Saturday, May 01, 2010

Seeing Pakistan clearly

Outlook India published an article by Khurram Hussain: "To Understand Pakistan, 1947 Is The Wrong Lens. The hurt that moves Pakistan is from a wound more recent—1971".

First, Indians tend not to remember 1971 as a Pakistani civil war, but rather as India’s “good” war. It is remembered as an intervention by India to prevent the genocide of Bengalis by Pakistanis. The fact that the Bengalis themselves were also Pakistanis has been effaced from the collective memory of Indian elites.

My response: Not at all. Of course, most Indians alive today were born after 1971 and aren't particularly interested in history, but to the extent it is remembered, Indians know Bengalis were East Pakistanis.

Second, the Indian establishment routinely misconstrues as ideological schizophrenia the Pakistani intellectual classes’ complicated responses to India.

My response: The schizophrenia is very apparent in Pakistan's response to its jihadis turning on Pakistan, with N attacks and suicide bombings. It is a Hindu/American/Jewish conspiracy against Pakistan is the primary response. Or it is CIA and Blackwater.

This leads to the third, and perhaps the most important point. The Indian establishment does not see Pakistan as a ‘normal’ society. The substance of this abnormalcy is religion, which is also the irreducible difference between the two societies. It is the original sin and a foundational incoherence that is ultimately inescapable. And it has tremendous explanatory power. It explains both the ideological nature of the Pakistani state’s hatred of India and, simultaneously, the state’s manipulation of the zealous masses for its own ends. That these two explanations do not hold together coherently is besides the point to most Indians. This is an old story and is as such sensible. In the Indian imagination, Pakistan is endlessly regurgitating the politics of Jinnah and the erstwhile Indian Muslim League. While Indian politics moves on, Pakistan’s holds eerily still.

My response: Well, the constitutional questions not settled at Independence still continue. Is Pakistan to be secular? Democratic? Was Pakistan made for Muslims or for Islam? Will the principle of civilian control of government instituted by one-person-one-vote hold? The Constitution is still being tinkered with; maybe the 18th amendment to the 1973 Constitution (which displaced the Constitutions of 1956 and 1962 and itself was effectively overthrown and now reinstated) will settle things down once and for all; and these debates will take on an academic character.

Regarding the alleged incoherence of the Indian explanation of Pakistan, Hussain merely asserts, he does not explain how it is incoherent. He does not explain e.g., how the fact that the Pakistani state school curriculum has been distorted has a better explanation than the ideological hostility plus manipulation of the masses. To dispalce an explanation that works quite well, Khurram Hussain will have to provide a better one. Not an easy task.


But K.V. Bapa Rao has a focus on a different point and a more incisive reply.
This article is a perfect example of what is really wrong with what is sadly, an example of perhaps the best and most thoughtful brains that Pakistan has to offer--they can't, or won't, come to terms with the fact that there is something wrong with being focused on their loss to what they consider an inferior "Hindu" India, all the while having no interest to speak of in examining what it is about their civilizational mindset that makes it all right for them to blithely gloss over one of the most sickening crimes against humanity their country committed in 1971.