What the Pulwama attack reminds us about Pakistan
The recent terror attack in Pulwama has sent shockwaves to the entire nation. In a rare display of unity, all the political parties have come together to unequivocally support the Indian government and our forces.
The attack serves as a reminder of the nature of the state of Pakistan. The infiltration of Pakistani Pathan tribesmen backed by the Muslim League into Jammu and Kashmir started only days after India’s independence. Since then India and Pakistan have fought three major wars for this issue.
Pakistan continues to remain one of the only major democracies in the world to use terrorism as a weapon of war.
The problem with Pakistan seems to be that it is not a normal democracy. It is a democracy where the army exercises more power than the democratically elected government. There seems to be two sets of methods to resolve the conflict i.e. attack against the perpetrators of terror or diplomatic dialogues to resolve the conflict non-violently. Those who advocate for the former seem to forget that the complete elimination of terror is not possible as long as Pakistan continues to back terrorists while those who advocate for the latter ignore the authoritarian nature of Pakistan’s army. A third method suggested by some policymakers is isolation of Pakistan from major forums. While this method might yield some result, it also has the potential to backfire. Given the propensity of terror elements in Pakistan to provoke, they might plan for more immediate attacks on our soil. We simply cannot afford to ignore Pakistan as it can dangerously affect the life of our civilians.
We must take cognizance of the fact that there are many common civilians of Pakistan who are as frustrated by the theocratic and authoritarian nature of their democracy as their Indian counterparts. Many of them look up to India as a land of opportunities. The civilians of Pakistan who wish to come to India are often genuinely captivated by the country. This might not be true for every Pakistani citizen who applies for visa, but it is true for many. As a generous secular democracy, we must ensure that the artists, musicians and actors of Pakistan who are legitimately interested in increasing our cultural and social ties get priority. At the same time, we must forestall all prospects of diplomatic dialogue with Pakistan’s government until it takes stringent action against terrorist organizations and their leaders, many of whom are allowed to roam freely.
In the past, India’s refusal to engage in dialogue has resulted in some results. For instance, in the immediate aftermath of 26/11, Pakistan detained Lashkar-e-Toiba’s leader Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi after India refused to engage in dialogue. However, Lakhvi was later released on bail, much to the utter dismay of India and the United States.
According to the Pew Research Centre, more than half of Pakistan’s citizens think they have no influence over the actions of government. The same poll also concluded that support for democracy in Pakistan is among the lowest in the world. 54% of Pakistan’s citizens think religious leaders should have “some influence” or a “major influence” in government policies.
Pakistan’s tryst with democracy falls short on every account. Only one democratically elected government was allowed to complete its term in its 70 years of existence. The present Prime Minister of Pakistan has been openly sympathetic to the Islamic Fundamentalist terrorist group Taliban. In 2018, he praised the Taliban’s system of justice. In the past he has tweeted in support of Taliban, calling it “pro-peace”. His party has defended the right of Taliban to open offices all over Pakistan.
The PM of Pakistan Imran Khan has been quite willing to engage in a dialogue for peace with India. Nevertheless, his government’s reluctance to take action against terrorist groups and tacit approval of them raises serious doubts about his true intentions. As the saying goes “All hat and no cattle”.
But can we really blame the Prime Minister for this? Isn’t it obvious that the democratically elected government in Pakistan cannot take any action without the consent of its Army?
The elimination of state backed terrorist groups in Pakistan necessitates a radical change in its system. The change must come from within Pakistan. India, for its part, has always wanted peace. India has always been willing to resolve the conflict. It was only due to India’s willingness to arrive at a solution through institutional and diplomatic means that the matter was moved to the United Nations. Pakistan, on the other hand, considers India to be an existential threat. Pakistani politicians continue to mobilize their population by raising the Kashmir conflict. According to Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Pakistani textbooks “insist on hate against India and Hindus. Pakistan’s existence is defined only in relation to Hindus”. This was further corroborated by the non-profit organization National Commission for Justice and Peace, which stated in its report that “Pakistan studies textbooks are an active site to represent India as a hostile neighbor”. Our neighboring country has indoctrinated a generation of young minds to hate India. Peace is not possible if both sides don’t aim for it.