What Have We Done to Ourselves
By Brig® Mehboob Qadir
At times it helps to recollect and reflect upon missed opportunities and things that could have been but failed to be. Not that it would matter anymore but that a catharsis could usefully take place instead. That is quite a few layers of dirt dusted off the looking glass.
Jinnah strived hard for years almost single handedly to obtain constitutional guarantees from Congress for a secure future for Muslims with in the post –British political dispensation of united India . Due, mainly, to unyielding Congress leadership he failed most tragically. Had he succeeded, the constitutional framework of undivided India would have been drastically different. One whole uninterrupted country from Khyber to Guwahati whose enormous size would have pushed India towards a confederate structure of state which could provide necessary autonomy to provinces including those with Muslim majority. Most likely, Punjab and Bengal would not have been split and Partition massacres would not have taken place. There would not have been a Kashmir dispute, Siachen standoff , Sir Creek or River waters disagreements; the bane of peace in the region today including an ever present threat of nuclear holocaust . Hindutva would not have had such a roaring appeal nor Muslim fundamentalism so rampant. Shiv Sena would not have been ordering people about in Bombay nor Sipah e Sahaba in Lahore. Neither Ghulam Ali singing concerts cancelled, Qasuri’S book launch opposed, passengers disembarked from Samjhota Express or movies banned from screening. There could be fewer contaminated minds and more of Sudheendra Kulkarnis.
Pakistan came into being as a state which neither made a clear political nor a workable geographical sense. This was further aggravated by our incompetent and non-visionary national leadership after Jinnah. They could keep the country together had they realized the fact that the country was in two parts separated by a reticent India. Therefore there was a crying need for setting up a confederation with a large degree of inter-wing autonomy guaranteed by the constitution and a different development and security paradigm for each wing .There was no constitution for the first decade let alone a sense of constitutional confederation. Misgovernance, limited historic perspective and lack of inspired statesmanship led the country into chaos and internal discord; a fertile ground for intrigue and foreign invasion, as it inevitably happened in 1971.Had a visionary political sense prevailed Pakistan could still have been intact, peacefully coexisting and prospering.
Late Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan had to choose between the devil and the deep sea; US or the Soviet Union. He had a bunch of mostly the fence sitters around, therefore perhaps had to roll chicken bones to decide which one to side with. Fatefully he elected USA and the dye for Pakistan’s future troubles was cast for the next 65 years and continuing. A flood of military pacts like SEATO, CENTO, international military sales, USAID and anti-communism foreign policy formulations followed in quick succession and at times simultaneously. Pakistan became a literal US vassal and a military base in their global cordon around Soviet Union-China axis .U-2 disaster and Soviet ultimatum about a massive strike on Badaber Base Peshawar were a natural consequence.
Pakistan’s economy turned into a perpetual begging bowl following World Bank and IMF policies, US aid dole outs and under the direct influence of their Pakistani experts recycled to the wretched country. Quite unbecoming of a self-respecting nation the bowl has turned into a yawning black hole in the country’s economy which has yet to show signs of economic self-reliance .Alignment with the US camp had turned out to be a kiss of death for Pakistan. Had we not the cultural and historic resilience the country could have become history decades ago. On the first available opportunity the US vaulted over the fence to the Saffron seductress.
Excessive inclination towards the US was not really necessary. Pakistan could keep decent working relations with both powers, just as Albania did. After all it had a nice interaction going with an upcoming China while still a member of SEATO, and that the Soviet Union set up one of the largest steel mills in South Asia in Karachi at the height of the Cold War. Pakistan misread the Cold War rules of game. It was understood between the two super powers that Pakistan lay with-in the Soviet zone of influence. Pakistan failed to realize that fact, even when it was the Soviet Union which mediated peace between India and Pakistan after the 1965 War.
Distance between the two wings began to tell with no one to address the critical imbalances. Parliament, Judiciary, military and political leaderships, media and bureaucracy all began to take sides. When state institutions become partisan the state breaks up, so did Pakistan in 1971.Sheikh Mujib had won a majority in the national assembly elections, it was his right to form a government. Denial of this democratic right finally sank the ship. Agitation and clashes with state forces caused needless deaths and destruction. All that for power in the Center between Bhutto and Mujib? Neither of the two lived long enough to reap the fruits of their mortal contest. But the country broke up in two as a result, destabilizing and nuclearizing the region for ever after.
In 1974 India conducted her first nuclear tests and spurred a shriveled Pakistan into a feverish search for nuclear capability of its own. Pakistan was still wrestling with the idea whether to become an overt nuclear weapons power or not when ‘Budha smiled’ again in Pokhran in 1998.A barrage of vitriol from India and popular pressure from with-in pushed the reluctant Pakistani leadership over the ledge. They matched the response with a grin at Chaghi and both the states became nuclear armed to their annihilation. Mutually assured destruction is a terribly sick state of mind, first strike or no first strike. No body with his mind and heart in the right place can ever think of such a thing taking place. Few in India realize that Pakistan never had the military capability to pose an existential or even a serious threat to Indian security. Had there been leaders in India and Pakistan who could rise above themselves, they would have opened all the safety valves draining out bile, and anger, more promisingly after 1971.Thereafter the two people could live in peace and amity. That never happened; the anti was upped continuously and absolutely needlessly. A millennium opportunity was squandered. That is why we are where we are; in the dung pit of history. The more the two countries perpetuate hostility the more the two peoples suffer.
Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1979 was a critical moment in Pakistan’s history when the country was led to turn a decisive corner, irreversible in many ways. Afghan Taliban, berserk TTP, Al Qaeda, mad sectarian militants marauding around with guns, drugs, suicide bombers and every other dirty trick in the devil’s back pack are in our menu. That is because we chose to be the conduit and the repository too; duped equally by our own rapacious mullah. We have come to be known by these pathetic sub specimens and a colony of many more slithering snakes.
Not that it matters any more but we could do better.