Millennium Post

Not worthy of trust

I am no great Pakistan watcher least be a basher. I would be happy to remain indifferent to this nation [if it still qualifies for it] as I am say to our eastern neighbour Myanmar. Sporadic appearance of Aung San Suu Kyi in the newspapers and channels does make me follow her country but only in case there isn’t anything interesting happening elsewhere.

The good thing about Myanmar is that it doesn’t cause much bother to the Indian aam admi; excepting for a group of refugees who had arrived recently and pitched tent in the neighbourhood of the posh Vasant Vihar in New Delhi. Refugees come from Bangladesh too. They also get the ration cards and voter identity cards made in their name to have a ‘peaceful’ existence. I understand there is parallel transit system now functioning very effectively using which they periodically return to their village in the home country. Many a households in the national capital are today dependent on these Bangladeshi hands for their daily domestic chores.

For quite a while now Bangladesh has stopped being a bother as the present government led by Sheikh Hasina Wajed has gone back to tread the path fostered by her father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the slain founder of the Bangla nation. At one point she did pander to the Islamic fundamentalists to counter the influence her rival Khaleda Zia. Both Wajed and Bangladesh paid heavy price for flirting with orthodoxy. With the effective intervention of the judiciary, Bangladesh to an extent has been able to cleanse itself of the self-destructive ideological missiles and is now living in peace happily for its neighbours too.

But a similar luck seems to have deserted Pakistan. The developments of past week – deportation of Abu Jundal from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan going back on the announcement to release Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh – describes our western neighbour’s present  state of helplessness. In fact its founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s words – maimed, mutilated and moth-eaten Pakistan – are proving to be prophetic.

Jinnah made these comments in 1944 after the failure of his talks with Mahatma Gandhi on partition on the basis of the formula given by C Rajgopalachari. The context, however, is important even today, especially in view of the comment made by then British Viceroy Wavell on the failure of the Gandhi-Jinnah talks. In a note to Leo Amery, the British secretary of state for Indian and Burma, Wavell wrote that the talks based on the C R formula failed because Gandhi himself did 'not really believe' in the proposal nor Jinnah was ready to 'answer awkward questions' which would reveal that he had 'not thought out the implications of Pakistan'.

Wavell indeed raised very pertinent question if Jinnah understood the 'implications of Pakistan.' Wavell and Jinnah could probably find their answer in the press briefing which Home Minister P Chidambaram held last week after the arrest of the 26/11 handler Abu Jundal. He reinforced India's contention about the involvement of Pakistani state agencies in the terror strikes on Mumbai. Chidambaram confirmed that LeT chief Hafiz Saeed was present in the control room and went on to directly blame Pakistan for the 26/11 attacks asserting that the conspiracy and its execution were not possible without some kind of state support.

The implication of Pakistan, which Jinnah failed to comprehend was that a state founded on religion could never be secular but in natural course turn radical. In the absence of land and economic reforms; and with its polity, judiciary and military dominated by feudal elements the spread of radical Islam among the masses is fully understandable.

But can India afford to remain indifferent to Pakistan? The answer lies in what Chidambaram had to say on the reaction of his counterpart Rahman Malik’s charge that Jundal was an Indian and his arrest was India’s internal problem. Chidambaram said, 'Abu Jundal is an Indian, he was perhaps radicalised in India, I admit that. Equally, Pakistan should admit that Jundal did go to Pakistan and was in the control room as one of the masterminds. Just as we admit the facts Pakistan too should admit the facts.'

It’s not just Pakistan but also India which is in the state of denial. I would not be surprised that despite Chidambaram’s tough stand on the matter, the prime minister may turn around and say that he wishes to have talks with Pakistani establishment for peaceful negotiations of all the pending issues, something we have been hearing endlessly for ages.

I am no war monger and would be very relieved if there was a peaceful negotiation to resolve disputes with our neighbour. However, the question which bothers me is with whom does the Indian establishment talk? The announcement to release Sarabjit Singh was not made without prolonged negotiation with the Pakistan government. Release of murder accused Pakistani national Khalil Chisti from Jaipur jail two months back was part of the deal.

A return goodwill gesture was expected. However, in less than 12 hours, the Pakistani establishment decided to take a u-turn amply showing that the keys to the government in Islamabad is kept somewhere else, who in their religious zealotry may not be interested in a dialogue. With these forces gaining in strength Pakistan is moving towards an implosion. We would have to wait for our neighbour take a rebirth before some fruitful talk could be held with a meaningful establishment.

Sidharth Mishra is president, Centre for Reforms, Development and Justice, and consulting editor, Millennium Post
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