Follow by Email

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What do Pakistanis perceive about their National Security ? Part III

This is the last concluding part in this series.

In the two previous posts I had discussed about international isolation of Pakistan and the lack of control over non-state actors. I argued that while international isolation of Pakistan was true, the concept of 'non-state actors' was a fig leaf to cover the state's employment of jihadi terrorists through the Pakistani Army (PA) against India especially and other nations as well. I also argued that the apparent lack of control over the 'non-state actors', which the Group-of-50 commented about {"Seeing Beyond Perceptions" in The Nation }, was simply an internecine feud (or, more precisely the Fourth Jihad since c. 1979).

The Group-of-50 went on to say, analyzing the current situation, that there were other important national security concerns such as penetration of foreign influence in Pakistan's domestic media, lack of Pakistan's outreach to international media, and the ability of foreign intelligence agencies to penetrate into Pakistan's socio-political fabric.

Let us now look at some of these other concerns.

    Penetration of foreign influence in Pakistan's domestic media

I am really at a loss to understand what the group meant by domestic media being influenced by foreign entities. The following enjoyed by the English-language-media is abysmally low in Pakistan, a country dominated by vernacular press. This is true of both the print and the electronic media. There is nothing surprising in this as it is true of almost any other country. The factors that distinguish the vernacular Pakistani media from similar media in most other countries are their utter lack of objectivity, their extremism, crudeness and excess dependence on exotic conspiracy theories. Among the vernacular media, it is the Urdu media that rules the roost within Pakistan. Anybody who has followed the Pakistani TV news channels or the Urdu newspapers and weeklies would know how virulent and venomous their views are. They echo the jihadi mindset and act as mouthpieces of these extremist organizations spinning out conspiracy theories to suit their viewpoint. The excellent English-language weekly, The Friday Times, published from Lahore has a section devoted to the Urdu press which it aptly calls as 'Nuggets from the Urdu Press', standing in mute testimony to the characteristics of the Urdu media in Pakistan that I have listed above. Late last year, Pakistan's only 24X7 English news channel, Express 24/7 closed shop as it could not be made "self-sustaining from a financial and commercial standpoint". English-language newspapers are read by less than 1% of the population and their circulation numbers are peanuts (to borrow from Gen. Zia-ul-Haq) compared to their Urdu counterparts. Apart from these dailies, weeklies and fortnightlies, there is a significant circulation of jihadi material from various jihadi terrorist tanzeems. For example, Jama'at-ud-Dawah (JuD, better known as Lashkar-e-Tayba or LeT) publishes a weekly newspaper, Ghazwa and a monthly magazine Majalah al Dawa which circulate 200,000 copies. Maulana Masood Azhar's Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) publishes a weekly magazine Zarb-i-Momin and the sectarian terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi(LeJ) publishes Intiqam-i-Haq. True to its deviant nature, all these publications are banned in Pakistan but are freely available in news stalls in addition to being distributed by volunteers. Moreover, GoP (Government of Pakistan) has not taken any effort to seize these material or prevent their distribution. That is the usual Pakistani perfidy. Besides, Pakistan has been the deadliest nation for journalists in c. 2010, a distinction it appears to have easily retained in c. 2011 as well with some high profile assassinations (such as Syed Saleem Shahzad of Asia Times Online or Wali Khan Babar of Geo News TV), attacks against and kidnappings of journalists who were considered as not toeing the line of the PA, the ISI and the terrorist groups, and attacks against offices of private TV channels, and local Press Clubs.

I would therefore assume that when the Group-of-50 talk of 'foreign influence of local media', they refer to the widespread viewership of Indian entertainment channels in Hindi and the Hindi movies. The Group-of-50 might have thought of these as 'cultural invasion' by India aimed at subverting the nation from within. The central concern, from demanding a separate Muslim electorate (from Viceroy Minto in c. 1904) to the demands for keeping 'Indian cultural invasion' at bay, is the exclusivist policy of the founding fathers of Pakistan and their successors. This exclusion is hoped by the 'Establishment' and the clerics to preserve the purity of this Islamic nation, a la Nazis who had similar notions of Aryan purity under Adolf Hitler. It has been said that the Nazis were radicals in the garb of the traditionalists. In their scheme of things based on the Aryan Master Race, moral obligations are owed only to them but not to the inferior races. The Nazi attack on the Jews stemmed from their presumption that they were superior and were committing all atrocities (which to them were glorious deeds) for the common good of the superior community. The genocide by the Pakistani Army in the then East Pakistan is along similar lines as the holocaust that killed millions of Jews in Nazi Germany. Apart from the hatred for the infidel Hindus, it was the contempt that the 'meat-eating, tall, fair and handsome' West Pakistanis had for the 'rice-and-fish eating, small, dark and ugly' Bengalis that drove the policy makers in West Pakistan and the West Pakistani army to launch a massive genocidal programme. Pakistani clerics associate any perceived “moral decadence” such as music, dance, drama and films in Pakistan as a bad influence from India and un-Islamic. For most Pakistanis, dance forms like Bharatnatyam and Kathak which were once freely practised in these areas have become unIslamic and Gen. Zia-ul-Haq’s regime banned them and even today, one needs a government permission to stage a public dance programme.

It is obvious therefore that when the Group-of-50 laments about invasion of foreign influence in local media, they refer to the Indian influence. And, why do they think that Indian cultural influence is a concern for their national security ? The reason is not far to seek. The severest problem for Pakistan since independence has been its 'identity'. Jinnah, Iqbal and others divided India claiming that the Hindus and Muslims constituted two different nations because 'culture, civilization, language, literature, art, architecture, names, nomenclature, sense of value, proportions, legal laws, moral codes, customs, calendar, history, tradition, aptitudes and ambitions' all differed diametrically between these two. Unfortunately, this was largely untrue as Muslims of India were converts from Hinduism (like Jinnah or Allama Iqbal themselves) and were bound to India culturally, historically, geographically, civilizationally, linguistically, traditionally and in every other way possible. Having developed this fraudulent theory, Jinnah and his cohorts had to prove it and sustain it too. Thus, linkages with India needed to be shunned. Since “national identity” is derived from such things as culture, heritage, history, experiences etc. and since all these were inextricably linked with India, Pakistani leaders sought to redefine their 'identity'. Various organs of the Pakistani government therefore developed and propagated the myth of Pakistanis being of Central Asian or Middle Eastern or Turkish origin, depending upon circumstances or imagination, in order to avoid having anything to do with their “Indianness”.

It is this fear of people rediscovering their Indianness (especially Bhartiya) that drives the Group-of-50 to voice 'foreign influence in domestic media' as a security concern. The PA has skillfully exploited such paranoia and the repetition of the same by the Group-of-50 perhaps confirms my suspicion about who the sponsors of this group could be.

    Lack of Pakistan's outreach to international media

One needs to understand the Pakistani society to appreciate why the Group-of-50 thinks the above is a serious security concern. Pakistan is constrained by fierce notions of ghairat (honour) and izzat (dignity). Frequently, Pakistani politicians invoke ‘honour and dignity’ (H&D)to justify their actions. This is not surprising in a feudal and biradari (clannish affinity) based society dominated by landlords and tribal chiefs. This system is deeply entrenched and no attempt has been made to eliminate these practices. This is why there is still widespread use of such abominable evils as karo-kari, swara etc. and the Lahore High Court in circa 1994 allowed such murders as sanctioned by the Hadith. The court opined, “Although in existing laws there is no concession for momentary insanity but those implicated in ‘honour’ killings are worthy of some concession since ‘honour’ killings cannot be considered the same as a murder in cold blood.” { Ghulam Yasin Ghulam vs the State 1994 PLD 392 (Lahore)} Senators in the National and Provincial Assemblies have openly supported such honour killings to the point of even dismissing a gruesome case of burying alive in July 2008 of five women as natural and lawful tribal tradition. Honour is also the reason that even when the Pakistani military got defeated by India in various wars, they were depicted to the Pakistanis as great victories instead. And the people who had been brought up on the invincibility of Muslims and the cowardice of the Hindus simply gulped them without asking questions. The end result of the conflicts were presented as machinations by the evil Indians or the Western powers or an alliance of both.

Thus, after the surrender of 93000 Pakistani soldiers and on the eve of his departure to Simla for signing a Peace Deal and release of the PoWs (Prisoners-of-War), Z.A. Bhutto thundered about a thousand-year war with India. Upon his return to Lahore from Simla, he had the gall to say “We lost a political war and not a military engagement.” Ayub Khan’s ratio of ten Indian soldiers equaling one Pakistani soldier and Ms. Benazir Bhutto’s redefinition of the same ratio to a hundred as well as Musharraf’s assertion that Pakistani space scientists and engineers were better than those of the ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) and how Pakistanis speak better English than the Indians were attempts to preserve the honour and dignity.

It was in the same vein that the COAS of the Pakistani Army, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani handed over to the US Administration a 14-page set of demands during the strategic dialogue in Washington D.C. in October, 2010. This was eerily similar to the set of outrageous demands that the vanquished Pakistani Army asked Z.A. Bhutto to present to the victorious Indian leaders when there were 93,000 Pakistani POWs in Indian hands after the massive defeat and surrender in December, 1971. The ridiculous flag-lowering and gate-closing ceremony at the Wagah border every evening is another manifestation of the Pakistani H&D business. The Indian suggestion to do away with this ceremony altogether has been rejected by Pakistan because an important spectacle of H&D would then be lost to the Pakistani masses. Pakistanis believe that their H&D not only lies in presenting a better image of their nation than what is portrayed otherwise in international media, but most importantly, it lies in being portrayed as superior to India. That was why the slain Punjab Governor, Salman Taseer tweeted before his assassination that the Indians were making fools of themselves when an Indian rocket failed, forgetting other notable Indian achievements in space science and technology for several decades now and that failures are not uncommon in the tough conditions of space as all space-faring nations know. Gen. Kayani made this overwhelming H&D aspect very clear when he said, as talks to normalize trade relations were going on between India and Pakistan at Islamabad, "The nation’s honour and integrity will not be traded in exchange for prosperity". He also said in another context that "welfare of the people at the cost of national honour" was unacceptable to him. Of course, the definition of what constitutes 'national honour' comes from the PA, not from the elected government as otherwise there is no need for an Army chief to comment on these matters. It came as no surprise therefore when in December 2010, in the aftermath of the WikiLeaks expose of diplomatic cables to and from the US embassies worldwide and the State Department, Pakistan fabricated fake cables to malign Indian Army and India. For example, the fake cables were quoted by Pakistani newspapers to describe senior Indian generals as vain, egotistical and genocidal; they said India's government is secretly allied with Hindu fundamentalists; and they claimed Indian spies are covertly supporting Islamist militants in Pakistan's tribal belt and Balochistan. It did not take much to blow off these fake stories anyway.

For the same reasons of ‘honour and dignity’, Pakistan blames India for domestic terrorism. For example, after the Ashura Shia Procession in Karachi was attacked by Sunni sectarian suicide bombers two years back, and the well-prepared Shias retaliated and torched all the shops and establishments surrounding the bombed out place resulting in losses worth billions of Pakistani Rupees, Pakistan conveniently blamed it on India. The H&D-obsessed Pakistani belief is that 'no Muslim could do such horrible things to another Muslim' and so the corollary to follow is that the evil Hindu from India must have carried these out. One wants to ask these people then why a certain Brig. Zia-ul-Haq inflicted such a massive and bloody carnage on the Muslim Palestinian refugees in Jordan. Why did the PA kill millions of East Pakistani Muslims and drive out even more millions to Hindu India during that genocidal spree in 1971 ? Why does TTP (Tehreek-e-Taleban Pakistan) claim to have launched a war on the PA, ISI and the Pakistani government and those fellow Pakistani Muslims who support the CIA ?

The Group-of-50 should have therefore advised the 'Establishment' to achieve real honour and dignity rather than a fake one by presenting a better image of Pakistan through a mere manipulation of the international media.

    Whose War on Terror is it ?

The report by the Group-of-50 goes on to refer to the ambiguities as to whose war Pakistan was fighting resulting in a huge perceptional gap between the national policy (both political and military) and public opinion.

Such are the wages of sin. In my previous post, we saw the earlier and on-going jihads involving the PA. The sin is the enduring hostility with India. Everything else is tied to that. It was this hostility that drove Pakistan to develop a close alliance with the Americans even at the cost of other brotherly Islamic nations such as Egypt or Saudi Arabia. It was this hostility that sought Pakistan to establish a friendly relationship with a Godless Communist China even while claiming to be at the vanguard of Islam and targetting to assume the mantle of ummah leadership. It has been this hostility that has allowed Pakistan to concede space on its independent policies and even sovereignty to these states as well as Saudi Arabia. It has been this hostility that has been the sole cause for employing jihadism and terrorism as state policies and seeing absolutely nothing wrong in pursuing these tools wholeheartedly. It is this hostility that has corrupted the minds of young and impressionable students with false history, false religiosity and intolerance. It is this hostility that has led the State to abdicate itself to the armed forces. It is this hostility that demands a false sense of honour and dignity. It is this hostility that leads to Pakistan punching way above its weight with all the attendant problems. It is this hostility that blinds its planners keeping its people mired in poverty while allocating disproportionate amount of funds to the armed forces. It is this hostility that has given rise to dozens of terrorist outfits who now terrorize not only India but also the region. The wages of the sin are the blowback to Pakistan itself from these jihadi terrorists themselves, the tag of a 'failing' or even a 'failed' state where nobody wants to invest, the sliding human development indices, the choicest epithets and adjectives that are freely used to describe Pakistan which this H&D loving country is unable to do anything about, the economic mess which is worsening by the day, the reluctance of the once-close friends to lend a helping hand in the way they have done countless times before and above all the complete lack of faith in the future of Pakistan by their very people themselves.

The only set of people who believe in a bright future for the nuclear-armed Pakistan are the jihadi terrorists and the political wings of various Islamist parties to which the jihadi groups may be allied or act as extensions. They have once again united under a common banner, 'Difaa-e-Pakistan Council' (Defence of Pakistan Council, DPC). This is clearly a PA and ISI created organization comprising of Islamist political parties, jihadi terrorist outfits, jihad supporting ex PA Generals et al. Once again, the PA is feeling that it is destined to play a major role in settling the Afghanistan issue as it slowly reaches a climax. The PA wants to get rid of the PPP government, install a more acceptable Islamist group in PPP's place, leverage the US (using carrots and sticks) to gain primacy in Afghanistan, and keep India out of Afghanistan. The same evil players (personalities and/or organizations) who setup the anti-Benazir Bhutto Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (or, IJI) in 1988 have forged the alliance this time too. The DPC wants to create a mass movement against the US, against its Afghan campaign and malign the Americans as part of an evil group of Hindus, Christians and Jews. They would then insinuate the PPP government as traitors supporting the Americans. The timing of the creation of DPC is a straight giveaway as to its sponsorship and aims.

The Group-of-50 has echoed similar sentiments. One can therefore say that the recommendations of the Group-of-50 are nothing but a signal disservice to Pakistan. But, Pakistan seems determined not to learn from the past and seems determined to do more and more of the same destructive policies that it has pursued since its founding fathers in the Muslim League of pre-Partition days decided upon a particular line of action vis-a-vis Hindu India.

PS: If one reads the tea-leaves, India should be watchful of imminent terror strikes. Such a strike may force the Indian Army to launch punitive strikes against Pakistan. The PPP government will then be forced to take a stand on the developing situation, caught as it surely would be between Indian counter-attack and Western pressure. In fact, I would even expect the PA & the ISI to leave enough tantalizing evidence to link their involvement in the terror act so that there would positively be retribution by India as GoI (Government of India) has already said that anymore attack (after 26/11) would invite punishment. The PA can use that opportunity to consolidate its position and achieve its tactical goals. It may also miscalculate (as it has done several time before without learning any lesson therefrom) that a terrified US (and possibly China) would step-in to diffuse the situation by demanding restraint from India (or by threatening to open another front in the Indian east, in the case of China). The PA might have war-gamed that it has a better chance in either case and all its domestic objectives could also be met.

Links to Part-I & Part-II

No comments:

Post a Comment