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Wanted in Pakistan, a little bit of humility

Wanted in Pakistan, a little bit of humility

Author: Ayaz Amir
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: December 1, 2001

Introduction: As Pakistan mocks the rout of the Taliban it forgets that whereas the Taliban are still holding out, its vaunted army laid down arms in East Pakistan in 1971 without so much as a decent fight

Accepting our weakness and bowing to the inevitable is one thing. But can we please stop pretending that by acting the way we have done in this Afghan crisis. We have somehow rescued Pakistan's defences?

Last week General Musharraf said Pakistan's stance on Afghanistan had been vindicated by events. If this is vindication, what would defeat look like? This week he says, "Pakistan's importance in relation to Afghanistan is a matter of geography, which cannot -be changed." If our importance is so self-evident, why are we proclaiming it from the housetops?

Thanks to Afghanistan, General Zia ul Haq enjoyed nine years in the sun, General Musharraf a mere two months. Our name is mud both in Kabul and Kandahar. This is what military wizards past and. present have managed to achieve by playing the great game in Afghanistan. Given this record of unrelieved failure anyone in our place would draw a curtain of 'forgetfulness around Afghanistan, letting the pieces fall where they will and letting a. new equilibrium arise in that war-tom land.

But old habits die hard. We who are taking no small pride in the defeat of the Taliban choose to forget that whereas the Taliban have taken nearly two months of the most ferocious punishment imaginable, without surrendering or deserting, we succumbed before a single telephone call from Colin Powell. He himself has said as much in an interview with the New York Times, saying that he delivered a virtual ultimatum to General Musharraf: "Mr President, you have a choice to make."

As we mock the rout of the Taliban We forget that whereas, the Taliban are still holding out, defiant to the last, our vaunted army laid down its arms in East -Pakistan in 1971 without so much as a decent fight in an encounter that lasted no more than a fortnight.

Since September 11, Pakistan's ruling circles, supported by the country's 'moderates', have become the world's leading exponents of pragmatism. Their mantra: Pakistan had no choice. No one cares to answer a simple question. What would we have lost if we, had chosen to negotiate the fine print of our cooperation with the US? Would we have been declared international terrorists if we had negotiated with some toughness instead of being dazzled by the sudden attention we started getting?

Now of course all the rage in Pakistan is for settling matters with the 'extremists'. In a TV interview Musharraf has said the extremists stood exposed and now was the time to move against them. By extremists he means the religious parties which rallied to the support of the Taliban when the American bombing of Afghanistan started. What is the guilt of these parties? They expressed a point of' view which represented the views of a wide section of public opinion in Pakistan. If anything, they showed more spirit than General Musharraf's so-called 'silent Majority'.

There is no cause to move against them except if the aim be to rock the foundations of the Pakistani state. The religious right is part of our landscape. It has always existed and will always exist and while it certainly does not speak for the majority, to move against it is to move against a limb of Pakistan. While it is possible to disagree with the Jamaat-I-Islami and the JUI, these and other religious parties add to the richness of whatever political discourse exists in this country. For 20 years these parties were in the vanguard of official ideology. Now, Pakistan's official ideology has undergone a complete somersault-the military jehadis of yesterday becoming the secularists of today-the religious parties are being spoken, of as some kind of outcasts.

We are extremists in everything. Let us at least be moderate in our inconsistencies.


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