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Don’t surrender before the rabble-rousers
Instead of resisting the regressive ideology of violence, the Governments of both India and Pakistan have buckled before Islamists that are raising the bogey of a religion which is perennially under threat
Balbir K Punj11/19/2012 10:25:00 PM



The abject surrender by the Pakistani Government to Islamists objecting to naming a square in Lahore in memory of the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, is tragic. It is also a strong reminder that little good can be expected from across the border so long as Pakistan continues to be guided by the imperious mindset that has been primarily responsible for its many woes since its birth in 1947.
Worse still, that very hateful mindset is somewhat active in India too. Take, for instance, the case of the Kashmiri Pandits who were cleansed out of Jammu & Kashmir by Islamic fundamentalists. Ironically the ‘secularists’ of India had then endorsed the ethnic purge with their stoical silence. More recently, a hue and cry has been raised in Jammu & Kashmir over the proposal to improve transport facilities to the Amarnath cave for the convenience of the thousands of Hindu pilgrims who go there every summer to worship Lord Shiva.
This past summer, some 100 pilgrims died as they did not have access to proper transport, communication and other facilities along the difficult track that cuts through forests and runs across difficult terrain, to the cave shrine. Subsequently, the Supreme Court ordered that the State Government provide adequate care to the thousands of people who undertake this challenging journey. But even as the State Government was considering the improvements specified by the court, Hurriyat leaders claimed that this was meant to strengthen the State’s links with the rest of India.
The manner in which the humanitarian aspect in this issue has been ignored, shows the inner workings of the kind of extremist Islamism that is clouding the subcontinent today. Expectedly, the Jammu & Kashmir Government has done little apart from simply giving in to the blackmail of fundamentalists. Hence, it has clarified that it is not making any permanent arrangements. The Omar Abdullah Government, which is a coalition of the National Congress and the Congress, went weak-kneed before Islamist extremism, instead of strongly resisting it.
In such a situation, it is interesting to note that the Pakistani Government has invited Hurriyat leaders and other separatists from Kashmir to Islamabad for talks. But, instead of spotting the sinister design of Pakistan in this invitation, New Delhi has seemingly interpreted it as an attempt by Islamabad to convince the separatist forces in Kashmir of the changed situation in the subcontinent and urge them to review their demands.
Such an assessment is based on convoluted logic. While Pakistan is surely caught in the flux produced by different entities jockeying for power there, there is no doubt that, irrespective of who ultimately wins the game, a liberal value system stands very little chance in that Islamic state. Pakistan’s civilian Government, its military, its judiciary and even its mullahs may be at war with one another, but they are all united in their hatred for India.
Just the other day, Pakistani Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said that no single institution could define national interests or exceed its role as described in the Constitution of Pakistan. The General noted that the country was going through a “defining phase”. According to him, what is in Pakistan’s national interest “should emerge only through a consensus, and all Pakistanis have a right to express their opinions.” But irrespective of how Pakistanis choose to define their future, there is little that can change the ground realities as they exist today.
For instance, even America, that has been Pakistan’s patron since 1947 — primarily because the the latter country was a willing client of Washington, DC’s Cold War strategy — now has a different perspective. Indeed, worldwide Pakistan is seen as the breeding ground of jihadi violence that is aimed against the rest of the world, particularly against the West and India.
After 9/11, America had to use Pakistan as its base to decimate Al Qaeda that was entrenched in Afghanistan, and later to prop up the new but highly unstable regime of President Hamid Karzai in Kabul. Washington soon realised that there exists a nefarious network between the Islamists in Pakistan and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Consequently, the American establishment is no longer willing to share its intelligence with the Pakistani Army for fear that it might be leaked. Indeed, when the US unilaterally located and assassinated Osama bin Laden in the military cantonment of Abbottabad, no more proof of Pakistan’s relationship with Islamist terror networks was necessary.
The problem for India when it comes to dealing with Pakistan is that the genesis of the latter lies in its rejection of the former — in other words, in the rejection of the Muslims of undivided India of the possibility of a secular, post-independence India. To make matters worse, Pakistan today is brainwashed by mullahs spouting the Wahhabi ideology that treats non-Muslims as infidels and enemies. In assessing its policies towards Pakistan, New Delhi has to factor in these realities.
Countries the world over have armies. But in the case of Pakistan, the Army is a state within a state. And the Army also has strong links with Islamists — the latter hold the civilian population in their thrall by constantly raising the bogey of Islam being in danger in the face of any reform whatsoever.
But let us also acknowledge that such an unfounded fear is not confined to the Muslim community of Pakistan alone. For example, look at the reaction of Islamist clerics in India after a judge in Jammu & Kashmir ordered that divorce in Islam requires the man to produce sufficient evidence and is not something that can be done according to merely his whims and fancies. The mullahs immediately claimed that their personal laws, decreed divinely, are in danger.
Meanwhile, Pakistan continues to suffer from the ‘victim mindset’, sponsored by vested elements in the Muslim world. The average Pakistani honestly believes that the rest of the world is out to destroy his country and finish Islam. New Delhi will, therefore, be skating on thin ice if it based its policy towards Pakistan on the expectation that the small band of peace activists across the Western border represent the reality of Pakistan. Even America, Pakistan’s greatest benefactor, today stands accused by civilians in that country of being their greatest enemy.
Indian newspapers routinely report the spread of the Indian Mujahideen-led jihadi terror networks in this country even as its suspected members and activists are occasionally caught. Islamists in India use the ‘religion-in-danger’ slogan at the slightest hint of a more sanguine interpretation of Islam.We know why the Hurriyat leaders in Kashmir were able to stall repairs to the trekking line in Amarnath, or why the Pakistani Government surrendered to jihadists when it came to renaming a Lahore square after Bhagat Singh.
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