Pakistan : Reconciling with Ground Realities
- Category: Strategic Research Review
- Published: Wednesday, 22 October 2008 00:00
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This notion of Pakistan as a potential great power survived through the ups and downs of Pakistan’s history --- even the spectacular loss to India in the 1971 war could not completely destroy this article of faith for Pakistanis. However, there has been a significant change in the recent past in the attitudes of Pakistanis, if the views espoused in the Pakistani English-language press is a credible indicator. There seems to be growing recognition in Pakistan that, over the course of the last 57 years after independence, things have gone terribly wrong with their country and its polity. Pakistan has sold its sovereignty to outside powers, while the military establishment of Pakistan has repeatedly taken measures to ensure that democracy does not take root in Pakistan . Today, Pakistan is a dictatorship with massive and growing illiteracy, growing poverty, huge unemployment, and a proliferation of armed groups responsible for rampant violent sectarianism in Pakistani society. The country has been made a haven for terrorists of every hue and color, and is recognized as such by the rest of the world.
Why are more and more Pakistani columnists ‘throwing in the towel’, so to speak? One of the tools used by the Pakistani establishment in the past has been the tight control it has kept over the media. This had allowed even stark defeats to be painted as victories --- in the absence of any other source of information, such officially sanctioned misinformation was believed widely and internalized by the Pakistani polity. But with the explosive growth of the Internet in the past decade, and the associated proliferation of internet media sources, the Pakistani Army is unable to wield control on Pakistani media any longer. As a result of this fundamental change in the nature of information flow into and out of Pakistan , Pakistani officialdom has been unable to use state-run media channels to suppress the truth about Pakistani society and culture. As a result, an increasing number of Pakistani columnists, expatriates, and journalists are able to disseminate information about the ground realities within Pakistan , even under the threat of retaliation by the Pakistani Army, which has not relinquished its desire to control Pakistani media.
In the last few months, there has been a spate of articles, columns and letters to the editors in Pakistani online English publications that essentially throw in the towel on Pakistan’s future – the authors of these articles seem to recognize two stark realities with respect to India and Kashmir: First, Pakistan is simply not capable of wresting Kashmir from India with force, or in other words, 'there is no military solution to Kashmir'. A corollary of this truth is also realized by a minority of Pakistanis that what could not be won militarily from India , can never be won over the negotiating table, thereby facing the bitter truth that Pakistan cannot acquire Kashmir via peace talks with India . Second, India is inexorably and unstoppably pulling ahead, and is more focused on economically competing with China than Pakistan , while Pakistan is stuck in the morass of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, political instability, fundamentalism, sectarian divide, and is actually regressing on all fronts. In other words, 'the grass is truly and visibly greener on the other side of the border' for some Pakistani commentators today. These realizations among such Pakistanis, and the reasons behind such a change in mindset, are analyzed in detail below.
'There is no military solution to Kashmir’: Pakistan has fought four wars with India of which three wars were for Kashmir (1948, 1965, and 1999 in Kargil). In 1948, Pakistan ’s marauding tribal hordes and its army occupied a part of Indian Jammu and Kashmir state but it fell far short of its ultimate objective of wresting the entire J & K from India . In the 1965 war, Pakistan could not achieve its objective of wresting Kashmir , and in fact, it had to concentrate on saving major cities like Lahore and Sialkot from falling into Indian hands. During the 1971 war, the Pakistani army was comprehensively defeated and ended up with 90,000 of its soldiers as Indian Prisoners of War. Pakistan also lost half its territory when Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan ) declared independence. In 1999, the Pakistani Army indulged in a miltary misadventure in Kargil under the leadership of Army Chief Pervez Musharraf, and in response, the Indian armed forces dealt a decisive blow to the Pakistani military, which pushed Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to request the Clinton Administration to provide the Pakistanis with an ‘honorable exit’ in spite of huge pakistani losses (former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif has estimated at least 3000 Pakistani soldiers lost in Kargil). Thus, in spite of four military adventures, Pakistan has not been able to wrest any Indian Territory but has lost a significant portion of Pakistani territory instead. In every successive war, Pakistan ’s position became weaker than in the previous one. The wars proved that India enjoyed a conventional superiority and Pakistan ’s nuclear assets were of no use in a conventional conflict. Thus, the Pakistanis seem to have have realized that their country is not in a position to inflict a military solution to its Kashmir dream. In the words of Nazir Naji, a reputed Pakistani columnist [i] ,
“We went to war in 1965 to resolve the Kashmir issue. We followed it up with an agreement in Tashkent not to fight again. We lost a war in 1971 and agreed to resolve the Kashmir dispute bilaterally. Then we opened the Kargil front and had to sign the Washington declaration subscribing to the sanctity of the Line of Control. After supporting armed struggle for independence for fifteen years we agreed also to disallow ‘cross-border terrorism’ and facilitated India in fencing the LOC.”
Also, it has finally dawned on Pakistanis that no other country, China or America , is going to help them achieve their geopolitical dreams. The world is simply not interested or strong enough to force India to do anything against the wishes of India 's billion people. Also, there is a realization that India is fast approaching a stage where the so-called conventional parity between the two will be a distant footnote in history. In a matter of a decade India 's defense budget could surpass the entire GDP of Pakistan. There is recognition that the world is not in the mood to tolerate any adventurism by Pakistan , and hence there is virtually no chance of altering the status-quo.
In the post 9/11 world, Pakistan ’s strategy of bleeding India through a thousand cuts has become untenable. Pakistan supported the terror campaign in Punjab in the 1980s by supplying arms, finances and training to terrorists. Since 1989, Pakistan ’s ISI (“Inter Services Intelligence”, Pakistan ’s main intelligence agency) indulged in a Jihad in Jammu and Kashmir using its foreign mujahideen and madrassa-trained fighters to launch and sustain a terror campaign in the state. Thousands of innocent Indian lives were lost to the bullets and bombs of ISI-controlled terrorists. But simultaneously Pakistani society became poisoned with the Jihad culture and its concomitant problems such as sectarian killings, drug culture, high degree of lawlessness and worst of all, a highly negative image of Pakistan in the eyes of the whole world. After 9/11 and following the spectacular successes of Indian forces against these fighters, Pakistan had to shut off its valve of terror in J & K. This option is not open to Pakistani strategic planners anymore.
In summary, Pakistanis have realized that they have no cards left to play and Kashmir is as far away from their clutches as it ever was. Meanwhile, the polity of Pakistan has been viciously hijacked by its military that has grown rich while keeping the ‘awam’ (Urdu word for masses) in wretched poverty. Consequently, in spite of precious little progress on the supposed ‘core issue’ of Kashmir in the talks between India and Pakistan , there is not much bellicosity to be found in Pakistani media. To the contrary, for the first time in the Pakistani press, commentators such as M B Naqvi seem to be ready to accept the status quo [ii],
“The net outcome of the talks so far is that no Kashmir solution is available that replaces India 's sovereignty over the Kashmir territories with something better. Pakistan cannot go out and conquer Kashmir ; that makes war out of the question... (The second Option) is to change the nature of Indo-Pakistan relationship after making a settlement on Kashmir on terms that are acceptable to India . MQM Chief Altaf Hussain's proposal to accept the LOC as the border may be painful if stated baldly. But it is realistic and is based on the only basis that will be acceptable to India ”.Again in the words of MB Naqvi [iii] ,
“ Pakistan cannot wrest Kashmir from India . It has no option but to live with the territorial status quo, however painful.”Thus, a host of factors have prompted a slew of columns/articles that question the wisdom of Pakistan’s Kashmir policy and even gently nudge the pakistani establishment to accept the status quo.
The grass is really greener on the other side of the border: This realization is a culmination of several factors (economic and political) spread over several years. Each factor essentially contrasts the stellar performance of India vis-à-vis Pakistan 's abject failures.
Indian Elections - A triumph of democracy: In 2004, India , the largest democracy in the world, conducted its completely transparent, free and fair general elections. The ruling coalition – the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) - failed to secure a majority and a Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition came to power. The outgoing Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee gracefully handed over the reigns of power, and the ruling UPA coalition named Dr Manmohan Singh, an economist of worldwide repute as the new Prime Minister. Pakistanis could only marvel at such an orderly and rancor-less transition of power and could not help but contrast it against the sometimes bloody and always illegal transitions of power that have characterized Pakistani politics. The fact that there has not been even a single lawful transfer of power in Pakistan since independence could not have escaped the Pakistani commentators. Ms Sherry Rehman, a senator in Pakistani senate commented , [iv] "In the history of Pakistan's chequered experience with democracy, only the epochal 1970 election has been held as free and fair. In India , however, the democratic process has taken a different trajectory, which has allowed its institutions to slowly develop their independence and credibility by strengthening each other. In this entire process of evolution over 57 years, Indian democracy has relied on its courts, its election commission and its military to play by the rules as established by its constitution." The UN requested the Election Commission of India to help UN conduct elections in Iraq and Afghanistan . Mr. Farrukh Saleem, a reputed Pakistani columnist and a PPP politician stated, [v]
“The UN's request is a great tribute to India 's democracy ...Why the Election Commission of India and not the Election Commission of Pakistan ? The answer ... definitely lies less in mere statistics and more in the "genuineness" of elections".Indian economy and IT juggernaut: India 's phenomenal progress in the world of information technology (IT) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) has captured the attention of the whole world. Pakistanis have only a sense of wonder and loss at the inability of Pakistan to match India in this respect. Again Farrukh Saleem states, [vi]
"Pepsi, Ford, IBM, Citibank, Kodak, Coca Cola, Microsoft, Motorola, ..., Ernst & Young and Price Waterhouse with offices in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai are hiring Indians by the thousands. US corporate giants are now dependent on Tata Consultancy, Infosys Technologies, Wipro, Satyam Computer Services, HCL Technologies, Patni Computer Systems, Silverline Technologies, Mahindra, Pentasoft, Mascot, Mascom, Mastek, Polaris, L&T and Hexaware (all Indian software giants). All we are left with is our bomb. Hope is the key. Bomb isn't."Overall progress: India has not only made great strides in the sphere of economics but on other fronts too. The law and order situation is conspicuously better, Indian local Governments in cities like Delhi have successfully tackled environmental issues, India has emerged as one of the top 5 tourist destinations, etc. Following the normalization of relations and a cricket series between India and Pakistan , a large number of Pakistanis have visited India and have returned with a sense of wonder and admiration. Kamran Shafi, a famous Pakistani columnist and ex-politician notes, [vii] “You should see today's Delhi! It is a thriving city, hotels full to brimming with foreigners -- tourists, investors, importers, journalists; its shops have undergone a sea change in the three years that I was there last, now looking (and feeling) like shops in any of the great capitals of the world…. India may not be 'shining' but it is certainly rising with every passing day. And where are we? Wallowing in self-pity; angry with the world; twisted in mind and spirit, looking for scapegoats for our own national failings. We've got to pull our fingers out if we are to get anywhere at all, and fast. We've missed the past few boats, could we please catch the next one that might happen along?” Indian clout in American corridors of power: The Indian Diaspora’s phenomenal success in business and the professions overseas and in particular in America , and its consequent clout in the American corridors of power has also left Pakistanis with a sense of helpless rage. The Indian caucus on Washington ’s Capitol Hill has a very large number of members; several influential Senators and Congressmen are part of this caucus and the membership is growing. Dr Farrukh Saleem noted in a 2002 article, [viii]
“The India Caucus now has a total of 111 representatives/ Congressmen as its members. That’s 25 per cent of the entire strength of the House of Representatives. Prominent among them include Gerry Ackerman, Ben Gilman, Richard Gephardt, Frank Pallone, Tom Lantos and Jim McDemott. Furthermore, out of the four-dozen Congressmen who sit on the House’s International Relations Committee some two-dozen are also members of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans. Prominent among them include Berkley , Blumenauer, Brown, Chabot, Crowley , Davis , Engel, Hoeffel and Lee. India, as a consequence, has a lot of voices as well as a whole lot of votes going for her. … The Pak American Congress did manage to recruit Senators Tim Johnson and Robert Torricelli. Representatives David Bonior and Joseph Pitt did launch the Kashmir Caucus but the Caucus is yet to find direction. … In Washington, we are no match for the Indians. “But perhaps more significant than all these individual reasons is the sense of direction and confidence that many prominent Pakistanis have observed in India and its polity, which is conspicuously absent in Pakistan . In the words of Pakistan ’s greatest cricket legend Imran Khan, [ix]
“As a cricketer I toured India several times between 1977 to 1989 and I felt that it was a country going nowhere, with its highly centralized and over-bureaucratised inefficient governance system. I had never seen such poverty anywhere in the world. The infrastructure was decaying and Delhi and Calcutta were so polluted that playing cricket there was not a pleasant experience. Compared to India , Pakistan looked a developed country. Our economic growth rate and per capita income had been higher for the previous four decades. Though Pakistanis were crazy about Indian films, our television was far superior, and we would thrash them regularly at hockey, squash and cricket despite being seven times smaller… In the last year my two visits to India have come as a bit of a shock. India has overtaken Pakistan in per capita income while its economy is growing robustly at eight per cent. Delhi is being cleaned up, while Bombay is one of the most expensive real estates in the world. Poverty is decreasing. But above all and what is most striking is the growing self-belief of Indians… (the) Indians see themselves as a future superpower, as, indeed, does the world. They view their future with optimism and hope…. In stark contrast, since the '90s Pakistan has been going around in circles and heading nowhere. Our institutions and our democracy are sadly in an advanced state of decay.”
Similar to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's five stages of dealing with death/grief, Pakistanis seem to be going through the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance of these two truths about Kashmir and India . It won’t be long before a large section of Pakistani society, especially its business class and intelligentsia start questioning the very rationale behind the two-nation theory, like the Mohajir leader, Altaf Hussain, recently did. Such ideas that challenge the very basis of Pakistani society and its Islamic identity can have unpredictable consequences. It would be naive to think that such attitudes espoused by a few could change the Pakistani national psyche dramatically, since the indoctrination of the past few decades cannot be negated easily without sustained, long-term public support from Pakistanis and Pakistani leadership. . Nonetheless, it would be wrong to summarily dismiss these changed perceptions of many prominent Pakistanis as just flashes in the pan.
Admittedly, such progressive views in Pakistan only comprise a minority of the views espoused in the Pakistani English media, even as we have ignored the prolific vernacular press in this analysis – the Pakistani Urdu press boasts significantly higher readership than the English press. Pakistan’s overall low literacy rates indicates that even the readership of the Urdu Press in Pakistan constitutes a very small percentage of the Pakistani population, indicating that much of the Pakistani public receives all of its news by word of mouth or other means not involving reading. Thus, progressive Pakistani views detailed earlier in this article may not be representative of the vast unlettered masses at present. But this stream of thought, a trickle as it may be at the moment, is worth watching, since such points of view, if they gain popular acceptance, will have profound consequences for India, Pakistan, and the entire region.
[ii]http://www.jang.com.pk/thenews/dec2004-daily/01-12-2004/oped/o1.htm (The News, Jang, 12-01-2004)
[iii]http://jang.com.pk/thenews/jan2005-daily/05-01-2005/oped/o5.htm (The News, Jang, 1-05-2005)
[iv]http://www.dawn.com/2004/09/17/op.htm#3 (Dawn, 9-17-2004)
[v]http://www.jang-group.com/thenews/sep2004-daily/12-09-2004/oped/o4.htm (The News, Jang, 9-12-2004)
[vi]http://jang.com.pk/thenews/sep2003-daily/07-09-2003/oped/o5.htm (The News, Jang, 9-07-2003)
[vii]http://jang.com.pk/thenews/dec2004-daily/17-12-2004/oped/o2.htm (The News, Jang, 12-17-2004)
[viii]http://www.mid-day.com/news/world/2002/august/28630.htm (Mid-day 8-10-2002)
[ix]http://www.hindustantimes.com/2004/Dec/02/5983_1133426,00430005.htm (Hindustan Times, 12-2-2004)