Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Will the real Pakistan, please stand up?

At work I have am more often than not treated like the official spokesperson for India. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am obligated to state that I am not even an Indian citizen anymore, having traded my Indian citizenship recently for the honor of calling Barack Obama my President.

So it was only expected for my colleagues at work to turn to me for my personal insight into the horrendous attacks that took place in Mumbai over the Thanksgiving weekend. The question that called for the most insight – how was this attack different? Good question. India has suffered many terrorist attacks over a period of time – the attack on the Indian parliament was certainly a lot more audacious; the bomb blasts in Mumbai did cause a lot more damage; the assassination of India's Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was more historic… why was this one different?

Because it was personal. Like most Indians, the city of Bombay(Mumbai) has a special significance to me… I have a lot of very fond memories in the city – from my childhood to the last stretch in my recent honeymoon, Bombay plays a central role in the Khan Family Album. So if my usual objectivity gives way to personal bias, I apologize… but it was personal.

And I hold Pakistan responsible. And when I say Pakistan, I refer to Pakistan, the country and adage as it may be, it is very important for me to make the distinction between Pakistan and Pakistanis. Indian friends of mine, will admit to you with a degree of contempt, that it is the Pakistani cricket team that I support in those fiery India-Pakistan cricket matches.

From the outside Pakistan appears to be a democracy; it is anything but. When Bush ideologues were debating if the Muslim world is ready for democracy, they would have probably pointed to Turkey as a shining example of a democracy in the Muslim world and to Pakistan as a counter example. When one examines history there appear to be valid reasons why Pakistan's democracy remains in infancy – it was India that got a ready-made capital in the form of Delhi, while Pakistan had to painstakingly build (quite literally) the structures and the infrastructure that house and support the institutions of democracy; the founder of Pakistan passed away within months after the inception of the country and since then Pakistan has never had a leader that could inspire, lead and work to realize the dream that Jinnah had. When most of your leaders have either been assassinated or executed before finishing their term, I am sorry – you are not a democracy, you are one of those countries that Tintin, Snowy and Captain Haddock visit on their adventures.

It is quite obvious to even the most casual observer that without stability in Pakistan, there will not be peace in India. I applaud the President-Elect for identifying the crucial role Pakistan, or rather the instable Pakistan plays in the immediate danger from terrorism. Without Pakistan, there would not have been a Taliban controlled Afghanistan, and without a Taliban controlled Afghanistan, 9/11 would have been just another date. Pakistan has some legitimate quarrels with India – India refuses to acknowledge that Kashmir is a problem and it is a problem that needs to be discussed and unless one deals with that 800 pound Gorilla, the peace between India and Pakistan will be an illusion that manifests itself from time to time. And I did not know this, till very recently (and thank you Faisal Bhai for pointing this out) that Pakistan is petrified over the control that India exerts on its waters… if India wanted it can pretty much kill Pakistan's agriculture and render that very well designed irrigation system useless.

But having said that, there are no moral grounds for Pakistan to actively support terrorism and kill innocent Indians. It is high time, that Pakistan grows up and moves from a concept to a country. While India is shining, Pakistan still remains at the mercy of international aid. While young Indian software engineers are signing offer letters from Microsoft, young Pakistani men are apparently signing up Jihad pledges from Lakshar-e-Taiba. While Azim Premji, an Indian Muslim makes an annual appearance on the Forbes richest list, the Pakistan ruling class still remains confined to the 50 feudal families that ruled those lands before Independence.

The first step to solving any problem is acknowledging that it exists… and this is a plea to the intellects within/from Pakistan: own up and grow up.