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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 17, April 13, 2013

Pakistan’s Travails

Sunday 14 April 2013, by Kuldip Nayar

It is boisterous, even maverick. Pakistan thy name is uncertainty. Yet, it is strange that whenever it is faced with pressing problems before elections, the country has always surprisingly found solutions to them. This time it has chosen an interim Prime Minister in the former justice Hazar Khan Khoso, who will be conducting free and fair elections.

There were pulls from several parties and it seemed impossible at one time that some name would emerge as a unanimous choice for the interim prime ministership before the elections on May 11, announced recently. It is a good practice which even Bangladesh has done away with and India does not need any because the Election Commission has developed enough teeth to bring the errant parties under some discipline.

This does not mean that the coming elections in Pakistan would be impartial. Pakistan Army Chief Parvez Kayani has promised the country that the elections would be independent. It is, indeed, strange that the Army wants a fair poll. But it is an open secret that the Army which holds sway over Pakistan will not interfere in the elections. Still it is unfair to contend that all members of the National Assembly of Pakistan would get elected through genuine methods. The past does not say so and the future does not hold any promise.

Former President General Pervez Musharraf, who has returned to Pakistan after a self-imposed exile, gives confused messages. He would like to have impartial elections but he is the one who has interfered with polls in the past to get his favourites retained. In fact, his entry into Pakistan’s politics is going to cause quite a disturbance. I do not rule out that he would use some methods (even the Army) to get himself elected from Karachi and few of his colleagues from elsewhere.

It is strange that the first statement that Musharraf made on reaching Pakistan is that Kargil was a “victory for the Pakistan Army”. It is understandable that Musharraf wants to placate the Army but he cannot mutilate the fact that he and his Army were squarely defeated and for him to deny the reality is the same kind of thinking which has brought him to contest the elections. People know who won Kargil and no amount of Musharraf’s claim can undo the truth.

The unpopularity of Musharraf could be gauged when an angry lawyer threw a shoe at the former President as he headed to court to face legal charges after returning from his four-year-long exile. In any case, this was not the first time that Musharraf had to face such a humiliation. Two years ago, a man tried to hurl a shoe at him when he was addressing a gathering in Britain.

A retired Pakistani Lt. General, Saheed Aziz, has brought out a book to nail the lie and he has alleged that the Army “put our children in the line of fire”. But the point that Musharraf refuses to see is that reality may complicate matters. Is it the entry of Musharraf that has pushed the Imran Khan phenomenon into the background because at one time it was taken for granted that Imran’s Tehreek-e-Insan party would sweep the polls?

The old political complexion may continue after the next election. Punjab looks like going the Nawaz Sharif’s way and Sind would stay with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). The North Western Frontier Province may again be back with the Awami National Party (ANP), reminding one of the red shirts under the leadership of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan during the freedom struggle. The fourth province, Balochistan, is categorically against the PPP and may therefore return either the ANP or any amalgamation of some nationalists who are still fighting against the Army for their identity.

The scene does not help India in any way. In fact, Pakistan is getting murkier and murkier. First, its soldiers beheaded two Indian soldiers and now Indian prisoners are tortured to death, using racial abuses. In fact, Pakistan has to sort out the minority problem if it wants to be considered a civilised state. The main problem with Pakistan is what the students learn in schools and madrasas.

In Pakistani schools, the class V social studies text (English), taught to 12-year-olds, begins with citing the difference between Hindus and Muslims (for example, Hindus burn the wife after her husband dies but Muslims don’t), the need to be aware of the hidden enemies of Pakistan (religious extremists are not mentioned) and the importance of unceasing jihad. It devotes a total of three sentences to a united Pakistan, the last of which reads: “With the help of India, East Pakistan separated.”

The class VIII textbook (English) is still briefer and simply states that “some leaders of former East Pakistan with the active help of India managed to break away from Pakistan and established Bangladesh.” The Class IX and Class X (Urdu) books—by far the most detailed—devote nearly three pages, explaining the disintegration. The listed subtitles include: a) Incompetent Government of Yahya Khan; b) Hindu Domi-nation of Trade; c) Nefarious Role of Hindu Teachers; d) Language Problems; e) Indian Inter-ference; f) The Elections of 1970.

Meanwhile, on February 5 the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) found Abdul Kader Mullah guilty of five out of six charges against him. Known as ‘Mirpurer Koshai’ (Butcher of Mirpur) because of his atrocities against the citizens in the Mirpur area of Dhaka, he was charged with beheading a poet, raping an 11-year-old girl and murdering 344 people. The ICT sentenced mullah, presently Assistant Secretary- General of the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, to life in prison. For the protesters at the Shahbag Square, this was not enough—they want Mullah to be hanged. On the other side, the Jamaat protested violently and also staged demons-trations. But its efforts to influence global opinion foundered in spite of a well-funded attempt.

Curiously enough, Mullah’s case has been taken up by the Government of Turkey. President Abdullah Gul sent a letter last month to the President of Bangladesh requesting clemency for all those accused of mass murder. Fortunately, Turkey’s President appears to be an exception and much of the world has shown little regard for the genocidal killers.

The author is a veteran journalist renowned not only in this country but also in our neighbouring states of Pakistan and Bangladesh where his columns are widely read. His website is

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