All Generalities are Wrong Including This One
By Brig® Mehboob Qadir
There is no intention to indulge in a circular talk or place anyone in a state of now- you- see- now-you-don’t like what it might appear in the composition of this phrase. As a matter of fact and historic experience generalities are not permanent as they tend to become in popular lore ,but have a temporary relevance and then fade away into the eternal haze of time. That is why a notion seems to have evolved among the thinking that generalities are not always a reliable measure of prejudging a people, race, region, community or a group of men for their responses to a particular situation repeated in history. Dictums are normally relevant to and are in the context of contemporary time and the enabling environment with in which they emerged. This context dilutes with the passage of time so do the anticipated reactions modify themselves. Since human beings are ever so emotionally agile and adaptable therefore as a wise precaution the phrase has been suffixed by ‘ …..including this one’. With this addition the phrase becomes politically correct and more versatile than a piece of unassailable wisdom.
One came across this particular piece of literature quite some time ago and the first impression was that it was a cleverly crafted phrase to baffle an unsuspecting mind. However a second and more deliberate thought revealed an accommodative and built-in option-able quality fairly rare in sweeping sayings like this one. A little more reflection and one was there where the author wanted you to be; at a sunny fork in the road. This fork is the essence of understanding and elective mental mobility.
The other day I saw how magically the whole thing works among those who have an open and receptive mind. There was a considered comment which went on to say something like the following about Pakistan and its Army culture:-
“Gen Zia made the Pakistan Army into a fanatical instrument of jihad. He changed its role to be the guardians of Pakistan’s ideological frontiers…. .Pakistan knows that, take out Islamic fundamentalism and the Pakistan Army’s fanaticism after Gen Zia and it will be a decent state to work with…”
This looked like a test case as it came from a disciplined, widely experienced and well groomed mind. However there was a glimmer of hope and anticipation visible beneath the thick looking pal of apparently well baked opinion so succinctly expressed. It was plain that the originator had prejudged to pigeon -hole that Gen Zia’s nebulous Islamist interregnum went unquestioned in Pakistan Army and that it altogether was and continues to be an Islamic fundamentalism oriented, fanatical force safeguarding ethereal ‘ideological frontiers’ of the country. Opportunity had arisen for a productive exchange of views here.
It was apparent that the author’s vast service experience, his exposure to the highest echelons and international forums had provided him unique opportunities to see things first hand with clearer focus. At that level one naturally hitches up a large reservoir of observations and inferences. However opinions take time to mature as they perforce have to pass through a continuous process of bench testing, modification and at times a complete overhaul. In order to proceed it is prudent to pick up the thread from where he had left. The nuances so mentioned were rather antiquated and the context had vanished since long. As usual we in both countries depend much on our mostly cliché ridden, agenda laden and opinionated media for updates regarding each other as contacts are few and far between. This remote sensing creates a serious difficulty in perceptual objectivity and balance in views.
I was a fairly senior major at the time when late Gen Zia propounded his ill founded notion of Army as the guardian of ideological frontiers. Before that he had already rolled in various other dices of his baroque Islamism. Most in the Army could see through the smoke screen and knew it was yet another ruse to gain legitimacy for retaining power in uniform. Therefore there were hardly any serious buyers of this unfortunate farce except those who suffered from dire professional deficiencies and wanted to rise in rank through this militarily incompatible short cut. After Gen Zia’s tragic demise in 1988 his unlikely camp followers were systematically marginalized and eventually shed but regretfully a lot of damage was already done. Most of us loathed the intervention from the soles of our boots to the cap plumes, being so unexceptionable. Much against our inclinations, we had to devise not very delightful ways to slip the scent. Army’s time honored and battle proven culture was badly mutilated and needed a major surgery.
Pakistan Army has since come a long way in recovering its proper military poise and hard professional moorings. Religion has been, by and large, brought back to its usual place as in the tradition of militaries; a personal matter and solace to those wounded in battle. That is why we have Parsi and Christian General Officers, a number of Hindu, Sikh and other officers in fighting units who would in time rise to senior ranks. Except Gen Zia’s perverse interregnum and a little after him, Pakistan Armed Forces, particularly Pakistan Army has had nothing to do with how does one pray but how good a soldier one is.
It may be erroneous to form a hardened opinion as that presumes foreclosure of evolution of responses by the object entity. Fundamentalism and its twain fanaticism are a function of sick and paranoid mind in any variety of its shades. It entails a pervasive state of frenzy and arrogant righteousness; leading to dangerous rigidity and refusal to see alternative logic. In a business as serious as soldiering this kind of mental make-up means sure disaster. Therefore we were quick to peel off this forced overlay as soon as opportunity arose.
In the history of nations many prototypes fell face first and many strong myths were not only shattered but simply evaporated in thin air. What remains is the reality of balance between pulsating humanity and hard national interest. In relations between nations conventional wisdom works to a certain extent beyond which it becomes redundant and a mill stone of flawed national policies. Pragmatism, an open logical mind and a vision of broader, healthier flows of history of regions can work better where there had been stock reactions, habitually. It is quite ridiculous to oppose an entertainment show here and a group visit there, as these reflex and mainly obsessive reactions do not mask the sun but place the practitioner in darkness. There is a huge swath of humanity populating the Sub continent which must be given a fair chance to prosper in peace and not perpetually live under the threat of war and destruction.
A historic paradigm change is taking place in our country’s military security calculus as a cumulative result of institutional introspections over a period of time. ‘A peaceful environment in and around Pakistan is the Army’s top priority’ declared the COAS addressing troops in Bahawalpur, recently (The Daily Times,29th April 2015).