Thursday, June 19, 2014

Khalid Ahmed - Pakistan: In an unsettled state

After 66 years, Pakistan has not settled down as a normal state. It is internally troubled and more and more of its territory is ungoverned with each passing day. Big cities are falling victim to the disease of the countryside: state dereliction. In Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta, state failure is in full evidence and is creeping into Islamabad and Lahore, too. In the last-named city, the police watched as a family killed their daughter with bricks just outside the high court because she had chosen to contract marriage of her own choice. The case was better reported in America than in Pakistan. In the same city, the Shia-killing leader of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was acquitted the same week in three cases because the witnesses didn’t turn up.

Pakistan and India have once again tried to forget the past and patch up, using the swearing-in of India’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi, as the peg. The extremists are not happy; they didn’t want Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to go to New Delhi. The “doves”, who matter less and less in Pakistan, hope their leaders can climb over the brickwalls the two sides have raised to perpetuate conflict over many decades.
In Pakistan, waters of all discussion were muddied by Sharif’s recent quarrel with the army over internal policy. Pakistan was polarised between him and the army before Sharif took off for Delhi for his meeting with Modi on May 26. Predictions in Islamabad were dire: he is about to be dragged down in a re-run of many earlier overthrows. Army chief Raheel Sharif, who never looked the part, was supposed to depose him and replace him with no one knew who.
The media, “drunk with the wine of nation-worship”, as they say, backed the army in the quarrel. There was a kind of double-take by most TV anchors who first thought hanging Pervez Musharraf was the right thing to do and the government was right in talking peace with the Taliban. General Sharif, by his actions, seemed to signal to them that this was not what the army wanted. Then the split came out in the open.
General Sharif first reasoned with PM Sharif over the treason trial of Musharraf; then, after being ignored, demonstrated the de facto power of the army by literally blacking out the GEO TV news channel across Pakistan for insulting the ISI, Pakistan’s world-renowned, army-controlled intelligence agency.
Discussants on TV talkshows were predominantly right-wing pro-army. Cloying intellectuals, sprinkled liberally with sharp-tongued retired military officers, shut up the moderates who thought PM Sharif had done the right thing by inviting Modi for an official visit and then attending Modi’s swearing-in.
The outcome of the Modi-Sharif meeting was predictably seen as disastrous by the swelling pro-army tide. TV anchors said: Sharif didn’t bring up Kashmir and Pakistan’s rivers being diverted by India; and Modi unfairly demanded an end to cross-border terrorism from Pakistan, not even waiting for Sharif to return to Islamabad before appearing to order a move in Parliament to remove the constitutional provision giving special status to Kashmir and thus making it an integral part of India. And that Sharif did not mention Balochistan, where rascally India was stoking an insurgency, but for which Pakistan has so far been reluctant to share proof with India. Retired diplomats vented spleen on TV, saying Sharif had caused Modi “to slap Pakistan on the face”.
Hating Modi is easy. The entire world did it after 2002. Last year, in Muslims in Indian Cities Trajectories of Marginalisation (edited by Laurent Gayer and Christophe Jaffrelot), the indictment was stark: “2002 was a state-sponsored pogrom to ‘clean’ the Hindu Rashtra. The 2002 communal violence cannot be analysed the same way as the incidents of 1984 and 1992. This was not a riot, but a pogrom which did not remain confined to a city, but spread to many others and even to the countryside. Twenty-six towns in all were subject to curfew.”
India, under a secular Constitution, was put to shame in 2002. Pakistan’s treatment of Hindus and other minorities under an “enabling” religious constitution causes no shame in Pakistan, but the world is outraged by the conduct of its courts, where ideologically biased judges behave like clerics. The world is disappointed in India; it is disgusted by Pakistan, which it sees failing as a state.
Pakistan’s revisionism towards India is at the root of its failure as a state. .. read more:

The modern Islamic state continues to be a besieged idea.