The BADKISMATI of being Pakistan

The presidential order of August 5 abrogating article 370 of the constitution has been called many things. Large masses of Indians have heralded it as a correction of a historical wrong. Some have tried to advice caution on such unilateral ‘adventurism’. Others have called it a black day in Indian democracy. Across the border, the voices have been loud but empty. The sound and fury, although clearly pain-filled, has been one of a hurt child too weak to take revenge. Reactions from their political leaders, prime-minister and media have been calculated and cautionary. Although the defence and religious mouthpieces have attempted to invigorate the people with fierce statements, the official line from ISPR has been much more reserved. The statement released by them has been ambiguous and curtailed.

“Pakistan Army firmly stands by the Kashmiris in their just struggle to the very end. We are prepared and shall go to any extent to fulfill our obligations in this regard”

Pakistan today is in a very weak position on most fronts- internal and external. Its “evergreen friendship” with China has been under stress because of a climate change event called CPEC. Economy has been sluggish for years and loans from IMF have put major restrictions on its Jehadi options against India. Besides, for almost two decades now, the world opinion of Pakistan has been in a nosedive. It has few listeners besides the opportunist countries waiting to reap huge rewards for tiniest help offered- China and USA being clear frontrunner in the list aside from Saudi Arabia and other gulf nations. Given its current position, Pakistan indeed is a sorry state- through and through. The badkismatiof the situation for Pakistan is not, however, in realisation of this reality but the internalisation and incessant repetition of it.

The first reactions from leadership of Pakistan after the presentation of the bill in RajyaSabha were understandably delayed. They were taken by surprise as was much of the world. Apart from the few unverified rumours circulating the web for two days prior to announcement, there was little to speculate for the public. Even the Indian media, which is generally aware of the realties (but more often than not chooses to keep mum) was actively denouncing any such rumours.

The discussions in joint sessions called by Pakistan bordered on helplessness. While Imran Khan was attacked by the opposition on being caught sleeping, there was a clear attempt by the opposition to give an image of a united political opposition. Criticisms were passive in language and emotional rather than rational in appeal.  All except Miriam Nawaz Sharif have refrained from openly criticizing Imran Khan and his party. In the 11 months he has been in power, there were too many structural problems internally for him to focus on complex issues such as Kashmir.

Mirroring its leadership, most rational media outlets have spoken cautiously on the issue. Military options are clearly out of the window for Pakistan given its precarious internal situations and lack of global support.  In the attempts to placate the masses, some vernacular press and tv shows have brought out well known war mongers to feed and fulfil hurt egos of the people. Much of their rhetoric centres around an awakening of Jehadi armed struggle and irrational insistence on use of Nuclear Weapon. While it is well understood that there is little weight attached to their words, they serve the military recruitments high and Rawalpindi rewards these touts happily. It should be noted that no public processions have been carried out by the Jehadi outlets under a banner – either in PoK or rest of Pakistan. Such processions were often seen in the paston slightest of trouble in Kashmir often instigated by Pakistan sponsored Jehadis to keep the pot boiling.

All quarters of Pakistan have insisted on the “badkismati” of its existence. They have blamed the past in as many ways it could find. Starting their history with Indus Valley Civilization and linking it to Islam up to modern age, their attempt to construct a chain of bad luck has been futile and self-defeating. The infighting between civil and military establishment has evaluated the reasons for this ill-fated birth from both perspectives. A relatively open society has been vocal while suffering under this misfortune of being Pakistan. The solution out of misery, however, is not in being historians of ill-judgement but in actors of the moment. The constitutional amendments on Kashmir are here to stay and no future Indian government will be adventurous enough to reverse the stance. People of Kashmir and Pakistan have little option but to accept the Indian position and seek out favourable terms for frictionless integration with rest of India. Pakistan’s best options lie in looking within its borders and getting its house in order. Ending Jehadi schools (atleast in public presence and recruitment) has been a positive start, but much remains on the economic and social front. Coming to a world stage of equals where its voice could be heard and trusted will be a long and difficult journey. But that’s the only option that Pakistan has right now.

Eulogy to the fallen martyrs of free speech

The recent disappearance of liberal bloggers in Pakistan has brought concerns of freedom of speech and expression back in the news bureaus of the subcontinent. This follows the spate of attacks on bloggers in Bangladesh in past 2 years and the growing right-wing rhetoric in India. While all this can be blamed on the global upsurge of the right, the new medium of online expression of thoughts has also played its part, especially given the relative inexperience that the South-Asian society has with the digital media and the idea of free speech in general.

The outburst of social media in 21st century has introduced a vast population around the world to the western liberal ideals of post-renaissance Europe which has collided with the firm and deeply held cultural beliefs. The Indian subcontinent, while having a rich, diverse and accommodating synthesis of culture has not been immune to this clash of self-identity. This dilemma of the people of our region has much recent roots that took place during the British rule. The strong sentimental currents running through the population throughout the region thus give a very saddening canvass on which the rights-activists and liberals of our region draw their ideas. The recent disappearance has to be seen in this context.

The reaction of the civil society of all three countries in question has been mixed. While the general trend in Pakistan and Bangladesh has been to evaluate the actions of individuals on the alter of Islam, the Indian way has been to test expressions on the anvil of hyper-nationalism. The participants in debates have their arguments reduced to who qualifies as a true Muslim(or not), or as in the Indian case- who has been an anti-national by expressing his opinion. Even the rationalists are afraid to move the discussion away from this narrow interpretation. the Indian scenario, however, is more of a tide-of-time issue such that the deep history and strong foundation values of the freedoms struggle allow a cushion to writers and critique to prove their current ideas in relation to the founding principles of the nation. Pakistan and Bangladesh, on the other hand, have made the mistake of basing their existence on religion. This setting becomes a very strong barrier to any meaningful interpretation of modern world by the young generation.

While there is a need to be cautious for the liberals in the region, the changing world order give more hope than fears. History, for those who have read it, has shown that killing and suppression have only led to liberation and fearless resistance. The sacrifices of those who spoke their minds will be remembered and cherished by the future generations and the dawn of a free society will be glowing with the ideas of those who died to make it happen.

An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it. Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self sustained.

-M.K Gandhi