India and Pakistan, once nurtured in the same civilizational womb have differently celebrated their modern identity. For India , August 15 marked freedom from the rapacious colonial yoke and the end of British Raj – and the more deeply embedded characteristic was derived from Mahatma Gandhi’s resolve to attain freedom through non-violence and ahimsa. For Pakistan, August 14, 1947, was a sui generis moment. Never in recent history had a nation been created in this manner and even its very name was mintfresh , having been conceived in intense religious zealotry.
The two-nation theory was cast in stone and jettisoning the Jinnah vision, an exclusive, inflexible, intolerant ideology was espoused by a nascent Pakistani security establishment. Over the last 64 years, both nations have moved on different trajectories and evolved into two very different entities. India, despite its many warts, is acknowledged as the more consolidated and successful experience, while Pakistan is seen to be in danger of unraveling due to its many internal contradictions and distortions. Paradoxically, both nations are currently grappling with complex internal challenges and the manner in which they address them will determine their future orientation .
For India, it is the accretion of institutional decay and related turpitude that now looms large and the turbulence over the cancer of corruption and the Lokpal Bill is illustrative. For Pakistan, the challenge is far more fundamental – the very idea of the nation and its carefully embellished narrative and deviously re-constructed history is being challenged by its own citizens . The current mood in Pakistan in what may be described as the post-Osama bin Laden phase is bleak. Since the daring US military raid of early May and the PNS Mehran terrorist attack in Karachi later that month, the Pak military as an institution is under unprecedented domestic scrutiny and indictment.
The irrepressible and courageous human rights activist Asma Jehangir has called them ‘duffers’ and questioned their competence and credibility. Many skeletons are tumbling out and none more damaging than the accusations and allegations that the Pak ‘fauj’ has sold its services (and soul) to the highest bidder and many rumors abound in Lahore and elsewhere about how much money and other inducements (US green cards) was offered to betray bin Laden. The once feared and revered fauj has become ‘bay-gairat’ (dishonorable and devoid of shame ) in the eyes of its own people.
In recent months, an unprecedented review of Pakistan’s history in relation to India is taking place. In early June, Air Marshal (rtd) Asghar Khan, the first Pak Air Chief (1957-65 ) delivered a public lecture in Islamabad on “Pakistan’s Security” . The 90-year-old veteran, who is president of the Tehrik-i-Istaqlal party, made a startling revelation when he asserted: “None of the four wars we fought with India were started by India. From first incursion after Independence in Kashmir till Kargil, we started the hostilities .” Air Marshal Khan added that an objective history of the subcontinent indicates that no incursion started from southeast and it was always from northwest.
Apropos the 1971 war that led to the birth of Bangladesh, he stated that many other Pakistani politicians also disliked the military action by General Yahya Khan but did not speak out. Asghar Khan recalled that he openly opposed the operation against Mujaeeb-ur-Rahman and was accused of being a traitor. He reiterated : “We (Pakistan) had started Operation Gibraltar in Kashmir before the 1965 war and Kargil (1999) was also our misadventure .” The gist of the Asghar Khan thesis was familiar and privately supported by many liberals in Pakistan – that the Pak military had hijacked the state in the early decades and had created a false narrative about the threat from India and the contours of Pakistan’s security, even while underlining democracy and the civilian political system, to ensure their own institutional primacy .
Regrettably the Pak military was supported in this endeavor by the US and the false narrative kept alive by the Anglo-American media/academic combine of the time. Predictably the response from the Pak establishment to this historical corrective was that the veteran and highly-respected Asghar Khan had become senile. But more objective and rational voices in Pakistan supported the candor of the former Air Chief and Najam Sethi, Pakistan’s best known editor has confirmed this version. ET