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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Tragedy of Pakistan: The lesson to the World

In these days of duels and elusive consensuses, a stark exception is emerging. This is the assertion of the state of Pakistan as the most dangerous one in the world with the potential to threaten the world security. The obsession of the western and particularly the US media with the threat posed by the Pakistani culture media of the terrorism to their security in the foreseeable future has been particularly prominent. The accelerated loss of grip of the Pakistani state agencies to swathes of the Pakistani territory compounded by the formidable resurgence of the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan has posed a major challenge to the worldwide effort to combat terrorism. Never before had a nuclear power of Pakistan’s size and might been so vulnerable to being overwhelmed by the extremists. The inexplicably unpleasant consequences of such an event have now been of major concern.

In a major realignment of the axis of the US allies, the inclusion of the India through the recent civilian nuclear deal and a host of other activities have had a major impact in the dynamics of inter-state relations in the region as well as the world. Pakistan’s act of increasing proximity with China thus appears barely surprising. The persistent drift of the Indian ruling elites towards the Israeli state away from the Palestinian cause has been as significant as that towards the sole super-power of the post USSR world, the US. The increasing perception of the elites and the middle classes in the west as well the new allies like India has been that the terrorism, especially the muslim extremism is evolving as the common enemy of all of them, threatening not only the physical security but also the ‘western values’ of modernization and civilization.

The state efforts to curb terrorism or at least apparently to do so, have thus got the overwhelming support among the people whose opinion really matters in decision-making. This support has frequently reached the hysterical extent when grave human right violations have been justified as the mere collateral damages. The wave of the ‘wars on terror’ has thus propagated throughout the world in the last decade with violent origin in the aftermath of the 9/11 event.

Where has this wave of the combative ‘anti-terrorism’ led the world? Has it made the world any safer place than it was pre-9/11? Has this, as planned, achieved any success in alleviating even a fraction of the threat to the pluralistic, democratic and liberal institutions posed by the monolithic, authoritarian and extremist forces? To the utter dislike of many, the answers to these questions are hardly affirmative as the events keep unfolding. Thus emerges the most crucial yet enigmatic question of our generation: how do we save ourselves or at least significantly alleviate the risk of the annihilation of this world by terrorism? The desperate attempts of the states worldwide to answer this question have been accompanied by enormous efforts in terms of the resources and the manpower spent.

Given all this, however, the radical extremism, muslim or otherwise, is now in a steep incline, not even in plateau, let alone the decline as intended. The multitudes of conflicts ranging from a trivial row between two clans to the inter-state conflicts resulting from the consequences of the climate change now seem to shake the institutions worldwide. The ongoing course of the events is far from leading to a better destination. What I opine is that it is impossible to cure these crippling ailments without properly diagnosing them. This is exactly where the role of the undistorted history comes.


I wonder if the so called post-modern creed of the literature and the culture attacks the relevance of studying history in proper terms for this particular reason. But I am being increasingly convinced by the arguments of the neo-Marxists that this propaganda machine was invented to tame the increasingly furious people of the third world in order to avoid their potential reprisal against the atrocities of the western empires committed in the recent past. The proud proclamations of the early nineties that the history was dead with the ultimate conquest of the ‘liberal democracy and the free market capitalism’, stand now seriously challenged. The orthodox communist states could not re-establish themselves after the free fall thus closing a chapter of the major international conflict, as the capitalistic camp was now relatively unchallenged. But that never meant that the seeds of the new conflicts potentially worse than that were not being sown at the same time.

This is with this preamble that I intend to forward the story of Pakistan. The partition of India was not an overnight event and the English policy of ‘divide and rule’ had done its job long enough to nurture the communal hatred to the extent of making it practically impossible for no partition to occur. Countless people were thus killed and displaced with their gory stories never told. Now with the English gone, India and Pakistan were free to pursue their own course and so did they. The wars like that of 1971 kept occurring to keep the relations embittered while giving the army of each country a crucial role. This role of the army over-reached a terrible extent in Pakistan frequently ending the supremacy of the civilian government.

Even with all this, the religious extremism and the militancy was not a major problem till an important development was to take place. This was when the myopia of the Soviet rulers compelled them to invade Afghanistan. Justified or not, this formed an important excuse for the capitalistic pole led by US to attack the Soviets exactly where it hurt. And how was this executed? General Zia-ul-haq had then just executed the elected prime minister Bhutto after ousting him to lead a nation that had seen the intermittent democratic rehearsals. Something was direly needed for Zia to legitimize his ruthless regime miles away from accountability and good governance. There could be no other such tool than the religious fundamentalism that could appeal the masses on behalf of a despotic ruler. This exactly corresponded with the interest of the Americans who were swift enough to read the swing in the mass sentiments in the muslim world after the ‘infidel’ soviets dared to invade the ‘muslim’ land of Afghanistan. Thus born the Jihad, with the holy aim of liberating Afghanistan from the infidels, with unlimited support of the dollars and the weapons from the Americans, and the training and logistics from the Pakistani state all coordinated by ISI. This attracted unlimited number of young muslims throughout the world thus creating a force that was later to challenge the world order though the Americans then intended to throw them as soon as their use was over.

We can now only imagine what would have happened had the US not befriended the cobra to save itself from krait. It is now useless to project the longevity of the USSR in that case as this keeps little meaning. What we can now hardly ignore is the fate of the world left to the mercy of the cobra that the US reared, ensured that it possessed the lethal venom and then set it free as soon as the krait was dead. That cobra is now greedily eying the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan and the Americans are calculating what exactly will be the threat of such an event to their security as their diplomats keep cajoling the authorities in Pakistan to clear the ‘fundamentalist’ elements from ISI who once served them so loyally.

Thanks to their status as the super-power, the Americans could avoid a range of uncomfortable questions. Due to the hood-hood laws brought about by Zia with the blessing of the US, innumerable girls and women had to be stoned to death for alleged adulteration after being raped as they could not produce four respected muslim adults as the witnesses. Countless others had to be executed for promoting the girl education or the ‘infidel’ culture with the music, etc. While the Americans kept preaching their version of the justice and democracy, the ‘western values’ elsewhere, the liberal Pakistani intellectuals had to anticipate a death threat before denouncing an act of medieval barbarity. More sinister than this, the cumulative effect of all these events was the irreversible damage done to the moderate and tolerant fabric of the Pakistani society as a whole. The army and the intelligence agency so deeply infiltrated by the ‘saviours of the Islam’, any civilian government was practically incapable of reversing the trend even when it intended so. Facilitated by the gross ineptitude of the state to provide education and employment, the extremist ideology propagated day and night as the only viable option for many youth was to join the extremist camp.

All this was never outside the field of vision of the super-power. In Afghanistan, the Taliban was able even to capture the state power before establishing a barbaric judicial system in the lawless land ‘liberated’ by the Americans. The religious extremism was thus one of the many ailments crippling certain part of the world with no major and direct threat to the security and well being of the ‘people’ meaning essentially the westerners. This could be practically ignored as the masses in the third world were accustomed to living with the problems with magnitude greater than this like the grinding poverty. But there comes the fateful date of 9/11 and everything changes all of a sudden. The religious extremists suddenly pose a threat to the world security as the ‘people’ also prove to be vulnerable to the crusade.

What did they do then? A finger was gangrenous but it was difficult to determine which one. In their conventional way, they chopped the hand. That was the initial story of the Afghan and the Iraq war when the military triumph of the US and NATO was cherished and the trumpet of re-established democracies blown. But the history had no intention of ceasing to march whenever a favourable point for somebody was reached. The gangrene spread in the other healthy parts of the body and they followed the same strategy of mutilation. This was, however, not feasible for long and the series of setbacks befell on the ‘war on terror’. The disfigured world now stands with many parts gangrenous while many other bleeding from the mutilations. The nucleus of the gangrene has been the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan while the bleeding persists in the battered territory of Iraq.

The obsession of the executives of the western powers with the idea that victory will eventually come through this mutilation strategy appears to be still rising. The recent blanket demolition of the Gazan lives and property by the Israeli army illustrates this vividly. The much touted slogan of ‘change’ of the in-coming US president Obama could not hide its practical meaning when he re-spoke the stale words of Bush era: the Israelis have the right to self-defend from the Hamas rockets. It was thus justifiable to massacre 1300 innocent Palestinians in the supposed attempt to kill a few Hamas leaders.


It is to be seen if the sweet words and pleasant assurances of Obama will turn out to justify the worldwide euphoria surrounding his triumph in the election. But the lives of the millions of people bearing the brunt of the vicious cycle of the gangrene and mutilation set by the US have little to expect. The missile attacks across the Pak-Afghan border by the US military in Afghanistan have already done a lot to provide the new recruits for the extremists by killing the civilians including the children. The same phenomenon has been behind the resurgence of the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, yet the commanders there seem to be adamant not to learn anything from the experience.

Going by the trend the confrontation between the state and non-state terror will intensify in the days ahead paralyzing more and more territories. More lethal and precise weapons will develop, more intense intelligence will be established and more resources will be spent for combating the ‘terror’. How would this impact the ever deteriorating scenario of world security? The realistic prediction is that the self-perpetuating cycle of the indiscriminate violence in the name of countering the terror threat will only disfigure the already battered world further.

We can only imagine now what the future has in its conception to deliver. Gross pessimism is the least preferable attribute at the moment though it seems to rule the minds of people worldwide, recently precipitated by the financial turmoil. The catastrophic outcomes of the climate change and the emerging conflicts are bound to further aggravate the matters. The number of the young unemployed and dismissed workers is reaching the record high. The practically lost food security in the third world countries in attempted liberalization of the economies has added the insult to the injury.

The world has witnessed the moments more turbulent than this one. What makes us frown this time is the realization that how little we have progressed in making this world a safer and better place to live with all the inventions and innovations. The Americans might have been the most innovative people in the field of science producing majority of the Nobel winners in Physics and Chemistry, but their political bosses have done more to create disasters with the scientific tools than to make any constructive use of them. The smart bombs, the cluster bombs, the time-delayed bombs, the cruise missiles, the super-sonic jets, all the inventions have been used to massacre the terrorised civilians while the real terrorists keep breeding making the use of charred bodies of the children. Pakistan has been the worst-hit target of this at the moment while many other states share the grievances, though to a lesser extent.

How can this insanity checked? Or is it possible to check it anyway? This forms the material for another article.


Indra Dhoj Kshetri said...

Dexterously crafted and comprehensively written. Nice synopsis of the world's one of the major concerns about regional and international security.

jiwan said...

I intend to publish the second part of the particle soon.

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