narrative also blames them for not being faithful enough for Pakistan even though it has given their refugees asylum for more than thirty years, even though it has refrained to allow citizenship to most of them.

Interestingly enough, the Pakistani nationalists believe the Afghan refugees owe Pakistan something for destroying their home country.

Gul Bukhari, the Pakistani dissident journalist, put the response to this baseless allegation by Pakistani nationalists in this tweet. With someone asking her if there are a more ungrateful people than the Afghans (who never repaid Pakistan’s generosity in kind), she summed up the entire Pakistan-Afghanistan political equation. Indeed they are a very ungrateful nation. We have been on the forefront for imposing war on them for forty years, pocketed dollars on account of Afghan refugees, and have imposed the Taliban on them to this day. With all the generosity, they have not bothered to thank (Pakistan) once. 

Pakistan almost lost the match against Afghanistan on June 29, but our people have certainly lost the moral high ground they think they always had.