With the recent tensions in the LOC, Pakistan was back again in the news. TV studios and newsrooms saw a lot of chatter, and arguments made with passion. On the one hand we had the hawks demanding ‘appropriate responses.’ On the other, we had the peace lobby also demanding ‘appropriate responses,’ though of a totally different kind. Anger on the part of some on seeing the mutilation of the body of someone who paid with his life for defending their safety is understandable. One may argue on what could constitute a correct response but the raw anger per se does not need much explanation. On the other hand it will be important to understand the equanimity of the other group, in the face of such a provocation.

Vinod Sharma’s piece in CRI “It’s about changing maps, not geography” tries to address this group, and covers a lot of ground, laying out facts on Pakistan. Let us explore the peacenik argument further. How really is Pakistan ready for peace? What can we offer Pakistan to have peace in return? The CRI article referred to above explore the situation in Pakistan using the school textbook issue and the Jihad factory dimension. Let us explore a couple of other dimensions

The geographies that are India and Pakistan today were certainly together but since 1947, Pakistan has moved in a specific direction. History suggests that Jinnah wanted a land to rule over and was using religion to achieve his ends (albeit with ample support from the British). The religious zealots who demanded Pakistan and followed him to that land, were using his initiative to fulfil their desire for an Islamic Caliphate. Jinnah’s interview with Margaret Bourke-White in September 1947 provides insights into his mind during those early days on what exactly he envisioned for his new state. (In an interesting aside, Ms Bourke-White remembers that before the interview with Jinnah began, she was received by Ms Fatima Jinnah, his sister who said, “We never expected to get it so soon,” “We never expected to get it in our lifetimes.”). Ms Bourke-White records the following quotations from the interview on his vision for the new country:

“Of course it will be a democratic constitution; Islam is a democratic religion.”

“Democracy is not just a new thing we are learning,” said Jinnah. “It is in our blood. We have always had our system of zakat — our obligation to the poor.”

“Our Islamic ideas have been based on democracy and social justice since the thirteenth century.”

“The land belongs to the God,” says the Koran. This would need clarification in the constitution. Presumably Jinnah, the lawyer, would be just the person to correlate the “true Islamic principles” one heard so much about in Pakistan with the new nation’s laws. But all he would tell me was that the constitution would be democratic because “the soil is perfectly fertile for democracy.”

On the other hand when questioned about the geopolitical priorities, Jinnah was more forthcoming:

“America needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs America,” was Jinnah’s reply. “Pakistan is the pivot of the world, as we are placed” — he revolved his long forefinger in bony circles — “the frontier on which the future position of the world revolves.” He leaned toward me, dropping his voice to a confidential note. “Russia,” confided Mr. Jinnah, “is not so very far away.”

“America is now awakened,” he said with a satisfied smile. Since the United States was now bolstering up Greece and Turkey, she should be much more interested in pouring money and arms into Pakistan. “If Russia walks in here,” he concluded, “the whole world is menaced.”

It is important to remember that apart from his dress those days (which was at a complete variance to what it was thirty years earlier), and some words, there was not much Islamic about Jinnah. So at birth this state was, in the vision of its Quaid e Azam (Great Leader), seeking to be an Islamic rentier state. One must say that subsequent developments in that country have more than lived up to his expectations and constantly focused at sharpening the two themes – a) continuous, and incremental Islamisation, and b) focussed valorisation of the rentier status of the state and all the resources at its disposal. Both these themes reinforce each other and have resulted in the state becoming a ‘criminal enterprise’ as Naipaul famously put in his book, Among Believers, albeit with Islamic pretentions.

Islamisation of the State and its consequences are quite widely reported in International media. One report by Ayesha Siddiqua published in Newsline in September 2009 explores this quite well. The rentier state does not bother about developing its people as its priorities are elsewhere. The consequent hopelessness for the poor results in them turning to other sources viz Islam for hope. In a process already seen in Iran, Egypt (although with differences), the vacuum left by the failure of the State apparatus is filled by religion. In her article Ayesha Siddiqua covers how not only the state but also the traditional Islamic institutions like the Sufis, Pirs and Barelvis have failed to articulate an appropriate vision of Islam in the face of onslaught of the ‘purist’ Salafism. As testified by the systematic culling of the ‘others’ – Hindus, Ahmedias, and now Shias, this process appears to be not only irreversible but also accelerating.

The other aspect of the rentier system is that the social structure appears to have ossified and systematically prevents hope from reaching the lower strata. Again using a Pakistani source, Mohammed Waseem in a brilliant piece in Dawn dt 15th December 2009 titled A Tale of Two Classes, details how two dominant classes – the middle class and the political class compete with each other for influence and privilege. According to him, (the middle class) “has been all along anti-Indian, anti-Soviet Union in the first four decades and anti-American in the last two decades. It is also anti-communist and anti-secular.” He says it “most typically if not universally, hates democracy.

Partition shaped the social, cultural, political and economic views of the emergent middle class along security-oriented lines and a state-centred rather than society-oriented policy framework.” He notes that it “is rightist in its collective thrust for policy and ideology,” and the “rightist middle class, or parts of it, often served as a constituency of army rule in Pakistan.” He concludes his essay with the observation, “Of course, there are liberal, progressive and public-spirited intellectuals, lawyers, civil society activists, trade unionists, poets, writers, playwrights and media persons, all from the middle class, who uphold the cause of democracy. They speak, write, demonstrate, sing, strike, organise, and perform, all for democracy. Unfortunately, they are only a fraction of the middle class.”

With this situation, it is unclear what India can offer Pakistan in a peace oriented deal. Pakistan is interested only in a) Islam and b) “Rent.” US and China provide the latter. Others like Saudi Arabia offer both. Can India offer Islam? Or “Rent”? Remember the only time when Pakistan was interested in a deal was when the Iran pipeline was in the air, when Pakistan was hoping to make money on transit fees – “no investment; use my land and pay for it!” In other versions of a ‘deal’ we were / are expected to give Sir Creek, Siachen or even Kashmir.

People who peddle a vision of ‘peace now’ through talks will do well just to ponder.

References:

  1. Bourke-White, Margaret. Partition: The Messiah and The Promised Land. Link: http://iref.homestead.com/Messiah.html
  2. Siddiqua, Ayesha. “Terror’s Training Ground,” Newsline, September 2009
  3. Waseem, Mohammed. “A Tale of Two Classes,” Dawn, 15 December 2009

Suggested Reading:

  1. Shastry, Shiv. Pakistan A Failed State, E Book from Bharat Rakshak. Link http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/EBOOKS/pfs.pdf
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