Compromise does not mean that everyone should submit to your point of view

Just take a look at these two headlines:
1. Gillani stresses need to bridge trust deficit with US
2. Indo-Pak peace to have lasting impact on people: Ulema.

Reading these headlines you could be forgiven for thinking that Pakistan was the most diplomatic, cooperative country in the world and that Pakistani Ulema were some kind of hippy peaceniks. But then when you actually read the stories you find out that:
1. Gillani denies the presence of any Afghan Taliban leadership in Balochistan or North Waziristan and calls it all a misperception after which Senator Carl Levin praises Pakistan’s role as a frontline state in the war on terror and shuts up.
2. The collective Ulema of Jehlum link Indo-Pak peace with Indian action on Kashmir saying that “India is Pakistan’s enemy… It (India) has not recognized Pakistan to this day”

So in reality, the articles should actually probably have been called:
1. Gillani tells Senator Carl Levin to F#$# off.
2. Pakistani Ulema tell India that lasting Indo-Pak peace on terms they are willing to accept is impossible in any of our lifetimes.

At Five Rupees, Ahsan has a good post about how an extremely inflexible position always moves any debate to the side that it represents so that even the “moderate” position becomes moderate only in relation to the extremist position it is moderate in contrast to. Looking at the content of these two headlines, one can see the damage that 62 years of inflexibly right-wing nationalism has done to the political debate in Pakistan when such “moderate” headlines as the ones above are used to describe what, in any other country, would be considered extreme right-wing rhetoric.

I suppose in contrast to Jamaat-e-Islami’s “Go America Go!” campaign, PM Gillani’s “don’t know, won’t tell, and I don’t want to help.” position on the Afghan Taliban is moderate. I mean, when the extreme right wing responds to every situation by arguing that Pakistan should a) cut off all ties with the US b) actively support elements waging a proxy war against US forces in Afghanistan then almost anything short of declaring war on the US and launching a nuclear strike on Israel is “moderate” by default.

But then you have the problem that Nawaz Sharif encountered after the Lahore Declaration when his compromises to India were considered “too liberal” to be acceptable by either the Jamaat-e-Islami or his commando COAS. What that made me realize was that a state in which Nawaz Sharif is “too liberal” on India to be acceptable is a state which will never accept any degree of compromise with India unless it is on the military’s own terms. It’s a state that is ideologically paralyzed to carry out any sort of compromise except at the military’s own pleasure.

So then it should be quite clear why you can have the ridiculous statement made by a floundering president last week regarding the “thousand year war for Kashmir”. Zardari is someone who, shortly before Mumbai, made some of the most progressive and conciliatory statements regarding India-Pakistan peace that any leader in Pakistani history has ever made. But Zardari, like all other Pakistani politicians, is weighed down by the terrible weight of the uncompromising right-wing positions adopted by groups such as the Jamaat-e-Islami who can’t win any elections but have successfully cornered something much more important – the ability to dictate the parameters of political discourse in Pakistan.

12 responses to “Compromise does not mean that everyone should submit to your point of view

  1. stuka

    Thanks for the links. Now you see why I like and respect Zia Ul Haq. He could couch the most self interested foreign policy objective in the most diplomatic manner. In comparison, none of Pakistan’s leaders have been able to manage Pakistan’s contradictions in foreign policy so well.

  2. stuka

    Also, The Nation and Shireen Mazari misrepresented Zardari’s speech on Kashmir. Yes, he made a puportedly hawkish speech but the kicker is here…

    “Whenever dictators took over they speak of appeasement. We, from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto to me and the prime minister have talked with India on equal terms.” When Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had spoken of waging a thousand year war, he never said that he would not do it through talks or negotiations, he added. ”

    He used supposedly strong language but at the end of the day he is advocating negotiations and talk.

  3. admin

    stuka, that’s true. It was a really strange speech. I mean, quite obviously his heart was really not in it.

  4. stuka

    Yeah, and it is now obvious that there is an active Pak Army media lobby that is unhappy not only with Zardari but also with Nawaz Sharif for not toeing a hawkish line. The Nation is the most overt english language mouthpiece but a lot of Pakistani media folks seem to be on the security establishment payroll.

  5. Thanks for the shout out Rabia.

    Incidentally, this is why liberals need to be more vociferous. By ourselves we don’t actually do anything because there’s too few of us, changing the goalposts on the debate can be very useful. That’s not WHY I write (and I suspect you’re with me on this) but it should hopefully be a happy byproduct.

    Remember Mush’s BS on “liberal extremists”? After a while, I actually became happy he was straw-manning us, because it meant that he was at least acknowledging a liberal point of view, and thus making his “enlightened moderation” more liberal than it would have otherwise been.

  6. takhalus

    rabia: Sindh politicians who have any national standing are always at risk of being labelled a security risk by the consevative establishment if they advocate peace too much. I skip pashtun and Balochis because they haven’t had a national leader ..in the formers case the closest was Wali Khan in the 1970s and none at all in the latters case. The only reason Mush or zia or Ayub can push through initiatives with India or Afghanistan is that they don’t have to worry about the knife going for their back..which in turn is only because once in power.. they wield that very same knife.

  7. Takhalus: Unless I am making a serious mistake with elementary history, I do believe Ayub Khan was pashtun.

  8. admin

    Takhalus: I think what you are saying can be generalized to all civilian leaders since even Nawaz Sharif’s experience has shown that the military does not trust any civilian leader advocating peace as you say.

    Ahsan, Ayub Khan’s family was Hindko speaking but I think you are right that he was ethnically a Pashtun of the Tareen tribe.

    imo military leaders can’t be considered as representing their ethnicity as much as they represent an institution. Or I guess there has to be a separate category for ethnic minority military leaders – they are a lot more secure than ethnic minority civilian leaders but perhaps not as secure as Punjabi military leaders. e.g. Musharraf’s muhajir ethnicity only became a negative factor when he was abandoned by the hardcore right wing of the army. I am not sure if that was the case with Ayub Khan.

  9. Okay fine not disagreeing with you, but by that logic, you have to concede that non-military politicians no longer represent their ethnicity also. So NS is not Punjabi, but non-military. BB is not Sindhi, but non-military (and a Bhutto). Etc. In which case, ethnicity ceases to be meaningful as an analytical category.

  10. admin

    “In which case, ethnicity ceases to be meaningful as an analytical category.”

    Ahsan the problem with that is that ‘non-military’ is not really a strong identity. It’s not even strong enough for non-military leaders to band together to prevent a military takeover. I guess the situation is that the military is a strong enough institutional identity that ethnicity is generally secondary to it, but among non-military leaders ethnicity is still very much a factor. What do you think?

  11. My point was only that for logical consistency, if we consider being in the military to be an overriding factor on ALL other forms of identity, including ethnicity, then what is good for the goose must be good for the gander.

    I would say two things about the interaction of ethnicity and militariness. First, the military itself has been an engine for social mobility for two ethnic groups usually considered outside the mainstream: Mohajirs and Pasthuns (esp. the latter). Second, ethnicity matters more (as you suggest) when the militariness or lack thereof of competitors is a given, i.e. when it’s NS vs BB for instance.

    Also, as far as not preventing a military takeover goes, I’ve long held the view that politicians bear almost as much blame as the military for our political history (even wrote a post once but can’t be arsed to find it right now). Half the time, these are the guys inviting them in or using them as pawns in their own game. BB didn’t say shit when the assemblies were dissolved in what was it? 86 or 87 or whatever, ZAB used them to settle scores with Mujib and in the process caused civil war, NS was their lackey etc.

  12. takhalus

    Rabia: true, the civilian/military distinction is important but within the identity there is a relative difference. Nawaz Sharif could push through the Lahore declaration and even take on the JI in the process ..in a way BB could not without being attacked as a security risk (BB tried in 1988-1990 with Siachen and became far more hawkish/pandering to India in her second term)

    Ahsan: As Rabia correctly said Ayub was a hindko speaker although of pathan descent.
    Ayub in fact compromised his military identity through the businesses and marriages his sons had into prominent Pakhtun families (the Wali of Swat and General Habibullah). Musharraf compromised his military identity with his moves to create an urdu speaking constituency, which created resentment against him in the Army and amongst right wing establishment politicians.

    Zia remains the exception, he created a major constituency in the punjab (the modern PML-N), allied himself closely with America and used the religious right all at the same time!

    So ethnic and military/establishment identity are not totally separate..the rules change once the Army comes into power and it’s head tries to create a constituency.

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