mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Pakistani Parlance
"Self-Censorship, Or An Attempt To Mimic Ostriches"

One of our regular contributors here at The American Interest, Saim Saeed, who earlier this month penned a review of Husain Haqqani’s recent memoir, also works for the Express Tribune in Karachi. Though you’re forgiven for not keeping up with Pakistani media, Saim’s editorial on his country’s penchant for euphemisms is a nice quick read this Sunday:

I don’t know whether it is the postcolonial remnants of Victorian propriety, self-censorship, or an attempt to mimic ostriches, but in Pakistan, we have a bizarre proclivity to euphemise things.

Newspaper readers would be familiar with the ‘encounters’ that take place between law enforcement agencies and ‘miscreants’ on a daily basis in Karachi. Lethal gunfights against vicious criminals are distilled to sound as if two people bumped into each other fortuitously. But we read about far more than encounters in our newspapers. A rape shall heretofore be referred to as an ‘incident’. So will sexual harassment — ‘eve-teasing’ if you really want to be specific. Ask any woman who was verbally and physically assaulted in the workplace, on the streets, or at home, and she will tell you that ‘eve-teased’ would be the word to describe her ordeal. […]

We bend reality, and then reality bends us. We would rather hit ourselves with a certain garden tool than call it what it is. In Pakistan, ‘incidents’ and ‘encounters’ save us from recognising the literally unacceptable erosion of our moral eyesight — and ultimately our society.

Read the whole thing.

Features Icon
show comments
© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service