In his emotionally charged article in a recent issue of the New York Times, Pakistan'sPresident Asif Ali Zardari made a valid point. The world, he said, ?worked to exploit religion against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan by empowering the most fanatic extremists as an instrument of destruction of a Super Power?. The strategy, he added, worked but its legacy has been the creation of an ?extremist militia with its own dynamic?. President Zardari was being polite. When he said ?the world? was to be blamed, he surely meant ?the United States? which used the Taliban and other religious extremists to fight Soviet forces. The chicken have now come home to roost. Now the very same religious fanatics are out to destroy whatever little liberalism there was in Pakistan which, in Zardari'swords is suffering from ?the legacy of dictatorship, the fatigue of fanaticism, the dismemberments of civil society and the destruction of democratic infrastructure?.
Even as the year was closing in, nearly 2,000 Pakistanis had lost their lives to terrorism, including 1,400 civilians and 600 security personnel. Zardari says that there have been more than 600 terrorism-related incidents in Pakistan in 2008. Pakistan seems to be on the verge of collapse. More than anyone else, one must name the United States as the sole party guilty of laying down the groundwork of terrorism for its own vicarious purposes. The Pakistani government of the day led by Generals?including Yahya Khan?thought they were very clever in supporting the US because they were expecting economic and military goodies which Washington happily gave them.
The Pakistani Army with one eye on Kashmir was only too glad to extend its cooperation to Washington. It has now practically become an independent body running a parallel government in the country, accountable to no one but itself. In such a situation for all its apparent goodwill towards India, the government of the day is hamstrung. If it oversteps its limits and seeks peace with India, the likelihood is that the Army will sieze power again, as it did when Gen. Musharraf overthrew Nawaz Sharief. Musharraf undercut Sharief'sefforts to make peace with India by starting the Kargil War. Is Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani undercutting Zardari'sefforts to adopt a similar line? Do we have to believe that the Lashkar-e-Taiba is working independently of the Army?
The trouble with the Pakistan Army seems to be that it has reconciled itself with the fact that in war India is unbeatable. Having been thrice defeated and having to suffer, at the end of the 1962 war the humiliation of its forces being taken as prisoners-of-war, the Pakistan Army is straining at the leash. It is seething with revenge. Its original plan was to bleed India with a thousand cuts. India has survived. It is indestructible. It is Pakistan which is paying for its folly. The United States does not want to cut the Pakistan Army down to size because it has its uses along the Pak-Afghan border. Right now some 32,000 US troops are currently deployed in Afghanistan and 20,000 more troops are expected to be despatched in the weeks ahead. And over three quarters of the supplies to these forces have to transit through Pakistani territory and need to be adequately safeguarded.
For all the security provided, jehadi forces recently destroyed some 200 trucks belonging to the US-NATO forces, which only shows how tenuous the situation in Pakistan is. Washington just cannot afford to alienate the Pak Army and certainly the disaster would be greater if India draws Pakistan into a nasty war. India'soptions, under the circumstances, are limited. If two nations, Germany and France, sworn enemies for decades, can get together with other smaller states to form the European Union, surely Pakistan and India can similarly form a Union of their own to match their genius and long tradition? There will be no end to the benefits both will reap, through enhanced trade and commerce, mutual cooperation in many fields including health, education, agriculture, industry and all forms of enterprise. Both countries can drastically cut down on defence expenditure which presently constitute a large drain on their?especially Pakistan?s?limited resources. But importantly, both will gain in power and prestige.
Pakistan will not need constantly to play a subsidiary role vis-?-vis the United States or go begging to China. And Afghanistan will not then have to be a bone of contention between India and Pakistan. But this calls for a change in the mind-set of Pakistan'sleaders, especially those in the Armed Forces. Getting into a Confederation is a win-win situation. It can even enable settlement of the dispute between Afghanistan and Pakistan over the Durand Line.
The fact is, for all the disputes between Pakistan and India, the only solution is the formation of a Confederation, with each country free to pass its own laws and regulations but remains united in the spheres of defence and foreign policy. Boundary compromises would then become easier to make. And if the European Union can have a common currency, why shouldn'tPakistan and India have a common currency, the ubiquitous rupiah? And who knows at what point in time other nations like Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will also not eye membership of the Confederation with envious eyes? Sixty years is a long time to keep up mindless animosity. It is time for wisdom to take over from hatred for the good of all. May the watchwords then be: sarve janaha sukhino bhavanta. Miracles have happened in the past. One can happen it the immediate future just as well.