Why Pakistan’s war rhetoric matters | Opinion
Soviet writer Leon Trotsky had said: “You may not be interested in war but war is interested in you”. All dictums may not necessarily be true, but the lessons contained in them are always useful. I recalled this dialogue because Pakistan’s fascination with war has once again become more visible and high decibel. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan even went on to threaten nuclear war the first time being in parliament. The next episode was when United States President Donald Trump, in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. Khan, once again, lost his cool. In his address to the nation, he once again mentioned the threat of a nuclear war, and warned that the world will have to suffer its consequences. On Monday, Khan reportedly said that Pakistan will not use nuclear weapons first, but the earlier rhetoric cannot be wished away.
Also watch| Pakistan plans to keep Kashmir boiling till Imran Khan’s UNGA speech
Last week, he berated the United Nations for remaining quiet on the issue of atrocities against Muslims. His motivation is clear. He did not get any support from the Muslim countries on the Kashmir issue, and this is his way of challenging them and questioning their pride.
No matter how much bravado Khan engages in, the reality is that he is a weak PM. He did not get a majority in the elections. Rawalpindi’s military establishment used every possible trick in the book to get the parliamentary math in favour of Khan. And he, in turn, showed his gratitude by extending the tenure of army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa for three more years. Such coordination between the army and administration was seen after a long time in Pakistan. The bitter-sweet relationship between the previous PM Nawaz Sharif and the army is well known.
MA Jinnah might have succeeded in creating a country on religious grounds, but this nation was not been able to keep itself united for 25 years. With the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971, Jinnah’s dream was rendered meaningless. While the leaders, journalists and so-called scholars continue to vouch for Muslim fraternity, the truth is that the Inter-Services Intelligence has been responsible for separatist activities in Iran and Afghanistan.
The Pakistani military has trained mercenary fighters with the purpose of creating unrest and fomenting violence in neighbouring countries. But this has harmed Pakistan itself. Such elements have fuelled religious frenzy, stifled progressive and liberal ideas, and became so powerful that at times they have even challenged the military establishment in Rawalpindi.
When General Pervez Musharraf tried to curb them, a conspiracy was hatched to blow him up. He had a narrow escape in the attack near Rawalpindi.
These double standards, which characterise Pakistan’s democracy, has made it hollow from within. In the early 1980s, the nation’s per capita income was higher than that of India. But its economy began sliding down, thanks to its attempts to fight proxy wars with its neighbours. Like India, Pakistan also has a young population. But about one-third of the children don’t get any kind of formal education, and about 25% of the people live below the poverty line. This is the main reason why people are turning to the business of terror there, and the State finds willing recruits for terror activities.
The circumstances in India are quite the opposite. India has not only progressed internally, but has also proved its worth on the global stage. Research conducted in the US in 2014-2015 revealed that people of Indian-origin constituted only 1% of the population there. But while 28% of American youth were graduates, 67% of youth of Indian origin were able to graduate or get higher educational qualifications. It also had a positive impact on the individual’s income. According to the findings, the average income of an American was $50,000 , while people of Indian origin were earning $90,000 on an average. Former diplomat Strobe Talbot did not say without reason that India is not just a regional, but a world power. Ideally, Pakistan should have taken a lesson or two from India and Indians, but the India-obsessed generals there opted for quite the opposite.
This month, 74 four years have passed since World War II. People right from the time of World War I were not interested in war but the war was absolutely interested in them. Long before the first shot is fired on the battle ground, the war starts in the minds of the political rulers. We must be watchful of the fulminations of our neighbour. It has already imposed four wars on us.
Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan
The views expressed are personal