Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Our combined failure


By Ardeshir Cowasjee 
Sunday, 16 May, 2010

A common reaction to the almost universal conclusion that one of Pakistan’s main exports is terrorism — bolstered by the latest would-be hero of Times Square who fortunately failed — is that the larger majority of the Pakistani nation and its would-be leadership exist in a state of denial. 

Apart from the fact that most deny historical fact with impunity the trend is to ignore the mote in one’s eye and focus on how mean and nasty is the rest of the world by its censure of many of the country’s inadequacies. By far the most sensible reactions to the incompetent bomb-maker (by design or accident one does not know) come from Pakistanis in America, many naturalised US citizens. 

They are puzzled as to why a seemingly well-educated well-settled man, albeit of apparently modest means, would be prompted to attempt to kill and maim fellow citizens — or to even merely make a statement (if that is what he was doing). 

One e-mailer this week has it that “the biggest problem is we are a group of people, not a nation, who are ruled by well-known and well-qualified thieves. We have been deprived of everything of which an educated person such as Faisal Shahzad and other Pakistanis can be proud of or have respect for. We are embarrassed in front of the entire world by the deeds of our leaders, past and present. Our identity is deformed and distorted. Thus we can easily be trapped by the so-called mullahs into ‘serving’ our religion.” 

This from a young expatriate Pakistani — he went on to say that Pakistanis now living abroad, when applying for jobs, often declare themselves to be Indian or of Indian extraction to avoid being turned away. Not a happy situation 
There are, of course, some who in line with the current fashion squarely put the blame for the spread of terrorism and the adoption of its methods by the young men of Pakistan on to the western world, particularly the US, for its ‘use’ of Pakistan, its attitude and its superiority in so many fields — resentment is a great spur towards senseless reaction. They ask why the Americans are doing what they are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, why are they there? (Strangely, there has been no mention of Palestine.) What one needs to ask these expatriates is why are they in the US. 

From a man of Pakistani descent who has been working and living in the US for 30 years came valid comments, that it took Pakistan an inordinately long time to acknowledge that terrorism did exist; for years those who killed and destroyed bore the euphemism ‘freedom fighters’. It was not until the bombs started going off in the heartland of Pakistan that we began to acknowledge that, yes, terrorism does exist, it was not until we saw killings and bombings in the house of God that we stopped in our tracks and realised something was wrong. To this gentleman both Pakistan and America have failed as far as Pakistan is concerned — the Pakistanis, generals and politicians, because of their corruption, incompetence and double-dealing and their failure to deal with the US. 

“We failed miserably,” he wrote, “our military failed in properly analysing the threat level and future assessment of the damage our incompetence and lack of action would do. We all thought of it as a game, our military and politicians toyed around with the Americans with sporadic arrests, selling men for $500 a head, and we failed to understand or look at the larger picture. ...We have failed our children, we have failed to instil in them the unique identity of being a Pakistani first and foremost, and until we do that our boys will run around like rudderless boats seeking causes which have nothing to do with their identity.” 

The younger writers are less thoughtful, they are angry, disillusioned and clueless as to where their allegiance should lie. They have no nexus with their nationhood, simply with the religion they have been taught from a very young age, a religion that has been distorted by the politics Pakistan has adopted and its firm denial, through fear of clerical vengeance, of its maker’s exhortation that religion is not the business of the state. 

Too many of our youth, within and without the country, may have roots in Pakistan but thanks to 63 years of political and religious dishonesty combined with bungling, they have no cause when it comes to their country of birth or descent. 

And these present politicians? Last Wednesday in the Senate cries of ‘shame’ were raised about a Newsweek article which had quoted from Husain Haqqani’s book, Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military, published in 2005. Haqqani tells “how the government’s jihadist connections date to the country’s creation as an ideological, Islamic state and the decision by successive governments to use jihad both to gain domestic support and to hurt its perennial rival, India. Describing the military’s distinction between terrorists and ‘freedom fighters’, he notes that the problem is systemic. ‘This duality ... is a structural problem, rooted in history and a consistent policy of the state. It is not just the inadvertent outcome of decisions by some governments’.” 

To deny this is foolish as it factually sets out one root cause of why we are what we are today. Haqqani, our ambassador in Washington, ends his book: “Pakistan was created in a hurry and without giving detailed thought to various aspects of nation and state building ... Both Pakistan’s elite and their US benefactors would have to participate in transforming Pakistan into a functional, rather than ideological state."


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