Finally someone dared to talk about what is considered to be a sin or crime in Pakistan. Khawaja Asif, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister’s press conference in the US was a confession and a truth many in Pakistan already knew, but no one brought it to the limelight as the so-called defenders of a vague national interest does not like it.
Asif rightly termed Hafiz Saeed and other terrorists as liabilities for Pakistan and he tried to correct the history by accepting the blunder of fighting US proxy wars by admitting that the Dollar-sponsored 'Afghan Jihad' was a mistake on Pakistan’s part and was designed to break the then USSR. Finally someone from the power corridors and from a mainstream political party showed courage by accepting the blunders made by Pakistan’s establishment. Of course this statement of foreign minister was not liked by many people present in the mighty establishment in the country.
The timing of Asif’s statement was also very crucial. His government has already entered in to a cold war with the establishment, former PM Nawaz Sharif‘s decision to fight for civilian supremacy and ballot respect causing serious damage to the incumbent government and his party. The military establishment in Pakistan has enjoyed authority over foreign and interior policies since 1950 and they do not like anyone who challenges their hegemony.
This statement is clearly an indication that at least the PML-N will not accept hegemony of the establishment over the foreign and internal defence related policies. Afghan jihad was initiated by the military dictator Ziaul Haq and not only did it change the dynamics of South Asia, it also completely changed Pakistan and brought extremism and terrorism in the country. Pakistan before the 'Afghan jihad' was a liberal country with no major ethnic or sectarian violence. The Afghan jihad backed by the US and Saudi Arabia actually laid the foundation of extremism, jihadist culture and sectarian violence.
Since then our national narrative revolves around extremism and enmity with neighbouring countries. This narrative dictates the foreign policy and interior policies of the country, the establishment still considers people like Hafiz Saeed as its strategic assets in the proxy wars against India and other countries. What is not learnt is that these strategic assets and the narrative of conquering enemies with the might of the gun has proven false and wrong time and again. In fact this approach has actually taken us to a place where we are even left by a friend like China. Using Hafiz Saeed in Kashmir’s proxy war has yielded no results, in fact it has worsened the disputed Kashmir situation. Both Pakistan and India in their enmity have actually destroyed the future and lives of many generations in Kashmir. The same is the case with Afghanistan where the Taliban, once our strategic assets, have now become Frankenstein.
The other dilemma is the mindset this narrative has created. You talk to a university graduate or an ordinary educated person and they will tell you that the world is conspiring against us and the world is afraid of our nuclear weapons; in fact the world is jealous of the 'Muslim Ummah'. This is the height of ignorance and the mighty establishment is responsible for successfully giving birth to this ignorance by aligning with Mullahs and by playing religious cards. So the result is almost a population of around 200 million that actually under the influence of this brainwashing sincerely think that terrorism has nothing to do with us, and that the world lies about us as are jealous of us.
The establishment and Mullah nexus actually benefited from this narrative. The establishment runs the biggest business empire of the country, taking most of the budget in the name of defence while mullahs enjoy power fame and an un-audited source of money. Mixing religion with the state narrative gave the hegemony to the establishment and mullahs to declare anyone a traitor, a security risk or a blasphemer. You dare to dissent from this rotten and false narrative and you are a traitor or a blasphemer. Nawaz Sharif is the latest example when a prime minister with a two third majority was disqualified through the judiciary because he gave an alternative national narrative based on peace and progress.
So the bottom line is that the establishment is not ready to give up its hegemony over the state narrative and with the backing from mullahs and bureaucracy and right wing journalists and intellectuals they hardly face any threat to their position. Until and unless this rotten narrative is not changed we will keep giving birth to extremists like Hafiz Saeed, Mullah Fazlullah, and Kharasani. The irony is that we do not want our own country to give birth to people like Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. We love the extremists and consider them our heroes. Until which time the state continues to give birth to its own created heroes and anti heroes remains the question. Until then the nexus of the establishment and mullahs will continue to dictate the state narrative instead of elected governments doing so.
Yes Khawaja Asif has shown a little hope that his government is ready to challenge this rotten narrative but the question remains can his party’s government survive by waging the fight of civilian supremacy and the battle of narratives? For sure Nawaz Sharif cannot do this single handedly, at least the progressive political forces need to join hands in this regard for the sake of the future of the millions of children of this country. The establishment on the other hand needs to learn the lesson that their job is to defend the borders, not to dictate or create the state’s narrative. We need heroes like Malala Yousafzai, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Abdus Sattar Edhi, and Doctor Abdus Salam, not the destructors like Mumtaz Qadri, Hafiz Saeed or Omar Khorasani.
Our children need to learn about the beauty of life and the world, not the glorification of wars and death in the name of jihad. The state needs to realise that in this age of information and knowledge the borders have become meaningless, it is all about economy and ideologies now. So now is the time to stop giving birth to self created heroes and delusions and to start living in the 21st century by accepting the reality and develop the narrative based on peace, progress and knowledge.