COMMENT: Douse the fire —Vivek Iyer

28 Sep

Peace is the one thing that has remained elusive to Pakistan over several years and it can bring about a major difference to ordinary Pakistanis. It can unify warring parties and also bring about nationalism

Pakistan is burning today. No one would dispute that. Karachi, Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, FATA getting pounded is just an understatement. The bloodletting and the orgy of violence have reached new heights. In recent times, the international media has wasted no effort in branding Pakistan as a sponsor of terror and the ISI in particular as the messiah for the jihadists. Not without good reason though.

Barring China, Pakistan has had a perpetual average equation with the governments of neighbouring countries like India, Iran and Afghanistan (except during the Taliban regime). Compared to the larger powers holding Pakistan to ransom, Pakistan directly has very little to gain by instigating trouble in nearby countries. Imran Khan rightly pointed out that Pakistan today is a hired gun for the Americans, which is very true in every sense of the word. South Asia with its rich cultural heritage, vast resources of learning and wealth is today turning out to be a happy weapon testing field for western powers with an abundant supply of live prey.

An insurgency has been plaguing Balochistan, an impoverished region, over time immemorial. The primary issue here is poverty and lack of resources. In spite of its vast natural resources, there has been constant conflict with the Baloch nationalist rebellion. The Chinese are also looming in the region to make further inroads into Pakistan’s strategic resources.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA are also making regular headlines by taking the brunt of the Afghan war. The Taliban and the Haqqanis have grown so strong that they are turning out to be very hard to control. Added to the equation is the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), whose daring cross-border skirmishes are proving very costly for the Pakistan Army.

Karachi has been brutally mauled in the last few months. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which was once perceived as a darling of the Pakistan military establishment, has become an uncontrollable monster. It is a well known fact that their cadre have been systematically armed to be prepared for an eventual assault. The next few months will be very crucial for the state of Pakistan.

Currently, the only relatively peaceful province in entire Pakistan is Punjab. The Kashmir issue is currently in cold storage and people on both sides of the border are weary of the painful effects that conflict brings with it.

The bottom line is that the east of Pakistan is today the safest place to be in. Yes, the same area that borders the superficial threat that is India. In this context, Pakistan and Pakistanis need to ponder who the real foe could be.

But then, it is not all over for Pakistan. There are areas that need to be revisited; these are the ones that Pakistan has probably forgotten in its quest for power. Mumbai and Karachi are often termed as twin cities because of their multiculturalism and economic might. While several new industrial hubs have powered India to the top in the last decade like Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, etc, there have been no notable contributors to Pakistan. It is still Karachi that is keeping the economy alive.

Similarly, while India has made vast inroads in the field of education, Pakistan needs to proactively engage its citizens and provide them with the best possible education in a sustained manner. Education will also help people in conflict embrace peace more easily. Peace is the one thing that has remained elusive to Pakistan over several years and it can bring about a major difference to ordinary Pakistanis. It can unify warring parties and also bring about nationalism.

When an old man of 74 years of age, Anna Hazare, got the entire India to rally behind him for his anti-corruption crusade, it could also be emulated in Pakistan to good effect and achieve peace. Does Pakistan have one? That is the question to be answered.

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