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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Why does Pakistan behave like this ?

What behaviour, one may ask. That may best be explained by some of the ways Pakistan has been described in recent times, 'international migraine'(Madeline Albright), 'epicentre of terrorism' (Man Mohan Singh), 'a mortal threat'(Hillary Clinton), 'a fire inside its own house'(Pierre Lellouche, French Special Envoy for Af-Pak), "the headquarters of Al Qaeda’s senior leadership"(Gen. David Petraeus), 'main terrorist threat'(Lord Malloch-Brown, Foreign Office Minister for Africa and Asia, UK), 'the biggest source of instability'(Annual Review, IISS), 'a rat hole'(Howard L Berman, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman), 'epicentre of extremism'(Senator John F Kerry, Chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Committee), 'epicenter of global terror'(Country Report on terrorism, 2009, US State Department), '[hosting] more terrorists per square mile than any place else on earth'(Bruce Riedel), 'Wal-mart of proliferation' (El Baradei) etc.

And, yet, Pakistanis are not perturbed in the least by such epithets, adjectives and descriptions. They dismiss all these with a wave of their hand, as simply motivated attempts by infidels to run down the only Muslim country with nuclear weapons. Pakistanis are more concerned by the 'image' of honour and dignity rather than by real honour and dignity which unfortunately lies in tatters. Something is etched, imprinted deep in their minds and they are resolutely unwilling to shake it off or erase that and move on with times, redefining their goals and strategies. Why should they go to such extraordinary lengths of even placing the future of their nation in great peril ? At every crisis, they end up creating a bigger crisis for themselves, for their neighbours and the world at large because they resolutely cling to their false and manufactures pre-Independence theories and myths. They simply refuse to see the writing on the wall. Why should a nation be so irresponsible to itself and the rest of humanity ?

With great perspicacity, a former Spanish ambassador to Pakistan is said to have made this statement, in the 1960s, “. . . this country [Pakistan] will drift from crisis to calamity, from calamity to catastrophe, and from catastrophe to disaster.” While I derive no schadenfraude from what is happening in Pakistan today, one cannot but admire Perico, Duke of Amalfi, for his ability to look far ahead and so early too.

Pakistan has gone through a tortuous course since its Independence and almost all of that is its own making. Military coups, economic meltdowns, superpower playground, terrorism, fundamentalism, Islamic sectarianism, wars, secession, genocide, duplicity, fraud . . . you name it and Pakistan has done it all or is continuing to do them all with no signs of any abatement, in the span of six-and-a-half decades. What ails this country and why is it unable to unshackle itself from these vicious things that immobilize Pakistan from behaving like a normal nation state ?

In the context of the 'enduring hostility' between India-Pakistan (which should be more appropriately called, 'enduring-one-way-rivalry-with-India-by-Pakistan'), Pakistan went to war with India in 1947, 1948, 1965, 1971 (Western front) and 1999. In 1947, they could not achieve their goal of walking into Kashmir on October 26 to celebrate the Eid. In 1965, India went almost up to the outskirts of Lahore. In 1971, they lost more than half their nation within a fortnight and India took 93,000 PoWs (Prisoners of War). In 1999, they had to seek American intervention to extricate themselves after suffering massive casualty that even led to revolts in some places within Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). So, what did they learn from these various wars and defeats ? Nothing, would be the only answer. A revisionist Pakistan, instead of re-aligning its goals vis-a-vis the status-quo power India, decided to simply do more of the ruinous same after every calamitous outing. More money was therefore spent for the military at the direct cost of the welfare of the people of the impoverished country.

The policymakers of Pakistan realized quite early that Pakistan could not defeat India militarily and hence went in for military pacts with other powers to achieve their irredentist dreams against India. This brought Cold War to the Indian subcontinent in the 50s. The devastating 1971 defeat taught the Pakistanis to go in for nuclear weapons even if the people were 'to eat grass', and employ jihadi terrorism as an instrument of state policy. The 'secret jihad' that Pakistan has been waging against the Indian state since c. 1947, got further impetus after the US set up the Bear Trap for the Soviets in Afghanistan with Pakistani assistance in c. 1979. The mujahideen tanzeems and their tactics were transferred to the eastern front of Pakistan after c. 1989. The euphoria that followed this event made even a moderate leader like Ms. Benazir Bhutto thunder “Azadi, Azadi, Goli chalao” (Freedom, Freedom, Shoot) in a public meeting in Muzzafarabad (POK). The 1999 defeat taught Pakistan to give a lot more support to terrorism against India using non-state actors, to subvert a growing Indian economy through fake Indian curreny notes (FICN) etc. The new CEO of Pakistan Gen. Musharraf, who came via a military coup, said in Muzzafarabad on February 5, 2000 that jihad had decisively shifted from Afghanistan to Kashmir. What he meant was probably the whole of India, not Kashmir alone, because it was in his regime that too many audacious terrorist attacks were mounted on various cities of India by the ISI. After the events surrounding 9/11, the Pakistani Army and its notorious intelligence agency, the ISI, have even given up all pretensions to their earlier policy of 'plausible deniability' and have been openly involved in supporting the terror activities against India by the various jihadi tanzeems. Thus, the French proverb Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (The more it changes, the more it remains the same) fits the Pakistani situation exceedingly well.

While it will be too difficult to find a single silver bullet or even possibly several of them for such incredulous behaviour by Pakistan, one must look deep into the background to the creation of Pakistan itself to partially understand today's events.

By the turn of the Twentieth Century, the Muslims were acutely aware of the fact that they had seen better days and their glory was on the wane irrecoverably. The previous two centuries had seen the European powers like Great Britain, Russia, and France vanquish Muslim rulers in India, Central Asia and parts of North Africa respectively. By early Twentieth Century, the Ottoman Empire was disintegrating. Muslims all over the world, and especially in India, were introspecting and came to the conclusion that their misfortune was because of moving away from Islam. In India, Emperor Akbar’s accommodation of Hindu philosophy had already raised the ire of the fundamentalists. The backlash came swiftly in the form of his successor Emperor Aurangazeb who implemented a strict form of Islam and treated the Hindus as dhimmi. Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi, who was a religious teacher of Aurangazeb, ensured fundamentalist ideas were firmly entrenched in governance. This later led to the emergence of such hardcore fundamentalists as Sheikh Waliullah and Ahmed Berelvi who took his volunteers to Afghanistan border to fight the British and the Sikh kings, in an act reminiscent of Prophet Muhammad’s hijra from Makkah to Medinah. The Afghan borders have never been the same after this emigration by Ahmed Berelvi. While some Muslims raged at their impotence to fight the British, others plotted to regain power through an association with the British. The Indian muslims were thus divided into two groups. The First War of Independence in c. 1857 by Indian soldiers (in fact, many would say that the First War of Independence was in c. 1807 when sepoys mutineed in the Vellore Fort) under the flag of the Mughal ruler, Bahadur Shah Zafar and the ruthless manner it was put down followed by his deportation to Burma where he died eventually unsung, created revulsion in the minds of Indian Muslims. Later in c. 1915, a Deobandi cleric Ubaidullah Sindhi was sent to Afghanistan to contact the Turkish and German missions there and organize an uprising against the British in India. However, the Afghan King, Habibullah Khan, the son of the founder of modern Afghanistan Abd-ur-Rehman, refused to allow any anti-British plots from the Afghan soil. In c. 1920, when the Khilafat Movement in India was at its peak, several thousand Indian Muslims wanted to emigrate from the British-ruled Dar-ul-Harb to Muslim-ruled Afghanistan of Dar-ul-Aman but this time too, the Afghan Government, led by Amir Amanuallah Khan, son of Habibullah Khan, turned them back.

The Berelvi (also known as Ahl-e-Sunnat) influence in Pakistan was widespread in 1947. Slowly, that influence was overtaken by Deobandi and later Wahhabi interests. The Deobandi influence began to wax when the Deobandi clerics overwhelmed Liaquat Ali Khan and succeeded in passing the Objectives Resolution (‘Qarardad-e-Maqasid’) in the Pakistani Constituent Assembly in c. 1949. The Wahhabi influence began to wax when the Saudi oil money began to play an important role in Pakistan consequent to the Afghan jihad.

(To be Continued . . .)


  1. For your first para,

    "the cancer is in Pakistan,” President Barack Obama (quoted in Obama's War by Bob Woodward).