A case of exploding myths

So what if Pakistan is misunderstood?

Commenting on Mohammed Hanif’s attempt to dispel ten myths about Pakistan, Dhruva Jaishankar writes (in an email):

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?

8 thoughts on “A case of exploding myths”

  1. A case of exploding myths, eh?

    What about a case of exploding mangoes – another Pakistani specialty?

    The pak capacity for denial gets ever larger, to keep pace with its problems, perhaps.

    The aam awaam in Pak is sympathetic to at least some of the goals of the jihadist-salafist-deobandi frankenstein the pak establishment created – a marked change from the pre-zia years.

  2. The task is simple for Haneef and his similar minded compatriots in Pakistan. “Make the Pakistani army accountable to the Pakistani parliament”. Such an aim is honorable and patriotic for a sovereign country to possess.

    The fact is that a lot of the misdoings of the Pak army are hidden from the public sight. Special wings such as ISI are totally beyond any norms of accountability. Nobody seems to know who is responsible for what. Anybody spilling a secret or two is assassinated, first a character assassination in the media and then a physical assassination by merceneries. The story of General Faisal Alavi tells it all.

    The story of Colonel Purohit & the sacrifice of Hemant Karkare are being abused by the Pak media for all that they have to offer. But the elephant of military secrecy is very much inside Rawilpindi.

    The list of political assassinations in Pakistan (including the recent one of Benazir Bhutto) is too long and shrouded in thick clouds of secrecy. Most of these assassinations are of secular politicians who have won the popular vote in democratic elections. That is the real tragedy of Pakistan.

  3. Good question Nitin. if the mango public cannot bring itself to at least stay away from uh- exploding- in support for the jihadis and if civil society in Pak is so civil it cant bring itself to do even a token public counter-protest, even a sham attempt at holding Zardari’s feet to the fire, (or at least limit to 4 flip-flops per occasion? we’re really desperate to know that there exists this other constituency in Pak), whats the point in any peace process.

    A couple of days ago, your sidebar had “Long Live Pakistan!” on Hindsight 20/20 from Jan 2008. You argued to “set right Pakistan’s boat” and courageously took some flak for it (youre supposed to be the rightwing hawk)

    Now, if we tie in the mood from your current posts, do you see any hope that if righted, that boat will ever go, and with any different cargo, in directions other than it took on 26/11?


  4. Nice discussions to start the new year (this one and the Think MacArthur one.)Thanks, Nitin.

    Even accepting Hanif’s ‘myths’, it is still clear that Pakistan (as a State) has singlehandedly contributed to Islamist terror world wide.And no State can do it unless a significant % of its rich and middle class citizens buy into this policy/strategy/game plan.

    The questions that Hanif needs to ask himself (for he seems to be a reasonable person) are:

    1.Is the Islamisation process started by Zia ul Haq and consolidated by successive civil/military rulers irreversible?

    2.If it can be reversed and Pakistan can hope to be a ‘normal country’ (with all the failings of normal countries such as India or US), what role does Hanif see the Pakistan Army playing in this process?

    3.Is dismembering Pakistan into smaller, more manageable States an idea that could be welcomed by the ‘civil society’ in Pakistan? If they want to see Pakistan as a single, sovereign State, what is the road map/plan that intellectuals like Hanif would suggest to reverse the Jihadi influence?

    4.If the Pakistani civil society is aware of the indoctrination done through schools and colleges, what measures are being talked about to de-islamise the education?

    Ultimately, people like Hanif must realise that beyond a point, if the migraine proves to be a tumour, we may need surgery and chemotherapy.

    It is fine as long as Pakistan suffers alone for the misdeeds of its ruling elite.Others may shed tears of sympathy and countries like China may exploit the situation. But when the Pakistani situation endangers the freedoms of people in other countries, sooner or later, Pakistan will end up broken into multiple parts.SImply because it becomes easier for the rest of the world to isolate and punish the root causes.

  5. You know there is a slight problem when the criteria for a country not being a failed state start including the presence of DJs and fashion models.

  6. @ Ashutosh

    I guess it’s a question how you define a “failed” state.

    In the light of his comments on containing the Baloch insurrection that supposedly had a “nationalist” character, it would be interesting to know what Hanif thinks about his country’s success in managing multiple ethnic groups, like we do routinely in India.

  7. One of the important things we all should remember to do, besides wasting lot of electrons and/or newsprints is to keep in public memory good words that were already deployed by others. If, as Mark Twain said, our best ideas were stolen by our ancestors, so be it. We will acknowledge it.

    One of the best tests of a normal world order, if one were sought by the Pakistani middle class, was proposed by Tom Friedman in his column in NYT soon after the Mumbai attacks.

    The column asked them to take out a procession against the Mumbai attacks perpetrated on other normal people – civilians like them – just as they did, against the cartoons in a Danish newspaper, etc.

    They should be still exhorted to take that test. IF they do not, they and the world would need to be constantly reminded that they have failed that test by not even showing up for the exam.

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