Friday, April 25, 2014
MEHR F. HUSAIN - Pakistan bows to the Saudis again
For all it's apparent lawlessness and lack of order, Pakistan does have some laws. One important one is the Sindh Wildlife Protection Act, under which the semi-rare bird, the houbara bustard, the national bird of Balochistan, is protected. No Pakistani national is allowed to hunt this bird down. And this is where the problem lies. The law is not exactly applied to non-Pakistanis who come to hunt the bird, and unsurprisingly the Arabs have repeatedly made good use of this exception.
Over the decades, especially since Zia-ul-Haq's dictatorship, the Arabisation process has trickled down to become a way of living - so far without the camels. Small but important changes can be tracked down which have come about due to the country's leaders being obsessed with finding an identity which allows them to have some legitimate claim to being 'Arab'. The usual 'khudahafiz' has morphed into 'Allah-hafiz'; cotton chadors have been pulled off, and sombre black abayas are donned. Where once a moustache was the pride and honour of a man, it's been overshadowed by a beard - the longer and more unkempt, the holier a man is. History is now rewritten so that the country's bloodline and lineage has nothing to do with South Asia but is in fact Middle Eastern; and car number plates now have 'Al-Bakistan' written, which looks even more bizarre when 'Punjab' is written next to it.
But nothing compares to the humiliation the Pakistani law has been subjected to, the cruelty that our wildlife has suffered due to the silent acceptance of the Arabisation, the people's awe of Arabs and the international criticism that the country faces every time it has had to please its Arab masters. This is a pattern that is repeated every time Arab dignitaries arrive in Pakistan to hunt down the houbara bustard. For the non-Pakistanis it's a hunting ritual - but for the locals it is a slap to their sovereignty, their law, their national assets in the form of wildlife, and their honour when it comes to the international level.
More importantly, such acts expose exactly how weak the country is, and that poses a problem for regional politics overall, for it is likely that not everyone is going to be sympathetic to Pakistan's situation concerning the submissive relationship it has with the Middle East. However, if an Arab dignitary is allowed to set foot on Pakistani soil and break not just national but international law, thereby insulting Pakistani sovereignty and forcing the country to account for why a rare endangered bird has suddenly been almost eradicated in a period of 10 days, the international community cannot be expected to appreciate the circumstances that cause Pakistan to bow down to Arab dignitaries.
In fact on a local basis the actions are justified, as they are seen as friendship-building initiatives and another means of allowing Arab influence over the country's national mindset. Still, if Arab influence can seep into a sovereign state's soul culminating in the compromise of national legislation, destroying national heritage, and overriding international laws, then there is a great worry about the spillover into regional issues. Only last year in India there was concern over the diminishing presence of the Bustard in Rajasthan, which called for the conservation of the bird. While Indo-Pak relations generally stick to water and rivers when it comes to the environment, there is a chance that due to the Gulf region's lack of appreciation for the Bustard, the bird's near-extinction could eventually be another sore point between Pakistan and India.
But the poaching of the houbara bustard perfectly illustrates the helplessness of the Pakistani nation when it comes to defending its own culture, people, wildlife and international standing in the face of Arab imperialism. And how eagerly that helplessness is exploited! Despite international pressure, regional concerns and national laws, time and time again Pakistan has had to bow down in the face of Arab pleasures of hunting a rare creature and willingly allow them to break national and international laws.
If anything this would be the time for both India and Pakistan to at least work together on this non-violent issue as a means of ensuring that the sole living creature which is a source of pride for both countries is not eradicated by a third, unrelated country who clearly doesn't appreciate it alive.