The opening line of Leo Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina makes every unhappy family believe that they are unhappy in their own ways while all happy families must be alike. The power of literary flourish has made the idea of singularity so compelling that few dare to question its universality. The commonality of unhappy countries, however, is as clearly recognisable as that of happy ones.
According to the World Happiness Index, Afghanistan was the most unhappy country in the world even before the unceremonious departure of the occupation forces and subsequent Taliban takeover. The sanctity of sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of Afghanistan have once again been restored.
A separate homeland for Muslims of undivided India was the raisons d’être of Pakistan. Barbarism and brutality from both sides severely bruised the promise of partition. Security forces inevitably come to dominate government when vendetta and violence become the defining feature of a nation. Among the triumvirate (“Allah, Army and America”) that has controlled Pakistan since its founding, Allah is the “Oft-Forgiving and Most Merciful”. America swaggers around the globe as its “indispensable nation”. But with the general headquarters in Rawalpindi being self-declared guardians, Pakistan has remained wedded to the ideology of national security.
After the independence of Bangladesh, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was the first civilian to hold the post of Martial Law Administrator (1971-73) of truncated Pakistan.
Defeated and debased due to its excesses during the struggle for Bengali rights, the General Headquarters was on the back foot. Bhutto could have brought the military under civilian control with some effort. Rage and revenge turned him into an instrument of the defence establishment instead.
The Pakistan Army is in the eye of the storm for the first time as supporters of ousted premier Imran Khan chant the slogan of “Chowkidar chor hai” implying that the electoral mandate of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has been stolen. The charges against the military are sure to prove meaningless as long as Pakistanis remain obsessed with their collective insecurity. It seems that ordinary Pakistanis will remain content with just being ahead of India in something as innocuous as the happiness index.
The economic crisis in Sri Lanka is competing with the regime change in Pakistan for headlines in the international media that continues to be fully occupied with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the excesses of the military junta in Myanmar have been pushed into the background. The degeneration of what was once the largest democracy in the world into an ethnocracy needs the attention of the world.
Sinhalese were identified as the “majority with a minority complex” way back in the 1980s. That has also been more or less the case with Bamar ethnonational of Myanmar and the Khas-Arya supremacists of Nepal. Dormant in the Indian mainland since the killing of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948, the proto-fascistic disease with political jingoism, cultural chauvinism, ethnonational xenophobia and religious extremism as its symptoms have begun to engulf the second most populous country in the world.