Normally nations tend to mythize success and gloss over the odd warts, as governmental spin-doctors magnify and romanticise the winning narrative. But seldom does a sovereign peddling in outright falsehoods gain acceptance or credence, unless they are bred in a viciously paludal environment, or in the throes of manufactured passions. Predicated on the flawed ‘two-nation theory’ and caught in the vortex of religious extremism, Pakistan is one such sovereign of untruths. The genealogically bestowed identity at birth was not just ‘split’ geographically (East Pakistan), but was also disturbed psychologically, so it remained violently insecure and defiant to prove itself.
The breakaway of Bangladesh in 1971 should have led to introspection and acceptance of the underlying fault lines, but it only hastened the Pakistani slide towards institutionalised denialism, as part of standard statecraft. The confusion between Jinnah-Iqbal’s original conceptualisation of Pakistan and that of the cleric-military combine has resulted in an ostrich-like attitude. All societal signs point towards the dark and irreversible path of implosion.
Pakistan’s unhealthy fascination for ‘two-timing’ started as early as October 1947, when it pushed in tribal militia into Kashmir. It also started paying the price for its internal intrigues as its first Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, was assassinated, the exact motive of which remains mired in controversy till date. Its experiment in democracy was stunted in the early years with General Ayub Khan’s coup d’état, when he promised early restoration to democracy, only to rule for the next eleven years.
Ayub’s successor Yahya Khan was in the same conspiratorial mold as Ayub. As Ayub delivered the humiliation of 1965, Yahya to his discredit, oversaw 1971. Later the hyper ambitious Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto sprang to the scene, promising the moon in terms of reforms, only to pass the most regressive of legislations and infuse the toxicity of religion into politics, for posterity.
In a typical Pakistani saga, his protégé Zia-ul-Haq (whom he imposed over much more senior and deserving officers as the Chief of Pakistan Army), sent Bhutto to the gallows and unleashed the most puritanical instincts into the bloodline of Pakistani governance. The next generation of Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif, Pervez Musharraf and now Imran Khan, have continued the art of saying one thing and doing the exact other.
If Benazir was killed by extremists, then her role in creating the Taliban is unpardonable; Nawaz superintended Kargil, and Pervez continued the patented track of duplicitousness during the ‘War on Terror’. Imran Khan, who posited the reformatory idea of ‘Naya Pakistan’ (New Pakistan), has only elevated the Pakistani art of double-speak towards perfection ~ as amongst the most dreaded terror groups in the world, the Taliban, has now taken over Afghanistan, under his patronage.
Historical allies like the United States of America have known of Pakistani incorrigibility for years, even as parallel and unavoidable necessities ensured that they only spoke about these occasionally. Barack Obama in his memoir noted plainly, “It is an open secret that Pakistani military had ties with Taliban”, whereas Donald Trump was blunter in stating, “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit!”
Today, Trump’s successor Joe Biden licks his wounds as the Pakistani ‘establishment’ has ensconced the Taliban, with the likes of Ashraf Ghani and Amrullah Saleh repeatedly, specifically, and pointedly calling out the Machiavellian role of Pakistan. But Islamabad reeling under the continuing shame of being ‘greylisted’ for the last three years by the global terror watchdog agency, FATF (Financial Action against Terror Finance), remains unfazed and is on its own trip of convincing itself that the world at large is wrong (but for Chinese and the Taliban!) and that it is Pakistan that has been historically wronged on terror.
On the day that the last gasps of hope in Panjshir Valley was pummeled by the Taliban (with credible murmurs of a Pakistani hand), Prime Minister Imran Khan said, “India today stands exposed before the world community for its bid to hamper peace in the region.”
The bizarre conjuring of a make-believe narrative continued on the said day, with Pakistan commemorating its ‘heroes’ of the Indo-Pak 1965 war with official figures of “1,617 square miles of territory occupied by Pakistan as compared to 446 square miles of Pakistan’s open and undefended territory occupied by India” ~ absolutely contrary to all facts and figures by all independent international observers, let alone the Indian Government.
But in a country that even denied Kargil and went to the extent of refusing to accept the bodies of its fallen soldiers, anything is possible. Another neighbour, Iran, was also seething at Pakistan, “Last night’s attacks are condemned in the strongest terms…and the foreign interference that you referred to must be investigated,” but it made no difference to the Pakistani ecosystem and sensibilities.
Ashraf Ghani who is now cooling his heels in UAE will remember how he started his presidency on a decidedly different note by attempting a paradigm shift in the traditional Afghan outlook by trying to befriend Pakistan ~ he gave it the long rope, only to see the noose prepared by Islamabad around his own neck.
He had thought that he could do the unthinkable and trust Pakistan, like George Bush and Barack Obama did during the ‘War on Terror’, except they all got it wrong, eventually and consistently.
Today even the Arab Sheikdoms are extremely wary of Islamabad’s ‘word’, yet Imran Khan remains undeterred and makes active cause with the Chinese and the Taliban, as opposed to the rest of the world. Saner voices like the former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States, Hussain Haqqani, who came out with a book on Pakistan with a self-explanatory title, ‘Magnificent Delusions’, are ignored.
The book title is perhaps the best descriptor of a phantasmagoric project called Pakistan that has constantly sought to profiteer from ‘double-speak’, thinking it would always get away. It has successfully institutionalised its own fables, and that is a sure sign of an exhausting incorrigibility, even as it is delusional.