Dear Mr. Grieve,
I'd like to tell you a true story. It goes like this....
I was 14 and absorbed in my thoughts. I hadn't heard his approaching footsteps and panicked when I heard my Pakistani father's angry voice say "Tahreem, what are you doing?" I looked at him, frightened and responded "Nothing!" "Don't lie Tahreem. If you tell this one lie, you will have to tell many other lies--that you can't even imagine right now--for the sake of protecting this lie. It will be a burden on you and it will hurt you. So, tell me honestly, what were you doing?"
My father indoctrinated me with an unshakeable belief in honesty. He is known far and wide as a fair and honest man. One of his employees, an Indian man, believes my father to be his guru and never fails to send sweets to our home on Eid and Diwali. You can imagine, Mr. Grieve, that your remarks casting Pakistanis as endemically corrupt were immensely hurtful to me - and to over a million Pakistanis in the UK. But the offense isn't just to Pakistanis.
That the UK's most senior law officer be making reckless remarks based on ill-informed 'general impressions' is incredibly ironic and an immense affront to anyone who believes in fair process.
To demonstrate just how flawed general impression can be, I utilize the UK's Electoral Commission's explanation of where people get their information to form general impressions on electoral fraud - one form of corruption:
• Media and second hand information passed on by word of mouth are key sources of information that affect people's perceptions of electoral fraud.
• The media has the potential to shape public perceptions, understanding and levels of concern about electoral fraud. But poorly-founded media reporting can present a distorted image and, through the sensationalisation of cases, may simply heighten public concern.
• Very few people appear to have had any first hand experience of electoral fraud.
Are distorted general impressions the state of fact gathering in the UK? Believe me, Pakistanis curse the perpetrators that give us a bad name, Mr. Eshaq Khan included - 3.5 years pronounced for him in jail pales in comparison to the anger we feel. But we believe that the law was fairly applied in coming to its judgment about him and others like him. We believe in the rule of law. And it is for this belief that a line must exist between salient scandals and an opinion about an entire community. It is both depressing and shocking that you, the most senior law officer of the UK, did not draw such distinction.
"Papa, you're honest, I'm honest, and the majority of Pakistanis we know are as honest as anyone else. So why doesn't Pakistan reflect this?" I once asked my father.
"You see Tahreem, most people are like this- but the systems are not there to make things fair for everyone in Pakistan. Honesty in a fair world translates to opportunity, but in an unfair world, honesty spells your exploitation. Once you introduce unfairness, everyone becomes cowardly and rushes to protect themselves. Hardly anyone has the courage to take a personal loss for the sake of honest society. That's what leaders are supposed to do, but so many of our leaders are absorbed in personal gain at the expense of honest society."
Mr. Grieve, I had hoped things were different in the UK.
You have apologized for your comments: 'If I gave the impression that there is a particular problem in the Pakistani community, I was wrong ... I believe the Pakistani community has enriched this country a great deal as I know full well from my extensive contact with the community over a number of years ... I'm sorry if I have caused any offence.' Thank you for saying that.
But the problem, Mr. Grieve, is that hardly anyone believes you because singling out Pakistanis is exactly what you did and your reckless remarks fit into and further perpetuate very harmful stereotypes. Benedict Brogan of the Telegraph, who originally interviewed you, went so far as to completely dismiss your apology and label it dishonest politics.
I want to believe you Mr. Grieve. I would like to name a future scholarship fund for Pakistani students at UK universities who contribute to integration efforts of minorities in the UK: the Grieve Pakistani Students Scholarship. It would be a symbol of your belief in the enriched value of a multicultural UK, a testimony of your commitment to right your wrong and mitigate the harm done. Mr. Grieve, you can and should do more to demonstrate what you believe - I hope you will give your name to this cause.
I apologize for the delay in sending my letter - I was busy with school and work, my part of the £30B GDP contribution that Pakistanis make to the economy. As for what I was doing to deserve a reprimand from my father? I was picking at the tandoori chicken my mom had strictly reserved for the guests that were coming over. "My God papa, I'm just trying it! Does this really warrant a life lesson?" He laughed. Then he took my chicken leg and devoured it! The End.
Follow Tahreem Arshad on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TahreemIt