Pakistan’s Narrative

Author Name: Air Chief Marshal Kaleem Saadat (Retd)      07 Sep 2020     Society

Pakistan was created as a result of a long and gruelling politico-legal battle by the Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and his able associates. The Quaid wanted to stay within united India, provided the political and social rights of the Muslims were safeguarded. The Congress and Hindu leadership were not willing to give these guarantees, so the Quaid, reluctantly, decided to demand a separate homeland for Muslims. The Hindu leadership was obviously not enamoured by this demand, but, despite their efforts, they could not prevent the partition of the subcontinent. They gave in to this arrangement in view of the bigger objective of getting rid of the British colonial rule. It was their earnest hope and expectation that, in due course, given the lack of resources, Pakistan would not be able to survive on its own and would ask to re-join the Indian Union. Not only did this not happen, Pakistan also refused to accept India’s hegemony in the region like the other smaller states had done. This has been a thorn in the Indian side ever since. The Hindu ideologues, while aspiring to undo the partition, forget an important detail that India was never united before 1947. It comprised of territory under British control and 562 Princely States, which had evolved a modus vivendi with colonial Britain.

The partition, when it did arrive, caused massive dislocation as Hindus and Muslims moved east and west across their common border respectively. These refugees lost their home and hearth and faced an uncertain future. Millions were killed due to anger and hatred of the Hindus. Moreover, the partition left in its wake unsettled issues of accession of the Princely States like Kashmir, Junagarh and Hyderabad. Of these, Kashmir was the most crucial problem because it affected 4 million people and 222,236 square kilometres of territory. The military skirmishes of 1947 and 1948 led to the dispute being taken to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) by India. The former resolved that the issue of accession should be decided on the basis of a plebiscite held under the UN auspices. India refused this demand and the matter remains a bone of contention between the two neighbours. The Kashmiris in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K) have waged a political freedom struggle, which sometimes became armed when the Indian oppression became extreme. Consequently, it has made the region unstable and denied it its rightful economic development. There’s a constant arms race in play. India has been wanting to attain military capabilities that could be decisive in battle and in “teaching Pakistan a lesson’’. Pakistan, in turn, has always been trying to acquire capabilities to deter India from any aggression.

This mutual tussle on the issue of Kashmir has led to wars in 1947, 48, 65, and 71 and near wars in 1986, 1999, 2002 and 2019. Since India refused to budge on Kashmir and the world forgot about it, Pakistan made a few attempts to wrest away Kashmir militarily but these proved futile.

It was a stalemate between them till the 90s, but then two things changed. 9/11 happened and then-Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh put the Indian economy on the path of growth. The anger of the US and West over 9/11 made the waging of war by non-state actors (NSA), including freedom fighters, unacceptable. This was a God-send for the Indians who started to label the Kashmiri freedom struggle as ‘terrorism’, aided by Pakistan. India also leaned on the US to put pressure on Pakistan to desist from alleged ‘cross-border terrorism’. This was done readily. The growing economy allowed the government to place ever more resources at the disposal of Indian armed forces, which saw their budget to rise from USD 9.75 billion in 1995 to USD 71 billion in 2020. Also, the large economy provided Western multinational corporations potential to make a lot of money. All this while Pakistan was mired in lack of governance and therefore, hampered by lack of resources. Thus, the overall environment became much more favourable to India and the West tended to overlook its human rights violations and war crimes in IOJ&K.

Taking advantage of the same, India changed the special status of IOJ&K granted under Article 370 and 35A of Indian Constitution on 5th August, 2019. The state has been under curfew and disconnected from the world since then. People have died due to hunger and lack of medical treatment. The world powers that invaded Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan alleging lack of freedoms, are silent spectators of 8.5 million Muslims incarcerated in a huge jail. Conventional wisdom says that there are three parties to the Kashmir issue: Pakistan, India and the Kashmiris. Peace can be attained by agreement of the three parties. However, right now there is war between the occupier India and the unarmed, suppressed Kashmiris. It is strange that the third party is totally absent, or compelled to be so, from this war.

In Western diplomatic circles, the usual stance is to coax Pakistan to normalise relations with India. They ignore the fact that Pakistan wants to, but India wouldn’t let it. There’s a complete breakdown in diplomatic engagement between the two neighbours because of Indian obduracy. History is witness that India has been trying to undo Pakistan - creation of Bangladesh is a clear example. Otherwise also, India has been strengthening its military capability continually to be able to inflict a mortal blow on Pakistan. In May 1998, with nuclear explosions and in February 2019 after the Balakot aerial strike, it tried to show that Pakistan was weak. Indian rhetoric and hubris touched new heights following these events. Pakistan was fortunate that it was prepared with suitable responses otherwise, the Indians could have run amok in their euphoria.

Pakistan is alleged to be a safe haven for the Taliban (terrorists), but people forget that once upon a time, they were hailed and hosted in the White House as Mujahedeen waging a holy war against communist Soviet Union. A decade later, the Taliban government was dislodged through Operation Enduring Freedom. Pakistan has been trying to survive in a hostile environment of Islamophobia. There’s nexus between India, Israel and the US who claim to be victims of ‘radical Islam.’ All the time ignoring that Muslims all over the world are victims of state terrorism.

Post-9/11, how did Pakistan become a safe haven for terrorists? The Taliban were on the run. The Pak-Afghan border was not sealed by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) so the Taliban came across the porous border. With limited NATO boots on ground, their flight into Pakistan could not be prevented. The kinetic means used against terrorists post-9/11 did not eliminate them, and they invariably escaped to territories not under American attack. That is how the area populated by terrorists spread. Pakistan is a victim of terrorism not a perpetrator, like India, which has waged a hybrid war in all Pakistani urban areas and Balochistan. Their ministers and party leaders have openly admitted to waging a war against Pakistan.

Pakistan has been hosting Afghan refugees since 1979. They numbered four million at one time and are only now down to 1.4 million. Pakistan cannot afford their cost and social burden, yet UNHCR would not let Pakistan repatriate them back to Afghanistan.

Pakistan is one of the main source of UN’s peace-keeping force. It became embroiled in a war between the West and would-be terrorists. The country’s anti-terror efforts have been more successful than any other country. The forces inimical to Pakistan can and will pose every threat to it without considering its security interests. Pakistan has served the cause of peace by being a member of SEATO, CENTO and a major non-NATO ally of the US. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Pakistan has maintained a non-aligned policy in world affairs. It has been party to global counter-terrorism efforts. This is a state that has done its best to be a symbol of good in the world, but it has unfortunately always been sucked into the tornadoes of regional and world affairs.

Pakistan needs to be understood better.

What does Pakistan want?

  • To live in a rule-based world.
  • To live in, and work for, peace.
  • To make its due contribution to the world at large.
  • Non-interference in others’ internal affairs and also others not meddling in its own affairs.
  • A level playing field in political and economic domains.
  • Fair treatment in disputed matters.
  • To create a society based on justice and rule of law.
  • A safe, secure and prosperous future for its citizens.
  • To avoid discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, ethnicity, religion etc.
  • To respect human rights of minorities and all citizens.

 

Where Does Pakistan’s Narrative Go Wrong?

Pakistan has not helped its own cause due to poor governance and lack of a clear vision for its future. It needs a cohesive and consistent narrative because it has not attained economic sovereignty, which has undermined its political independence as well. The country is too dependent on foreign loans to balance its budget and the international financial institutions and donors impose conditions that are hard for its citizens’ interests and well-being.

Also, the country’s institutional apparatus fails to act like a progressive and just state. Crimes against the weak and the minorities go unpunished. The police and religious extremists remain out of control. The murder and molestation of children are fodder for enemies of Pakistan, yet the state seems helpless. The press and media are throttled. Dissent is not tolerated. The disaffected citizens are not engaged but forcibly taken away for indefinite periods. The LEAs are apparently not answerable to anyone. Order without law is tyranny and that seems to be acceptable these days. Justice and accountability is selective, which aggravate societal and political divisions. The level of political discourse has fallen steeply; abusive trolls, facilitated by social media, hold sway over everything.

The state needs to show a large heart and more foresight. Instant wrongs should not be set right post-haste while ignoring their longer-term repercussions. A case in point is the issue of PIA pilots’ and engineers’ licenses. A country of 220 million people, like a large ship, can be turned around slowly with persistence and support of its citizens. Vengeance and confrontation only increase resistance to change. Positive change is one which is not discernible to those being made to change. At the end of the day, Pakistan needs less anger and more kindness towards its citizens.

 

- ACM Kaleem Saadat (Retd) is President CASS. He can be reached at cass.thinkers@gmail.com.