Author: Tilak Devasher
"Pakistan: courting the abyss" | Pakistan: courting the abyss
This painstakingly researched and the well-presented book must be widely read in countries affected by terrorism, writes Anil Bhat.
While Pakistan may not be a failed state yet, it certainly has been a flawed one. Already having lost its Eastern wing, it continues on a precarious trail and thereby stands the risk of losing another major province. Meanwhile, it remains the greatest liability to not only South Asia but itself also. Much of what is happening in Pakistan, between India and Pakistan and its relationships with Afghanistan, China and the US can be traced from the observations and analyses in this book.
Beginning with his fascination and curiosity about Pakistan, as a youngster born seven years after its painful birth, the author, in his preface, appropriately quotes a couplet each of two famous poets-Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Habib Jalib. The English translation of these verses are: This tainted night, this night bitten dawn/ This is not the dawn we waited for, expressing Faiz’s anguish on Pakistan’s birth in Subh-e-Azadi (Dawn of Freedom) and You are sowing love through violence, smearing the face of the nation in blood; You think your journey is being completed, I am certain you are losing your destiny, conveying Jalib’s lament at Pak army’s crackdown in East Pakistan. These poets reflected the regrets of many others, not only from the fraternity of artists.
Amritsar-born Saadat Hassan Manto wrote “Dekh Kabira Roya” (“Kabir Saw and Wept”) soon after he moved to Pakistan. His next story about the partition, titled “Thanda Gosht” (“Cold Flesh”) - nothing to do with cooked meat - landed him in court for the second time with a sentence of three years in jail, which was fortunately suspended.
The Brits bent on partitioning the Indian sub-continent, identified and hand-picked the pork-eating, religiously non-pious, secular, but politically ambitious barrister MA Jinnah, a Shia, to propound the two-nation theory. For Jinnah, ‘Pakistan’ was more a means of grasping power, rather than any conviction of creating an Islamic state. The book’s introduction opens with the paragraphs describing Jinnah’s grand entry into Pakistan following his flight from Delhi to Karachi on 7 August 1947, his being flown in a dying state from Quetta to Karachi on 11 September 1948 and the two separate funerals after his death- first by Shia rites at his home and then by Sunni rituals in the open.
The author states that it is “the journey between Faiz’s tainted dawn and Jalib’s tragic destiny” that forms the subject matter of the book, which is abundantly packed with facts and analyses leading to how Pakistan is courting the abyss.
While many observers of Pakistan can generally rattle off what is terribly wrong with it, the author has systematically chaptered the book to elaborate on covering a wide gamut of Pakistan’s foundation, formation and growth as well as the various fallacies, policies based on them, events and acts of commission and omission which have made Pakistan possibly the most dangerous place for its neighbours, the world and most certainly, even for itself.
Since the deaths of Messrs Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan soon after Pakistan’s birth, its army pounced into the political space created and strengthened its hold but lost a lot of its professionalism. Becoming shy of fighting head on, it excelled in ‘outsourcing’ and turned totally rogue and barbarically brutal.
The newly formed Pakistan Army had been part of undivided Indian Army under British rule. Its troops numbering 1.5 million in World War (WW) I and 2.5 million in WW II, had been a major war-winning factor for the Allies in both these wars. However, immediately on becoming Pakistan Army, changes kicked in. Outsourcing by the newly formed Pak army began from the very first of three wars it perpetrated, in1947-48. Many thousands of Kabailis were lured and used without much success.
Outsourcing, unsuccessful in both the 1965 and 1971 wars, continues till date as a proxy war. However, it was in the 1965 war that the weaknesses of Pakistani officers and soldiers became very obvious. Indian Army with WW II-vintage tanks destroyed a disproportionately large number of Pak army’s armour, mostly, then comparatively modern ‘Patton’ tanks doled out it by the US. This was mainly because Pakistani tank-crews had not done their training on the newly acquired Patton tanks, resulting in poor gunnery. And their twisted religious fear of flames-that if burnt they would go to Jahannum (Hell)-made them to bail out after a single hit. One hit does not always completely disable a tank. Indian tank-crews remained in their tanks despite one or more hits and bailed out only if the guns could not fire, or when the tanks actually caught fire. In the 1971 war, resulting in the liberation of erstwhile East Pakistan/ birth of Bangladesh, after barely 13 days of battle, 93,000 Pak armed forces surrendered and were taken as prisoners of war (PsOW) by Indian Army and kept healthy till their repatriation. After both these wars Pakistani PsOW admitted to Indian Army personnel that had they been commanded by Indian Army-like officers, they would have won that war.
The section titled The WEEP Analysis is indeed a telling comment on how bleak the future is for Pakistan. As the author stated while interacting with this writer, “Pakistan faced an emergency situation in all these four areas-Water, Education, Economy and Population about a decade ago. Today, it should be in the disaster management mode, but there are no signs that it is. Collectively, these issues strongly suggest a looming multi-organ failure in Pakistan. The failure has been made worse by these critical issues being ignored by a succession of leaders, civilian and military, since its creation. Increasingly, these issues will haunt the country and will be the primary factors impelling it towards the abyss. “
The crucial linkages economy education and population are that with almost three million of the young section of Pakistan’s drastically growing population seeking jobs every year, for the madrasa educated youth the only attractive choices are jihadi outfits or religious political parties. On madrasa children the author quotes Jalees Hazir in The Nation: “These children are the collective responsibility of our society and we must not leave them to the mercy of professional peddlers of faith who fill their innocent minds with ignorance and prejudice. We must not leave them to be used as fodder for their convoluted political agendas and be abused by them in myriad ways. When we talk about reforming the madrasas, we should think only about countering militancy but also coming to the rescue of children trapped in them.”
This painstakingly researched and the well presented book must be widely read in India, Pakistan and in many other countries dealing with these two nations and affected by terrorism most of which is emanating from or linked to Pakistan. It should ideally be translated into Hindi, Urdu, Arabic and a couple of European languages. In India, apart from decision makers, the strategic community, scholars and students, it must also be read by India’s armchair apologists/ pseudo- secularists/pseudo human rights activists/leftists and their ilk.