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Abduct me, bully me, chase me out, but I still love Pakistan and won’t shut up

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Pakistani columnist Gul Bukhari writes about loving her country, but not blindly.

Every topic of any consequence in Pakistan has become too taboo for me to write about – the regime’s ‘love’ for me is so special and well known. Even if I say or do 10 per cent of what other writers do, I still get very special attention and am targeted. So, I have decided to write about myself to explain and document my position.

I have been cursed with every abuse known in Urdu and English. I have also been labelled a traitor, an agent of India, CIA and Afghanistan. I’m called anti-Pakistan for having and airing my opinions on what is wrong and how to fix the problems I see in Pakistan. This label is particularly vexatious. I have never labelled anyone a traitor just for disagreeing with me. It is also insulting to insinuate that I’m just a mouthpiece for someone else.

The trolling and the volley of abuse on Twitter hit me as soon as I open my mouth. The attacks are not always based on issues — they come even if I tweet about the weather or a song. It appears that the campaign is designed to bully me into silence.

The most vile, mean and fascist comments are from #TeamImran, #LoveKhan, #LovePakArmy, #ProudMuslim type of accounts often with pictures of the Quranic Qalma, or Imran Khan, or military men in the banner, asking me to share pictures and videos of my rape (on the assumption that I was raped in captivity).

Direct and indirect warnings are sent, but the message is always the same: Shut up. Clearly, dissent somehow threatens them; challenging the official narrative threatens them.

Also read: Arrest warrant against Cyril Almeida shows why journalism in Pakistan is dangerous

Writing in foreign media


Those of you who attack me with this question, please know that your establishment has banned me from writing for, and appearing on, every print, electronic, and digital media operating out of Pakistan. This is a classic case of exiling someone, chasing them out of the country and then taunting them with, “WHY YOU NOT COME BACK??” (and face the music at our hands).

Whether I write for Al-Jazeera, or the BBC, or ThePrint, I write what I think, not what they think. But you people first drive me out of Pakistani spaces, and then blame me for writing for foreign platforms. I don’t write differently than what I used to in Pakistani papers; nor do I say anything different on a BBC or VoA show than what I said on Waqt TV.

Learning to question

Being a privileged army brat, I could have been a potential present day ‘youthia’ in Pakistan (the popular term used for Imran Khan’s supporters). Growing up, I was very apolitical. But I found my political moorings when I accompanied my activist cousins to the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) and Hudood Ordinance protests and got beaten up with batons by General Zia-ul Haq’s police. But it was at the time of the Laal Masjid saga in 2007 when I started to become intensely political.

Fast forward to now, 2018. I am reviled by a section of the Pakistani society— consisting the military establishment and the ruling party. They are all the same. But more people love and respect me. The hate and violence of the establishment and the PTI cannot change my positions. Indeed, they harden my positions because they are unable to convince me otherwise.

Yes, I oppose the military’s interference in Pakistani politics, and the judiciary’s complicity in this matter – and who doesn’t? Isn’t that logical in a supposed democracy?

Pakistan is in trouble, and there needs to be a public conversation about what’s going on. The trouble is, people like me are not engaged with, but dismissed with insulting and hurtful titles. Bloggers were abducted and tortured in January 2017, but had to be released eventually – and they all left the country. I was abducted in June 2018, but had to be released within hours – but I stayed on in Pakistan. What on earth are they achieving except ignominy in the eyes of the world and common Pakistanis? They are putting our journalists and elected representatives on the exit control list, disallowing people to travel abroad. If someone has not committed an act of terror, or a crime and the state has no case against them, why are they prevented from travelling abroad?

Also read: Pakistan journalist Gul Bukhari who criticised army returns home after she was abducted

‘Traitor’ who supports human rights

I look at every national or geopolitical issue from a human rights perspective.

Afghan refugees? A very dear friend of mine argued with me about how these refugees were imposed on us by the US and the UN, and how they must be repatriated. But look at the facts: Over 70 per cent of the Afghan refugees were born in Pakistan, they have never seen Afghanistan; their friends, families, jobs, and businesses are in Pakistan. How can we just throw them out? More importantly, Pakistan’s ‘jus soli’ law guarantees them citizenship as a birthright.

Others have argued, “Can Pakistan, a poor country, afford to sustain and feed these three million useless, good for nothing, gun and drug runners?” My response has been: “Excuse me, how are we affording them? Have we given them housing, schooling, or health facilities from our taxes, ever?” Silence. No answers. Conversely, they have been contributing to Pakistan’s economy. To which, the response is a xenophobic one similar to the Brexiteers: They took away our jobs (which is ridiculous – most of them are engaged in small to medium sized business and are actually creating jobs). Another entirely baseless charge against them is of them being ‘terrorists’. Proof?

I have been labelled a traitor, ‘ghaddar’, and ‘Afghan agent’ for defending the refugees and advocating a humane position for them.

Let’s now examine my support for the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM). I made an effort to understand who Manzoor Pashteen, Mohsin Dawar, and Ali Wazir were, where they were coming from and what their demands constituted. I found all to be kosher, their demands urgent and important to be resolved for us to live as a people at peace with ourselves. All the demands were constitutional, the movement was peaceful, and the suspicions against the PTM I found to be unsubstantiated. Give me one proof they are working with a foreign agenda and I will condemn them. There is not a shred of evidence – just idiotic social media campaigns and censorship in mainstream media.

Also read: Imran Khan can sell buffaloes and choppers, but Pakistan’s economy is still crashing

There are so many other issues: The mazareen of Punjab in Okara who are being made landless by the military and being herded into prisons for asking for their rights. The Sindhi, Baloch, Mohajir, Gilgiti, Christian, Hindu, and Ahmadi persecutions too are well documented. I speak for all of them because I believe in a plural society. How is that seditious? When I speak for their rights, I am branded as them. Earlier, when I had no public opinion or voice, I was seen as a Sunni Muslim, Punjabi woman of patriotic military stock. Now, I’m the ‘other’ – simply because I speak.

This is an attempt to explain myself: I do NOT hate Pakistan; I do NOT hate the military; I love Pakistan. Loving any institution is unnatural, but it can be respected — only if it respects me and my rights. Whatever I do, it is for the love of my people, not for money. No one pays me.

The author is a columnist and human rights defender based in Lahore.

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  1. All traitors talk the way you are expressing your love for Pakistan. Had you been having some love for this poor country you would have not ridiculed the armed forces & Judiciary of Pakistan which is standing between our freedom and slavery from Indian dirty designs. Under grab of liberalism you are bringing harm to our country, shamelessly supporting the massacre of innocent people in Model town Lahore. Better go to country from where you are getting dollars to destabilise our country with your satanic views.

  2. Atta ur Rehman Lodhi.
    In order to gain respect amongst the enemies forums, it has become a fashion to spit venom against Pakistani institutions. Many such nonsense talks we hear daily within and without country. You have to prove patriot by being unbiased, proclaiming respect for the state and as a corollary for the institions and voicing convincingly against what you like to be corrected. Unfortunately such handful liberals consider themselves the only patriots in Pakistan and rest are on the other end in their views. They do not see the consequencesof their writings which, while counting on nationalist feelings existing in Pakistan, lead the country more disunited.

  3. Gil Bukhari never stop raising your voice and expressing your feelings against the wrong doings. Unfortunately in the sub continent anyone atanding up for the violation of human rights, minorities, misuse of religion and criticising the army is branded as a traitor and non believer. Thinking out the box is frowned upon. We have unfortunately become very intolerant with time all over the world. Even the UN is biased. All might is right…….

  4. What is Gul Bukhari talking about? She wants “understanding of, & engagement with, dissent & criticism?” What understanding and engagement did she show for PTI’s dissent and criticism of the then-ruling PMLN when she invoked blasphemy on Imran Khan and called the women attending PTI’s rallies dancers and prostitutes, and when she routinely hurls the most vile vitriol at those who disagree with her?

    We should also remember she vigorously defended the Sharif regime even after it massacred unarmed, defenseless dissidents in Model Town. Pleading the right to dissent for herself now is the most hypocritical thing she can do.

    And since she has a British passport, she should have been fair and honest enough to write against Britain too for all its imperialism and human rights abuses in the name of patriotic dissent. Doesn’t she love Britain?

    Pakistani liberals like her give themselves away with their own hypocrisy and when they’re called out for their nonsense, they act like victims and scream “persecution!” and “censorship!”

  5. No disagreement should ever descend to the level of filth and vitriol that this woman faces just for expressing her point of view. Sadly the South Asian mindset demonstrated by Pakistani and Indian trolls is disgustingly vulgar and has all the elements of an inbred sense of male superiority and innate intolerance.

  6. Miss Gul Bukhari, i can argue many points you have mentioned here and can make you silence with logic but i want to highlight ony one issue as you are describing yourself as some angle from heaven which is definitely not the case. Firstly you are not neutral are pure biased.. you always defended Nawaz sharif and its family corruption as everyone knows this. corruption cannot be defended if its proven from court. but you just being paid by some quarters of PMLN party you always defended them against PTI. so all your rest of logic are irrelevant because you proved yourself politically biased. so tell me now why should i even think to believe on whatever you say or write because i kniw you are un biased and paid PMLN party mouthpiece nothing more. Thankyou

  7. Everybody loves country like you and I and it natural , but national security measures are always close to everyone except concerned . You should not involve yourself into the national security issues because you are designated for it. That’s the problem with you.

  8. There are so many good things happening in Pakistan. But u go blind and only portray Pakistan as evil state among nations. Ur thoughts are clearly biased against army and the most popular PM of Pakistan’s history. Apart from that, the language u use on social media is so so disgusting and it shows ur upbringing and back ground. So stop pretending and do whatever u r being paid for

  9. Thank God for courageus youngsters like Gul Bukhari, bless you Pakistan and India have hope if they silent majority roots for people like her

  10. In Third World generally n in Pakistan commonly, it has become a very easy business to criticise Army / ISI and get popularity within days. Moreover if you are good writer or speaker , the anti Pakistan lobby will pick u as a Hot Cake and you will become an International level activist.

    Leave Aljazeera but BBC n VOA are the Very Good Buyers of such Anti Pakistan stuff. Pakistan has banned VOA Pushto Service Deva, recently, because of their baseless propaganda .

    Gul Bukhari was praising PTM n asked any proof of their anti Pakistan activities. One can only laugh at his question. When they shout their most heard slogan,
    ” yeh jo dehshat gardi hah iss k peechhay wardi hay ”
    In English,
    ” Pak Army is behind Terrorism ”

    Madam, can you prove it ?
    If so , kindly do it, if hou proved it , we all will join PTM.

    Do hope GB will reply my comments.

    S A S Bukhari.

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