Friday, February 07, 2014
Peace comes only through strength. Is there anything profound about this truism? But we are striving for peace by revealing our exhaustion and lack of spine. The peace of exhaustion only leads to concessions. How much is the state of Pakistan willing to concede?
Hasn’t General Headquarters thought this through? Or does it consider the present peace talks – let’s not go into any details – as a ploy opening the way for the use of arms at a later stage? But even if a ploy is it serving any useful purpose? Far from creating unity of purpose it is sowing the seeds of further confusion and division. And when these efforts go up in smoke, as everything in the atmosphere suggests they are likely to, the religious right throughout the country will shout to the heavens about government lack of seriousness and military insincerity.
The Taliban are all over the news, dominating it completely. Whatever happens later this is already a propaganda coup for them. And the government or rather the state of Pakistan looks as if it is drifting with the tide, caught up in events beyond its control.
Not in everything but in some respects this is reminiscent of the situation in East Pakistan before the army action in March, 1971. The Awami League was everywhere and the institutions of government were paralysed. Then the army struck and tried to crush the Awami League and while it immediately gained control over the major administrative centres it had lost the political battle. The army controlled the cities, the Mukti Bahini ruled the countryside. India exploited this heaven-sent opportunity and a new history was written.
It was the West Pakistani state plus the army versus the people of East Pakistan. The division couldn’t have been deeper. It is different with the Taliban. They do not represent the people. They are just a faction armed with the power of the gun and ensconced in a geographical area which gives them natural cover and protection. But if being a faction is their weakness, the state’s weakness lies in its divided mind. This is a split state, a divided polity, not sure of itself, not sure of what to do, torn betwixt the siren calls of a false peace and the uncertainties of war.
This is a state which has not just lost its way but its confidence in itself. That is why it is playing blind man’s buff in the dark, flailing about and hoping to catch something, anything. The will to power, the will to fight, is everything. Lose that and not all the nukes in the world can make up for the shortfall. Pakistan today is glorifying weakness and irresolution and giving them the names of statesmanship and statecraft. Not taken in by this joke the adversary on the other side, made of slightly sterner stuff, is running rings around the Pakistani state.
Only the Americans can put us out of our misery by launching just one drone strike and everyone can then go home and say that they have sabotaged the peace process. But they won’t do it, not to oblige us. The Americans are getting out of Afghanistan. They have mentally come to terms with the inconclusiveness of this the longest war in their history. They have mentally comes to terms with the Taliban (Al-Qaeda being a different affair). What they haven’t come to terms with is us and what they perceive to be our double games. So in our hour of desperate need it is foolish to think they will come to our rescue. We should be offering collective prayers for one drone strike but my guess is our American friends would be in a sadistic mood.
Don’t we read history? Forget about Roman history, haven’t we imbibed any lessons from history closer to home? For India the Kashmir uprising in 1989 was a serious affair. How did the Indians crush it? By force, unbridled force and not, alas, by convening all-parties conferences. Today our Kashmir liberators such as those of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa led by Hafiz Muhammad Saeed are more a nuisance for us than they are for India or the authorities. They keep marching up and down Punjab along with the leaders of that other fearsome organisation, the Defence of Pakistan Council. How does this bring the liberation of Kashmir any closer?
Sikh unrest in Indian Punjab following the assault on the Golden Temple was a very serious affair. How was it quelled? By giving the Sikh police chief of the state, Sardar Kanwar Pal Singh Gill, a free hand. And a free hand he used, his methods utterly ruthless, drawing accusations of gross human rights violations. But he achieved what he had set out to do and the Sikh insurgency was crushed. He has been widely consulted on counterterrorism issues, helping Sri Lanka draw up a counterterrorism strategy. We are finding it difficult to think through our own counterterrorism strategy. Why don’t we get Sardar Gill to lighten our confusion?
The Sri Lankans have managed to stamp out their Tamil insurgency. Their methods were not gentle or tender and they weren’t forever ‘consulting all stakeholders’, the silly phrase which has become an alibi for doing nothing. Incidentally, many of the tactics used against the Tamil Tigers were similar to Gill’s methods in Punjab.
But Gill could be appointed in Punjab and given a free hand and Tamil Tigers defeated in Sri Lanka because in both instances there was leadership. We have an army and men ready to die, and so many men already dead, but what we don’t have is leadership. That is why all this dithering and drifting and Pakistan on this issue becoming more and more of a joke.
Irfan Siddiqui, Rustam Shah and the former ISI man, Major Amir, are all nice souls but if war and peace are to hinge on their endeavours we might as well head north and take up permanent abode on some remote mountaintop, practicing yoga and watching the stars. Jihadi policies have brought us to this pass and now Taliban sympathisers from both sides are supposed to take us out of this mess – beemar huay jis ke sabab, usee atar kay launday se dawa lete hain.
Consensus and being on the same page – in a divided polity there can be no such thing. Taliban apologists will remain that and nothing can change this. Between the Taliban and the state of Pakistan there can be no meeting point, no halfway house, because these are different elements and cannot mix. It’s like mixing fire and water. But living in the realm of delusion there are people who think this can be done.
Fighting anyone comes later. Recasting our thinking, eschewing all this jihadi nonsense, turning our backs upon the Afghan and jihad policies of the last 30 years…these are the imperatives of survival, the prerequisites for moving in a different direction. This is easier said than done for there is bound to be enormous resistance on the way and more mayhem and chaos and disorder.
But the question is one of survival. Either we do this or we become – and these are not words lightly said – another Yugoslavia candidate. There are forces and events pulling things apart but to look at us, our collective behaviour, it is hard to get the feeling that we are overly concerned. Dilli hunooz door ast….Delhi is still far away about sums up our attitude.
So how do we get the basics right? How do we get stronger leadership? When does the army leave the legacy of Zia behind? Who clears the cobwebs from our minds? Questions, loads of them, but no answers. We’ll muddle through of course but it’s going to be a hard slog.