As we have conversations about white privilege, gora complex, fake accounts pretending to be tourists, and the weight of the opinions anyone with a lighter skin tone holds in the country — two white men living in Pakistan, Richard Harris and George Fulton, have decided to debate who is allowed to have an opinion about the country.
Before announcing the 'Mother of All Debates,' both men had been critiquing each other on social media. They finally decided to face off in a debate and decide once and for all whether they should be allowed to speak about Pakistan as much as Pakistanis.
The podcast was moderated by comedian Shehzad Ghias, who interacted with the audience and posed questions. He also introduced Harris as a white man offended at being categorised as a "paid propaganda-ist" when he tried to present the good side of Pakistan.
For context, Harris has been lumped in the Cynthia Ritchie category by Fulton.
He likened him to a paid bot. Fulton, of George Ka Pakistan fame, had later accused Harris of being paid to voice these opinions.
"What really got to me was that when someone accuses someone of being paid to push a narrative or express their views, I just find it very offensive," Harris began.
"Why is it so difficult for people to comprehend that someone can have a right of centre view of Pakistan, someone can be pro-fauj or someone can have what people say, extra patriotic views about Pakistan? What's so strange about that? Can these views not be held independently? Is Pakistan so unlovable that if someone expresses these views, people are surprised by it?" he questioned.
Belgian Harris went on to reveal that he came to Pakistan as a seven-year-old and is Pakistani. Since his kids are living and studying here, he is passionate about the country's conditions, transitioning from London to Lahore during Covid period.
Fulton, who is a Brit, is in a similar situation. Having been here for 20 years, he referred to the country as a "child" he'd want to see succeed and wish the best for. "At times you are critical of it and at times you tell it off for making mistakes and those who say you can't criticise a country are only advocating nationalism."
The audience was clearly enjoying the debate
Writer Bina Shah had some observations.
While Harris had a fanbase of his own.
However, one thing that was specifically concerning was Harris adamant on critiquing the Aurat March, saying that it was his opinion to not support it. He also said that asking him not to discredit the experiences of women would be close to fascism.
While that's not how it works and any 'opinion' concerning the rights and livelihood of a particular people is not really 'just an opinion,' the explanation fell on deaf ears. Fulton on the other hand, ended up recognising his privilege and admitting that he was only taken so seriously because of his skin colour and gender.
"But patriotism isn't about believing your country is always right," he added, saying that his critique comes from a place where he wishes the country would improve for a better future.
After going around in circles, it all boiled down to one major question at the end — should two white male cisgender and obviously privileged men be allowed to pass critiques on Pakistan and the conditions its people face? Should the opinions of two foreign men be the barometer by which we judge the state of the country? And are their own opinions somehow less relevant because of the colour of their skin?