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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Speaking of Spies

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: March 29, 2012

I had no idea that we were so challenged when it came to separating fact from fiction. So Bollywood came up with a desi James Bond, if you will, called Agent Vinod, and our feelings were hurt. Our gifted patriots decided that it was not worthy of being shown at the movie theatres in Pakistan. There seems to be some sort of bashing of the spy agency of Pakistan. My simple question is: so what? Isn’t a movie a story, a piece of fiction?

The Bollywood star Saif Ali Khan defended his flick by saying that there was an element of evil on both sides. It is that evil that prevents both sides from sustaining healthy neighbourly relations. Heck, his lady love in real life, playing the same role in the movie, portrays a Pakistani spy agent. Fair enough, I get it, but our patriots were offended and so we did the usual boycott.

Of course, another befitting response could have been summoning one of our Lollywood supremos to churn out our very own version called Agent Momin, but maybe I am the one volunteering this great idea. Our own desi studs, Shaan and Moammar Rana can fit into the die quick. Add a few raunchy numbers filmed at Bari or Evernew Studios by a heavy duty damsel in usual distress, and you have a perfect recipe for a blockbuster. Coming soon to an empty theatre near you.

But in any event one has to ask the patriotic crowd, ever heard of a thing called DVD? The so-called offensive flick will be on that disc fairly soon and in most small screens at home. So what is all the brouhaha about? I remember when Tere Bin Laden, a Bollywood comedy, was banned for similar reasons. Never mind it had our own lad Ali Zafar in it. It had nothing to do with the real Mr bin Laden, but his name was more than enough to cause panic and hysteria.

Speaking of the late Mr bin Laden, now some serious talk. There is allegedly a Dr Afridi in custody for tipping off the Americans about his whereabouts. The details are quite murky, but one has to still view it with some objective thought processes. Dr Afridi is being labelled as a spy working for US intelligence. If I had the power to award him with the highest civilian honour possible, I would. If, in fact, his ‘tip’ led to the end of a terror czar, then he deserves praise not disdain. But, as always, we are the ‘Upside Downistan’.

Many brainy and brilliant writers have delved into this subject. Two of my personal favourites, Feisal Naqvi and Ejaz Haider, presented their verdict in a popular daily. Mr Naqvi, arguing like a typical legal eagle, made a compelling case chiming with this scribe’s opinion. Mr Haider countered Mr Naqvi’s position by providing a rebuttal and terming Dr Afridi culpable for aiding a foreign government on Pakistani soil. In Mr Haider’s analysis, he cited a precedent of the US president of not pardoning an American who was convicted of spying for the friendly nation of Israel.

Mr Haider provides a very detailed analysis. Not in ten lifetimes can I ever be as creative, or have command over words like him. However, I humbly disagree with his account. His article did not encompass the real culprits, who provided a house, a lair, a palace for the fallen ex-mujahid. Being his fan, when I persisted on Twitter, he relented that those people should be taken to task as well by the law. There lies the irony. We are shooting the probable inadvertent messenger, but not the real masterminds behind this grand embarrassment.

There are two scenarios. One is that Dr Afridi inadvertently supplied a sample of DNA, which became the prime reason for Mr bin Laden’s tracking and his eventual end. In my opinion, no harm, no foul. He should be rewarded for his honest mistake. The other scenario is that he deliberately supplied US intelligence with the sample and thus aided and abetted a foreign government on Pakistani soil. This is the premise of Mr Haider’s argument. This is where his extraordinary assumption, in my opinion, is flawed and his precedent inapplicable. Mr bin Laden was neither a Pakistani citizen, nor was he a lawful resident of Pakistan. In reality, an illegal alien, breaking the laws of Pakistan, residing without a visa. On top of that, Mr bin Laden had issued many warnings to Pakistan in his messages, so in essence he was an enemy of Pakistan too.

Being an international fugitive, he cannot be treated with the same legal protection that an ordinary Pakistani citizen enjoys. Being without a visa, he was devoid of rights that a sovereign government provides to a visitor or a resident. I agree that the US Navy Seals did not provide Mr bin Laden the due process that he perhaps deserved. But, based on the information available thus far, even if Dr Afridi aided the US, it was not to harm Pakistan or its citizens or its interests. He should still be revered and awarded recognition. Those who question his patriotism ought to ask the question of themselves, what would have they done? Go to the local authorities? I will let the readers guess what would have been the outcome of that honest attempt of a duty bound citizen in our ‘Upside Downistan’.

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