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December 2007 - January 2008


Pakistan - Countdown to Disaster

by Krishan Ralleigh

Sixty years of existence as an artificial state, dependent on the USA and the West for its very existence, Pakistan today is moving relentlessly, as if dictated by Destiny, to the brink of its own annihilation by the short-sighted policies of its own leaders who lack vision and appreciation of their own history.

Few could visualise that the crunch would come in its 60th year of existence. Some political thinkers had predicted that 1971 war was the beginning of the end of Pakistan; as the very theory (two-nations based on religion) on which it was based tore it into two pieces. However, the shrewd political acumen of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the lack of vision of Indira Gandhi and the pressure of the USA saved Pakistan from disintegration. At that time, Pakistan was ruled by another military general Yahya Khan who took over after the disastrous end of Gen. Ayub Khan. What the generals did to Zulfiqar Bhutto, their cleverest politician, is the saddest chapter in the short history of Pakistan.

Again in 1999, after the Kargil war, initiated by General Musharraf, Pakistan was on the brink of annihilation. A nuclear confrontation with India was imminent. This time again, the United States came to the rescue of Pakistan otherwise, the General was inclined to take the Indian sub-continent to nuclear disaster.

President Musharaf’s declaration of Emergency and virtual martial law in Pakistan last month ostensibly to rescue Pakistan from Islamic terrorism; but in fact was a desperate step of a despot who feared the loss of power because of popular grass-root movement which forced him to reinstate the Chief Justice and reluctantly agree to involve Benazir Bhutto in sharing power. To declare Emergency is the sort of foolhardy step, which can only be taken by an egomaniac ruler who somehow believes that the very survival of Pakistan depends on him remaining in power. History is witness to many instances of kings and rulers who assumed power illegally to destroy their own dynasties or country. Aurangzeb, the last great Mughal, killed his brothers and imprisoned his father to get the throne of Delhi; and thus began the process of disintegration of the Mughal dynasty in India. Saddam Hussain of Iraq is the latest example.

President Musharraf as the head of army that has the custodial power over its nuclear arsenal is far more dangerous than Saddam Hussain for he already controls weapons of mass destruction. He can coerce his allies in the West, especially the USA, that unless they support his regime he may himself together with his ISI and the army (already tainted with pro-taliban sympathies) may move over to the cause of Islamic militants. He may even venture into another attack in Jammu & Kashmir to mollify the Islamic militants to show his credentials to the Islamists about his own Islamic faith as interpreted by Al-Qaida leadership, hoping any such war may end in a stalemate as the government of India may not dare to go for a full scale war.

According to President Musharraf, democracy in Pakistan could be tolerated only if it could keep him in power as well as the head of the army. This of course will not be possible with Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif breathing down his neck. In Pakistan, as in China, power comes through the barrel of the gun. The ballot, the constitution and the talks of freedom of the individual are against the rules of militant Islam. Pakistan has to be ruled under Islamic law. Can democracy flourish or even survive in such a system? Therein lies the dilemma of Pakistan.

The unfortunate twist of history has brought people of Pakistan who historically, culturally and socially are akin to India, to an artificial country named ‘Pakistan’ by their forefathers. Pakistan’s survival as it exists today is at peril unless the common people get a voice and power to decide their own destiny. A large majority of people of Pakistan want friendship with India, a country of their forefathers. They see that their own co-religionists (larger than their own population) living as free citizens with full fundamental human rights guaranteed by a constitution guarded by an independent judiciary. That same freedom can be enjoyed by the people in Pakistan only by gradually melting down the power of Pakistan’s military machine and its nuclear arsenal. The United States and its allies have to decide now whether they really want to prolong the misery of Pakistan by continuously supporting, financially and in armament, a military regime which can be more brutal than that of Taliban in Afghanistan or Iraq under Saddam Hussain. We empathise with the people of Pakistan.

Let us remember what Iqbal wrote long ago:

“Aei taair e lahoti, us rizq sei maut achhi;
jis rizq sei aati ho parvaaz mein kotahi

If the price of earning a livelihood is curtailment of freedom of one’s nature, then it is better to die than living such a life.

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