By Niha Dagia
Published: February 4, 2017
Protesters hold signs during a demonstration against U.S. President Donald Trump outside the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on January 31, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. PHOTO: AFP
In what was arguably the upset of the century, Hillary Clinton was defeated by Donald Trump in the US presidential elections last year. Almost everyone was convinced that the greatest democracy in the world would, for the first time in its history, elect a woman as head of state.
Pakistan – a long-term US ally in the ‘war against terrorism’ – was monitoring the situation closely. The country’s most revered commentators started off by joining in the chorus of making fun of the fact that Trump, a business tycoon, was even in the race, conveniently ignoring that most, if not all, of our politicians are business tycoons themselves.
When Trump’s daughter Ivanka sat in an official meeting between then president-elect Trump and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, we were reminded of the numerous times Maryam Nawaz has been part of Nawaz Sharif’s official meetings.
While Pakistanis have as much as a right to scrutinise Trump’s politics, we have much to envy when it comes to how Americans are responding to Trump’s presidency. Do we as a nation have the courage to stand up against the incessant impunity on human rights violations in our own country?
History proves we do not.
Earlier this week, an Islamic centre and a mosque were gutted down in Texas. Two days later, GoFundMe.org managed to raise more than $900,000 to rebuild it. Pakistanis, like everyone, joined in on condemnation, conveniently forgetting that just last month, a mob of around a thousand people besieged an Ahmadi place of worship in Chakwal – and we remained silent.
Do we stand united to protest against targeted attacks on minorities? Not really. When was the last time we raised funds for rehabilitation?
Recently, five social media activists who spoke out against state policies disappeared in Pakistan. Four of the five eventually returned home, only to leave the country soon after. But how many people protested when the bloggers went missing? Perhaps only a handful.
Similarly, disappearances of political activists remain unacknowledged. Whether it’s Karachi or Balochistan, the issue is swept under the rug leaving little room for victims to find justice.
In contrast, Trump’s travel ban on refugees and Muslims from seven countries has faced criticism from every quarter – regardless of race or religion. Americans stand unified against the controversial ban. Protests erupted all over the country, with people from all walks of life showing up at all major airports to show solidarity with the Muslims, and soon after, #LetThemIn began trending on social media.
Businesses like Google, Starbucks, AirBnB have officially sided with refugees, and have even decided to offer them jobs. A New York court blocked part of Trump’s executive orders, responding to a petition filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) while lawyers began working overtime, taking pro-bono cases to help stranded travellers at airports.
Furthermore, victims and organisations continue to sue the US president and the government while around 16 attorney generals condemned the travel ban. Former acting US Attorney General Sally Yates was even fired for refusing to enforce the ban on refugees as directed by Trump.
Meanwhile in Pakistan, finding justice in a state where blasphemy cases are a norm, for members of minority communities to manage to get an FIR registered is considered a win.
A nation that applauds its government’s decision to send Afghan refugees back, is infuriated by Trump’s executive order barring refugee immigration from war-torn countries. Hypocrisy much?
The state can make decisions it deems fit for the country’s betterment, as Trump argues that the travel ban will “make America safe again”. How we as a nation stand up for policies which violate human rights, begs the question: Are we insensitive or indifferent?
Niha Dagia is the Sub-editor at The Express Tribune and a Counselling Psychologist.