Little response to MMA’s call for US boycott
By Hasan Mansoor
KARACHI: The religious parties’ campaign to encourage the boycotting of US products is failing to gain momentum in the country, although US based companies are taking precautionary security measures.
“Of course, we have taken measures for our security,” said Amin Lakhani, the chief executive officer of the McDonald’s food chain in Pakistan. He said business was slightly affected, but this was part of a general phenomenon related to Western products.
American Business Council’s Secretary General Riffat Ali Hashmi said, “The issue is too sensitive and I cannot comment”. A senior official of a leading American bank, requesting anonymity, said security measures to deal with the situation had been taken, for the staff and buildings. “As far as business is concerned, it is quite normal and none of our customers have closed their accounts in the bank,” he added.
After the beginning of the Iraq war last month, religious parties started a campaign against Western products, asking people to buy Pakistani, or non-American, products. A list of 86 products manufactured by various US-based multinationals had been prepared and categorised on a pamphlet, the copies of which are still being distributed across the country. The products include soft drinks, different brands of tea, tinned milk, ghee, edible oils, soaps, detergents, shampoos, creams, body lotions, toothpastes, foodstuff, shoes and stationery. The pamphlet asks people not to patronise US food outlets, which include Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), Pizza Hut, McDonald’s and Mac Burger. The pamphlet also appeals to the account-holders of Citibank, Bank of America, American Express and Standard Chartered Bank to close their accounts and deposit their money in Pakistani banks instead.
The pamphlet is titled: ‘Please do not shoot me, I am a Palestinian child’. The child, whose picture is not given, says: ‘Most American companies are owned by Jews. When you purchase these products, a big portion of your money goes to Israel, through which it buys weapons and kills us.’ The pamphlet also carries a purported appeal by the Imam-e-Ka’aba asking the Muslim world not to purchase American and Israeli products. However, the Imam has issued no such decree, and it was the sheikh of Egypt’s al-Azhar University who issued the fatwa on November 29, 2000, which said American goods were prohibited by Islam because of the US stance of supporting Israel. “We launched a formal campaign against American products after the US-led coalition forces attacked Iraq on March 20,” the secretary general of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) Maulana Fazlur Rehman, said during his visit to Karachi last month. “We can live without using these products and we have better substitutes already.” Mr Rehman said that in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), where the religious alliance rules that the boycott was part of a government-sponsored programme to express solidarity with the Iraqi people. “Publishing pamphlets against the products manufactured by the American companies run by the strong Jewish lobby is part of the campaign that we have devised meticulously to get our people to know that what they are purchasing and using is made of the blood of our Muslim brothers, sisters and children,” said MMA’s Sindh Chief Asadullah Bhutto.
Leaders like Maulana Azam Tariq also led a similar rally in Karachi last week and asked the people to boycott US products. Ironically, organisers of the rally were serving “US soft drinks” to the leaders and the media.
Intelligence officials, who say that the campaign has not received a boost, said they did not rule out its effect to appear later.