Easier to be Critical than Correct

By Asghar Khanmind

Our thought process – whether creative and progressive or conventional and hidebound – has had its eternal enemies in the form of prejudices, pre-conceived notions, personal likes and dislikes which obstruct it from achieving clarity. This tendency of human mind to commit itself, wittingly or otherwise, to its inherent dispositions not only renders the human thought confused, intimidated and indecisive but at times even leads it astray. This relationship of mind with its negative dispositions and its consequence on the thought process was first lucidly brought to light by a famous English philosopher Francis Bacon (1561-1626) who described it as weakness of mind falling into the trap of its idols (idols of mind – or false images of mind) which prevent the mind from thinking clearly and correctly.

While an over-whelming majority of thinkers have been fairly disposed towards clear thinking, there has been quiet a sizable number who fell for their idols of mind and incorporated cognitive bias in their writings. The work of such thinkers is characterized by constant repetition, contempt, destructive intimidation, vindictiveness and sycophancy.

A recent addition to this coveted club of biased thinkers and writers has been the internationally respected and widely quoted Hussain Haqqani – Pakistan’s former envoy to United States – a known critic of Pakistani establishment. It may sound little strange that a prolific writer – with mighty books on mighty themes – a well-articulated journalist-turned-analyst and a sharp diplomat like Haqqani, who accomplished so much in so little time, now seems to have run out of new and genuine ideas in fields that concerns him. A close study of his comprehensive work clearly points to the fact that he has been merely reproducing old ideas, time and again, and has become fixated with writing against Pakistan Army with the sole aim of holding it responsible for everything bad happening in Pakistan. Major recurrent themes of his work include accusing Pakistan Army of; un-necessarily perceiving India as an existential threat to Pakistan and promoting religion and jihad as a counter-policy to neutralize that threat, playing double with major world players in sustaining the jihadist policy through proxies, undermining the establishment of a strong and viable democratic setup in the country through covert maneuvers in political realm and calling the shots in framing domestic and foreign policies.

It’s a fact that a combined effect of various multiple factors shape up an action or reaction of an individual or institution. While a dispassionate analyst of Pakistan’s history might hold Pakistan Army responsible for few drastic acts, there are fair chances that he might as well highlight the other State actors, social and personal behaviours and attitudes to be equally, if not fully, responsible for the woes which Hussain Haqqani has been exclusively attributing to Pakistan Army. Un-democratic behaviour of the so-called democratic political parties, inept and self-serving political leadership, political instability, inefficient bureaucracy and rampant and unfettered corruption are few of the numerous contributing factors inevitably compelling the Army – the only organized institution – to lead the country to stability to the exclusion of others. Overlooking such contributing factors in the overall scheme of things would make an analyst biased even if he is Hussain Haqqani. It would be just like complaining about contaminated food for food poisoning and excluding the other factors like water, cutlery and personal hygiene to be the valid reason of the physical agony. Events in countries like Turkey and Myanmar, where the establishment were strong, have recently shown that any establishment will, naturally, concede grounds to civilian political authority if it attains maturity, responsibility and stands accountable.

Regarding Hussain Haqqani and his cognitive bias, Indian media was delirious with delight when it widely quoted some of his views which he recently presented in his lectures and interviews. Through a careful blend of his same old themes and recent developments in the region, he maintained that the meeting of Pakistani High Commissioner to India with Kashmiri leaders, prior to the start of scheduled secretary level talks between Pakistan and India, was a Pakistani diplomatic faux pas as it gave a cause of concern to the newly elected Indian government to postpone the scheduled talks. For an analyst of Haqqani’s calibre, it should not have been difficult to hunt for other contributing factors for Indian postponement of talks with Pakistan. Meetings of Pakistani diplomats with Kashmiri leaders before the Indo-Pakistan talks were a longstanding practice and hence India should not have objected. It was the result of BJP’s anti-Pakistan rhetoric during its election campaign as it had promised to take a tougher stance against Pakistan and was under domestic pressure to do so. Moreover, Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, might have deemed it fit to postpone the talks first and to reinitiate it later to gain an upper hand in the process.

Haqqani has, also, vouched for a ‘decisive shift’ in Pakistan’s Kashmir policy – from, what he called, an ideological obsession to a more pragmatic approach – on the account that Pakistan has lost whatever international support it had on Kashmir. Well, if gaining and losing international support is what it takes to resolve a conflict then humanity is for sure stepping into an abyss of despair as recently a growing number of analysts agree that non-settlement of as grave issues as Kashmir and Palestine are providing ideological grounds for ongoing global phenomenon i.e terrorism. The world is yet to wake up and realize that Kashmir is a nuclear flashpoint between India and Pakistan and should be resolved for the sake of humanity.

Coming back to the pragmatic approach on Kashmir, how would Hussain Haqqani categorize General Perveiz Musharraf’s most practical roadmap for resolving the Kashmir conflict? – Pragmatic or rigid? It was Pakistan which had offered India another pragmatic approach to move forward on forging good neighbourly relations when it suggested India to first take on Sir Creek and Siachen issues before Kashmir as both the issues have fewer intricacies and more common grounds for both countries to resolve. However, India never seriously responded to Pakistan.

It was somewhat amusing to note that Haqqani maintains that Indian presence in Afghanistan was not necessarily against Pakistan as India has been engaged in development of infrastructure in the war-torn country. This assertion of his contradicts the consensus of all quarters in Pakistan that India has not only been supporting the Baloch insurgents but has also been  conniving with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to destabilize the country. Reports suggest that Pakistani side had even shared some hard evidences with Afghan government in this regard.

Last but not the least, Haqqani has criticized the decision of United States to sell defence equipment, worth $ 952 million,  to Pakistan to augment its fight against terrorism at home, on the grounds that the development might further the arms race in South Asia. He seemed concerned that the US-made equipment might be used by Pakistan military not only against India but against domestic enemies as well – a reference to Baloch insurgents. He even attributed the current and the previous, decades old, American military aide to Pakistan as one of the reasons behind Pakistan’s delusion of seeking an un-attainable military parity with India. While an objective analysis of the current conventional weapons held by Pakistan would have clearly revealed to United States that the purchase requested by Pakistan was justified in its fight against terrorists, the Indian defence budget of $ 41.1 billion for the fiscal year 2015-16 to modernize and expand its armed forces and a history of its intimidations and armed conflicts with its neighbours, leave little room to give any credence to Haqqani’s view that Pakistan should not seek military parity with India.

Haqqani’s cynical view about the current defence purchase of Pakistan must consider that most of the new Indian defence budget allocations are for Indian military’s projection of its power in the neighbourhood. India does not face any immediate threat from any of its neighbours beyond border and water disputes. It is the ambiguously framed Indian strategic doctrine which worries its neighbours. Hence, maintaining a credible minimum deterrence, in nuclear and conventional weapons, vis-à-vis Indian military buildup in the region is essential for Pakistan.

The state of mind that Hussain Haqqani has been in for a long time reflects an attitude that one need not to be a cook to criticize cooking. Adopting such an attitude, it becomes easier for a person to be critical than correct. This has damaged him to an extent that when he was Pakistan’s Ambassador in United States, people back home really wondered whether he was our Ambassador or the Ambassador of the host country.

The freedom to criticize is necessary in a vibrant democracy but when it turns into a biased attitude it becomes destructive intimidation always vouching for some sanction. While a constructive criticism binds up a nation’s wounds, biased criticism opens it up for the whole world. It’s up to Hussain Haqqani to decide whether he intends to return to his erstwhile reputation of being a fair analyst or he plans to remain an irksome critic of affairs in Pakistan.

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