On December 13th, Ikram Sehgal a member of EWI’s board of directors and the chairman of Wackenhut Pakistan (Private) Ltd., one of Pakistan’s leading security companies, gave a talk at the institute on the “Three Biggest Misconceptions about Pakistan.”
First, Sehgal addressed the common fear that Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities are vulnerable to terrorists. “I know for a fact that Pakistan’s nuclear assets are safe,” said Sehgal, pointing out that there’s no evidence that the command structure guarding Pakistan’s nuclear assets includes Taliban sympathizers. Sehgal added that Arab countries say they feel threatened by Iran, but not by Pakistan: “Countries apart from India do not feel threatened.”
Second, Sehgal sought to refute the notion of Pakistan as an exporter of terror. Sehgal believes that this misconception is exacerbated by western leader’s pandering remarks to India: “Both Cameron and Merkel clearly were wooing the Indian leaders and public for crass commercial purposes,” said Sehgal.
Sehgal pointed out that many people wrongly associate Pakistan with Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, particularly given that no of the high ranking leaders of Al Qaeda are Pakistani. In Waziristan, said Sehgal, for every coalition soldier lost, Pakistan lost 11, including high ranking officers: “There is certainly terror in Pakistan, but it is not state sponsored.”
Third, Sehgal addressed the misconception of Pakistan as a failed state, underscoring the tendency of Western media to lump the entire nation into an Islamo-fascist entity. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Sehgal. “In this diverse nation of more than 170 million, Pakistan contains the entire spectrum of Islamic practice.”
Sehgal argued that the Western media enforces false stereotypes of government corruption and cooperation with the Taliban and Al Qaeda. And, conversely, fuels Pakistani conspiracy theories that the West is out to get them.
In a question-and-answer period following the talk, one participant asked Sehgal to address the fact that Pakistanis overseas have been involved in terrorist attacks.
“Within Pakistan, with educated young people, you won’t find the same virulent anti-western hatred that you find in the United Kingdom,” said Sehgal. “If you go to East London, you will find a lot of venom there.”
Just one more misconception about Pakistan that needed correction.