Our heroes are the Muslim conquerors of Hindustan, from Mahmud Ghaznavi onwards. We name our missiles after them — Ghauri, Abdali — and of course after Iqbal’s mythical Shaheen. We take ourselves to be the descendants of the Timurid conquerors, the House of Babur. Yet Pakistan defines itself by its fear of Hindustan, the land conquered, occupied and ruled by the supposed ancestors, the spiritual and temporal forbears, of today’s Islamic Republic.
Perhaps there are a thousand justifications for Pakistan to have a large standing army. Perhaps there are many reasons, and valid ones at that, for Pakistan to possess a nuclear capability. But for Pakistan the overriding reason for tanks, missiles and nuke capability is not the Arabian Sea, not the Himalayas, but India.
What are we afraid of? What are our generals afraid of? Is Pakistan a morsel on a map that anyone can swallow? But we conduct ourselves and we talk as if we face an ‘existential’ threat from our neighbour to the east. I wish we would take this word existential out of our lexicon. It has been worked to death. The only threat Pakistan faces is: 1) from incompetence and 2) from fantasies about ‘jihad’ — about conquering lands to our west and east, fantasies which have brought us to our present pass.
If only we had remained a normal country without the urge to hitch our national wagon to distant stars we could have avoided so many of our troubles and become the crossroads of east and west, and Central Asia and the Indian Ocean, that we can still become if only we choose to transcend some of the strange notions that afflict our national thinking.
India came to divide Pakistan much later, in 1971…and wouldn’t have succeeded in that either if we by our folly had not prepared the ground for Indian intervention. We divided India much before, in 1947. The one war which India exploited to its advantage was the 1971 war. All the rest — from Kashmir to Kargil, and the 1965 war in between — were started by us, convinced of victory because we had fed ourselves on the notion that one Muslim soldier was equal to ten Hindu soldiers.
Our security state, this constant siege mentality which is a feature of the security state, is because of India, and the motives and intentions we attribute to it. Suppose Indian intentions are really what we take them to be. Suppose India really wants to undo and destroy Pakistan. The more important question is: what are its capabilities? Is Pakistan a sandbag construction that India or any other power can do with it what it pleases? Is Pakistan a pawn on a chessboard, a puppet on a string?
But to hear our generals and strategic thinkers — may all of them get American visas and go and live in Florida and California — it seems that across the planet there is no state as fragile as Pakistan, and no enemy state as malevolent as India. What is this inferiority complex, this sense of constant insecurity, driven constantly into the Pakistani mind?
As if our obsession with India wasn’t enough, our worthies had to go and get involved in Afghanistan, nurturing militias and irregular armies to wage ‘jihad’. But even when the Soviets fled from Afghanistan, our worthies weren’t happy…they had to undertake ‘jihad’ in Kashmir. The 1989 uprising in Kashmir was to begin with a local, indigenous uprising. If our ideological think-tankers in our national school of ideology, aka ISI, had their senses about them they would have kept it that way. But they had to intervene, with the result that a native, homespun uprising was distorted and diminished.
China is bringing investment to Pakistan. Along with its expertise and money why don’t we also import some of its strategic thinking? China has a stand on Taiwan and not even the United States dare cross what China considers to be its red lines on that issue. But does China train ‘jihadi’ armies for the liberation of Taiwan? Are there are any Hafiz Muhammad Saeeds or Maulana Masood Azhars or Zakiur Rehman Lakhvis kept in reserve for planting the flag of liberation in the capital, Taipei? Has China set up any Muridke for Taiwan?
So what world are we living in? The turnaround in the army’s thinking — and thank God we see the beginning of a change — will never be complete unless that thinking applies both to the Afghan border and the Indian border…unless we do away with the Muridke syndrome.
‘Jihad’ as an instrument of foreign policy was always a misplaced priority. It has come back to haunt us. How the Americans and the Saudis encouraged us on that path, patting us on the back and applauding our heroism and valour. We were stupid enough to fall for that drama, some of our strategic heroes going so far as to take credit for the breakup of the Soviet Union. But if this path was wrong then it is absolute folly now.
Which doesn’t mean declaring war on the Jamaat-ud-Daawah, or others of its kind, but bringing them in from the cold and making them part of the national mainstream. No one does disaster relief better than the Jamaat-ud-Daawah. If we had any imagination Hafiz Saeed would be made permanent relief commissioner of Pakistan, with the rank of a cabinet minister.
If there are Indian atrocities in Occupied Kashmir, Pakistan has a moral duty to speak up, regardless of Indian protestations. China wears Taiwan on its heart. Let Kashmir be our lost Jerusalem (the late romantic writer A Hameed used to say that Amritsar was his lost Jerusalem — I am taking the phrase from him). But the days of Muridke-style ‘jihad’ are over.
India has not reciprocated our peace gestures, says our PM. Let India remain a prisoner of its sullenness. That should not concern us. We don’t need to remain a prisoner of our paranoia. China has a history of bad relations with Vietnam. But Vietnam has shown the resolution to stand up to China. Finland had a history of fraught relations with the old Soviet Union. But through courage and wisdom it stood up to the Soviet Union. In terms of land and people we are bigger than Vietnam and Finland. What earthly reason is there for us to be afraid of any of our neighbours?
Our military posture towards India is based on false premises. Leave alone our nuke capability, our conventional strength is enough to deter any aggressor. North Korea’s handful of nukes are enough to keep both the US and Japan scared. We have a virtual arsenal, yet to hear our Gen Kidwai’s talk it seems that if we weren’t to carry out missile tests every few months India would overrun us. It is high time we got rid of such thinking.
Pakistan needs to grow up. It needs to put its house in order. We don’t need more missiles. We need better governance, more investment in our people. We need a higher standard of leadership. And we don’t need scare-mongering. Let Indian politicians indulge in sabre-rattling. Let Indian generals talk of cold-start doctrines. Let our response to such talk be a sardonic smile.
What’s our Hindustan problem? | Ayaz Amir.