Peshawar : Pakistan's Moment of Reckoning
The recent tragic killing of school children in Peshawar by Taliban terrorists is a turning point in Pakistan civil society. It shows the utter failure of strategies followed till now by various Pakistani governments in that today their own nurtured creations are devouring them. It also demonstrates the fact that hate cannot be the basis of cementing together a nation.
As we all know the creation of Pakistan was on the basis of religion. Its separation from India was zealously pursued by Jinnah on the basis that in independent India, on a one vote one person formula the Muslims would never come to power and would always remain under the mercy of the majority Hindu community. His plea that there should be a proportionate reservation in Parliament for Muslims was turned down by Congress leaders.There was no option left but to partition British India into Pakistan and India.
The birth of Pakistan extracted a heavy price in life and property of both Hindus and Muslims in the communal violence that erupted in 1947. The bitterness of that period has impacted the psyche of both nations tremendously and has in fact (mis)shaped many of their responses towards each other. The legacy of the Kashmir dispute is a carry over of that period and both nations have fought three wars over it. India and Pakistan do not seem to agree on anything.
After independence India, under the benevolent leadership of Nehru, launched itself on the road to developing its economy and improving the quality of life of its citizens.Today India is a emerging country with a growing economy which gives ample opportunity to its citizens to grow into fine human beings. The policy of secularism (keeping religion away from politics and governance) has helped create an atmosphere which provides excellent environment for growth and associated opportunities.It is a tribute to Indians that democracy has taken deep roots in our political system.For this, the much reviled political leaders also need to be complimented.
However exactly the opposite has happened in Pakistan. Right from its inception it has been facing leadership crisis. Unfortunately Jinnah passed away a few months after formation of Pakistan.The line of weak leaders that followed him gave way to military take over. Military officers like Ayub Khan, Iskandar Mirza, Yakya Khan, Zia-ul-Haq and Musharaff did not allow democracy to take root in Pakistan. In between attempts at civilian rule were not effective. The fact that it was only Islam that was the reason for creation of Pakistan, the different language groups like Punjabis, Sindhis, Bengalis and Pushtus did not gel with each other. The promotion of Urdu as national language saw the majority Bengalis revolt. Ultimately East Pakistan liberated itself and a new country Bangladesh was born. Pakistan was decimated but not broken.
At the time of partition the Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir opted to join India with some conditions, following an attack on it by Pakistani forces. It resulted in one third remaining under Pakistan and two thirds remaining with India. Ever since Pakistan has been claiming that the whole of J&K should be given to it because it was a Muslim majority state. Wars have been fought over it. After creation of Bangladesh, a humiliated Pakistan has resorted to a low cost tactic, that of sending trained terrorists into Kashmir and "bleeding" India. It has succeeded in ensuring the flight of Hindu Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley there by making it more Muslim majority.
While India has allowed democracy to take deep roots this has also acted in creation of a level playing field between different sections of Indian society. In a highly pluralistic citizenry like ours it is essential that all have an equal opportunity to be heard when they face problems and expect justice from its legislatures and fair execution by its executive wing and equitable resolution by its judiciary. Thus after independence India has faced many grave problems but these have found resolution in its participative democratic framework. This has strengthened the unity among its different groups and is helping India progress in a just manner. Thus while in a large developing country there will be differences from tome to time, their amicable resolution ensures a congenial atmosphere and increases the love for the country in its citizens.
The lack of participative democracy in Pakistan has resulted in the State apparatus being usurped by others like the Army and the terrorist groups. This has resulted in the non development of institutional framework in which citizens can have a say and which will respond to their needs and concerns. This has also meant that the non democratic rulers are not accountable for their actions. They have thus followed policies which are more warlike than a civilian government would follow. The army has created groups of terrorists whom they use for their strategic purposes both against India and Afghanistan. The finances are diverted considerably to fulfill the requirement of the army and the non state actors as they are called. This has impacted the economic development of Pakistan considerably. However it is to the credit of Pakistan army and government that they have been able to milk USA of billions of dollars by successfully convincing that they are in the fore front of fighting the bad Taliban whom they are also fighting to finish. This flow of dollars has sustained Pakistan.
India today is the world's largest democracy and Pakistan is one of the ten most dangerous countries in the world. India placed its faith in the common citizens and they can every five years change the government through ballot. In Pakistan mostly it is the gun and the bullet which is becoming the agent of change.It has experimented with democracy but it is still a fledgling country with power vesting with the army and various terrorist groups. The elected government is sandwiched between the two.India today has effective governments to which all the instruments of State including the army reports and Pakistan has ineffective governments which many a time has to take instructions from the army and bow to the terrorists.
Pakistan's Kashmir obsession has not only been successfully exploited by its vested interests but is also a strong tool to unite Pakistanis. This common cause helps the Army and also the State to justify its both overt and covert actions of supporting and using different terrorist groups in its anti India tirade.This has meant lot of time, money and emphasis getting diverted from developmental activities into money draining but lethal activities. The blatant use of terror as a strategic tool to further its objectives has meant that Pakistan has given a state of legitimacy to such tactics.
India is today engaged in containing the terrorism seeping in from Pakistan. It is acting mostly in a defensive manner. The Mumbai killings were a grave provocation but India did not respond. Right or wrong is a matter of choice. Perhaps this has emboldened terrorist groups and also Pakistani government to see India as a weak state and they are thus continuing with their destabilizing activities against India with impunity.
However now the terrorist groups are threatening Pakistan itself and under local and American pressure they have started acting against these groups. Thousands of Taliban members have been killed in FATA area of Pakistan along with their family members. This has hardened these groups and they are seeking revenge against the Pakistanis. The recent brutal killing of 132 school children in Peshawar was a retaliatory action by the Taliban.
It is for the first time that Pakistanis have felt the pain inflicted by terrorists.Civil society is up in protest. The government is under pressure to act tough. The mature and sympathetic response from India has also touched a chord in many Pakistanis. The non release of Mumbai attack accused Lakhvi even though granted bail is a welcome step. The civil government has got a terrorist given opportunity to seize the initiative and rid the country of such disruptive elements.
But it is not going to be so easy for Pakistan government. The army and terrorist groups are not going to give up their profit ventures so easily. It calls for a statesman like act on part of Pakistan PM and the civil society has to stand united to keep up pressure. It is here where if democratic institutions were well established they could do so very effectively. This structural weakness is what will keep the anti India groups alive. Also the Pakistan govt. is not going to give up its stand on Kashmir in which it has invested right from 1947 till date.
However if Pakistan is not going to change after the dastardly act in Peshawar and continues its terror activities as before it is possible India may have ti seriously think about its options. How long will the new Indian govt. hold its horses and continue to suffer human losses from time to time at the hands of Pakistan based terror groups.With USA withdrawing from Afghanistan next year India will have to take a strong position to protect its interests and citizens.
Both India and Pakistan started together in 1947 but today both are wide apart in their achievements. Pakistan is thus at crossroads and the Peshawar incident is its moment of reckoning
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