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.