Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Freedom's Cry in Pakistan?

There is a debate taking place in Pakistan as to whether our current civil strife is foreign sponsored or homegrown. In the lines below, I argue that it may be both, in that, human yearning for freedom and our habit of authoritarianism are pulling us in different directions. And those two ideas are epitomised by the American and the Chinese cultures, respectively. We will reach an equilibrium sooner or later but at what cost will depend upon our choice of weapon i.e. brute physical force or reason and argument!


Engineer Gulbadin Hekmatyar has stated that the USA wants Pakistan to have the same fate as Iraq and Afghanistan and hence it is fuelling the insurgency in the Tribal Area on the one hand and 'encouraging' the Pakistani forces to take tougher actions on the other hand!

On reading or rather hearing the above statement on television my mind was cast back to the history of the Second World War. Apparently, the Nazi Germany was ready to concede defeat with some face saving far earlier than when it actually was allowed. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (of whom I am a great admirer) on learning the news of the potential surrender convinced the Allies that no surrender should be accepted until the complete and utter defeat of the Nazi Germany. Now that may have been well intentioned but the result was that all the great powers of that time, except the USA, were aghast and completely ruined by the time the complete victory came. That made it easier for the USA to assume the leadership of the world affairs.

The point is that whether or not the USA intended to weaken its allies, its policies did have that effect. It seems that the USA has a tendency to overkill. But because it is placed at a safe distant from the rest of the world, the consequences of the overkill are faced by the more proximate and unfortunate populations!

Without questioning the intentions of the USA in demanding from the Pakistani government to do more, we must stop to ponder if and when we reach the complete victory in our Tribal Areas, what price we would have paid by then? Will we have been weakened to a point that we will not be able to survive, hold our country together or unable to ward-off any foreign aggression? Whether the bitter memories between the tribals and the rest of us go away for generations?

We must also stop to ponder whether the protagonists of our internal strife, in the form of anti-Musharraf movement and his stubborn stance to hang on to power, are being egged on by their own convictions or by those who want the matters to worsen? By encouraging the so called 'democratic' lawyers, PML(N), MMA and PTI to stop at nothing short of the removal General Musharraf from power, and at the same time telling General Musharraf that he and his uniform are indispensable for Pakistan and his opponents are foreign stooges, the nature or the powers that be are leading us to internal weakness and chaos? Both factions sincerely believing that the other is deliberately acting contrary to national interest on foreign instructions, it will be impossible for them to compromise and they will continue to fight until the very arena they are fighting in or for will be shaken to its core or one of them is no more! This explains the harshness of the government in subduing its critics as government considers them to be 'traitors' and vice versa.

Now, it is this context, which rationalises and explains the politics of Ms. Benazir Bhutto recently. It is not about her but about national interest. This also explains the glaring political mistake in the propaganda war that she has made: believing her purpose to be pure and of high moral substance, Ms. Bhutto instead of reaching an agreement with General Musharraf through a scapegoat, and sacking and blaming that scapegoat for the alleged sell-out while also taking advantage of that agreement, she took it upon herself to take the credit and the blame! Call it naivety? The realists of the right wing are taking full advantage of this mispolitication!

Freedom's arguments:

Now it can be argued that the dictators always hide behind national interest to prolong their stay in power and General Musharraf is doing the same and all this talk of internal strife is government propaganda. May be, but what options does the opposition have? It is clear that the political change in our country will not come about through political or legal process. It will come when General Musharraf thinks that it is time to go. Any other option to force him out of power will run the risk of rocking the ship. To this the revolutionaries will argue that since we are going to be suffocated in the dungeons of this ship, it may as well sink, that will at least free us to take our own chances and become masters of our own destiny, in life and in death!

My dear readers, the arguments on both sides are persuasive and I am, for now, leaving it open to conclusion! But beware!

An after thought, the Polish when shrugging of the communist regime at the end of the cold war were asked that why are they risking assured bread and butter for a risky capitalism? Their answer was freedom, economic and political. They wanted to make their own choices rightly or wrongly. Human spirit yearns for freedom.

Perhaps it is not the foreign hands, but our own home grown desire to be free, to be free to experiment, to take charge of our own lives, deaths and destiny, free to be a proud Baloch, a proud Pushtun or a proud Urdu speaking person, to have it our own way, rightly or wrongly that is at the heart of our present strife.

May be it is our primordial urge to compete with others. I suspect that is. That is what differentiates us Pakistanis from the other authoritarian societies of Asia. We do not enjoy others having authority over us. We are more egalitarian and perhaps that is why we shunned our old faiths in favour of Islam as it 'promised' more freedom. Actually, we are more Americans than Chinese and those two nations need not be egging us on, we ourselves are being pulled in two different directions by historical and civilisational forces that stem from something deep within all of us: General Musharraf's harmony is facing resistance from the Baloch, the Pushtun, the Sindhi and the Punjabi egos. They say you can have harmony with our consent but that will be a different harmony from your own notion of it, or you can have your harmony over our dead bodies.

In the final conclusion for this post, for now, it seems that the two civilisational forces of freedom and authoritarianism, manifesting themselves in our times in the forms of the USA and China, are pulling us in opposite directions. Sooner or later an equilibrium will be reached. The stronger idea will win and thus we can hope there is nothing to fear! The march of civilisation will continue, we being its fuel.

Deception of Middle Classes:

An afterthought, the final point should be that why we have to resort to physical force to reach a civilisational equilibrium, can we not argue our way to that position. Let reason and argument be our weapons of choice?

The fact that the reason and argument failed in the face of brute physical force in our recent past has made the nation and especially the middle classes despondent. The fact that the house of reason i.e. the court is still under and weaker to the gun is irritating because it means you cannot 'safely' bring about a change, you will have to up the ante! The middle class will have to adopt the risk taking traits of the lower and the upper classes and by doing so they will have to say farewell to the middle class morality and decency. Unless of course our middle class
General realises that by winning through the gun, he is only beating his own class! It is a first when a middle class protagonist has deceived and beaten his own class. Mao deceived his own upper class, Bhutto deceived the lower class (as is alleged but I am not sure) and our General has deceived the middle class! I am sure he did not want to but he had to! Nixon had tried it but had failed!

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