So what if Pakistan is misunderstood?
Mohammed Hanif is clearly very smart, and his prose both entertaining and readable, but his attempt at overturning Indian myths of Pakistan also exposes some of the myths that Pakistanis—particularly upper-class, educated Pakistanis—have about their own country (for the record, I’m not suggesting that middle-class Indians aren’t sometimes similarly deluded).
It is absurd to think, as Hanif suggests, that the Pakistani establishment (I like your formulation—the “military-intelligence complex”) does not use terrorism, just because it is indeed fighting other terrorists on its northwestern frontier. That’s clearly a fallacious argument. Also, it’s not just Indian journalists that have reported terrorist training in major urban centres in Pakistan, as he claims (see Pearl, Daniel; Henry-Levi, Bernard; Coll, Steve). He also appears to admit, despite stating that it’s a myth, that Zardari doesn’t have the kind of control that Musharraf has. And while he’s right about India still being a poor country, that’s not the so-called myth that’s propagated—there are clearly marked differences between the natures of the two economies and consequently their overall healths during the global financial crisis. Finally, he cleverly equates R&AW with ISI, institutions that are clearly not analogous in terms of the power they hold in their respective countries and the resources to which they have access. All that said, he is right about Pakistan being a diverse country—something that is frequently overlooked—and the question of loose nukes, a threat which is often over-exaggerated in India, the United States and elsewhere. [TOI]
Dhruva is right on the ball. If Mr Hanif’s argument is that the Pakistani people are victims of a grand misunderstanding perpetrated by the media, then one wonders how he would explain public opinion rallying behind the military-jihadi complex at the drop of a hat—bringing the four year old ‘peace process’ down like a house of cards. Or is that a myth too?
That people in one part of the world nurture myths and stereotypes of other parts of the world is one of those facts of life. It need not become an international problem. What good people like Mr Hanif need to do is ask themselves, if not explain in op-ed columns, why a large number of their countrymen are so willing to condone, connive or be a party to a proxy war fought by their military-jihadi complex using terrorism for aggression and a nuclear arsenal for defence?