Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tale of two nations: Indian order, Pak disorder

Tale of two nations: Indian order, Pak disorder
By M J Akbar

The most dangerous kind of lie is the one that has a tiny bit of truth mixed inside. As maxims go, that is not very well known. Liars do not advertise their wares, and the truthful are easily seduced. The broad space between honesty and deception is occupied by the gullible. To prey on the gullible is the politician's art.

Politicians in power have an advantage. They can segue the clout of office with the credibility of the medium to make a sale. The transaction is propelled by a primary rule of advertising: hearing is believing. Shoddy goods are packaged in the glamour of power. There is a catch, though. Those in power lose their capacity to notice when they have become stale, let alone putrid. Asif Zardari has long crossed his sell-by date.

There is a striking, albeit accidental, similarity between Islamabad and New Delhi. Both have governments on their way out without any certainty about what is on the way in. The difference in the transition is the story of the subcontinent.

The process in India is natural, orderly and bubbling with the excitement of many ambitions. Sharad Pawar is quite correct when he says that every political party can have its own candidate for prime minister. There is no divine right in democracy. Pawar is too astute a professional to have made his bid unless he was confident that the present coalition would need radical restructuring, starting from the top. The Congress has said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will continue; Pawar does not think so. Many hearts are beating more quietly, including within the Congress.

The contenders have been encouraged by the sight of NDA dropping a chunk from the side like an iceberg caught in Orissa heat. Every satrap is keeping all options open. Naveen Patnaik may have left the BJP but he has not joined the Congress or the Third Front. Sensible politicians know only one thing, that no one knows what might emerge when the verdict is read out by the greatest jury in the world, the Indian electorate. The array in India is in sharp contrast to the disarray in Pakistan.

Zardari has always used the dangerous lie to great effect. He used it to reach the president's office and then upgraded a non-executive post into an authoritarian outpost. The same tactic was used with Delhi over Mumbai terrorism; a little truth was fed into a massive cover-up to protect the Lashkar-e-Taiba. He bluffed Nawaz Sharif by promising an independent judiciary and then turned judges into a row of poodles on morphine. They obediently dismissed an elected government in Punjab, triggering off the long march of lawyers and opposition parties on Islamabad and the crisis that woke up the only uncle still sending Pakistan Christmas gifts. A phone call from Richard Holbrooke in Washington diluted the crisis by reversing Zardari's orders and castrating his role in government. It also indicated the degree to which Pakistan has compromised its independence. America has become the principal arbiter of its internal affairs.
Leaders depart when their moment is over in any nation, but in a democracy they depart with dignity. Delhi has, in my estimate, the largest collection of ex-prime ministers in the world - and given the likely evolution of politics in the next few years, more are on the way.

It would be dangerous if the victors and losers of the long march forget that the real danger to Pakistan still comes from the short march. The Taliban is only a short march away from Islamabad. The Taliban did not take Afghanistan in one swoop, but city by city. One is not suggesting that Pakistan is as vulnerable as Afghanistan was in the winter of 1994, or that wars between its politicians resemble the pitched battles between the various claimants to Kabul. But the fall of Swat is not a solution; it has become the fortress of a dangerous problem. Shopkeepers in Peshawar selling 'modern' clothes for women have begun to get the message and are fleeing to other cities. But is there sufficient space for retreat? Peshawar is less than 90 minutes from Islamabad.

A compromise that keeps Zardari in office but out of power is the application of a band-aid when the disease is cancer. Power abhors a vacuum. If it has left Zardari's grasp, then it can only gravitate back to where it has always been more comfortable: in Army headquarters.

Appeared in Times of India - March 15, 2009


hari shankar said...

Amazing Article again. To be honest, Pakistan as a nation is falling into a pit it cannot get out of. From my view, it will eventually collapse and I see imminent conflict in South Asia in an overt or covert manner. No one would want it, but that is waiting to happen.

Raja Swaminathan said...

Excellent piece from you - as usual.
I have, for over 30 years now, read your writing. And find it just as incisive, uncompromising and full of substance.

Thank you for your insight.
Looking forward to more of this.

I have already put you on my blogroll. I would like more people to read your writing. Will spread the word.

In a world of noise and hubris, we need composed thought clearly expressed.

Lubna said...

Dear Mr. Akbar,
I wonder why we look across the borders, gloat that they are in worse shape than us, and hence pat ourselves on the back.
Are we in array? I think not. I fear, following Varun Gandhi's famous statements, that the "Dance of Democracy" as my favourite newspaper terms it, will be the death of us.
Like you, I am a Muslim and an Indian and I think each and every politician to begin with must be taught the Constitution of India. Be it Varun Gandhi or or anyone else.
PS: Came across your blog for the first time, find it a bit too cluttered.
Best regards,

R.Alamsha said...

Dear Mr.MJ Akbar

I demand your honest reply for this question.

Had Pakistan NOT been created, what would have happened to India today?

Total population = 1.55 billion.
Muslims = 600 million
Dalits = 400 million
Hindus = 400 million
Christians, Sikhs and Others = 150 million

R.Alamsha Karnan said...

Indo-Pak partition was a master stroke of genius. It saved Hinduism and in turn the subcontinent:

Indo-Pak partition was a master stroke of a genius. My conclusion is partition was inevitable and who ever was responsible, Mr.Jinnah or Mr.Nehru, they knew the irreparable fault line and it was divided precisely on that line. Except Hyderabad, there was no fault line running across South India because of the regional language factor. The differences will be put to rest jointly by Hindus and Muslims very soon across India.

Had partition NOT happened, definitely multi-militant Islam would have spread like a hydra headed monster and taken over the region. Subcontinent would have become a boiling cauldron. The region would have been pushed back to stone ages and a bunch of militant leaders and feudal lords will be holding each others leg and would not allow the region to move forward. In this confusion and commotion, a great religion called Hinduism would have fell silent.

The Dalit leader B.R.Ambedkar called for rununciation of Hinduism by Dalits and convert to Budhism or Islam or Christianity. He declared that he was born as a Hindu but will NEVER die as a Hindu. After partition, he went to Sri Lanka and embraced Budhism. Millions of Dalits also converted to Budhism.

The Muslim league avoided any deals or discussions with Mr.B.R.Ambedkar. Jinnah could NOT create a secular Pakistan but ironically, by isolating militant Islam from India he laid the foundation for secular India. There is a strong reason, why Advaniji described Jinnah was a secularist in heart.

Hinduism brought sanity and good sense in the minds of Indian Muslims. I discovered the meaning of my faith Islam from Hinduism. Indian Muslims had to pay and continue to pay a heavy price for partition but they have gained tremendously in terms of the essential skills required to coexist and survive in a multi-cultural, multi-religious society. After all, they have survived against alienation and isolation for 60 years and have learnt great values from Hinduism. Today, they have reached the critical mass for self reliance and are getting aligned with Hindus as one nation. Indian Muslims are going to play a very important role in transforming the region.

Partition saved Hinduism. Without the power of Hinduism, the subcontinent would have become a somalia and banana republic. Hinduism is responsible for whatever relative peace and calm prevails today. Indian model of governance alone can bail out Pakistan.

Pakistani intellectuals are keenly observing India and are learning very fast. May be another 100 long marches will be required to drive mullahs back to their caves. It will happen very soon and will bring peace and stability in Pakistan.