When all you have is an Army, everything looks like a war

It is hard for me to write anything since I haven’t had enough sleep in the past 48 hours. I’m still not sure whether I’m actually asleep and dreaming. If that is true, I hope I never wake up from this beautiful dream. However, like all dreams, there are some elements of anxiety that have creeped in also.

Despite the awesome victory, some of our fellow countrymen are not satisfied to celebrate they have to turn it into a weapon for their personal wars. In politics, Imran Khan’s Army ‘celebrated’ by attacking Najam Sethi. In case you thought this was the actions of some unruly youths and not part of PTI’s culture, please note that PTI’s official social media channels even posted the embarrassing event.

If PTI’s official channels are trying to use the victory to advance their political war, other official channels tried to use the victory to advance another war.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the border, messages posted that were both humble and gracious in defeat.

If I am thinking about why we can’t enjoy a victory without turning it into a weapon, I have to think that when all you have is an Army, everything looks like a war. But I am not thinking about it anymore. I am choosing to enjoy the sweet victory for what it really is – proof that this country is more than an Army, and that we have more to offer than war.

What Pakistan can learn from Afridi’s observation of “Indian rivalry”

Shahid Afridi and Mahendra DhoniPakistanis are still healing from the loss against India on Wednesday, but what has perhaps caught most people off guard is Pakistan cricket team’s captain Shahid Afridi’s recent statements in regards to the match . At the post-match ceremony after the loss against India, Shahid Afridi congratulated the Indian crowd and the nation for their fifth consecutive victory over Pakistan in the World Cup format. Furthermore, when he came back to Pakistan, Afridi expressed dismay over the fact that both the public and the media were so obsessed over the “Indian rivalry,” when in fact both nations shared similar cultural traits. Many in the public have unfortunately misplaced Afridi’s statement, with some going as far as accusing him of being unpatriotic. However, careful examination of history shows that Afridi’s observations are not ill founded.

Pakistan’s difficulty of maintaining a civil relationship with India finds its origins right after its creation in August 1947. The rapid transition of becoming an independent state was met with much hostility from the Indian National Congress, with some predicting an early demise of the nation. Furthermore, partition left Pakistan with a highly inferior economy due to India inheriting most of the cotton and jute mills. Perhaps the most damaging factor for Pakistan was the fact that it had to create a new central government, whereas India had inherited the British parliamentary system.

Pakistan was engaged in a war over Kashmir only six months after its independence. This changed Pakistan’s political ideology forever, as it spent 70% of its expenditure towards military defense in its first year after independance. Insecurity, Kashmir and a weaker military led to policies that were focused more towards strengthening the military, thus political institutes and provincial understanding immensely suffered. Non-elected Generals and bureaucrats (retired and serving) ruled Pakistan till 1971.  Ayub Khan in 1959 did propose for a “Joint Defense” Program with India that could have strengthened ties between both nations. However, Indians simply did not trust the Pakistani military due to the 1948 debable, and thus the proposal never materialized. Ayub Khan never looked back, as 1965’s “Operation Gibraltar” focused on regaining Kashmiri territory. This strategic plan was a failure, as it left East Pakistan exposed, and with it further division within the nation. By 1970, the ripples of non-elected military Generals left Pakistan in a state of confusion, as provincial politics decayed. Anti-Indianism only grew stronger in the 1970’s with the instilled notion that India was “solely” responsible for the creation of Bangladesh.

Even though Pakistan continuously witnessed the decay of politics through military rule,  the late 80’s and 90’s showed that with democracy came a shift in attitude towards Indian relations. Both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif have represented the opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, yet both displayed similar progressive stances towards healing relations with India. Benazir Bhutto, after getting elected in 1988, urged for normalization of relations with India, along with the decrease in the support for the proxy war against India in disputed Kashmir.

Nawaz Sharif similarly in his second term (February 17th, 1997-October 12th, 1999) emphasized on normalization of relations with India (via trade). It was during this term that then Indian Prime Minister Atal Vajpayee made the famous visit to Lahore’s sacred sites, along with the bus ride from Lahore back to India, which was seen as a goodwill gesture towards Nawaz Sharif’s diplomatic efforts. However, both Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto would meet their demise due to their Progressive stance towards India. Benazir Bhutto was removed by the military for being too soft and lenient towards India, as well as allegedly revealing secrets about Pakistan’s uranium program to the United States. Nawaz Sharif similarly was met with contempt from the army when Indian Prime Minister Atul Vajpayee came to visit Lahore.

General Musharraf refused to greet Vajpayee at a ceremony held for the Indian Prime Minister. All hopes of reconciliation deteriorated with the chaotic mismanagement of civil-military relations with the infamous “Kargil” operation. A few years later oddly enough, Musharraf(as the military head of state) was actively communicating with Vajpayee at the Agra Summit. Musharraf also tried to initiate dialogue with India on Kashmir and alleged Jihadist infiltration, however all efforts deteriorated after he got a dose of his own medicine as he was forced to resign from office in 2008.

The ever-changing forms of political rule along with the military’s emphasis on defensive expenditures have largely been responsible for the lack of a consistent relationship with India. Infact, conservative estimates show that for a significant period of the Siachin conflict, the Pakistani army spent more than half a million dollars a day trying to match Indian firepower. In spite of the alliances with the United States and the mind-boggling defensives expenditures, the military has not gained any significant territory for Pakistan. Most unfortunate though has been the dissolution of political institutions within the nation. Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto were destined to not be able to succeed due to the military interference in the political sphere.

It was heartening to see Pakistan cricket team’s captain exclaim puzzlement as to how we have come to a stage that the nation only thinks of enmity when India is mentioned. Both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif were able to raise questions in regards to how Pakistan should see its relationship with India. One can only hope that sustained civil leadership (without interruption from the military) brings forth these questions once again on the political platform. As a nation, we have been robbed of sustained political rule over the past 64 years, and this has led to a fragmented depiction of our neighbors. Let the future make us seek more deliberation and fewer judgments.


Confronting Hypocrisy

by Mohsin Hamid for Dawn

The spot-fixing scandal has broken my heart. I’m a die-hard Pakistan cricket fan. Yes, I’d long heard about the corruption in our team, including by some of our greatest players in the 1990s. But I never wanted to believe it.

So when I saw the no-ball video evidence last month, it shook me. I was disgusted by our players, and even more so by the Pakistan Cricket Board. Whether or not anyone is convicted of a crime, if the video wasn’t a fake (and there’s no reason to think it was), then it and the horrifying behaviour of our officials in response are all I need to be convinced that our national cricket administration is rotten to the core.

In recent times Pakistan cricket has seen increasingly overt displays of religiosity. We’ve had conversions, sudden changes in appearance (with beards sprouting on many a formerly clean-shaven chin). We’ve had group prayers led by captains and (if rumours are to be believed) secret, sacred oaths sworn to unseat captains. We’ve had after-match press conferences prefaced by invocations of the divine.

Why, then, are we confronted with endemic cheating by our players and the unsavoury sight of our administrators seemingly scrambling to hide what has been going on? Why is our cricket infrastructure in as sorry a state as our political infrastructure?

For me, a large part of the answer has to do with the politicisation of religion.

I have always been a strong believer in Pakistan’s potential. And despite the terribly difficult times our country is going through, I’ve never accepted that our future needs to be bleak. But it is clear to me that Pakistan is being bled by a terrible enemy. That enemy is not America or India or any other external power. No, our enemy is within. Our enemy is our own hypocrisy.

To an extraordinary degree, we Pakistanis have a culture of hypocrisy. We condemn corrupt officials but cheat on our taxes. We have little evidence for conspiracy theories but spout them anyway. Our police take bribes. Our champion sportsmen throw matches. Our state both fights militants and supports militants. Our People’s Parties steal from the people. Our Muslim Leagues wink at those who kill Muslims.

Our hypocrisy is so rampant that one would think it’s a state-sponsored ideology.

And, in fact, it is. In moving from the secular state envisioned by Jinnah to the so-called religious one brought into being by Bhutto, Zia, the Sharifs and the Bhutto-Zardari dynasty, Pakistan has created a political template that makes hypocrisy essential.

Religion, like love, is at its core about sincerity. Saying you love your spouse or your child in public as loudly as possible does not make it true. But imagine a state where everyone was encouraged, indeed coerced, to do this. By law, no one would go to work on their child’s birthday. Wedding anniversaries would be marked with televised speeches. In order to be issued with passports, childless couples and the unmarried would be forced to fill out special declarations to the effect that their status was not of their choosing.

What would happen? People would lie. In order to be accepted and get ahead, they would say one thing and believe something else. And by so doing, they would devalue truth (and indeed love) in their society. They would create an environment of hypocrisy in which those who love and those who don’t love both claim to love, where those who don’t love would be denied the chance for honest self-assessment, and where those who do love would find the words they use to express their feelings drained of meaning through rampant misappropriation. The result would be a society utterly toxic to love and to its own people.

The same is true of religion. A state that mandates religious practices, as Pakistan does, is a state that mandates hypocrisy, because the law can only govern outward behaviour. It can say that such-and-such behaviour is prohibited, but it cannot say that such-and-such belief is prohibited. And as the gap between belief and behaviour widens, hypocrisy sets in. People with beards still kill. People who cover their heads still steal. People who thank God for their victories still cheat. And because so many people do these things, the split between religion and morality becomes profound and widely accepted.

Secularism need not be anti-religious. A secular Pakistan could be a Pakistan in which the religious life of its citizens is enhanced, just as love is enhanced in a state that does not seek to legislate love. We need to re-evaluate the notion of politicised Islam that has worked its way into our politics, our constitution, our culture and our sports teams.

There is no hiding from our hypocrisy. We have to confront it. It lies at the heart of our state. The choice between an Islamic republic and a republic with a Muslim majority is ours, and it is not merely a matter of words. There is a reason why religions say there should be no compulsion in matters of religion. The reason is that compulsion leads to hypocrisy.

And hypocrisy leads to the crises Pakistan faces today.

The writer is the author of the novels Moth Smoke and The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

Defeating the invincible South Africa – Pakistan storms to T20 Final

Going into the T20 world cup, no one expected Pakistan to do wonders. Lackluster performance in warm up matches followed by a thrashing defeat at the hands of England had further dashed hopes of Pakistanis. But then the slow-starter boys of Younis Khan started to wake up. They convincingly defeated Netherlands to have a place in Super 8. Lost to Sri Lanka but defeated New Zealand and Ireland convincingly to reserve a berth in Semi Final against invincible South Africa (that had won 5 of 5 in the tournament thus far). And then they threw the favorite South Africans out of the tournament by an all-round performance in batting, bowling and fielding. Pakistani team has made a huge comeback in the T-20 world cup in a manner that is unique to Pakistanis.

When it seems all is going to fail, when you rule them out, when you think it is all over for them, Pakistanis make a comeback and they surprise you with their resilience. They did it in 1992 world cup and here they have done it again. The resilience of Younis Khan and his boys has brought smiles to the faces of a nation under attack by terrorists. It has shown to us once again what we Pakistanis are made of. It has strengthened in us the belief that we can surmount and surpass any obstacles and troubles that come our way with our resolve and spirit to fight back.

I, like all of us, will like Pakistan to win the last match on Sunday. But no matter whether they win or lose, our boys with their performances have made us proud. I applaud for Younis Khan and his boys. On Sunday, like all of you, I will be cheering for Men in Green. Win or lose, they have made us proud. Go Pakistan!

Bhutto’s Life Represents the Struggle Between Pakistan’s People and the Establishment

Benazir Bhutto, the outstanding icon of Pakistan’s struggle for democracy is gone. For those who only saw her as a distant political figure, her human dimension clearly did not matter. That applies to those who vilified her throughout her life, those who failed to protect her and those who actually killed her. But for everyone whose life she touched, her humanity transcended the politics.

I was among those who got to know Benazir Bhutto, the person –a daughter scarred by the assassination of her father, a sister injured by the killing of her brothers, a wife hurt by the disparagement and imprisonment without conviction of her husband, and a mother who was robbed of the opportunity to see her children grown into adulthood. With all the verbal and physical abuse hurled at her, she remained amazingly loving and lovable. Her loss is a personal loss to me and millions of others who admired her. Her assassination also creates serious challenges for the integrity and future of Pakistan.

Beginning with Ziaul Haq’s decision to execute Pakistan first popularly elected leader, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan has witnessed a fundamental struggle between the country’s establishment, which rules with military backing, and populist forces led by the Bhutto family. Benazir Bhutto’s assassination is the latest twist in that conflict.

Like all great people, and political dynasties, the Bhuttos generate a lot of passion both for and against. In the days to come we will read and hear many facts, factoids and falsehoods about the strengths, weaknesses and paradoxes of Benazir Bhutto. To me these are merely the subtext. The headline is that the Pakistani establishment’s nemesis has been removed from the scene, ostensibly by terrorists who have flourished in establishment-dominated Pakistan.

Benazir Bhutto was demonized by the civil-military oligarchy that has virtually run Pakistan since 1958, the year of Pakistan’s first military coup. But she retained a hard core of popular support, and her social-democratic Pakistan People’s Party is widely regarded as Pakistan’s largest political party. Pakistan’s civilian leaders of recent years (including Benazir Bhutto) get blamed for many things that are essentially the result of the establishment’s obsessions-with India, about Afghanistan and relations with the United States.

Benazir Bhutto had the combination of political brilliance, charisma, popular support and international recognition that made her a credible democratic alternative to Musharraf acceptable to the international community. Her elimination from the scene is not only a personal loss to millions of Pakistanis who loved and admired her. It exposes Pakistan’s nation’s vulnerability, and the urgent need to deal with it.

Bhutto’s assassination could be a setback to populist-democratic forces. But it also has the potential to mobilize strong backlash against the militarist and overly centralized paradigm of the Pakistani state. Getting through elections that his Kings Party would almost certainly lose if they were fair is not the only challenge facing Musharraf right now. With the help and support of the military, he can weather any immediate challenge to his authority. But Bhutto’s murder adds to Musharraf’s legitimacy problems.

Bhutto’s assassination highlights the fears about Pakistan that she voiced over the last several months. Years of dictatorship and sponsorship of Islamist extremism have made this nuclear-armed Muslim nation of 160 million people a safe haven for terrorists that threaten the world. Bhutto had the courage and vision to challenge both terrorism and the authoritarian culture that nurtured it. Her assassination has already exacerbated Pakistan’s instability and uncertainty.

Riots have erupted in several parts of the country as grief has fanned anger against a government that is deeply unpopular. People in Pakistan’s smaller provinces, Sindh and Balochistan, are particularly aggrieved and angered. Like her father before her, she was a leader from Sindh with national appeal. That she met a tragic end without much protection or comfort from the country’s ruling elite heightens the isolation of Sindhis and Balochis.

Barely two years ago, a missile attack by security forces killed octogenarian Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti. The circumstances of Bhutto’s death -assassination by a terrorist -may be different but the net result is the same: systematic elimination of nationally recognized anti-establishment political leaders with strong constituencies.

The tragedy of December 27 may have been the work of a terrorist but for Bhutto’s supporters, the government is not without blame. Musharraf refused to accept Bhutto’s requests for an investigation in the earlier attempt on her life on October 18, assisted by the FBI or Scotland Yard, both of which have greater competence in analyzing forensic evidence than Pakistan’s notoriously corrupt and incompetent law enforcement. The circumstances of the first assassination attempt remain mired in mystery as has often been the case with murders of Pakistan’s high profile political personalities.

Television images soon after Bhutto’s assassination showed fire engines hosing down the crime scene, in what can only be considered a calculated washing away of forensic evidence. Bhutto had publicly expressed fears that pro-extremist elements within Pakistan’s security services were complicit in plans to eliminate her. Instead of addressing those fears, Musharraf cynically rejected Bhutto’s request for international security consultants to be hired at her own expense.

This cynicism on the part of the Pakistani authorities is now causing most of Bhutto’s supporters to vent anger against the Musharraf regime for her tragic death. One cannot understand why a regime that has not hesitated to compromise national sovereignty in its conduct of foreign policy insists on invoking the sovereignty argument in resisting an international investigation of a vicious crime it says it condemns.

The United States might not be willing, at this stage, to review its policy of trusting the military-dominated regime led by Pervez Musharraf to secure and stabilize Pakistan. But as Musharraf becomes less and less credible in the eyes of his own people, it might have to. The U.S. would come under pressure of international opinion to use its influence, acquired with more than $10 billion in economic and military aid, to persuade Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment to loosen its grip on power and negotiate with politicians with popular support, most prominently Bhutto’s successors in her Pakistan People’s Party as well as the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) leader Nawaz Sharif. Instead of calibrating terrorism, as Musharraf appears to have done, Pakistan must work towards eliminating terrorism, as Bhutto demanded.

Now that the PPP and PML-N have agreed to participate in the polls, parliamentary elections scheduled for Jan. 8 should not be delayed. The plans for poll rigging already in place for the benefit of the Kings Party, PML-Q should be shelved to ensure that a rigged poll does not become the instigator of a new round of street violence. Musharraf has ruled alone for long enough. He should not put the country’s stability and prosperity in jeopardy by continuing with the political juggling that has kept him strong so far while making Pakistan weak.

There is no way the PPP will now lose the election, given the strong sympathy wave resulting from Mohtarma’s assassination. It led in opinion polls, followed by Sharif’s PML-N even before. Cooperation between PML-N and the PPP, as well as other opposition parties, offers an opportunity to turn national sorrow into national unity. The establishment could hold on to power by use of force but that would only harm an already brittle nation further.

In her death, as in her life, Benazir Bhutto has drawn attention to the need for building a moderate Muslim democracy in Pakistan that cares for its people and allows them to elect its leaders. The war against terrorism, she repeatedly argued, cannot be won without mobilizing the people of Pakistan against violent extremists, and bringing Pakistan’s security services under civilian control. Indeed the federation cannot be kept together except through the will and commitment of its people.

Husain Haqqani, a professor at Boston University, is Co-Chair of the Hudson Institute’s Project on Islam and Democracy. He is the author of the Carnegie Endowment book ‘Pakistan Between Mosque and Military’ and served as an adviser to Ms Bhutto.