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Improve Pakinstan by introspection

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    Improve Pakinstan by introspection

    This is from yesterday's Dawn. Are we, as a nation, allergic to the truth.

    HAVING sleep-walked into a near disaster at Kargil, we halt at the edge of the precipice. We might have won a battle but we lost the war. A soon-to-be-lame-duck president of the US provides the face saving crumb of "personal interest" (whatever that might mean) to the resolution of the Kashmir dispute. If Pakistan arrived on the now famous Quaid's nod, Kashmir hangs on Clinton's crumb.

    The tailpiece of the Kargil fiasco is difficult to match in the annals of diplomatic humiliation. Certainly the worst setback for us since the fall of united Pakistan in December 1971. How did it arise? What was the game plan? Was it sanctioned by the Defence Committee of the Cabinet? Should an enquiry into the debacle be made by Parliament? These are some of the questions that are agitating the minds of concerned citizens.

    We made every conceivable mistake. Initially, we maintained that Tiger Hills was on our side of the LoC. Who were we trying to bluff? Later, we are told that Kargil was in retaliation as India had violated the line of Control on three previous occasions and had seized our territory. This is news to most ordinary Pakistanis. We knew about Indian adventurism in Siachen but not this. When did the intrusions take place and how much territory was occupied? Why have we kept quiet on this?

    What was the military or political aim of Kargil? If the aim was to cut the Indian line of communications to Siachen or Leh, did anyone in his right mind not consider that this amounted to a declaration of war with India? That the international community would condemn it in no uncertain terms just as it condemned Advani's threat to take over our part of Kashmir in the heady flush of the Indian nuclear explosion! The world is wedded to the concept of the 'status quo'; it cannot be upturned by force. Impatient Saddam Hussein should have learnt this from the Chinese. China has never exercised force in pursuance of its Taiwan claim.

    It is generally accepted that Kargil was planned last year and its execution began in February just about the time of the Lahore declaration. This opens us to the charge that Sharif's negotiations with Vajpayee were not undertaken in good faith.

    There are other surprises, too. India by not crossing the Line of Control (LoC) has secured a notable diplomatic victory. The world is all praise for Indian "restraint", Indian "maturity" and so on. India, which lost its glamour and attraction for the West after the cold war and in particular after Babri Masjid, the rise of Hindu fundamentalism and the nuclear bomb of last May, now re-emerges as a responsible and respected power.

    We are told incessantly that the Kargil freedom fighters are genuine Kashmiri freedom fighters. However, is it reasonable to believe that freedom fighters can fight at 15,000 feet above sea level without Pakistan rations, clothing, logistics, ammunition and intelligence support? Again, who are we fooling? It is possible for PTV to beguile its captive audience at home but the world does not consist of retards. We have always been victims of our own make-believe world. For example, our current school history books report as "history" that Bangladesh was created against the will of its people by Indian armed intervention! Say this to a Bangladeshi and watch his reaction.

    A current example of the make-believe syndrome is the manner in which Clinton's "personal interest" pledge is being played up in the press as if an onus to find a solution is placed on Clinton. This "pledge" is no more than a face-sever for Sharif. Clinton had no choice other than to demand unilateral Pakistan withdrawal from Kargil following resolutions in the US Congress.

    The average 'Pakistani sees Clinton as he would see one of his own rulers - whimsical, dictatorial and beyond accountability. The obtaining fact is that an American president's personal pledge cannot overrule Congress which approves foreign policy and influences it on a day-to-day basis. Before our expectations rise very high, Clinton's pledge should be played down. The US is not a mediator or conciliator in the Kashmir dispute.

    Since we do not have the courage to face our recent historical past, our present is caught in a web of myths and our future is warped by this burden. But, alas, there is no escape from the ice and fire of truth. A new Pakistan will only emerge after we have the courage to face our past honestly. We need a truth commission as in South Africa.

    On October 24, 1947, the Pakistan army headquarters informed its Indian counterpart that some 5,000 tribesmen had captured Muzaffarabad and Domel and were approaching Srinagar. A vacillating Maharaja was frightened into inviting India to send troops at 11 p.m. on the same day and signalled accession to India.

    We have all but forgotten that the Maharaja, backed by the dominant political parties of the time, desired independence. In retrospect we may question if it was wise to do what we did and leave the Maharaja with no other option by sending marauding tribesmen who managed to thoroughly alienate the Kashmiris by loot and plunder. An independent Kashmir would have been (and might be in the future) as close and friendly to Pakistan as Canada is to the US. Given the complexion of the population of Kashmir and its historical trade and cultural roots, it would be but natural. If by a magic wand all of Kashmir were to be part of Pakistan tomorrow, one fears we might have another Afghanistan to contend with.

    Our second misadventure was in September 1965. After we were successful in the Rann of Kutch earlier in that year, Ayub Khan (by nature a cautious person) was pressured by the hawks in his cabinet (led by Z.A. Bhutto) and the army to infiltrate the ceasefire line in Kashmir. The action was based on the incorrect premise that indigenous resistance could be ignited by a few saboteurs. Ayub resisted the idea as he clearly foresaw India crossing the international frontier in retaliation at a point of its choosing.

    The Bhutto faction, which included some prominent generals, put out the canard that Ayub's cowardice stemmed from his desire to protect his newly acquired wealth. It was boasted at the time that one Pakistani soldier was equal to four Indian soldiers and so on.

    What happened is history. The 1965 war ended in Tashkent which led directly to December 1971 and the fall of united Pakistan. One colossal blunder followed another; in the azure light of retrospect we can see that united Pakistan was eminently savable.

    When Justice Hamoodur Rahman in his official enquiry recorded the truth of 1971, Bhutto as prime minister personally ordered that each and every copy of the report be burnt, and burnt to ashes it was. Not one copy was saved. And to-date no attempt has been made to reconstruct the causes that led to our dismemberment. The same fate is likely to befall the Kargil episode.

    Are we not as a nation allergic to knowing the truth? Truth today should begin with a parliamentary enquiry into Kargil rather than the chauvinistic notion of starting new Kargils in Kashmir. The one feature that recurs right from 1947 to this year's Kargil misadventure is that a tiny cabal of men take the crucial decisions which have the potential of leading to war. The self-perception of this tiny cabal is that they are the only patriots left in the country.

    The sane suggestion of a National Security Council (NSC) consisting of the leading organs of the state and the leader of the opposition to examine the issues of war and peace was rejected by the prime minister. This led to the resignation of that fine soldier General Jehangir Karamat last November.

    Let us for a moment suppose that we had an NSC, what would have happened?

    1) The foreign minister would have been obliged to record the considered views of the Foreign Office (FO) as an institution of the state. The basic Indian diplomatic thrust was to regain the prestige and influence it lost in world affairs after the end of the cold war, followed by the razing of the Babri Masjid and the Indian nuclear explosions of May 1998. Never has India's stock in world opinion ratings been lower than in this decade.

    To show itself as a responsible regional nuclear power India would try to contain Kargil and not cross the LoC, at least till the last drop of diplomatic advantage was squeezed out. India's best option was to expose Pakistan as an aggressor and a fundamentalist state.

    The FO knows well the views of the US Congress on Kashmir / Afghan Mujahideen issue. A flagrant Mujahideen intrusion across the LoC could put us back on the terrorist list.

    2) The finance minister would no doubt have informed the NSC of the expected consequences of a cut-off by the World Bank and the IMF and the G-8 nations.

    3) The JCS (Joint Chiefs of Staff) would have presented a realistic military assessment of a local Kashmir battle which is arguably winnable and a war with India which may have totally unpredictable consequences.

    4) Perhaps, an analytical mind on the NSC - and the advantage of having such a constitutional or sub-constitutional committee is that a broad spectrum of independent opinion is generated - might have stressed that the objectives of an armed action should be assessed in the context of its consequences - economic, international and regional.

    The downside consideration is a more important one than the upside. The downside price paid by Pakistan at Kargil would have been rated as simply too high in the context of any possible upside scenario:

    a) By having Pakistan agree to the inviolability of the LoC, we have played right into India's hand of obtaining world sanction of giving LoC the sacrosanctity of an international border.

    b) China has been forced to tilt in the direction of being a South Asian mediator. Remember, China has always been our ally before. China agreed to support Pakistan if pressed to do so at the Security Council and the United Nations, but Nawaz Sharif was clearly advised of China's reservations on the Kargil operation.

    Wiser counsel could also have prevailed upon our hawks to realize that in the totally unpredictable scenario of a nuclear war, the very existence of Pakistan is more in peril than is India's. Confrontation with India over the past 50 years has apparently failed. Do we have the strength to recognize other options?

    Let us ask who are the real victors today of World War II: Germany or England, Japan or Russia? The poet can take a larger view on the questions of War and Peace. My dear Telemachus, The Trojan War is over now; I don't recall who won it. (Brodsky)


    I am glad you started this post. It is good to know that there are some people in Pakistan who feel differently about the Kargil issue. Both India and Pakistan should accept the LOC as international border, and focus more on open bi-lateral trade just like Canada,USA and Mexico does.


      I think the article is well put and accurate about our follies in making any set regional and international policies.

      The trouble is that most foreign ministers and in this case the PM too have put little thought to this issue. We as a nation lack the foresight of a great leader and the vision of a think tank or group of people who, if present at the top level of our buraucracy, would have prevented this from happening.

      As in all cases, unless a strong and long term foreign and regional policy is set in place the people of Pakistan will continue to suffer the indignity of being embarrassed at the international stage.

      This is a simple problem with a solution that is not so clear.


        One of the better and balanced write-ups I have read for some time in the Pak Media.A relief to listen to a sane Pakistani for a change...........