Hard Lessons From Pakistan
With Nawaz Sharif taking over as the Prime Minister of Pakistan for the third time, habitual peaceniks in India believe that real time has come for India to go an extra mile to fence its ties with its western neighbour , even if it amounts to making one-sided concessions on matters of trade and the Kashmir issue. These peaceniks say that Sharif is very sincere in normalizing relation with India, evident from the ‘exclusive interviews” he granted to a group of Indian journalists on individual basis during the electioneering. One hopes Sharif will keep his words. But then the fact remains that once in power politicians often behave differently.
There are formidable challenges that one has to overcome in Pakistan while making peace with India. As it is, civilian leaders in Pakistan do not have any say in the policy towards India. The ultimate decision maker in Pakistan in this regard happens to be the Army Chief, who is advised by the notorious ISI, an important component of the Pakistani Army. Therefore, if any breakthrough in the India-Pakistani impasse is to be made, the Pakistani Army has to be in the picture. It is only when there is a changed outlook of the Pakistani
Army vis-à-vis India that things will move on the desired direction on the bilateral front. Otherwise, the civilian leaders of the two countries may sign agreements, but that will have no sanctity. Atal Behari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif signed the “historic” Lahore declarations, but Kargil was invaded subsequently.
Likewise, soon after assuming power in 2008, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said that “in every Pakistani there is something of India and in every Indian there is something of Pakistan”. But there followed the 26-11 (2008) attacks on Mumbai, which was effected by the dreaded Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) activists at the behest of the ISI. And the whole word knows that if there is any political party that has provided maximum financial support to the LeT, it is Sharif’s Muslim League! Predictably, LeT did work for Shariff’s victory in the last elections, particularly in Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province.
But then this is only one part of the story. The other part is that Pakistan in 2013 is not the Pakistan of 1947. It was created as “a state for Muslims”. Now it has virtually become an “Islamic state”. India is an eternal enemy for those who exercise control over the Pakistani polity and society. For them, the very identity of Pakistan is based on hatred and animosity towards India. Pakistan is unfortunately increasingly becoming insane and intolerant. Some political scientists say that it is because of the misgovernance on the part of the ruling elites. Most of the jihadi or fundamentalist elements are the children of the peasants all over the country. With no education for their children in normal schools, they are forced to go to madrassas that produce semi-literates. In fact, these experts do not agree that jihadi culture is accepted by the poor and deprived people. They stress that it is those semi-literates emerging from the lower middle classes and peasants who join the ranks of the jihadis as they are otherwise incapable and ill-trained to find jobs or do business. And over a period of time, these jihadis and their leaders have emerged powerful, helped considerably by the Al Qaida and the Taliban in the neighbouring Afghanistan. So much so that they have almost driven away the feudal lords, their previous exploiters, from the areas of their strength. This phenomenon is nearly complete in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Frontier Province and has well begun in southern parts of Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province.
Unfortunately, however, the ruling establishment in Pakistan seems to be under the belief that instead of ending the exploitation, thereby cutting the roots of jihadists, it is better to co-opt their leaders in the system. And the way to do that is to take recourse to Islam. But what is worse, this course is not being adopted by politicians alone, cutting across all the parties, depending on vote banks as they are. The judiciary and the armed forces are also in the race. In one of his judgments Pakistan’s Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry reportedly asked. “Should we accept if tomorrow Parliament declares secularism, and not Islam, as the state policy?”. Another judge joined him in asking, “Will it be called a rightful exercise of authority if tomorrow parliament amends Article 2 of the constitution which states that Islam will be the state religion?”.
Similarly, the Army Chief, General Parvez Kayani, is on record to have stated once: “Pakistan was founded by our forefathers in the name of Islam and we should work to strengthen the country and make committed efforts to achieve the goal of turning it into a true Islamic state…..our faith, resolve and pride in our religion and in our country is an asset, which is further reinforced after each terro-rist incident”.
But then, this trend, and this is most unfortunate, is spreading among intelligentsia as well. For instance, Majid Nizami, editor-in-chief of The Nation, one of Pakistan’s leading newspapers, has written that “Pakistan is destined to defeat India because our horses in the form of atomic bombs and missiles are far better than Indian ‘donkeys.’ According to him, “if one wants to have an idea as to what would have been our condition, had Pakistan not come into existence, he should visit India to apprise himself about untold pathetic living conditions of the Muslims there at this point of time.” Nizami then added, “We were grateful to the Almighty Allah that today we had been blessed with Independence. The day is not far off when we would once again conquer India.”
In fact, if one goes by the history books written for students in Pakistan, the intensity of the anti-India venom and the ferocity with which it is being injected into young minds are mind-blowing. This great historic discovery is taught that “Previously, India was part of Pakistan.” In these books, Muhammad-bin-Qasim, the first Muslim conqueror of the Hindu-dominated Sindh province in the 8th century, is declared the first Pakistani citizen. In Social Studies for Class VI (Sindh Textbook Board, 1997), the story of the Arabs’ arrival in Sindh is counted as the first moment of Pakistan, with the glorious ascendancy of Islam.
This textbook teaches that “The Muslims knew that the people of South Asia were infidels and they kept thousands of idols in their temples.” The Sindhi king, Raja Dahir, is described as cruel and despotic. “The non-Brahmans who were tired of the cruelties of Raja Dahir joined hands with Muhammad-bin-Qasim because of his good treatment.” According to this historical narration, “Pakistan came to be established for the first time when the Arabs led by Muhammad-bin-Qasim occupied Sindh and Multan in the early years of the eighth century, and established Muslim rule in this part of the South Asian sub-continent. Pakistan under the Arabs comprised the Lower Indus Valley.”
It is interesting to note the flight of imagination of this author: “During the 11th century the Ghaznavid Empire comprised what is now Pakistan and Afghanistan. During the 12th century the Ghaznavids lost Afghanistan, and their rule came to be confined to Pakistan…By the 13th century, Pakistan had spread to include the whole of Northern India and Bengal…Under the Khiljis Pakistan moved further Southward to include a greater part of Central India and the Deccan… Many Mongols accepted Islam. As such Pakistan remained safe for Islam… During the 16th century, ‘Hindustan’ disappeared and was completely absorbed in ‘Pakistan’…Although Pakistan was created in August 1947, yet except for its name, the present-day Pakistan has existed, as a more or less single entity, for centuries.”
Interestingly, the Pakistani students are being taught that though Akbar was a great Mughal ruler, the Islam declined during his rule as he was influenced by the Bhakti movement that began during the Sultanate period and propounded Hindu-Muslim unity and that the glory of Islam was at its best during the reign of Aurangzeb, displaying “the Pakistan-spirit”.
Thus, systematic attempts are being made by the Pakistani government to brainwash the students in schools and universities that there are irreconcilable differences between the Hindus and Muslims and that they, with their diametrically opposed world views and interests – could not have stayed together in an undivided country that India was until 1947. In fact, the latest National Education Policy of Pakistan (1998-2010) clearly says that the curricula should be specifically designed to “inculcate among the students the sense of gratitude to Almighty Allah”, to “promote the unity of Muslim Ummah in the world”, to “develop and practice the spirit of the ideology of Pakistan and Islam”, and to “inculcate a strong sense of gratitude to Almighty Allah for his blessings providing us an independent state”.
With such tendentious imaginings against India being legitimised by the successive governments in Pakistan, the Muslims there are forgetting the centuries- old tradition of pluralism that enriched the subcontinent, giving rise to many faiths and religions, including Sufism that guided them. Unless this entrenched anti-India mindset of the Pakistanis is changed, India will remain their eternal enemy.
These being the hard lessons from Pakistan, not much should be expected out of Sharif’s fresh innings. Of course, I will be happy and grateful to him if he proves me wrong by initiating countermeasures that will plant the virtues of peace and coexistence with India.
By Prakash Nanda