Have you ever given thought to the fact that what ridiculously ugly and suicidal life form we mortals have become? Here is our earth, a tiny particle of dust in the cosmic ocean of mass, and what we - the tiny crawling little germs of existence - are doing on this droplet of sand? We mark our territories on it and then waste time bickering about how to colonise its this part or that or for that matter how to dominate the entire drop. In this self-assumed world of importance, have we ever thought what our cosmic vulnerability brings to us one day when we are squabbling about mere morsels of resources?
On another note, I recall that in the year 2001 after the Agra Summit and before 9/11, I had written a column titled ‘Urgent considerations’. In that rather glum piece I had pointed out that it was unwise to let a lot of powers to be concentrated in the hands of an autocrat because if history was any judge’ such a sorry scheme of things always had brought countries to their destruction. Just to make my point I had given the example of Indonesia where the artificial boom of 30 years under Suharto had quite effectually papered over the deepening cracks in the national cohesion. Although it was not understood then, it is quite visible already now even in Pakistan. While the autocrat and his toadies here kept celebrating the so-called ‘economic boom’, the economic backbone of the country was actually being blown smithereens by only delaying the evidence of the imminent disaster. Another creeping example was of the growing foreign clout and interference in our domestic matters. So grand is this interference and some of our best brains annexed to such an extent that they have to write the word ‘interference’ in quote marks. Yet during these eight years we have not bowed not in one alter alone but wherever an idol existed and suited one man’s agenda. We only remembered the terms ‘national pride’ and ‘sovereignty’ whenever there was threat to the oligarchy and not to the nation as per se.
The damage done is now quite visible. When Musharraf imposed the emergency, Negroponte took ages to come and the US State Department kept ensuring that it was watching the situation closely. Then only democracy was under threat. Now it is Musharraf in trouble and guess what? The butcher of Honduras accompanied by Boucher is in town already. Does it tell you anything about the US interest in dictatorships? Okay, maybe not, but we know that at least the neo-cons are madly in love with dictators. And why should they not be? During Musharraf regime he even showed keenness to talk to Christina Rocca on telephone in person despite being the head of a state. Perhaps it is in the nature of dictators to buckle under foreign pressure and yet show eyes to their own countrymen. Would you believe it, we were even barred from writing General (retired) with his name until fairly recently.
Unlike many colleagues I desisted from posting hurried comments on the arrival of Negroponte and his demon. But I must not make any bones about the fact that as a citizen and as an analyst I am deeply flustered. Why? Not because I think that Pakistan should now forget about the war on terror. Far from it. The Pakistani blood that has been spilled thus far is enough to convince us that it is our war too. I then neither have any problem with the war on terror nor or the US desire to engage new political players for the sake of it. My issue is that this trigger-happy trip misconstrues the US-Pak relationship quite badly. Not only do our Western peers forget that the new government is really working hard in selling the alliance to a polarised and marginalised people. In a situation like this, such a mad rush only magnifies the impression that in this war Pakistan is not a willing partner but mere vessel. Again when it comes to the political issues our friends in Washington have shown the intelligence of a teaspoon. A day before the imposition of emergency, Condi said that she was confident that President Musharraf would do no such thing. But pretty soon he proved her quite wrong. Then Washington was found lacking in putting decisive pressure on him to take an immediate U-turn. It is true that Shaukat Aziz and the Chaudhries wanted the elections to be postponed for a year along with the settlement of the uniform issue, which did not happen. But whether that was because of US pressure or the fact that Musharraf had already nominated his military successor remains a debatable issue still now. Many still believe that since the ill-fated Musharraf-Benazir deal was actually brokered by the US, it is impossible that the establishment here could assassinate her without a tacit nod from the establishment in Washington. And even after the elections they have not shown any maturity. They have tried their level best to keep the PPP away from the PML-N.
The US should understand that due to some of its eccentricities it has damaged its image everywhere and especially here. We have to fight extremism and terrorism but to think that the use of force is the only option is totally wrong. There are indications that even the extremists in the tribal areas are not oblivious to the power and clout of a democratic government and democratic transition. They not only declared a moratorium in the days of the elections but also lived up to it. Again they were quite quick at distancing themselves from the allegations of involvement in Benazir’s assassination. It proves that they are human beings, not mindless freaks. The problem with talks held in the past was that President Musharraf’s image problem had made the process impossible to trust. The new government can certainly make headways owing to its freedom from the president’s deficits.