By Yasser Latif Hamdani
Dear fellow Pakistanis,
I wrote an open letter recently to our neighbors in India which got a lot of attention- both from India and Pakistan. The letter was written by a citizen of Pakistan to a citizen of India but it is only fair that I write a similar letter to my own compatriots. Let me begin by thanking those of you who wrote emails of praise and appreciation. At the time I wrote that letter, I genuinely could not conceive of a young boy from the remote village of Faridkot, too small to be visible on the map of Pakistan, in Khanewal district to strike at the heart of India’s financial capital. Given the motive, timing and the unfortunate demise and martyrdom of Hemant Karkare, a true hero for the people of India, and the growing nexus of Hindu extremism with terrorism aimed at the Muslim minority in India in the recent years forced me to point a finger, more speculative than accusatory, at Hindu fundamentalist groups in India. There is now incontrovertible evidence however that we were wrong. And while we have to face up to this skeleton in our closet, it pains me to see so many of you still using my letter as some sort of defense to feed your own denial that this was our own boy from our own Faridkot. The remoteness which to my mind declined the likelihood of this dusty village is probably the real reason why it is so.
We must face up to certain facts. There are groups that will prey on poverty, illiteracy and real grievances of ordinary Pakistanis and pluck from them youth who will then be brainwashed into unleashing terror onto hapless populations. No matter how legitimate one’s grievance or cause, it does not sanction violence aimed at unarmed civilian populations far removed from the cause itself. This is the only real definition of terrorism if you ask me: every time an unarmed non-combatant civilian population is attacked, be it by insurgents or by a state force, it becomes terrorism. We must also accept that our experiment with Jehad in the 1980s has now become a Frankenstein monster. I do not wish to belittle the sacrifices of the freedom fighters who fought for the liberation of Afghanistan from expansionist Soviet imperialism and totalitarianism. The American led Jehad against Soviet expansionist tyranny was a bellum justum and we can be rightfully proud of it as a people. After all, it was one of the two successful such Jehads in the 20th century: the first was when the great Gazi Kemal Ataturk raised the banner of Jehad and Muslim solidarity in Anatolia to motivate the Turks i.e Muslim inhabitants of Anatolia to drive out the invading Greeks from Turkey. The major difference there was that at as a true patriot, Ataturk knew when to switch the Jehad button off. The result was the first successful and modern secular nation state of the Muslim world. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, our leaders and policy makers never got around to switching the button. Their only countermove was to try and divert the Jehad to Kashmir but that strategy was only partially successful.
This strategy failed to liberate Kashmir but the Jehadis continued to be trained and funded by us. It has become a bad investment with no likely future. In the post September 11 world, these groups can only serve to discredit what is a legitimate freedom movement of the Kashmiri people. We must realize that we live in a dangerous world where increasingly borders are irrelevant. Our days of waging proxy wars are behind us. The strategy of bleeding India with a thousand cuts has backfired. Lal Masjid, violence all over Pakistan and growing anger of militant movements out of state’s control are cuts that seep blood in Pakistan every day. We must pause, cry halt and ask ourselves: Is this what we made Pakistan for?
The idea of Pakistan always had detractors – many across the border but some here as well. We’ve given them a lot to be glad about. At the heart of the Pakistan idea was Jinnah’s idea of political and economic empowerment of the Muslim community. Decades of military rule have made the former impossible and the latter is now becoming an ever elusive goal. Jinnah spoke of a Pakistan committed to the “welfare of the masses” where “rule of law” would prevail and “life liberty and religious belief” of every citizen shall be fully protected. Indeed it would be the first priority of the state or so Jinnah thought. Today in Pakistan the life and liberty of every citizen is in peril. Religious belief is not even an option any more. As more Pakistanis slip under the poverty line, it is clear that Pakistan is not committed to the welfare of the masses other than the ruling elite and the few hundred thousands who make up its armed forces. Instead of making a mess of things, had we honestly applied ourselves to the fulfillment of Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan, we would not find ourselves in the mess that we are in. Had we worked for the welfare of the masses as the Quaid expected us to, Ajmal Amir Qasab would be an educated and productive member of Pakistani society instead of causing havoc and chaos in a neighboring country which inching towards respectability and whose success would deliver a large portion of humanity from the misery and terror of poverty. If we are too lazy, selfish and dishonorable to put things right for ourselves, let’s atleast not disrupt the lives of hundreds of millions in a country that is making an effort.
In my letter to the Indians, I ranted about Indian media and its propaganda against Pakistan. Now I ask myself: Can we blame them? I don’t blame them in the least. We deserved every single bit of what we got from the Indian media. May this be the sledge hammer for us to finally wake up from our deep slumber of ignorance and arrogance.
Jinnah’s Pakistan Zindabad
A fellow Pakistani
PS: Kudos to Dawn Newspaper for courageously exposing the roots of terror. At least one of Mr. Jinnah’s creations is living up to its founder’s expectations.