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Dr. Afridi’s Punishment in Pakistan


A few days back the news that Dr. Afridi, who assisted USA in hunt for Osama Bin Laden, was published and it caused outrage in USA. Leon Panetta, USA secretary of defense, went on to admonish the Pakistan government. Some senators proposed a cut in Pakistan aid by about a million dollars per year of punishment to Dr. Afridi. Journalists wrote angry articles and newscasters complained about the harshness of judgement.

The feeling of Americal outrage is understandable. America is pouring a lot of money into Pakistan and in return they expect some commitment to their cause. The fact that Osama was hiding in Pakistan and Pakistanis are punishing the doctor who helped in catching him is seen as serious breach of that committment.

However there is other side to this story. It is called human nature. No matter how noble for mankind of how beneficial for Pakistani society the doctor’s work is. The fact that it happened without Pakistani control makes the nation feel highly uncomfortable. It is all about control our one’s destiny. We don’t want good things to just happen to us, we want to be able to control our destiny. In case of Dr. Afridi, what he did may or may not be good for the nation of Pakistan, but the fact that they were not able to control his spying on behalf of CIA is what drives Pakistani discomfort.

Then there is something to be said about saving face. That is huge part of Eastern cultures. In case things go wrong, people want to be able to save face and still walk out with some respect.

This is why the drone campaigns were so successful. With the drone attack, the Pakistani government could launch a formal protest and save face. CIA could maintain silence, neither deny nor acknowledge the drone attack. Everyone was happy. With the troops on ground attack in Abbotabad, this kind of face saving was not an option.

Unfortunately any wiggle room for opponent to save face means reduced potential of political mileage for politicians. Giving such wiggle room to other party to save face means you risk to appear soft.  There is no drama. You can’t score brownie points from voters.

This need to save face, the need to deal with a gaping hole in self-esteem, is sometimes hard to understand for a country like USA, which does not have a lot of history baggage, and has one after another world changing achievements, like landing man on moon, stacked in showcase. But this struggle is far too familiar to all countries that were colonized for long time and are still forming their identity as a nation in the new world. If the history is not exactly all glory, and the present brings problems such as widespread poverty, you would want to hold on to every bit of pride you can hold on.

This why countries want to have nuclear program. It’s not the deterrent value, but it’s the prestige that comes with owning a nuclear weapons is what they want. And once USA and European countries launch a campaign against their nuclear ambitions, it becomes even more alluring. Because then the country gets an added badge of defying the powerful nations.

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One Response

  1. The news needs an update

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