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Of Asif, Ali and Zardari

india Updated: Dec 13, 2008 23:44 IST
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First of all, they’re very unclear who exactly is a terrorist. Do we mean militants or freedom fighters or jihadis or extremists or those people whom Asif Ali Zardari says are ‘non-State actors’? That’s made even more complicated by the fact that these guys keep changing their names so that the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba becomes the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, or the Harkat-ul-Something becomes the Jaish-e-Something-Entirely-Different.

Besides, they also have Sunni fanatics, al-Qaeda operatives, Taliban militia, all adding to the confusion.

We could argue that all of them need to be put down immediately. Ah, but who’s going to do it? As Zardari has said, they have non-State actors in Pakistan. They also have State actors, non-State non-actors and State non-actors. Zardari is obviously a State non-actor. What they don’t seem to have are those who act on behalf of the State.

But that depends on which State we are talking about. The army, for instance, is a State within a State. The ISI is a State within the Army State within the State of Pakistan. And this ISI State also apparently includes ‘rogue elements’.

To make it easy for you, I have made an illustrative but by no means exhaustive list of the various groups in Pakistan.

Here it is: pro-State, pro-army; pro-State, anti-army; pro-non-State, pro-non-army; pro-State, anti-ISI; pro-army, anti-ISI (this is reportedly an oxymoron); pro-State, pro-army, pro-ISI, anti-rogue elements in the ISI (these are reportedly
morons); pro-generals, anti-retired generals; pro-retired cricketer, anti-retired general etc.

I’m uncertain whether the picture is clear now, but at least you have some idea of how complicated things really are in Pakistan.

What’s more, nobody is quite sure which of these factions runs the country. In short, if you need to hand over a list of demands the first thing to do is make about 500 photocopies and give it to each of those groups.

That’s because very often the State’s left hand has no inkling what its right hand is up to. For instance, when A.Q. Khan exploded that nuclear bomb, the Pakistan government had no idea what he was doing.

Why, even A.Q. Khan says he hadn’t a clue. “I had put my clothes in the washing machine, quite forgetting about the lump of uranium in my trouser pocket and then I went to the market to buy some veggies. Imagine my surprise when, on my way back, I saw this little mushroom cloud over my bungalow,” he told this reporter.

He then went on to explain that the uranium must have reacted with the heavy water in the washing machine (he always uses heavy water for washing, it’s good for stains) and inadvertently produced a nuclear explosion.

The point of this story is to emphasise just how difficult it is for anyone to know who is doing what in Pakistan.

Rumours have also reached me that this muddle about non-State actors and State actors has gone to such lengths that people are no longer pro-Asif Ali Zardari. Instead, some of them are pro-Asif but anti-Zardari, others are pro-Ali but anti-Asif and so on. This can, of course, happen only in Pakistan.

As for Zardari himself, he has now split into three distinct personalities — Asif, Ali and Zardari — so that if you ask him about that list of terrorists he can claim you never gave it to him at all because you handed it to Asif but the guy who’s before you now is Ali.

So if you see the president of Pakistan sitting quietly at his desk, don’t for a moment assume the poor man is lonely and depressed. For all you know, he may be having a wild party with Asif and Ali.