Polls provide last chance!
The one big hope that Pakistan will pull through its horrendous multi-faceted internal crisis that threatens its very existence is provided by its English language media. The insight displayed by many of its commentators and columnists would do any newspaper functioning in a democratic society proud. It is Pakistan’s media that encouraged this writer to continue harbouring optimism regarding the future of Indo-Pakistan relations. Such optimism is fading fast due to a variety of recent developments.
One was always aware of foreign funded schools flourishing in Pakistan designed to raise a generation of fundamentalists committed to terror and violence. But one was also aware that despite the spread of such fundamentalism rural Pakistan has not forgotten the rich legacy of Sufi saints. From a credible source who frequently visits Pakistan the respect for these saints among rural Pakistanis is no less than for the Prophet. Pakistan wants to be Islamic. But never did Baba Farid or Inayat Shah or Bulleh Shah or a host of Sufi saints from Punjab ever deviate from Islam or from the teachings of Prophet Mohammed. They merely exposed, ridiculed and criticized clerics and priest of all religions. Therefore despite the subversion of Pakistan’s youth through foreign funded schools it was hoped that the ethos of Pakistan would survive. In the cultural and civilizational history of a people spanning centuries six decades may be considered no more than a comma.
One was also aware of the large sections of the military establishment committed to a perverted version of Islam and colluding with terrorists. One was aware of the sectarian divisions plaguing Pakistan. One was aware of the distortions in Pakistan’s democracy in which the army exercises the decisive role. But as long as a section of civil society gave expression through its English language media, there was hope. That hope now is fading because even in English textbooks for school children such distortions have crept in as would destroy the culture and attitude of the next generation of even the elitist section of Pakistan’s civil society. Mr. Kuldip Nayar in his articles has highlighted the distortions introduced in Pakistan’s school textbooks and quoted passages to prove his point.
One was aware of fundamentalist hatred permeating even sections of lawyers who endorsed the murder of a noted liberal activist. One was aware of the civil government’s inability to stand up to the army when it came to the crunch. But for the first time an elected government, howsoever weak and compromised, managed to last its full term and Pakistan stands poised for its next general election. The manner in which this election is conducted, and the results that follow it, might well determine the eventual fate of Pakistan. This election could be a watershed. That is why despair about Pakistan’s revival has begun to arise.
The fundamentalist doctrine has so permeated even civil society that the returning officers in the election are testing candidates for their piety and commitment to their version of Islamic tenets. Noted Pakistani journalist Mr. Ayaz Amir’s candidatures was rejected because his newspaper columns were considered not sufficiently Islamic! This reduces the election to the level of a farce. Pakistan newspapers are ridiculing this approach. But can they or sections of the political class bring about any change in the conduct of the poll? Prospects of that appear very dim. In that event Pakistan’s slide down to a perverse fundamentalist approach seems unstoppable.
This would have a huge impact on India. Already the army dominated government of Pakistan is pressuring Afghanistan to cut all ties with India.
Latest exposures have revealed how Dawood Ibrahim openly operates from Karachi and transfers annually 3.5 billion dollars drug money from Afghanistan to Pakistan by utilizing the services of the Nassau overseas branch of the Bank of Baroda. Obviously the money is utilized for criminal and subversive purposes.
New Delhi therefore has to think hard and make contingency plans for dealing with a post-poll Pakistan. It is futile to outline those plans. Readers of Boloji would be familiar with the soft and hard options for dealing with Pakistan that have been iterated through these columns. They would be familiar also with how those options can be exercised in order to offer Pakistan a last chance for sincere cooperation before hard measures are adopted to encourage its disintegration without firing a single shot. The impact of Pakistan’s future on India cannot be exaggerated.
I am both amused and irritated by readers from the South ridiculing my so-called obsession with Pakistan. As far as memory goes the Tamils of Sri Lanka have never been part of India. Yet because of a common language the politicians and people of Tamil Nadu go berserk over their fate in Sri Lanka. The Punjabis of India and Pakistan lived as one for centuries. They opposed Partition of the subcontinent which was promoted and accepted by leaders from Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. The Tamil people are rightly exercised over human right violations against the Sri Lanka Tamils. But do they ever spare a thought for the near million innocent Punjabi people slaughtered in engineered riots within three months after the Partition?
There are stray voices among Pakistanis starting to recall the holocaust after Partition. They want to undo the spirit of the Partition. If balkanization occurs to ignite this sentiment across borders the changes that might follow would defy the force of any government. What happens in Pakistan therefore does deserve India’s closest attention. One cannot ignore Pakistan which continues to export terror. India cannot retaliate. China has given Pakistan nuclear weapons. That is the challenge that India’s policymakers must overcome.