India and Pakistan – peace no matter what
This is the press release I wrote for British Muslims for Secular Democracy regarding the Mumbai atrocity.
British Muslims for Secular Democracy completing and utterly condemns these despicable acts of terrorism and murder in Mumbai. We also condemn those who support such acts, those who fund them, and those who attempt to justify them.
Those evil individuals who planned and executed this outrage are attempting to sabotage the welcome progress made in India-Pakistan relations, and we must not allow them to succeed, or to drive a wedge between any communities or countries.
India is a fine example of a country progressing into the 21st century with a commitment to equal rights and democratic participation for all. Those who oppose such ideals would have us all live under medieval theocracy. We utterly reject such values and objectives.
Our deepest sympathies go to the people of Mumbai and others affected by this tragedy.
And below is my own expansion on this subject.
Partition of India and Pakistan should never have happened. It was a massive human catastrophe. Whoever thought this was a good idea was an idiot. Gandhi was definitely against it.
Photos: Margaret Bourke-White
Partition is based on the principle of tribalism, and under this primitive system, you as an individual are defined by your DNA, and not by your own ideals, aspirations, efforts, humanity and good intentions. Tribalism enslaves us under the standards of the lowest common denominator, and I reject it utterly. I choose my own beliefs (and I’m free to change them as I learn and evolve), I assign my loyalty and affection as I see fit, and I don’t give my support based on a shared ethnicity or (apparent) common religious affiliation. If you want to see what tribalism achieves, look to Iraq (and they’re all supposed to be ‘Muslim’).
Partition was a complete failure. There’s no such thing as ‘Pakistan’ as a unified entity.
Sure, there’s a geographic region known as 'Pakistan', with a nebulous border to the North West with Afghanistan, and a disputed border to the North East with India.
The people who live in this geography are know as ‘Pakistanis’ (apart from the millions of Afghans who have been coming since the Soviet era). But these people – who apparently had so much in common that a country was created just so that they could all live together – are torn by every kind of division imaginable: religion (Sunni, Shia), region, language, tribe, class, village, family, economic group etc. There are many layers to this of which the average Westerner is unaware. For example, those who moved from India to become part of this enterprise called ‘Pakistan’ are known as Muhajirs. Over the decades, there has been on-going tension and outbursts of violence between these Muhajirs and those who consider themselves to be indigenous. So much for the national unity of ‘Pakistanis’.
There’s a ‘government’ of Pakistan, which generally serves its own ends and seeks to keep itself in power for as long as possible. This entity fluctuates between military and civilian, but the end is the same: government of the people, by the government, for the government.
There’s a Pakistani army, which is sometimes also the government, but never is it entirely subservient to the government. It’s rather like having a tiger for a pet. You can be the owner of this pet, and give it commands, as long as the pet feels like it. India is critical for the Pakistani army’s sense of self-importance. Any government which seeks peace with India is a threat to the army.
There’s the notorious Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), which is subservient to no-one (especially the government). How they long for the glorious days of the Soviet-era, when Pakistan took centre-stage in the war against the godless Communists; the CIA were its best friends; the Stinger missiles, F-15s and dollars flowed in abundance; and India was distrusted by the Americans (because of its leaning towards Russia). What wonderful days they were! The modern concept of jihad was developed and fuelled during this time. The ISI was trained and funded and strengthened during this holy war, and the godless Commies were driven out of Afghanistan. Success! … And then what? The trouble with an adrenalin-loving agency which is a law unto itself is that those within it will always seek to maintain their positions of covert power, of being above the ordinary people and their pathetic government.
The peace process with India – which is so longed for at grassroots level on both sides – is a threat to the existence of the army and the ISI. Without India as an enemy, why would Pakistan need a significant army and an ISI?
To his credit, the new civilian President of Pakistan, Asif Zardari (whose own wife was killed by terrorists), recently articulated that India poses no threat to Pakistan and promised that his country would not be the first to engage nuclear weapons in any conflict. The BBC reports that a Pakistani defence official objected to these remarks. The Pakistani government announced it would send the ISI chief to India to assist in the investigation, and then backtracked when the ISI objected. In the West, the intelligence agencies work for the government. In Pakistan, the ISI works for itself (and possibly the Americans or the Taliban, depending on the sub-group). It serves no purpose in the national interest.
India has moved on into the 21st century with a progressive, modern society ahead of it, but some forces within Pakistan are intent on keeping that country as a military-theocracy, defined only by a hatred of India. Hatred and tribalism are always powerful knee-jerk levers for getting populations under control.
The planning and support required for this operation should not be over-estimated – there’s no reason to think it was state-endorsed. Rather than 9/11, it was closer to Columbine High School – with a dozen or so gunmen able to use watches to tell the time and coordinate attacks. The ease and rapidity with which they killed people reflects on the easy-going nature of the society in which they struck, rather than on their own military skills. It wasn’t a fair fight at all, and no-one in an official position in India should feel responsible. (I wouldn’t want to live in a state where armed officers watch everyone’s every move, and check our papers at every street corner.)
It’s almost certain that ‘elements’ within Pakistan had some involvement in the Mumbai atrocities, but it would be wrong to attribute blame to the country as a whole – since there’s no such thing as Pakistan as a coherent entity. I would venture to say that the government – no matter how inept and self-serving – actually wants peace and complete normalisation of relations with India. But the government of Pakistan has no ability to control every element within its borders, especially the ISI. And the ISI has no ability to control elements even within itself.
So, an old pattern is played out. Those behind this terrorist action wanted to sabotage the peace process, which is a threat to their sense of power. They enlist frustrated, embittered, ignorant young men under the prestigious Al-Qaeda franchise, and sell them the tried-and-tested jihad package (“ … the non-believers are at war with Islam … Paradise awaits you … blah blah …”). India – ignoring the fact that Pakistan is not a unified entity – kicks the blame at ‘Pakistan’. Pakistan – ignoring that fact that elements from within its borders almost certainly had some involvement – is indignant at this accusation and kicks back. Everyone leaps immediately to a tribal position. The peace process stalls. Everyone suffers. The terrorist lemmings and their sick calculating orchestrators win. (Actually, the terrorist lemmings don’t really win – as they find out when they don’t wake up in Paradise.)
So what we all must do is not let the twisted scum win by abandoning the peace process. We all know that a peace process always brings saboteurs – that is a given. So we accept this reality and we continue on with peace and normalisation, no matter what these individuals do. Both sides must cooperate fully in tracking down the perpetrators, but we must keep our Egos out of the equation. (Unfortunately, these interchanges between India and Pakistan are always Ego-driven.)
Look at France and Germany. Were they not bitter and full of mutual hatred in 1945? How long did it take for them to normalise relations? How long before the tourists started coming? (“Don’t mention the war!”) How long before they became such good friends that they were eliminating all borders and barriers between them?
In my lifetime I expect to see the South Asian Union: no barbed wire borders; free trade; common currency; a uniform commitment to human rights and justice; no need for big armies, nuclear weapons or spying; no need to imprison poor fishermen whose boats drift into the wrong waters. France and Germany achieved this decades ago. Why is it taking India and Pakistan so long?
Ownership of Kashmir becomes irrelevant, if all are living under a South Asian Union.
Muslims need have nothing to fear from this. There are more Muslims in India than there are in Pakistan, and they are better off living in a secular democracy than in a medieval military theocracy, defined only by its fear of its neighbour.
A final word on the young terrorist who has been captured. He should be rigorously interrogated to extract as much information as possible, but there should be no violation of his human rights. He should only be tortured between 9 am and 5 pm on weekdays, with an hour for lunch (flexible). He should have the weekends off – left in solitary confinement to mull over his actions and motives. It will bring a whole new dimension to that Sunday afternoon feeling.