Pakistan Must Face Its Demons


Is India really to blame for all of Pakistan’s problems? In a piece in Dawn over the weekend, well-known nuclear physicist and left-wing activist, Dr. Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy, has asked some important some questions about the refusal of many Pakistanis to accept that the violence and mayhem we face is the result of failed policies within the country. The fact is, we have tolerated jihadi activism and conspiracy based ideas for too long with the result that terrorists now have the capacity to attack army headquarters in Rawalpindi and the main ISI office in Peshawar. According to Dr. Hoodbhoy, it simply doesn’t make any sense for India to support jihadis.

If [Foreign Minister Qureshi] and the iterior minister are correct then we must conclude that the Indians are psychotics possessed with a death wish, or are perhaps plain stupid. While India’s assistance for Baloch insurgents could conceivably make strategic sense, helping the jihadists simply does not.

As Pakistan staggers from one bombing to the other, some Indians must be secretly pleased. Indeed, there are occasional verbalisations: is this not sweet revenge for the horrors of Mumbai (allegedly) perpetrated by Lashkar-i-Taiba?

Shouldn’t India feel satisfaction as Pakistan reels from the stinging poison of its domestically reared snakes?

But most Indians are probably less than enthusiastic in stoking fires across the border. In fact, the majority would like to forget that Pakistan exists. With a six per cent growth rate, booming hi-tech exports and expectations of a semi-superpower status, they feel that India has no need to engage a struggling Pakistan with its endless litany of problems.

Once again, the question of whether or not theories such as secret Indian orchestration of Pakistani jihadists makes sense in the light of geopolitical reality.

Imagine the consequences if central authority in Pakistan disappears or is sharply weakened. Splintered into a hundred jihadist lashkars, each with its own agenda and tactics, Pakistan’s territory would become India’s eternal nightmare.

When Mumbai-II occurs — as it surely would in such circumstances — India’s options in dealing with nuclear Pakistan would be severely limited.

The Indian army would be powerless. As the Americans have discovered at great cost, the mightiest war machines on earth cannot prevent holy warriors from crossing borders.

Internal collaborators, recruited from a domestic Muslim population that feels itself alienated from Hindu-India, would connive with jihadists.

Subsequently, as Indian forces retaliate against Muslims — innocent and otherwise — the action-reaction cycle would rip the country apart.

Let me make an apparently outrageous proposition: in the coming years, India’s best protection is likely to come from its traditional enemy, the Pakistan Army. Therefore, India ought to now help, not fight, against it.

This may sound preposterous. After all, the two countries have fought three and a half wars over six decades.

During periods of excessive tension, they have growled at each other while meaningfully pointing towards their respective nuclear arsenals.

And yet, the imperative of mutual survival makes a common defence inevitable. Given the rapidly rising threat within Pakistan, the day for joint actions may not be very far away.

As Dr. Hoodbhoy rightly points out, there is an actor other than India that actually does have a stake in seeing Pakistani democracy toppled, though it’s less popular to point to – jihadis.

This militancy does not merely exist because America occupies Afghanistan. A US withdrawal, while welcome, will not end Pakistan’s problems. As an ideological movement, the jihadists want to transform society as part of their wider agenda.

They ride on the backs of their partners, the mainstream religious political parties like the Jamaat-i-Islami and Jamiat-i-Ulema-Pakistan.

None of these have condemned the suicide bombings of Pakistani universities, schools, markets, mosques, police and army facilities.

What’s important to realize about this is that the jihadists are a common enemy to Pakistan and India both, and the fight against these illiberal tyrants provides an opening for Pakistani and Indian cooperation and understanding.

True, there is a lot of history that will not be overcome in a single summit meeting between our leaders. But Pakistan did not become an independent nation easily, and we have never backed down from a difficult struggle before.

Rather than wasting our time and energy chasing conspiracy bhoots, we should be facing our own demons and making peace with those who could help in our fight. India needs a stable Pakistan to support their continuing economic growth. We need to rid our country of jihadi militants if we are to get out of this cycle of violence and economic decline.

To quote Dr. Hoodbhoy

The reason for India to want rapprochement with Pakistan, and thus end decades of hostility, has nothing to do with feelings of friendship or goodwill. It has only to do with survival. For us in Pakistan, this is even truer.





  1. Dear Mr Hoodbhoy,I realize you are from the top Ivy Schools and which produced people like GWB and
    TLF and so many others who believe in the bringing
    The NEW WORLD ORDER; Our problem at present is not
    the militancy but those who feed fodder to the militants. Which brings us to the point who are they? If we were to follow your line of thoughts
    then the culprits are ISI and Pakistan Army! On
    the other hand if we follow your opponents then its RAW and their allies.One thing that has been puzzling me from which War College did late Baithullah Mahsud graduate and now his successor?
    Perhaps you could throw some light on this matter.

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