Making sense of Pakistan By Farrukh Khan Pitafi
Is it all that Pakistan is good at? Angering friends and foes alike? At least that is what is being said. In Washington, in Arab countries, in Delhi, Kabul, Tehran and who knows another place that sits right in our hearts. But is our knack at annoying friends really that devastating? That depends on how you look at us.
We are a nation born amid bloodshed. Our founding father, who had everything worked out in his head, died one year after the country’s birth. We were left with no plan and deep-seated paranoia. We had just been carved out of the mammoth body of mother India who constantly appeared to be on our case. But was she? Who knows. Was it not enough that Indian leaders with their far superior gun-power were constantly passing snide remarks about us and predicting our untimely collapse? It is all documented. Fear does strange things to people. You go hungry and yet buy more guns that you need. No you don’t get it. Not the ordinary fear. The one that would have been there had Cuba kept nuclear-tipped missiles for decades. The existential one.
In the void, we grew with madness, made some poor choices, and then went and made some more poor choices. Paranoia was compounded when the country lost one half to the independent Bangladesh and a victorious Indira Gandhi and India’s influential prime minister claimed to have sunk Pakistan’s presumed raison d’etre in the Bay of Bengal. We went on and made some more bad choices, many of which have come back to haunt us today. Our civil-military balance was ridiculously altered owing to perpetual fear. India, very magnanimously, came to every dictator’s rescue with more snide remarks and threats. And we took revenge whenever we could by trying to burn our own house in protest.
One elected prime minister was hanged. Another was to be exiled years later. We painstakingly lifted the lid on the Pandora’s box of extremism and militancy. Our labours were rewarded when the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan and crumbled. But we were not left unaffected. The code in our DNA had shifted. The extremists had gained a foothold. It destroyed Afghanistan further but ignore as you may want to, it also destroyed the tree of life within our own home. Then we exploded the Bomb and from being called a pivotal state, we took a nosedive and were branded as a potential rogue state with a proliferation problem.
Since 9/11, the country has fought with its own created demons. Sometimes half-heartedly, sometimes under duress, occasionally of its own volition. But while you have doubted, you cannot deny we have fought and have paid a heavy price. We may not be a quick study but we have learnt some lessons from our mistakes. Where once were accusations of proliferation, now sits a state-of-the art nuclear command authority. We have lost over 55,000 citizens, many of them women and children, to the acts of terrorism and killed around 25,000 terrorists. In doing all this we have still been told to do more. And we have obliged. Our entire system might be badly messed up but we still have developed democratic institutions.
And yet, every decision taken is analysed to death by our critics. First, we were not doing enough in combating terrorism as we did not go to North Waziristan. But when we did, it was claimed that the army is firmly back in the driving seat. Hello, but the democratic institutions are still there. Now when we don’t want to go to Yemen to avoid complications arising out of the involvement of a nuclear state in such a distant quagmire we are not the all-weather friend any more? Only someone insufferably benighted can ignore that while we have spent the past decade trying to rewrite our DNA, to make ourselves a viable democracy and a responsible nation-state, India, your superstar, has spent the same freeing its own demons by capitulating to Hindu fundamentalism. But too many still do. You know why? Because they think we are weak. But look at the past decade alone and you will notice we are not all that weak.
And this appears to be the season of mending. First, the nuclear framework agreement with Iran and now better relations with Cuba. Can the world’s most powerful man help us do away with the deep-seated hatred and paranoia against us? It is a huge impediment in our way to true democratisation.