World wants welfare, not warfare

World wants welfare, not warfare

By M.J. Akbar | 11 October, 2014
Someone in Pakistan’s military-religious complex should clean his ears and start listening—not for the sake of humanity or the subcontinent, but for Pakistan.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has sent a powerful message by awarding the peace prize for this year to the Gandhian in Delhi, Kailash Satyarthi, and the extraordinarily courageous Pakistani Malala Yusufzai, wandering in exile: the world applauds welfare, not warfare. Someone in Pakistan's military-religious complex should clean his ears and start listening — not for the sake of that amorphous feel-good entity known as humanity, or for a subcontinent riddled with conflict, but for Pakistan's sake.

Two Pakistanis have won the Nobel, physicist Abdus Salam in 1979, and now Malala. Salam, a pious man, could not step into Pakistan without fear of assassination because he was Qadiani, a sect defined as apostate and therefore non-Muslim under Pak law. Malala is targeted by barbaric extremists who do not believe in education for girls, and mix a regressive social agenda with terrorism. Such terrorist groups receive protection from the "deep state" because they serve, with suicidal zeal, on the frontlines of Pakistan's proxy wars against India and Afghanistan.

If Pak artillery has fallen silent on the Indian border it is no thanks to the optimistic intentions of the Nobel Committee. This happened because India gave as good as it got, and then some more.

If Pak artillery has fallen silent after nine hostile days on the Indian border it is no thanks to the optimistic intentions of the Nobel Committee. This happened because India gave as good as it got, and then some more. There has been much speculation about Islamabad's high-risk escalation, to no evident purpose, unless a permanent state of hostility is the new strategic intention of Pakistan's generals.

Are they testing Narendra Modi, just as they tested Atal Behari Vajpayee in Kargil? This would be extremely foolish. Modi is not a weak leader who will buckle. Rahul Gandhi, who rarely fires a gun that will not backfire, lowered a diminishing Congress vote even further when he suggested on the Assembly campaign trail that Modi, and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, were buckling before Pakistan. Within 48 hours of Rahul Gandhi's Quixotic tilt at windmills, Pakistan backed off.

Then there is a familiar alibi, heard with obstinate consistency when Pakistan's diplomatic and military community appears on television or at conferences: India started it. This is fleshed out with an explanation: the Pak military is so heavily engaged on other fronts, including its internal civil wars, that it has no motive for seeking a military engagement with India. This is disingenuous. It seeks to camouflage the irrational with the rational.

Pakistan has never felt the need for any rational reason to go to war against India. Its very first important decision after independence was to seize by war what could have been negotiated in peace. It launched an offensive for Kashmir, which had acceded to neither India nor Pakistan, through irregulars and terrorists as early as in October 1947. If Pak policy had been guided by common sense, there would have been a peaceful solution over Kashmir, probably under British supervision [we had only Dominion status] by the spring or summer of 1948. Islamabad again resorted to a medley of terrorism, proxy war and regular conflict in 1965. When it learnt, after 1965 and 1971, that Kashmir would never be won through formal war, it converted terrorism, low-intensity provocation and hot-border tactics into a staple as the only means of keeping the Kashmir problem "alive".

Conversely, India has never sought to expand its territory in Kashmir across the Line of Control ever since the ceasefire came into effect in the first week of January 1949. India did not attempt this even when the Pak army was on its knees, and 90,000 of its troops had surrendered in Dhaka after the 1971 war. India has respected its pacts with Pakistan. This does not mean that Indian forces will keel over when attacked, and they responded forcefully, under Modi's leadership, last week when Pakistan raised the violence to levels not seen in a decade.

We are still left with the question: why? I wonder if some part of the answer lies in the breakthrough joint statement signed between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama in Washington, where America, for the very first time, set aside Pak objections and agreed that India had a legitimate role in the war against terrorist sanctuaries based on Pak soil. Organisations were specifically named to avoid any misinterpretation: Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Al Qaeda, the Haqqani network [operating in Afghanistan], Dawood Ibrahim's D Company and Iraq's Islamic State. This stretches the India-America strategic relationship into the most dangerous war zone of the contemporary world, and in effect makes India a major ally of the United States in this war. Pakistan's double role, in which it was an American buttress when talking to Pentagon, and a terrorist sanctuary when addressing the jihadists, is under unprecedented strain if not thoroughly exposed.

Are upset Pak generals signalling to India and America that they are turning the concentration of firepower back to their eastern front?The Norwegian Nobel Committee has sent a powerful message by awarding the peace prize for this year to the Gandhian in Delhi, Kailash Satyarthi, and the extraordinarily courageous Pakistani Malala Yusufzai, wandering in exile: the world applauds welfare, not warfare. Someone in Pakistan's military-religious complex should clean his ears and start listening — not for the sake of that amorphous feel-good entity known as humanity, or for a subcontinent riddled with conflict, but for Pakistan's sake.

Two Pakistanis have won the Nobel, physicist Abdus Salam in 1979, and now Malala. Salam, a pious man, could not step into Pakistan without fear of assassination because he was Qadiani, a sect defined as apostate and therefore non-Muslim under Pak law. Malala is targeted by barbaric extremists who do not believe in education for girls, and mix a regressive social agenda with terrorism. Such terrorist groups receive protection from the "deep state" because they serve, with suicidal zeal, on the frontlines of Pakistan's proxy wars against India and Afghanistan.

If Pak artillery has fallen silent after nine hostile days on the Indian border it is no thanks to the optimistic intentions of the Nobel Committee. This happened because India gave as good as it got, and then some more. There has been much speculation about Islamabad's high-risk escalation, to no evident purpose, unless a permanent state of hostility is the new strategic intention of Pakistan's generals.

Are they testing Narendra Modi, just as they tested Atal Behari Vajpayee in Kargil? This would be extremely foolish. Modi is not a weak leader who will buckle. Rahul Gandhi, who rarely fires a gun that will not backfire, lowered a diminishing Congress vote even further when he suggested on the Assembly campaign trail that Modi, and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, were buckling before Pakistan. Within 48 hours of Rahul Gandhi's Quixotic tilt at windmills, Pakistan backed off.

Then there is a familiar alibi, heard with obstinate consistency when Pakistan's diplomatic and military community appears on television or at conferences: India started it. This is fleshed out with an explanation: the Pak military is so heavily engaged on other fronts, including its internal civil wars, that it has no motive for seeking a military engagement with India. This is disingenuous. It seeks to camouflage the irrational with the rational.

Pakistan has never felt the need for any rational reason to go to war against India. Its very first important decision after independence was to seize by war what could have been negotiated in peace. It launched an offensive for Kashmir, which had acceded to neither India nor Pakistan, through irregulars and terrorists as early as in October 1947. If Pak policy had been guided by common sense, there would have been a peaceful solution over Kashmir, probably under British supervision [we had only Dominion status] by the spring or summer of 1948. Islamabad again resorted to a medley of terrorism, proxy war and regular conflict in 1965. When it learnt, after 1965 and 1971, that Kashmir would never be won through formal war, it converted terrorism, low-intensity provocation and hot-border tactics into a staple as the only means of keeping the Kashmir problem "alive".

Conversely, India has never sought to expand its territory in Kashmir across the Line of Control ever since the ceasefire came into effect in the first week of January 1949. India did not attempt this even when the Pak army was on its knees, and 90,000 of its troops had surrendered in Dhaka after the 1971 war. India has respected its pacts with Pakistan. This does not mean that Indian forces will keel over when attacked, and they responded forcefully, under Modi's leadership, last week when Pakistan raised the violence to levels not seen in a decade.

We are still left with the question: why? I wonder if some part of the answer lies in the breakthrough joint statement signed between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama in Washington, where America, for the very first time, set aside Pak objections and agreed that India had a legitimate role in the war against terrorist sanctuaries based on Pak soil. Organisations were specifically named to avoid any misinterpretation: Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Al Qaeda, the Haqqani network [operating in Afghanistan], Dawood Ibrahim's D Company and Iraq's Islamic State. This stretches the India-America strategic relationship into the most dangerous war zone of the contemporary world, and in effect makes India a major ally of the United States in this war. Pakistan's double role, in which it was an American buttress when talking to Pentagon, and a terrorist sanctuary when addressing the jihadists, is under unprecedented strain if not thoroughly exposed.

Are upset Pak generals signalling to India and America that they are turning the concentration of firepower back to their eastern front?

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