I like to think of myself as an optimist, but also a realist. Sometimes these two traits come into conflict, and in these instances, I find that a depressing reality can easily knock the rosy tint out of my glasses. And so over the weekend I found myself nodding in agreement with Cyril Almeida’s piece about our ability to respond, but not reform, and I found myself in a bit of a funk. Today, however, my positivity has returned. Not because of any breakthrough in governance – that may still be in the distant future, but because of several pieces that have begun appearing that inject a dose of realism into the national debate and, hopefully…just maybe…are pointing towards an awakening among our intelligentsia.
The first piece that I will refer to is by Raza Rumi in which he argues that ‘Mass-deradicalisation will only begin the day we decide that
#Pakistan is a nation-state, not an Ummah outpost’. I read this with great interest not only due to the merits of the case presented, but because I had read a similar argument only a day before in a different publication. Writing in Pakistan Today, Raoof Hasan argued that ‘If terror is to be eliminated, we have to eliminate the gospel of radicalisation from the constitution’. And a few days before that, Sabina Khan wrote a courageous piece suggesting that…
A moderate form of religion-based governance may not be feasible, when one person’s interpretation of religion does not recognise another person as a Muslim. If ideology itself is responsible for dividing the nation into small little hate groups, then surely one needs to consider rational statehood in lieu of the theological form.
Today, Husain Haqqani translates this ideological shift into a very rational national security paradigm:
With nuclear weapons, Pakistan does not need to feel insecure about being militarily overrun by India. The notion of an existential threat to Pakistan is now only psycho-political and ideological.
Instead of breeding competition with India in the national psyche, why not concentrate on addressing institutional weaknesses, eliminating terrorism, improving infrastructure and modernising the economy?
And economist Kaiser Bengali echoes this conclusion in another piece on the same day:
Pakistan will have to accept hard facts and introspect the actual situation. And the fact is that Pakistan has little weight in the international arena, politically and economically. Politically, it is viewed as a nuisance at best and a threat to international security at worst. Economically, it is considered a basket case and a seemingly eternal candidate for bailouts. And it has little international sympathy for its claims of terrorism victimhood, as it is viewed as being bitten by the snakes it has itself bred in its backyard.
If Pakistan is desirous of being taken seriously by the world community, it will have to move on two fronts. One, it will have to be honest and serious about eliminating all forms of terrorism, including the mindset that considers terrorism legitimate. Pakistan cannot expect to be respected when murderers, a la Mumtaz Qadri, are treated as heroes and government prosecution lawyers are reluctant to proceed against him. Pakistan will also have to produce a new narrative on Kashmir, as the only audience for the old narrative is Pakistan itself.
These are arguments that were considered unspeakable in the not too distant past, and, in some quarters, still are. Actually, it must be noted that they are still arguments being made in English media and often by intellectuals that have for reasons of personal safety been forced to leave the country. True, true. But it is undeniable that there is change in the air. Are we witnessing the beginning of a groundswell to putting Pakistan on a new track instead of once again doubling efforts on failed strategies? The future remains to be written, of course, but as more voices join the call for reason and responsibility, we get closer to reaching a critical mass and saving our beautiful homeland. And for that, I am optimistic.