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Failures of appeasement

July 26, 2011

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Everyone wants to catch a view. These children look out from their high vantage point, to see the compound of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan. – Dawn File Photo

Neville Chamberlain, after his infamous Munich appeasement of Hitler on Sept 30, 1938, calmed the crowds in Downing Street that evening with the soothing words, “ I believe it is peace for our time...Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.”

In the wee hours of May 14, 2010, our parliament also passed a resolution which caressed a drowsy nation into deep slumber. The parliament denounced aggression in impressive terms. But which aggression? Aggression which has killed 35,000 Pakistanis? No. Rather it was the American aggression which killed an Arab national, al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, who was at war with Pakistan. They tried to appease bin Laden's camp.

We resolved that violation of sovereignty shall not be tolerated ...but only if the violator is USA. We are not bothered about violators including the Arabs, Afghans, and Egyptians. The military is being grilled, not because the world’s most wanted man lived undetected in a garrison town, rather for its failure to protect his life.

A day earlier, the Taliban had killed 80 people in Charsadda but no parliamentarian thought it was necessary to raise hands even for fateha if not in fury. A day after, Kharian was attacked. The Taliban are not satisfied with our anti-US resolution. The appeasement did not work.

The members of parliament were extra cautious and avoided even a meek or implicit reference to suicide attacks in Pakistan. It was like Imran Khan's dharna which focused exclusively on drone attacks and never took into account the suicide bombings that have been wreaking havoc.

However, we must realise that appeasement never works. We don't need to dig hard into the rubble of fallen nations. The show-case of our own history displays countless lack luster models of appeasement failure.

Liaquat Ali Khan took credit for the Objectives Resolution and 22 Points of Ulema, thus helping the cause of religious forces. Sir Zafar Ullah was the chief proponent of the Objectives Resolution and led in steering the resolution in face of opposition from non-Muslims. However, four years later he found himself at the receiving end for his beliefs.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto is the most tragic example. He passed the 2nd Amendment, Islam was declared as a state religion, prohibited drinking. But on the road to gallows, he found himself hooted down by all those he had been trying to appease.

Benazir Bhutto prided on the fact that the Taliban were created under her premiership. Her interior minister took a caravan of trucks to Jalalabad. But a decade later these Talibs denounced her as the most dangerous threat to Islam and hundreds were vying with each other to enter paradise with the plume reddened in blood of Benazir.

Despite imposing dupatta on PTV, blasphemy law and shariat bills, the Sharif brothers also survived by their skin when a LJ remote control device went off prematurely. Shabaz very rightly wondered a few months back as to why Punjab was not being spared. His statement reminded one of the USSR in 1941.After WW2 broke out, Stalin tried appeasement like Britain and France and failed like them .When Germany invaded Russia ,the beleaguered German ambassador remarked, “What have we done to deserve it?”

Sheikh Rasheed’s avowed patronising of Kashmir training camps did not help him when the wrath of militants befell him. Though providence leased him a new life, yet his awami style of politics has been buried eternally as he can't even step out of home and so his political resurrection will be a miracle.

The list of appeasement failures is interminably long. The history of militancy and regime response in other Islamic countries is a guide .The militants who took over the Holy Kaaba in 1979 had only a few months earlier had been arrested on suspicions of propagating fanaticism but were released on pressure of Ulema Council. Also, few people in Pakistan realise that Anwar Sadaat of Egypt pursued a benevolent policy towards the Muslim Brotherhood and unlike his predecessor Nasser was known for his religious proclivities. He was killed by those who benefited by his policies.

The appeasement policy suffers from two basic flaws. One, that it is based on fear. Fear motivates appeasement. Those who appease do it in the hope that the aggressor will not turn against them. But aggressors don't suffer from noble human code of chivalry where good gestures are reciprocated in the same pattern. They in fact take a sadistic pleasure out of those who tremble which make the weaklings submit before them .They take white flags as a proof of the target's weakness and therefore the appeasers are never spared.

Secondly, the appeasers naively try to avoid a clash. But that clash is delayed but not avoided. In fact, in military terms the advantage of surprise goes to aggressor. The war does come, but timing is selected by the appeaser.

There are two ways in which the warring camps interact. They negotiate or fight. One of these two means may be tried. But we have to accept that we are in state of war not with America but our home-grown religious fanatics. With dozens being killed in our cities everyday, we cannot indefinitely look the other way across the Atlantic. One day undoubtedly we’ll admit that we are in war within Pakistan. Hopefully it is not too late by then. The arrows of our venom may not travel across the Atlantic but in the process, the mighty Indus is getting choked with blood.