Pakistan is just like India, except when it’s just like Afghanistan. (Has anyone else noticed how we seem to have geographically shifted from being a side-thought of the subcontinent to a major player in the Greater Middle East? Is this progress?)The more years go by, the more things change, the more things stay the same. A recent piece in Foreign Policy on Pakistan's identity problem begins with:
When you hear about Pakistan, what most often comes to mind? The place where schools, markets, and neighborhoods are routinely bombed? The terrorist haven where Osama bin Laden hid for almost a decade? The “Pak” in Af-Pak? The difficult ally America can’t drop because of its nuclear capabilities? The country where Malala Yousafzai was shot? All of this is true, but there is so much more to this country of 182 million people.What a mess, since the horrific partition in 1947, which only worsened after East Pakistan became Bangladesh! Terrible!
The common perception of Pakistan is more similar to its neighbor in the west (Afghanistan) than the one in the east (India), the country with which it shares its history.
Who caused this mess, which has made the daily lives of the 182 million miserable for the most part?
This is a direct result of how Pakistan’s “establishment” — its military and political elite — has defined its identity. This definition emphasizes Islam above all else, and pitches Pakistan as completely different from India.If only I believed in something after death, I will curse all those to eternal damnation! I would wish that Zia-ul-Haq be subject to every possible torture in that hell. The maniac got away relatively easily in an unexplained plane crash, when he should have had an exit that would have made Gaddafi's last minutes seem painless!
Thanks to all those maniacs:
Because Pakistan has disavowed large parts of its past and its identity, it is easier to define it in terms of its present struggle with terrorism. There is little else people know about it. Few people ask me about what Pakistan is really like, about life in my hometown, Lahore, the city of gardens.Lahore. Remember the events there thanks to which the country hasn't had any international cricket played there? I wonder whether they have at least changed the name of the stadium. I hope so.
Zia the maniac made it uber-Islamic. And then the drive towards the "Islamic bomb" brought Pakistan and Saudi Arabia close, and with that money came the Wahhabi madrasas too.
Since the 1970s, Pakistan’s military and political elite have chosen religious fundamentalism over a democratic plurality. The establishment has emphasized a Sunni Muslim identity at the exclusion of all other ethnic, religious, and sectarian identities. Saudi-imported Wahhabism — an ultra-conservative version of Sunni Islam that lies at odds with South Asia’s tradition of Sufi-influenced Barelvi Islam — has been making in-roads in Pakistani society since the 1980s.The House of Saud is one screwed up government; oh well, that has to be for another day.
Pakistan could have been so different. Even with the partition, which I will always believe was one of the worst ever ways to end the Raj. It could have been a model Muslim country, way better a model than Turkey is hailed to be. Had it worked out that way, odds are that Afghanistan's story would have been very different too.
If things were different, the image of Pakistan would not be one of terrorism. Instead, it will be like this:
Will end the post with this; try watching and listening without moving your feet ever, without ever cracking a smile, without rhythmically swaying your head!