Sunday, May 25, 2008

What Propels Them? What Blinds Them?

Arun Shourie
"India has massacred 60,000 Kashmiris, but the people of Kashmir will never rest till they have won freedom;" "India has deployed 700,000 soldiers in the Valley, and yet the Kashmiri mujahideen are inflicting heavy losses on them every day;" "How laughable it is that India has packed the Kargil sector with 40,000 troops, and just a handful of mujahidin are able to inflict humiliation upon humiliation on them;" Indian infrastructure has collapsed to such an extent that even those Indian casualties which were "lucky enough to be evacuated by air, had to wait for three days for a bed in Srinagar hospitals" -- such "facts" are repeated ad nauseum in Pakistani papers. Sixty thousand Kashmiris killed by India? Seven hundred thousand troops in Kashmir? Forty thousand troops in Kargil? Soldiers waiting for three days to get a hospital bed? We tend to dismiss such assertions as the usual lies -- friends who run one of our most conscientious news services about happenings in our neighbourhood, Public Opinion Trends, are so inured to these concoctions that they excise them from their reports! In fact, the concoctions deserve attention.

For one thing they are part of a world-view, they are part of an Ideology. Everything Pakistan does about Kashmir -- stoking terrorism, sending army regulars, spreading fabrications at every international gathering -- it pictures to itself as jihad, as a religious undertaking, indeed as an Allah-ordained duty. Concocting lies then becomes a device for discharging that duty. "War is stratagem," the Prophet has said, "War is deceit." [Sahih Muslim, Volume III, pp. 945, 990-91; Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume IV, pp. 166-67; Sunan Abu Dawud, Volume II, p. 728] Thus one may lie, one may kill the enemy while he is asleep, one may kill him by tricking him. [For instance, Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume IV, pp. 164-65, 167-68.] That is one problem: for the man or force weaned on jihad, the concoctions are an intrinsic part of the struggle he is waging, for him the fact that the war he is waging is Allah-ordained is a complete justification for cruelty, for lies and the rest; on our side, we don't just shut our eyes to the concoctions that result from it, we shut our eyes even more tightly to the Ideology of which they are but the result.

There is an immediate, practical result also. These sorts of "facts" and assertions are repeated so often that by now they have sunk into the subconscious of the average Pakistani. He actually believes that India has massacred sixty thousand Kashmiris, he actually believes that Kashmir is aflame, that Kashmiris are dying to merge into Pakistan, that it is just a matter of months and they will be able to do so. From this it is but a step to conclude that all that is necessary is to give one more push, to launch one more offensive, and the Kashmiris will rise, the place will go up in flames, India will be broken, the job will be done.

The believer, having internalised the concoction, just can't see why the world doesn't believe what he is putting out. As we have seen, Pakistani papers had themselves been reporting -- with evident self-congratulation -- that soldiers of the Pakistan Army have wrested posts from the Indian Army, that they have occupied a village in... As international opinion turned against Pakistan for that very reason, suddenly, as if a switch had been turned, references to the Pakistan Army ceased, and the victories were ascribed to the valiant mujahidin. Within days, references to these mythical mujahidin too were replaced -- now it was the "Kashmiri freedom fighters" who were inflicting the "humiliating defeats" on the Indian Army. One feature of course is that these switches come naturally -- as the war is a jihad in the cause of Allah, whichever thesis will serve The Great Cause is the one which must be pushed. The other is that the believer is just not able to see why the world does not swallow his fabrication.

As everything is a matter of belief in Allah, to question the "fact" which has been put out, to doubt a scenario -- the sheikhchili's scenario in which one favourable twist leads to another devastating turn -- becomes blasphemy, it becomes proof that one lacks faith, it is betrayal. Thus, not to believe that Indians have massacred sixty thousand Kashmiris, to doubt that Kashmir is on the brink of breaking away from India, not to believe that Kashmiris are pining to join Pakistan is to be unpatriotic, it is to lack faith in the fundamental notion that, as they all believe in Islam, all Muslims constitute one, seamless ummah. As a consequence, while not even the allies and props of Pakistan are buying its assertions today, self-delusion remains a duty!

The insurgency which Pakistan had orchestrated in Kashmir is dead: to cite a single index, while the number of tourists in the Valley had fallen to just 600 in 1996, this year they are running close to 250,000. Recruitment of locals has evaporated. But in the Pakistani press the insurgency is at the point of overturning the Indian State! A fundamental change has taken place in the area, writes a commentator in The News of 3 June. " ...Freedom fighters in Kashmir have attained self-sufficiency in weapons and have developed indigenous techniques of fighting which have become a way of life for them," he writes. "They fight under the cover of darkness, under the protection of mountains and in their own area which they know very well. They move in the area like wild goats and can reach anywhere without any difficulty. They return to their homes and hearths in the morning after accomplishing their task and join their family on the jobs which are needed to be done to earn livelihood." "Two weeks of fighting in the Kargil sector have established the following facts," the analyst continues. "That the indigenous insurrection movement in Kashmir is so strong and so well-armed that India can no longer hold it in check. It is also no longer possible for India to cross the international boundary and so the fighting will remain confined to Kashmir where India has always been the loser..."

"On the diplomatic front the Indians are playing on the back-foot," writes an analyst in The News of 4 June. "....The Kargil operation [of India], aimed at killing the Kashmir issue, will have helped to chisel away at the paralysed and hardened Kashmir position of the international players [an acknowledgment there!]. And the Kashmiris living under Indian control know that. Much like the Intifada which proved to be a potent stimulus for the Palestinians under Israeli occupation, India's Kargil fiasco will renew the Kashmiri resolve to fight on. Psychologically, the fact that a mere 400 - 600 mujahidin have bogged down the world's third largest army for a few months, irrespective of the final outcome [another acknowledgment there!], will be a major morale booster for the Kashmiris of Kashmir." The diplomatic isolation of Pakistan is for all to see, but the analyst remarks, "Nawaz Sharief meanwhile, ably supported on foreign policy issues by his Information Minister and Foreign Office, has pursued a near-faultless India policy. He has mixed peace offers with commitment to his country's defence and projected nuclear strength with gentleness. He is indeed South Asia's strong man of peace...." Remember, The News is the paper which was till recently the special target of the attentions of Nawaz Sharief and his Information Minister!

Belief makes one not just blind, it makes one reckless. The Taliban in the madrasas are of course fed Quranic stories of the "wars" of Badr etc. But they are not the only ones. The regular soldier and officer of the Pakistani Army has them drilled into him just as deep. And the lesson from these stories which is stuffed into him is not some particular stratagem to be followed in a siege or an assault, say; the lesson he internalises is that Allah shall always come to the aid of believers, that the side of Allah shall prevail. So all one has to do is leap.

One of the things that strikes one in reading books from Pakistan, the analyses in their newspapers, judgments of their courts is the singular absence of subtlety, of shades. The analyses are gross: the categories are basic, the conclusions predictable. This is not the result merely of mental habits or capacities. Ideology makes grossness inevitable. Everything is either black or white, everyone is either a co-religionist or one who will some day deceive one, every engagement is going to turn out one way -- capitalism is certain to collapse, it is on the verge of collapsing, Allah is bound to come to the assistance of believers, His cause is bound to prevail...

There is another consequence -- Pakistani newspapers are replete with instances of it. The belief having been drilled into him that he is doing Allah's Will -- or, as in Marxism-Leninism, of History -- the believer just cannot believe that the fault may lie with him. As the war he is waging has been ordained by Allah, the one who is opposing him must, by definition, be doing so for some perverse reason, for some ulterior purpose. Pakistanis have been genuinely surprised at Washington's statements disapproving their crossing the Line of Control. They just cannot see that Pakistan might be in the wrong. Their analysts hint that the USA is tilting towards India because it is drooling at the prospect of India's large market! Commenting on a statement of the American Secretary of State, The Nation of June 6 remarks ruefully, "India being the bigger market for trade does not mean that the world should give up its moral values on political issues"! By the 8th, the paper is hinting at some even deeper mystery! Repeating the new fabrications on the Line of Control, the paper remarks in an editorial, "If despite India's strange illogicality, the US State Department chooses to buy the Indian accusations and discounts the Pakistani version of the incident, there has to be more to it than a fair assessment of the situation"!

The Indians cannot be fighting Pakistani troops because they have occupied Indian territory. They are doing so for some other, unworthy, deplorable reasons. Vajpayee is facing an election, and launching a war against Pakistan has been his party's traditional way of gathering votes! "The BJP government has collapsed despite its 'popular' nuclear policy," observes Najam Sethi's The Friday Times of 4-10 June in its editorial, "but it still clings to the old political tricks to garner votes. It is also hostage to an aggressive policy in Kashmir. If it lets up, the Congress will pillory it by adopting a more hawkish stance. India's politicians have therefore hog-tied themselves by their devotion to this vote-getting gimmick..." "They [the Indian politicians] have made de-escalation more difficult all round," it continues -- Pakistani troops cross the Line of Control, our forces, by fighting back, make de-escalation difficult! "The Congress government committed the 'popular' folly of sending troops to Siachin. But no later government has dared to withdraw troops from it..." So long as Pakistani troops were occupying Siachin it was far-sightedness, it became folly when Indians occupied it! And daring would consist in vacating Siachin for the Pakistani Army, not in holding it!

In this analysis the BJP government is strong enough to push its "old tricks to garner votes". In other analyses, the reason is the opposite! Writing in The Nation of 28 May, an analyst tells his readers that an Interim, weak government is in office in Delhi, and that "hawks in the Indian military establishment are ruling the roost," and that this is what accounts for the scale of the response, the air-strikes and the rest!

But such objective factors -- "old political tricks to garner votes" and the like -- are never enough for a believer. He must detect something deep, some fundamental perversity in the one who is being so obdurate as not to fall at the believer's feet. Predictably, therefore, that staple of Pakistani papers has returned: "Hindu cunning"! And this time, just as predictably, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee is the epitome of it. "Mr Vajpayee has proved more two-faced than his predecessor," notes The Friday Times. "Vajpayee -- the man who showed statesmanship by describing his visit to Minar Pakistan as 'the defining moment in history' -- has only appeared at the bar of history as a clumsy pygmy," The News of 30 May tells its readers. "A short-sighted and pathetically parochial politician whose instincts for political survival are both reactionary and jingoistic. His passion for the cheap thrill coupled with the BJP's desire to regain a foothold in contemporary Indian politics have resulted in airstrikes on Kashmiri freedom fighters..."

It isn't just information from which Ideology insulates one. Ideology insulates one from experience just as much. When the believer succeeds, he is confirmed in the belief that the Ideology has driven into him -- that Allah is with him. But the Ideology has also driven another notion into him -- a notion that protects the Ideology from an adverse outcome, but by the same token disables the believer from learning. When they are defeated, the faithful have been taught to conclude, Allah is just testing their faith: Allah has put defeat in their path, they have been taught, to ascertain whether at such a time they lose faith in Allah's promise. Do they abandon their faith in Allah?, Allah wants to see. Do they blame Him rather than themselves?, Allah wants to make sure.

This Ideology-induced deafness is compounded in the case of Pakistan by the essentially authoritarian nature of both -- its society as well as polity. In free, democratic societies there is incessant self-examination. In authoritarian societies pasting blame on The Other becomes nature. The defeat in Vietnam caused an enormous amount of introspection in America: it led, among other things, to new strategic thinking, to new technologies. The rout in Bangladesh caused none in Pakistan. We see the same sequence today. Indian forces are rolling back the Pakistanis in Kargil. Internationally Pakistan stands isolated as never before. But Pakistani press is singing hosannas: the success of the mujahideen in holding the Indian Army at bay has inspired the freedom fighters of Kashmir, they sing to themselves, the uprising against India will now reach new heights; the Kashmir issue has been "irretrievably internationalized," they exult; the world now realizes that Kashmir can be the nuclear flash-point, they declare to their own satisfaction.

These features hold for Pakistanis in general, immersed as they are in, committed as they are to an Ideology, Islam. Each of them is compounded ten-fold in the case of the officer and soldier of the Pakistan Army. Stephen Cohen has noted how the "Sandhurst" and "American" generations of their officers have passed, how the officer-class consists increasingly of persons from the lower middle class and peasant stock. In the country at large these classes are among the ones which have been swept up most by Islamic rhetoric: and, what with the continuing collapse of educational institutions, at an accelerating pace. The success which the Army has achieved through the Taliban in Afghanistan also buttresses the notion that "the time of Islam has returned".

There are other factors too. The more intense Islamic rhetoric has become, the more cut-off from outside influences and opinions Pakistan has become, the Army even more so than other sections: almost the only thing which has kept an aperture open to the rest of the world is Pakistan's technological backwardness -- because of this backwardness, it has had to continue relying on other countries for technical upgradation, and hence some contrary ideas must still be sneaking in. But it is a tiny aperture: the countries from whom it secures the weapons are also ones whose life and ways its Ideology teaches it to hate and reject.

Not only is the Army, like other sections of Pakistani society, insulated from the world, it is insulated from those other sections within Pakistan too. The Army is overwhelmingly Punjabi. Within that one province, its recruits are overwhelmingly from a small clutch of five or six districts.

Furthermore, that the Army has such an over-weaning, predominant status in Pakistani society and governance impels a certain deafness: few dare question what it says and does, all the greater reason for the Army to conclude that what it is thinking is valid. And there is another twist. The Pakistani Army has great power, overwhelming power vis a vis other sections of society, but not esteem. That went -- first with the way it lost Pakistan in 1971, and then with the mess that the Army made of the country during the years it had absolute sway, the Zia years. Since then, while the success in Afghanistan has restored its esteem somewhat, this is counter-balanced with the reputation for corruption, the reputation for being involved in the drug-trade etc. which have got stuck to it.

To the faith of the believer, therefore, has been added a compulsion -- to prove itself again.

Each of these factors applies to organizations like the ISI twenty-fold. And to the terrorist organizations the ISI etc. have spawned -- a hundred-fold.

In a word, Kargil is but the latest of what Pakistan will continue to inflict on us. Defeating each such venture with demonstrative harshness is as much a part of the peace-process as pursuing every opening like Lahore.

The Afternoon Despatch & Courier
June 25, 1999

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