This suicidal madness
Published: August 1, 2011 - 13:10
The July edition of Hardnews on Pakistan got a fantastic response from our readers. The issue was different from other Indian publications as it gave space to diverse voices from Pakistan. What came across strongly in these writings was that contrary to the view repeated in a section of our media, Pakistan, despite its problems, was not going away in any hurry.
Despite earning accolades from our readers, we sense a big gap in our issue. We may have got the voices of sanity on the pages of our magazine, but not even a whisper from those who thrive in violence and atavism. As a newsmagazine we should have captured not what is desirable, but what is happening on the ground. Often our Boy Scout intentions end up colouring what we report. Pakistan is a good example.
Expectedly, Pakistan is obsessed with its own survival. Our coverage gave precedence to the views of the intelligentsia that worries over how a weak civilian government backed by a duplicitous army can fight off the monsters it may have created. They feel that the army has lost its ability to bring stability to a country ravaged by the desire of its generals to maintain strategic parity with India. Allying with the US in its war against terror has brutalised Pakistani society. Over the years, the sane sections of society have realised that nation-building is not about amassing weapons, but about strengthening the institutions that enhance the people’s collective welfare.
Sadly, although the desire for peace may reside in a majority, seldom does it influence the course of history. On the other hand, just a small sliver of people keep stoking the smouldering embers of ethnic and sectarian hatred for attaining their goals. As Yasmin Khan lucidly brings out in her seminal book on India’s Partition, ordinary people neither have a clue nor control of momentous life-changing decisions. They are just victims. Obviously, the logic of hate overrides the rationality associated with peace and amity.
Here is another example. When former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was reiterating India’s commitment to Pakistan’s unity from Minar-e-Pakistan at the historic Lahore Fort in 1999, their army was preparing to capture Kargil heights. Clearly, militarily engaging India in Kashmir and bringing the subcontinent to the brink of nuclear holocaust were more important to Pakistan’s generals than restoring peace in the region.
Unfortunately, this perverse logic seems to work all the time. It may not be visible to the uninitiated and the peaceniks, but there is a method in the way suicide bombs are going off in Pakistan and people are getting killed. The fear of the bomb is forcing the moderates to lean more on the army for survival, further devaluing the authority of the civilian government. Despite reports of radical Islamists infiltrating the Pakistani army, this powerful institution is still in control of the country and its government.
The Abbottabad raid may have been a setback to the army’s reputation, but it has managed to quickly recoup the lost ground. In order to enhance its image in the eyes of ordinary people, it has begun to cock a snook at the US government. Not only has it refused to have US advisors on the ground, it is also constricting the movement of CIA agents, who earlier had a free run. The manner in which Raymond Davies, a CIA contractor, was treated clearly shows that the US would no longer be allowed to have its say on matters that may hurt the army’s reputation as the protector of Pakistan’s national interest.
The US government’s decision to stop its $800 million military aid to Pakistan creates an impression that it is pulling away from its old ally. This is not entirely true. In fact, Pakistan is using Washington’s compulsions in Afghanistan to buttress its attempts to gain ‘strategic depth’. The spurt in violence in Kabul and other Afghan provinces is linked to hastening the US’s exit and engulfing the trouble-torn country in chaos.
All the lunacy visible on Pakistan streets would make sense once the US outsources the project of maintaining stability in Af-Pak to Pakistan’s army. What about peace talks between the two countries? They are relevant only to the extent of gaining international acceptability. The real story, which went unreported in our magazine, is about what the lunatic fringe in Pakistan is up to, and how that benefits Pakistan’s generals.