fiction and reality blur

I read with a degree of disbelief that the Pakistani government has complained to the Americans about the recent series of Homeland, which has just finished. They said that the TV programme had portrayed Pakistan, and the capital Islamabad, as a ‘grimy hell-hole’.

“Maligning a country that has been a close partner and ally of the US […] is a disservice not only to the security interests of the US but also to the people of the US,” Nadeem Hotiana, Pakistan Embassy spokesman, told the New York Post.

The Pakistani complaints  extended to other details such as failure to show beautiful green landscapes, and lack of veracity in use of Urdu language and accents.

This seems a particularly bizarre complaint from a government that has hardened its stance towards terrorists to the extent that it has ended its moratorium on the death penalty. Pakistan’s complaint relates to an entirely fictional programme that deals with the United States’ war on terror.

In real life Pakistan is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and of the United Nations, both of which are committed to complete abolition of the death penalty. A recent moratorium on capital punishment, agreed by the Pakistani government, was lifted just before Christmas. Two people were hanged as an immediate response to a terrorist attack that killed many schoolchildren, and the government made it clear that many more executions would follow, despite widespread international condemnation.

The robustness of Pakistan’s judicial system has frequently been questioned by campaigning groups such as Amnesty International and Reprieve, and the New York Times recently described Pakistan’s judicial system as having ‘systemic flaws.’

I suggest that executing people after trials of questionable fairness is an action that flies in the face of the global aspiration of the UN to abolish capital punishment and offer every citizen a fair trial. (Of course Pakistan is not alone in this; India continues to hang people, and there are still too many states in the US that use the death penalty despite ongoing evidence of miscarriages of justice.)

Complaining about how one’s country is depicted in a popular television series is less than reasonable when one’s current state sanctioned practices do not stand up to scrutiny. The United States should also examine the plank in its own eye before thinking about responding to criticism of Homeland.


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