Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pakistan Watch - 5

This may help in understanding Pakistan Watch - 4 below. Emphasis added (thanks BRF!)

Two stuffed camels, as tall and as dour as the actual beasts, stand these days along the Lahore canal. Atop them ride two figures – dressed from head-to-toe in stark white robes and obviously meant to represent desert Arabs. The camels seem oddly out of place amidst the colourful floats and other, sometimes garish, displays of dancers and peacocks and boats and horses meant to mark the city's Spring Festival. One asks how they came to stand there or what role they have amongst the 'dhol' carrying figures from a Punjabi village or the colourfully dressed women who churn their pots of 'lassi'.

But the presence of the Arabs represents something of the confusion that has overtaken us. Since the 1980s, a forceful attempt has been made to turn heads to the west, to place Pakistan in the Muslim Middle East and to have it abandon its place amidst the more diverse whole of South Asia. It is this thinking of course that has led to the absurd -- but widely held notion that the history of Pakistan begins with the landing in Sindh of Muhammad Bin Qasim in 711 A.D. Today, the mindset that inspired this twist on history seems active again. There is talk of India, rather than the Taliban, being the 'real' enemy.

This view is echoed frequently in the media. This of course is no big surprise given that the media has, indeed, traditionally leaned largely to the right. But more alarming is the fact that within Pakistan's military there is a clear opinion that while the civilian government may see militants as the enemies, the real foe is India.

So far, even if reluctantly, the military has been following political orders to take on the militants. It has not had much success. This embarrassment seems to be one factor in its decision that it may be better to join an enemy one cannot beat. Faced with a military that it believes is not fully under its command, the political setup too has shown signs of wavering.

There are no easy answers. But a start has to be made somewhere. One place to do so is by encouraging people to gaze once more to the east and to re-establish Pakistan as a South Asian nation, an inheritor of its unique blend of cultures, rather than as a country that equates itself only with that portion of the past that belongs to Islam.

To do this, the fallacy that we can militarily take on India – perhaps because we have nuclear weapons – must be exposed as nothing more than a lie. An army that has been unable to tame a few thousand maverick militants can hardly be expected to take on a far larger and more organized army. There are also other hard realities that must be confronted. Much as we may wish to deny it, much as stories of Indian 'failure' are lapped up by our media, the real, unquestionable fact is that that country has succeeded.

Its 1.2 billion people, despite a slowdown that has crippled many segments of the Indian economy, look to the future with hope. Pakistan's 160 million see less and less light to brighten the darkness that swirls all around and threatens to overwhelm them. Think tanks hold India will, by 2020, rank as a world super power. They ask if Pakistan can till then even hold together as a cohesive state.

PS: a bit of the cart before the horse above - Pakistan's confrontational attitude to India derives from the idea that Pakistan is purely Islamic. What the author is saying is that because Pakistan cannot win in that confrontation, it should reexamine its premises. I would say, Pakistan should reexamine its premises, and from that understanding, abandon its confrontation.

1 comment:

banerjee said...

Here's what Atanu Dey, ex soc.culture.india polemicist, has to say:

The Dollar Auction: Some FiguresI tend to agree.