Pakistan’s Favorite Indians

By Ibn-e Eusuf

I still wish India success but now without much hope.

The point of the story is different from what the sentence seems to convey; and thereby hangs a tale. Let me explain.

When I was young I desperately wanted India to succeed. Looking at Pakistan, I could see it was a basket case, the quality of its leadership decaying at such a dizzying pace that the prospects of internally driven progress were non-existent. The only hope was in a miracle or in a dramatic breakthrough in India. The latter development would make Pakistan’s citizens see the light and make them demand change from its leaders who kept feeding the myth that Pakistan was doing better than India. Or so I thought, and so I prayed for India’s success.

Then I came across an old Russian fable about two poor peasants, Ivan and Boris. The only difference between them was that Boris had a goat and Ivan didn’t. One day, Ivan came upon a strange-looking lamp and, when he rubbed it, a genie appeared. She told him that she could grant him just one wish, and it could be anything in the world.

Ivan said, “I want Boris’ goat to die.”

It was then that I gave up hope although I saw no reason to stop wishing India success.

A lot of other things became clearer too – that after all is the power of fables – like Pakistan’s favorite Indians, for example.

Arundhati Roy is at the top of list, not because she is the author of A God of Small Things, which probably no more than half a dozen Pakistanis have read (alright, alright, double the number), but because she gives India hell. Arundhati ought to be India’s favorite Indian too, if you ask me, because she is amongst the few saying the things that need to be said. But despite all the progress India is making, the ability to listen to the truth remains severely limited. And Arundhati seems disinclined to communicate her message in a manner that would help it get across – she seems too enamored of hearing the thunder in her own voice.

Shabana Azmi is next on the list, not because she is probably the finest actress in South Asia (many more Pakistanis have been spellbound by her performances), but because she complained about not being able to rent an apartment in Mumbai. Which proves, doesn’t it, that all the talk about progress in India is just hype and India is in fact quite as bad and bigoted as Pakistan?

And, finally, Jaswant Singh has joined the ranks, not because he outsmarted the Pakistanis when he was in charge of Foreign Affairs, but because he has finally admitted what Indians knew all along but had been obdurately denying all these years – that Jinnah was a much greater leader than Nehru.

Once you have absorbed the fable of Boris and Ivan, the list of Pakistan’s favorite Indians makes perfect sense. Note that Manmohan Singh is not on the list. It is not that Pakistanis don’t know who Manmohan Singh is – they do very well – but Manmohan Singh is remembered in quite another way that illustrates the flip side of the fable of Boris and Ivan.

India is succeeding because of Manmohan Singh. And who gave Manmohan Singh to India? We did, we gave the smartest man in South Asia to India. And what did they give us in return? A fanatic like Zia ul Haq and a dimwit like Musharraf, both of whom suffered from the illusion they had been sent by God Almighty to do Her bidding. Evil Indians!

If India succeeds it would all be due to the munificence of Pakistan. Do you really believe they could have done it on their own?

Pakistan Paindabad.

I would like to thank Sohan Singh for the inspiration for this post.


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19 Responses to “Pakistan’s Favorite Indians”

  1. Vinod Says:

    I must admit – it took me some thinking to get the exact point of this post. Even then, I’m not sure if I did. Correct me if I’m wrong –

    It is a satire on the Pakistani outlook of India that tends to pick favourite Indian personalities based on how much it kills “India’s goat”.

    Did I get it right?

  2. Anil Kala Says:

    Bang on the dot I guess.

    But you would think Ivan was being stupid by not asking for two goats for himself. If he did, he would have ended up with none while Boris smiling with three goats. In real world Boris would have either stolen or bullied Ivan to hand over his goats.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Vinod: Going by Ibn-e Eusuf’s track record I would also assume the same.

      Anil: You have a point but therein lies the entire moral of the fable (and the applicability to India and Pakistan that, I presume, Ibn-e Eusuf intended). When one thinks negatively the world becomes very small and limited. Recall that the genie told Ivan she could grant him just one wish but it could be anything in the world. If Ivan had been positive but concerned about the possibility you raised he could have asked for two goats that Boris could not steal. Had he been positive and visionary he would have asked for mutual prosperity and good relations.

      We are limited only by our thinking. In school, we were told there were three types of minds – mud mind, clear mind, and sparkling mind – and the choice of which one to inhabit was ours.

      • Anil Kala Says:

        I suppose our natural instincts are driven by two objectives viz. self preservation and acquiring partner/s for mating. Running down an adversary may seem irrational but works fine for acquiring a mate. But this is at individual level. How it translates into a collective trait, beats me!

  3. Vikram Says:

    I dont know if a lot of work has been done on the topic of collective jealousy. On an individual level, jealousy often leads to a celebration of the ‘flaws’ of the object of jealousy. I guess that is just natural human behaviour. One can also not discount the general Indian (and South Asian) tendency to put others down.

  4. Anil Kala Says:

    ” A fanatic like Zia ul Haq and a dimwit like Musharraf, both of whom suffered from the illusion they had been sent by God Almighty to do *Her* bidding.”

    I always had problem giving shape to God, settled for a sphere. It looked same from everywhere. Thanks Ibn-e-Eusuf for presenting a ‘She’ God. I am told that basic form is female i.e. we are all born female until ‘Y’ control gene triggers transformation into a male. Some times it fires partially but on extremely rare occasions it fails to fire completely then we have a XY female. ‘XX’ can never be male. God has to be a female.

  5. Vijay Says:

    The post has a very thoughtful title and I immediately assumed it would make for a stimulating read. Ibn looses his way at some point in the middle. To imply that manmohan Singh is the architect of India’s modest economic achievements betrays a lack of knowledge of India’s political functioning. The country is a perfect, functioning kakistocracy.

    Perhaps we could have a post on India’s favourite Pakistanis? I know Imran Khan would top that list.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Vijay: I didn’t read the post the same way. I doubt Ibn’s intention was to provide a scholarly analysis of India’s economic achievements or its political functioning. He seems more to try to capture a general sentiment in which one side will not even let the other take credit for its success. It will try and appropriate it by some specious argument.

      What is a kakistocracy?

      I think the Pakistan-India relationship is quite asymmetrical. I doubt too many Indians would think of listing favorite Pakistanis.

  6. Vijay Says:

    Kakistocracy is a wonderful term. It means government by the least qualified and most corrupt.

  7. Vikram Says:

    Wonder what Ibn-E-Yusuf thinks of Manmohan Singh now. :)

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Vikram: I can’t speak for Ibn-e Eusuf but I think plausible answers to your question are possible. First, it is possible for a person to be a very good technocrat and a quite ordinary politician. Congress might have made a mistake in elevating Manmohan Singh to the PM’ship because the people had not elected him for that job. Second, it is possible for a very competent person to lose competency over time; people can become slow or senile. Third, even a major failure cannot take away credit from a singular accomplishment of the past.

      I suppose some of this must be going though MS Dhoni’s mind now!

      • Vikram Says:

        I actually think that elevating MMS to PM was a smart move. It accomplished two things, it won the Congress middle class support and it elevated Sonia Gandhi’s stature. I think the Congress has just lost it, a resounding victory lead to arrogance which lead to incompetence. Also, the alliances with the DMK and NCP (both of which are highly corrupt by Indian standards) was useful in the short term but has created problems in the long term.

        • SouthAsian Says:

          Vikram: At that time most people shared that opinion. I suppose, the insiders should have had a better assessment of the political capabilities of MMS. Or perhaps, that was the best option available at that time despite the political limitations. It is hard for outsiders to know for sure. Could a transition have been made at the beginning of the second term? The problem seems to be that Congress doesn’t have a credible and consensus replacement except Rahul who does not inspire much confidence.

          I keep thinking that the underlying governance framework is that of a monarchy. Rahul is the heir apparent and because he is not ready, a Regent is acting in his stead. Do you think that if Rahul fails, Priyanka would be drafted in, just as her father was?

          • Vikram Says:

            I think PG will come in at some point, but I am not quite sure how. A lot of things RG and SG have tried to do have actually been alright, reviving the youth congress, inner party elections. I still think there is enough talent in their top ranks. And I think they will probably give AK Antony a shot as PM before RG.

  8. Ashraf Tayyabi Says:

    The post seems to be reflective of the most common discord that Pakistan has, ever since its creation. The Mohajir vs the non-mohajirs discord. Ibn-e-Eusef is simply complaining about India sending Pakistan some inept leaders who were Mohajirs and his home country parting with the smartest man (as he calls Dr. Manmohan).

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Ashraf: In my opinion, you missed the point of the article by reading it too literally. Ibn-e Eusuf is not complaining at all; he is describing a streak in the Pakistani mindset that attributes all of Pakistan’s problems to India and all of India’s success to Pakistan. That is an exaggeration, no doubt, but one intended to make a point about a tendency the author believes exists in Pakistan.

  9. MM Says:

    In recent times I have been following Pakistani’s on the net. It really pains me. Admittedly many Indians are rabid anti-Pakistan too. However we seem to have a lot more things going on in our hearts than religion based ideologies or aspirations. Most would wish Pakistan was never created but, few wish Pakistan got wiped out. Arundhati Roy is brilliant but she can’t take us far. Our sympathies are with Shabana for that experience but most Muslims here have to completely blend. And that means looking at the mirror too. We all felt Nehru had his failings but so did Jinnah. Just for too long are Pakistanis trying to validate the creation of their country and that too by finding faults with us. No nation is a collection of pure souls. People have to evolve as a civilisation. That involves writing off a lot many of angst & grudges. Why perpetuate the cold war concept?

  10. Indian Says:


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