Offensive interference

  • When going too far means going out of one’s bounds


Many nations- some more than others- now agree, at least in principle, that it is wrong to cause offence to groups of people, and that their actions and language should reflect this resolve. Although the idea seems to have bypassed the current inmate of the White House who has said, among many other things, that “if you need Viagra you’re with the wrong girl.” It is now no longer politically correct to, for example, call mentally disabled persons ‘retarded’, instead of a person with ‘special needs.’ One does not use the word ‘negroes’ because that term carries too much baggage from a past where persons of colour where abused and allowed to be so. The correct term is now ‘black’.

However, political correctness itself can become a tool in manipulative hands. Justin Trudeau’s black-face for example, a youthful gaffe, has been used strategically at election time by a media greedy for a scoop.

Although one may express an opinion, it is not one’s job to interfere in the values of others, certainly not to be offensive about them. If this point were understood in this country, it would be transformed into an infinitely better place.

Universities in Pakistan seem to be particularly prone to such interference, which, other than being offensive can be acutely embarrassing. Earlier this year Bahria University issued a directive that male and female students ‘must maintain a six-inch distance from each other at all times.’ You wonder if 5 and ¾ inches would incur a penalty, and who is lumbered with the task of walking around with a ruler to perform those measurements. Respecting personal space is right, and it must be observed as a norm, but it cannot be enforced by directives.

The most incredible and recent is a notification (since rescinded), issued by an official of Bacha Khan University which has claimed that ‘un-Islamic, un-cultural relationships’ are on the rise in the University. It has therefore banned the ‘coupling’ of male and female students, and any ‘correspondence’ between the two. Let’s not even go into the incorrect use of words here.

Certain Eastern cultures are both too conservative where gender issues are concerned and too liberal in matters of personal privacy. There is also a lack of awareness regarding when public statements verge on slander, or sheer nonsense

In their obsession with sex, persons fail to understand that each gender has wisdom to offer to the other and it would be a shame, not to mention impossible, to prevent this exchange. This applies in day-to-day matters as well as in academic. Besides, how do you prevent ‘correspondence’ between the sexes in a university that enrols both? Is a group assignment subject to disapproval? What about a thesis jointly produced by a student of either gender? Or a plain get-together between friends over a cup of tea?

If the credibility of governments rests on the persons they appoint to office then since 18 April 2019, this present government in Pakistan is sunk because that it is when the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Information and Broadcasting came into office under the PTI flag, after holding office successively as a member of the PML-Q and the PPP. Each of those other tenures were equally replete with her gem-like utterances, such as when the good (medical) doctor was federal minister for national regulations and services in a previous government and failed to appreciate that Adalat-30 was a time release capsule. This very basic lack of knowledge had dire consequences for certain personnel, and only the Minister herself appeared to have moved on to greener pastures, such as becoming the advisor to the PM in the present government.

She has now ‘blasted’ and ‘flayed’ (not her terms, they’re simply favourites with our media so it is incumbent to use them) Malala Yousafzai and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy for doing nothing about the crisis in Kashmir. Before this the SAPM had cracked a joke or two about the recent earthquake that rocked the northern parts of the country in which many lives were lost.

What prompts people to step so outrageously out of their remit, and just what allows them to be so offensive?

It is expected that some mutual rules of interaction should be adhered to. Pakistanis today appear to be not well-versed in these rules. Certain Eastern cultures are both too conservative where gender issues are concerned and too liberal in matters of personal privacy. Men and women in Pakistan for example are awkward interacting with each other, whereas in public they will persist in stepping over the mark with regards to physical personal space among strangers, such as in queues. There is also a lack of awareness regarding when public statements verge on slander, or sheer nonsense.

Such things must be taught in schools and of course in homes. But you do expect people in public office to be aware of them, which they are not.