“’Pro-jihadi, anti-India’ policy #fail” – my column Personal Political published in Hardnews, India, and in The News on Sunday. Many in Pakistan have been saying this for a long time, and been attacked and branded as traitors, Indian agents and kafirs for going against ‘the establishment’. Now, for the first time, this argument is in the public domain, being discussed on live television. Recently, Asma Jahangir Chairperson Emeritus of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, lashed out at the Pakistan army’s self serving policies and demanded that they stay out of politics – in words that one would never have heard on television before. Her view reinforces what I wrote a few days earlier, below (predictably, efforts are afoot to portray her as ‘anti-national, pro-Hindu, pro-India’. These efforts too, will #fail).
PERSONAL POLITICAL: “Pro-jihadi, anti-India” policy #fail
The simmering rage brewing in Pakistan since the American Seals landed in Abbottabad and ‘took out’ Osama Bin Laden is not just about the growing anti-Americanism in the country. Beyond that, there is rage at Pakistan’s own military establishment, and a public questioning of its long held security paradigms and secretive finances.
For the first time, demands for military accountability are being publically made along with a growing realisation about the unviability of Pakistan’s outdated security paradigm.
Of course, the situation has also provided fodder for the self-deprecating black humour that Pakistanis always take recourse to during dark times.
Soon after the OBL raid, the following text message did the rounds: “For Sale: Obsolete Pakistan army radar; can’t detect US ‘copters but can receive Star Plus from India; only Rs. 999″.
“Horn na bajao: Pak fauj so rahi hai” (Please don’t sound your horn, the Pakistan army is asleep), read the sign on the back of a rickshaw in Lahore.
Then there was the honeymoon destination of the royal newly-weds Kate and William — Pakistan, “because they didn’t want anyone to know where they were going”.
Jokes aside, this is undoubtedly what the veteran journalist Najam Sethi calls “a defining moment for Pakistan”. If 9/11 was a wake up call for America, the OBL episode should be one for Pakistan.
In the post-bin Laden scenario, even opposition leader Mian Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) who owed his political debut in the 1980s to a military dictator, has demanded that the army and secret agencies present their budget in parliament. He called for them to give up control of foreign policy and to stop treating India as “the biggest enemy”.
He later predictably fell back to blaming America as being one of the forces responsible for the brazen attack on the navy base in Karachi on May 22. Certainly American military aid, in return for Pakistan joining its wars (first against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and then the ‘war on terror’) has given Pakistan’s security establishment the means to continue its weapons war with India.
Focusing on India’s capability to attack, rather than intent, Pakistan’s security establishment is locked in a no-win situation against an “enemy” eight times its size. This has allowed the Pakistan armed forces gobble up a hefty chunk of the country’s GDP (education gets a paltry 1.5 percent compared to 9 percent for the military, which also gets 50 per cent of the country’s taxes).
Many Pakistanis have long pointed out the dangers of continuing along the pro-jihadi, anti-India paradigm — organisations like the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan led by Asma Jahangir; analysts like Dr Ayesha Siddiqa, author of the acclaimed book ‘Military Inc. – Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy’; the Pakistan-India Forum for Peace and Democracy and other groups advocating peace with India; and so many others, all routinely branded as ‘anti-Islam’ traitors and enemy agents.
Now such questions are being raised at public platforms, and taken up by the mainstream media. The Internet has provided space like never before for such dissent, outspokenness and questioning. Even the mainstream media picks up the buzz. People are demanding that the military define the nature of the security threat from India, and provide accountability for the billions of dollars in aid it has received from America that have not benefitted the people of Pakistan.
Those who argue that suicide bombing only began in Pakistan following 9/11 and that violence only escalated to its present levels following the drone attacks might have forgotten the violence visited upon Pakistanis by armed, trained and brainwashed ‘jihadis’ since the 1980s. The violence did escalate, and suicide bombings did begin in Pakistan only after the American ‘occupation’ of Afghanistan, but they cannot be simplistically explained as a ‘reaction to American imperialism’.
The current situation is about a struggle for political power. The ‘jihadis’ know they will never gain power through the polls. Manipulating religion provides them with an essential support base, built up over the years by pro-jihadi, anti-India policies and interruptions to the democratic political process. They are only further strengthened when New Delhi responds to terrorist attacks by cutting off dialogue with Pakistan, when Americans threaten to cut off developmental aid to Pakistan, and when Pakistanis justify militancy by making distinctions between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban.