A New Year wish
By Ayaz Amir
AH, for some more disorder under the heavens. For only then can we hope to break out of our present condition where movement is frozen and time stands still. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Ke harkat tez tar hai, aur safar ahista, ahistaĂ˘â‚¬Âť: movement so frenetic and journey so slow. How immortal Munir Niazi, now departed for the eternal shades, summed up our national condition long ago.
Why is the art of the proper obituary beyond our newspapers? Why so heedless of what an obituary is or what it should be? Not one decent obituary on the great poet of love and despair in all the torrent of newsprint pouring out on the morning after his death.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Ik aur darya ka samna hai Munir mujh ko, Main aik darya ke paar utra to mein ne dekha...Ă˘â‚¬Âť A bad rendering of these haunting lines: Ă˘â‚¬ËśI crossed one river, Munir, and saw another in front of me. At journeyĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s end, another journey awaits you. Slay one dragon and others rise in its place.Ă˘â‚¬â„˘
Green, symbol of hope and renewal, may be our national colour but khaki is the colour of our distress, our never-ending winter of discontent dyed a light shade of khaki. Any tryst with destiny made when Pakistan was born? Not easy to say because apart from the Quaid there were few men of vision or promise in our founding caravan. Even so, no one could have imagined our future would be this.
Pakistan surely wasnĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t created for the pleasure of the general staff, or the convenience of the Pentagon, the Pakistan Resolution not passed in 1940 so that Pakistan, once born, should fight AmericaĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s wars.
Forget the past which canĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t be undone. Why canĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t we take heed of the present? As if one Afghan venture (in the 1980s) wasnĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t enough, we are embroiled in another. All because our commanding warriors got cold feet when a gun, so to speak, was held to their heads post-Sept 11 and they rushed into a deal, more like a devilĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s pact, whose consequences only now are becoming clearer.
True, in those first punch-drunk months, Pakistan was the flavour of the season and Gen Musharraf the virtual rock sensation whose hand everyone was trying to touch. But it couldnĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t last and it hasnĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t.
We already know what has come of American dictation, the army losing control of South and North Waziristan, the writ of government evaporating, to be replaced by the authority of the Taliban or the Mujahideen. On our own, with our better local knowledge, we could have handled the situation better. But the Americans, with their almost uncontrollable urge to turn a crisis into a catastrophe, pushed for precipitate action.
Our generals too were perhaps eager to prove their loyalty. The result could almost have been foreseen: fierce tribal resistance leading to heavy casualties, almost 700, a huge number which only a Ă˘â‚¬ËśpeasantĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ army could have sustained without causing a national outcry (the army rank and file drawn largely from the Punjab and Frontier peasantry.)
The North Waziristan deal leading to peace between the tribes and the army was dictated not by goodwill but necessity. Stuck in a hole there was no other way out for the army. Indeed Governor Aurakzai, the great Frontier peacemaker now, was the commander who ordered the initial deployment in South Waziristan. Talk of learning from experience.
America and its Nato allies are furious and for good reason, client states are not expected to think for themselves, especially when the patron is in dire straits. So Pakistan is under renewed pressure to do more, the decision to fence and mine the border at some places, another foolish move, reflecting this pressure.
The tribes wonĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t take to this kindly. But the Americans are looking out for themselves not us.
They have two Vietnams on their hands, one fully ripe in Iraq, the other growing in Afghanistan. Pakistan is the likely Cambodia in this scenario, the country which got wrecked and burnt because America dragged it into the Vietnam War. Cambodia has still not recovered from what the Americans did to it. And this was almost 30 years ago.
Should we allow ourselves to be sucked into AmericaĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s developing Afghan debacle? We will be unless we take our own decisions and keep our distance from the US.
This doesnĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t mean cultivating American hostility, only that we stop being a US lackey. The real unfinished business of partition is not Kashmir but the reclamation of our sovereignty held in hock to US interests for far too long.
But that promise will remain unfulfilled unless PakistanĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s khaki spell is broken. The khaki mind, as it has evolved in Pakistan, is almost programmed to seek a dependent relationship with Washington, a consciousness of internal weakness and lack of legitimacy driving it in that direction.
Left to their own devices this spell is too powerful for the people of Pakistan to break. We lack spirit, conditioned more by history than climate to bow meekly before authority. The people of Thailand have more spirit than us, the people of South Korea a greater sense of right and wrong, even the Nepalese people more mettle than we dare think of.
Hezbollah has rewritten some of the old rules of conflict in the Middle East. Iran, now a regional power, is standing up to the US. The resistance in Iraq has proven itself heroic, and at times savage, beyond words. New winds blow across South America. Pakistan remains stuck on the wrong side of history.
A people without spine must look to creative disorder as the great god of change. We are entering interesting times. The farce that is the Q League Ă˘â‚¬â€ť the nominal ruling party, the real ruling party being the army headquarters Ă˘â‚¬â€ť is crossing the last frontiers of its relevance. For the future a new set-up is required, or so think the presidentĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s men, for which purpose, as we keep hearing, presidential emissaries are in touch with the PPP (through PPP point man Rehman Malik).
The presidential camp is split between Ă˘â‚¬Ëśforward-lookersĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ and Ă˘â‚¬ËśreactionariesĂ˘â‚¬â„˘, advocates and opponents of this deal. The former comprise the presidentĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s principal secretary Lt-Gen. Hamid Javed (Rtd), presidential aide Tariq Aziz, and the ISI chief Lt-Gen Kayani.
The circle of Ă˘â‚¬ËśreactionĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ revolves around the Gujrat cousins, Shujaat Hussain and Pervaiz Elahi, and the Intelligence Bureau chief Brigadier Ejaz Shah.
Shaukat Aziz, the prime minister, is committed neither to Ă˘â‚¬ËśprogressĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ nor Ă˘â‚¬ËśreactionĂ˘â‚¬â„˘, happily only to himself, offering no opinion unless the presidentĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s wishes can be anticipated. The president, an effective speaker, always liked his own voice. Now he is increasingly impatient with views differing from his own, a tendency for which, after seven years of untrammeled power, he is hardly to be blamed.
The Americans are very clear. They want Musharraf to stay but at the head of a more broad-based arrangement, for which purpose the overtures to the PPP.
The PPP will be expected to vote for the president later in 2007. What does it get for blackening its face? Reprieve for Ms Bhutto in the Swiss cases and also in a Spanish case relating to the Iraq oil-for-food scandal, the great party of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto reduced to the necessity of such a sordid compromise.
If it wins enough seats in the elections, the PPP could even get the prime ministership, but for a Benazir nominee not the Daughter of the East herself who will have to be content with a Mrs Sonia Gandhi role, albeit a diluted one because in more ways than one Mrs G wields real power.
Unsure is the fate of erstwhile Prince of Darkness, Asif Ali Zardari, who could still get it in the neck in the Swiss cases, an outcome not likely to be much mourned by all concerned including, who knows...but I tread on dangerous water.
Nothing has been conclusively settled, everything is still up in the air. But this at least is the cloak-and-dagger stuff taking place in the shadows. To the undisguised horror of Shujaat and Pervaiz no doubt who donĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t have to be told that the PPPĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s coming in Ă˘â‚¬â€ť in whatever shape or colour Ă˘â‚¬â€ť means a dilution of their nuisance value.
Why are the Chaudries so unreservedly for MusharrafĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s uniform? Because as I heard someone say the other day, if he loses his uniform, they lose their clothes. (ItĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s more colourful in Punjabi.)
If this deal is clinched, Musharraf reinvents himself and gets a new lease of life. So I hope Shujaat and the IB chief have strength enough in their arms to scupper it. WhoĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s interested in giving a tired dispensation a fresh coat of paint?