A Pakistan we don't get to see

There is a disconnect between people and state of Pakistan. The people don't approve of terror against India.

Whenever we hear about Pakistan, it usually creates a bad taste in our mouth. For us, it has come to symbolise conflict, terror, killings, and unrealistic demands over Kashmir. Many believe that Pakistan as state, as well as society, works in unison and we infer of complicity between the two.

Consequently, all omissions and commissions of state are also attributed to the society and people of Pakistan. My recent visit to Lahore University of Management Sciences, Pakistan and the maiden opportunity to interact with scholars, politicians, foreign policy actors, journalists and common people, tells me a different story.

There is a Pakistan that we daily see through governmental pronouncements, press and electronic media. Their objective perhaps is to position both the societies in a state of perpetual conflict and hatred. But, there is a Pakistan that we don’t get to see. I was a little unnerved to find the ground reality in Lahore contrary to my belief.

There is a disconnect between people of Pakistan and state of Pakistan, which means the people there did not own much of what was being projected vis-à-vis India. They do not approve of the anti-India hate campaigns or terror against India, and they knew our bottom line on Kashmir (as integral part of India). Not only that, there was a feel of great respect and love for us as guests coming from India.

The Pakistan as we know appears fragmented in four components – army, government, terrorists and ordinary civilian population. The Pakistan army happens to be dominant player with full control of civilian government. The rationale of this power relation could be sold to the people of Pakistan only so long as strong security-threat- perception exists in their minds. That threat perception is sought to be occasionally created and reinforced by occasional aggression by Pak army that many in Pakistan openly acknowledge. 

But, successive defeats have forced them to reformulate aggression strategy and go for a ‘proxy-war’ against India by creating and supporting terrorist organisations. Hence, the terrorist outfits are virtually an extension counters of Pak army. We saw in Lahore banners and posters regarding the rally by Hafiz Saeed at minar-e-pakistan , a place where the Muslim League first passed a resolution for creation of Pakistan. The Lashkar-e Taiba flags were flying all over Lahore. None had the courage, not even the government, to remove them. But, does that mean that the government of Pakistan and the ordinary people approve of the army and the terrorist actions?

Perhaps, we in India may not understand because our political culture and democracy is a class by itself. In Pakistan, the opposition comes not only at political level, but also from the defence forces, especially the army. And, that is not only an opposition, but virtually a dictation to the civilian government. The people of Pakistan are taken for granted; when the civilian government is helpless vis-à-vis army and its terror extensions, what can we expect of people? So, Pak people appear to have given up though they want to get rid of terrorists; they want development, jobs, better ties with India, etc. Many with split-family-syndrome are still very nostalgic about their roots and relatives in India.

The Modi factor
The Pak scholars were optimistic about Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking forward the Vajpayee initiative. Contrary to our expectation, they saw in Modi a strong PM capable of giving us political solution to end the Kashmir problem. They think that Modi has only two options; one, he can take such initiatives in respect of improving Indo-Pak relations that he could create history and go down in memory as a ‘history-man’; or, two, he can, by hardening of postures, create a situation for conflict that may lead to a nuclear holocaust and, then, he will go down in history as a man of destruction. And, they hope Modi would prefer the first option.

The Pak society is stagnated; it has not been able to move on from feudalism to democracy and modernism. It has failed to develop a middle-class which can drive economy of the country from deep recession and strengthen Pak Rupee vis-à-vis US dollars. Modi’s vigorous focus on development appears to have exerted some pressure on Pak government for emulating the Modi model of governance and development. 
 
But, Pakistani scholars need to censure and counter the army sponsored terror activities, but also appreciate that talking to their government is so very unproductive as the latter is not free to take decisions unless stamped by their army. Both sides know very well that any international bilateral covenant must be mutually rewarding and that involves some give and take.

And, hence, any genuine bilateral Indo-Pak agreement must await the arrival of a full-fledged and robust democratic government – not subservient to the Pak army – and capable of taking such a decision. Will the Pak scholars and intellectuals unite and work with people for a strong democracy in Pakistan? The people surely desire and pray for that, but they constitute a Pakistan that is generally not visible.

(The writer is Chair, Department of Political Science, Christ Church College, Kanpur)

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