Sunday, January 11, 2009

Uncivil War

More than a month after the terrorist attack in Mumbai, India and the world has still not figured out how to make Pakistan accept the responsibility of fuelling terrorism. Forget about trying to make Pakistan pay for its perfidy, the world actually needs to be grateful to it for at least showing the decency of denying that the Mumbai attackers were its citizens. So now we all can step back, after weak protestations, with a semblance of our dignity intact. Imagine had Pakistan accepted that it was behind the terrorist attacks and challenged the world with its brazenness where would that have left India and the US.
Given the way things are in Pakistan at the moment, this is not a far-fetched prospect. The Pakistan military, which the Indian soldiers have often referred to as a professional outfit, has now slipped so far down the realms of the civilised world that possibility of redemption looks bleak. Unfortunately, we all must accept blame for this deterioration. Because we accepted and dignified uncivilised and inhuman behaviour by giving it the name irregular warfare, as if it was a perfectly soldierly act to throw a bomb in a public place or to kill unarmed non-combatants. Once this was accepted by us as part of war, the Mumbai attack was just a step further. No one, not even an average Pakistani truly believes that the 10 men who indiscriminately fired at public places and lined up people against the wall before shooting them in cold blood, were not Pakistani citizens. The father of the surviving terrorist has recognised him, the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has accepted him as his fellow countryman and even President Zardari admitted that the attackers were Pakistani by saying that they were non-state actors, before doing a volte-face under Army Chief Kayani’s glare. To still maintain the fa├žade of waiting for evidence is nothing but brazenness.
However, the worrying thing here is not India and its security. India is a big country with the capacity to absorb much more than 1,000 cuts. The worrying thing is Pakistan and the civil society there, which is getting so completely manipulated by the military that it is failing to distinguish between civilised and uncivilised, between Islamic and unIslamic, between just and convenient. All that the military leadership has to do is raise the spectre of war with India and the entire country immediately cowers behind it. The military tells the country that only it can save it from rampaging India and the gullible society not only believes this but join in the war cry, like mindless juveniles in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.
The level of brutalisation of the society can be judged by the fact that in peaceful times, Pakistani intellectuals like Ahmed Rashid, Pervez Hoodbhoy, Hassan Abbas, Husain Haqqani, Zahid Hussain and so on write about the dangers of radicalisation of the Pakistani society and military, about how ISI created and nurtured the Taliban and how it closely works with LeT and JeM which it has created specifically for terrorising India, about how Pakistani military has consistently double-crossed the world on its nuclear programme, how deeply entrenched the Jihadists are with the army and so on. Yet, the moment the military raises the India-threat card, they all shuffle in line behind what is now turning out to be a rogue army in both worlds: the secular and the Islamic.
Rogue in the secular world, because no army trains to kill unarmed civilians; professional militaries are not the domain for trigger-happy sadists. They are the bastions for honourable soldiers who value human life above all. And rogue in the Islamic world, because Islam codified the whole concept of war-fighting. It properly laid down rules for engagement, surrender and treatment of prisoners of war (PoWs). War can only be waged between armed combatants and only if the opponent wants to fight. If he does not want to fight, then no matter how just your cause is you cannot fight with him. If he surrenders, you cannot kill him and if he is your prisoner you have to accord him the dignity of a surrendered warrior.
The tragedy is not the decline of the Pakistan military. The tragedy is the decline of the society and those who are lulled into sleep by a sense of security that the enemy is outside and the military can take care of it, because the enemy is quietly creeping inside their hearts and homes. I mourn it because once we were one.
At the height of tensions with India a few years ago, Pakistani poet Late Ahmed Faraz came to Delhi to participate in the annual January 26 Mushaira at Red Fort. He concluded his poem ‘Dosti ka Haath’ (hand of friendship) saying: “Tumhare des mein aaya hoon doston abke/ Na saaz-o-naghme ki mehfil na shaiiyri ke liye/Agar tumhari ana hi ka hai sawal toh phir/ Chalo main haath badhata hoon dosti ke liye”. My hand is still held out, but don’t shake it because it is convenient. Reach out only when you are confident of my intent and at peace with your strengths and insecurities.

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