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Smokers’ Corner: Pulp fantasies

Published Apr 28, 2013 09:42am


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A recent editorial in Dawn appropriately wondered about this year’s speech by COAS General Parvez Kayani at the annual passing out parade at the Pakistan Military Academy.

The moment contents of his speech became news, some conservative media personnel and columnists could be seen puffing their chests with happy hot air and excitedly wagging their fingers at their more liberal counterparts, reminding them how the COAS had gone on to declare that Pakistan was made in the name of Islam and that ‘no one can take Islam out of Pakistan’.

Much has been written and discussed about exactly what constitutes this ‘ideology’. Liberal scholars, intellectuals, historians and those on the left have for long argued that things like the ‘Pakistan Ideology’ are post-Jinnah concoctions molded by conservative historians, religious parties and the military-establishment to maintain and sustain their undemocratic influence over a diverse ethnic and sectarian polity.

Those on the right, of course, disagree. They continue to insist that Pakistan’s founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, used the Pakistan Movement as a roadmap to a destination where Muslims of different languages, cultures and sectarian persuasions would gel together as a monolithic state and nation and be ruled by the dictates of the Quran and the Sunnah.

This has not happened. And it can’t. It’s a fairy tale scenario peddled as history and an ideology that in spite of creating fissure after fissure between sects, ethnicities and between the military-establishment and political parties, is still being unabashedly flaunted.

So much so, that the fissures that it has caused have now gradually created an extreme expression of madness that uses terror and bloodshed to enact a so-called Islamic State.

But more pressing should be the concern about the state of mind of the soldiers who are on the frontlines of a vicious battle against those expressing this extremism in the most brutal manner.

In his last year’s speech at the PMA, the COAS clearly emphasised that the existential threat to Pakistan was largely internal. This year, however, it became external again. Where do such sudden shifts leave the soldiers?

A friend of mine (a former journalist and now a filmmaker) once told me a revealing little tale. To film a documentary, he had travelled up north into a tense battle zone where the Pakistan Army was fighting a bloody war against the extremists. This was during the military operation in Swat in 2009.

There he met a soldier who startled him by saying: “Sir, since you seem to be an educated man and someone I can trust, let me tell you that all these men (extremists) are our own people”.

He then added: “We are told so many things about whom we are fighting. But we know who these people are. These are the people we have known for years, but now they have turned against us”.

The soldier was not saying anything new. Because barring the usual set of so-called patriots who are ever-willing to lie through their teeth just because they believe that certain fibs serve the country’s interests, by now most Pakistanis (at least outside the Punjab) know that the vicious enemy, the people of Pakistan and its army are up against are very much a product of our own naive follies and misplaced arrogance.

Nevertheless, when one hears this coming from a soldier on the frontlines, one is not sure how to react.

Whether one should rejoice or should we see this as a warning?

The debacles faced by the US army in Vietnam and by the Soviet forces in Afghanistan should be taken as examples to be learnt from.

It is easier to raise an army on certain myths about one’s foreign enemies and on an exaggerated sense of patriotism. But the post-World War II scenario in this regard is studded with examples in which, in a long drawn-out armed conflict, there does come a time when armies facing guerrilla warfare begin to lose touch with all the ideological hoopla that they were fed during training.

There are numerous accounts of how whole battalions of American marines and Soviet fighters ended up rebelling against their own superiors because after facing bloodshed and madness on the battlefield they completely lost contact with what they were told by their politicians and generals. All that indoctrination began to melt away and they found themselves awkwardly exposed to a set of truths that they were conditioned to actually repress.

These are the kind of truths that a soldier, especially if he is being readied to take on a ruthless bunch of insurgents, should be briefed about up front.

As one saw in Vietnam and Afghanistan, all that mythical talk about how the soldiers were fighting for a higher cause simply began to melt away and the soldiers were not only left stranded with a rude reality, but they had no clue how to address it. It is a bit unsettling to know that the Pakistan army is preparing its men for the conflict against armed extremists by using rhetoric it originally devised for a possible war against an external enemy.

But it is their own countrymen that the soldiers are facing on the battlefield and/or legions of fanatics who believe that they are the ones serving God, even if that means blowing up women and children.

The enemy in this context is not the saffron-clad battalions on mechanical elephants fitted with nuclear warheads. The enemy is very much from amongst us.

Telling the soldiers the whole truth is better. This should mean organising a re-orientation program with a view to ready them to fight an enemy that is not dropping from the sky or rolling in from across the border, but emerging from our very own mountains and cities. The threat remains very much internal, dear General.


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Comments (82) Closed

Tariq A Apr 28, 2013 07:39pm
Under the capacity of being a concerned and patriotic citizen of Pakistan.
AHA Apr 28, 2013 12:28pm
Excellent analysis, with a very sound conclusion. A true masterpiece.
U Gupta Apr 28, 2013 12:32pm
We don't understand why COAS never retires in Pakistan. If any democratically elected Govt could muster courage to retire COAS as per service rules, all problems will vanish.
AHA Apr 28, 2013 12:35pm
I do not think Akbar is drawing parallels between the current-day Pakistan and the 1,400 year old Madina, but rather showing how different the two situations are.
Ishaq Apr 28, 2013 08:11am
Violence is coming from these thugs.
Capt. Taranis [Ret] Apr 28, 2013 01:38pm
"The threat remains very much internal, dear General." . Will better appreciate NFP's above conclusion if he could please disclose his military credentials, war college training, battlefield strategy and counter-insurgency experience. Thank you dear sir, in anticipation.
aabdul Apr 28, 2013 07:27pm
Excellent by what standards? Perhaps great killing machines who are highly disciplined to kill? Such standards are now outdated. Stop thinking like a Roman general, the world has changed.
sri1ram Apr 28, 2013 08:19pm
Shhhh. The great leader can do no wrong. He was absolutely brilliant in whatever he did. He was the very epitome of greatness. He made this nation with his own bare hands and towering words. His every action was selfless and for the good of his people. He was the soul of integrity and honesty. He is beyond reproach forever and ever. After all, he was the great leader.
Irrfaan Akhtaar Apr 28, 2013 09:01pm
No wonder pakistanis could not understand as simple a thing as this
Irrfaan Akhtaar Apr 28, 2013 08:11am
religious ideologies is a virus it makes a vast swathe of populations irrational in their outlook, only way out is investing more time on scientific verification rather relying religious dogmas.
Amjad Wyne Apr 28, 2013 05:59pm
The problem is not Islam, the problem is fanaticism in the name of Islam and that is a different story.
zeerak Apr 28, 2013 08:10am
Akbar saab, all these parallels between a large modern state with 180 million people to a small religious community in the 7th century are erroneous.
critical_thinker Apr 28, 2013 12:05pm
vvd is well intended but misguided. Seems like a non-Pakistani from his word "your policies". So my dear fellow Indian, I assume, if policy changes are so easy as you mentioned in the last line, why isn't "your" India yet a developed country? I understand this could be a diversion, but... this free advice not appreciated.
Ishaq Apr 28, 2013 08:08am
but these thugs made our society that way.
Guest63 Apr 28, 2013 08:08am
Dear A.K.Lal, He he is ensuring that all future top brass must get their toast , not only buttered but also have enough marmalade/ honey to taste it much more ....
zeerak Apr 28, 2013 08:06am
Quite an about-face from the previous PMA face. They are losing it.
zeerak Apr 28, 2013 08:05am
Agreed. But I wish it was that easy VVD. Appreciate the advise though.
Ishaq Apr 28, 2013 08:00am
mad people could never understand it.
Rahim Apr 28, 2013 04:06pm
Maybe NFP hasn't got the same military experience as you have but you do not have his journalistic experience. So what is your excuse?
ahmad butt Apr 28, 2013 11:07am
NFP, another great article. But army is final authority on shaping our politics so like Imran Khan answers to a few questions, leave this delivery . I remember me and a few peers in school asking questions to our Pakistan Studies teacher concerning how history has shaped us today and what went in the past, and he didnt openly reply to the conspiracy theories, but he did answer us in a few questions for us to research further., and as an avid reader of your articles have some pieces to the puzzle. However, we are yet to know a lot that has been kept oblivious to the masses,
meow Apr 28, 2013 03:44pm
As soon as the country acknowledge that they do not have global contract to protect Islam but education and jobs are equally important.. the problems become smaller & people will live a better life.. army may have a totally different agenda and has no relationship with the common man's needs
vvd Apr 28, 2013 07:29am
A complete overhaul is the need of the hour.Since your current policies have not worked & flopped ,why not try something different for a change.Confine military to the barracks,change foreign policies ,economic policies & give some time for these policies to bear fruit.
G.A. Apr 28, 2013 12:22pm
The Pakistan military academies, especially the Command and Staff College in Quetta, are supposedly amongst the best institutions in the world. What on earth do they teach over there if our generals still can't get anything right???
Murthy Apr 28, 2013 11:01am
A country which has not settled down as democracy and is dilly dallying still with an ideology and a constitution and takes pride in merely having had an elected civilian govt complete its full term(after more than six decades of independence), can no longer wait to do some serious introspection.
R Singh Apr 28, 2013 06:12pm
I don't think hostility is the answer to curiosity. You obviously don't have a clue. Anyone else?
Khan Apr 28, 2013 11:30am
Happy to see an unbiased article from NFP. I think we face problems from within as well as outside. On one hand we have Terrorists outfits doing brutal and unislmaic things in the name of Islam and on the other hand we have foreign agents and spies working here, well people like Davis and Singhs are not exactly here on charity missions you know.
A. G. Khan Apr 28, 2013 01:42pm
Perhaps they should ask NFP to teach them.
akbar Apr 28, 2013 01:38pm
My point is when our Arm says they are protecting Islam, they are misleading people of Pakistan. Islam is in no danger and Pakistan Army might have done wonders for colonial masters but have no idea how to serve Islam. When they claim defending physical and ideological borders of pk , they are degrading other 179.5 million fellow citizens to an inferior status of unable to defend themselves . Country like Pakistan spend huge amount on defence and look what shape the country is. Even the discussion of like we are having, one needs to have some knowledge of history and comprehension of how Islam elvated the spirit of desert tribal society to become a leading light for otherwise decayed civilizations at that time. In modern stat what do you have in Pakistan a priviledged class which makes a mullah/millitary alliance to keep the extreme inequality of citizenary (in wealth, access to power)in place.
Nabia Ambreen Apr 28, 2013 01:27pm
How is that your business? Your concern? Does he scare you?
aabdul Apr 28, 2013 07:34pm
It is good to note that you have retired; otherwise, it would be great disservice to Pakistan.
aabdul Apr 28, 2013 07:24pm
You don't need to be a military general to know where the threat is coming from. The difference between you and Mr. Paracha is that one of you has blinders and the other does not; we all know whose eyes are completely covered by sand. Excellent analysis, Mr. Paracha!
MAVREK Apr 28, 2013 07:23am
The General by using "religion" in his speech to make a point, has definitely towed the line of the politicians who indulge in similar exercise.
Dr Khan Apr 28, 2013 02:27pm
COAS is playing to the gallery. He knows better that majority of Pakistanis have conservative and extremist mindset. As his retirement is approaching he is preparing himself for tv talk shows etc. COAS is saying what majority of us want to listen...............denial.
RSS Apr 28, 2013 01:58pm
Not as much as you Hindus.
Major(Ret) G.R. Khan Apr 28, 2013 01:51pm
War has been declared on Pakistan by powerful nations. It is NOT business as usual. What makes you conclude that ?
RSS Apr 28, 2013 01:54pm
You made your society that way.
Q&A Apr 28, 2013 01:45pm
What are your religious and scientific credentials that qualify you to recommend that ?
Nabila Apr 28, 2013 07:01pm
Get a hold of yourself. You have no idea what you are talking about.
Akram Khan Apr 28, 2013 06:56pm
Why, and in what capacity is he then giving military advice and battlefield recommendations to the Commanding General, Pakistan's COAS?
Adnan Apr 28, 2013 05:13pm
Real estate :)
Science101 Apr 28, 2013 03:34pm
Good observation. Much of this pseudo science and false dogma going around by intellectual nonentities, wannabes. Everyone from across the border poses as an expert on something or the other, know it all on everything.
true pakistani Apr 28, 2013 03:36pm
why our great leader used the name of islam to decieve people at that time. why he did not explain his own view of islamic state at the time of partition or at the time when he was exploiting the name of islam to gather more people for his cause.In my view point Jinnah had seeded our problems and now we are enjoying the fruits
RSS Apr 28, 2013 03:36pm
His interest seems to be in confining Pak Military to barracks.
abbastoronto Apr 28, 2013 03:06pm
Greetings from Montreal Pakistan was made for the Muslims. It was not made in the name of Islam. And even if it was, whose Islam? Shia, Sunni, Barelvi, Deobandi, Sufi, Wahabbi, Jafri, Hanafi, Maliki, Shafai, Hanabali, Qadiani or Mohammedan/Quanic? Muslims are a reality, Islam today is a figment of imagination. Pakistanis (and Muslims in general) have to face their past that after our Prophet A.S. Muslims split into two political factions. One group, the Medinan Majority, wanted to continue Mohammedan practice of justice (Adl, a word on every page of Quran, and Adil an attribute of Allah) minded secular Republic with live and let live constitution of "Covenant of Medina", a secular document negotiated between the Aws, Khazraj, infidels, and yehud with rights of all. The other group wanted Law and Order theocratic Democracy (believing in
Capt C M Khan Apr 28, 2013 02:57pm
@Major Sir, If war has been declared on us then why are we wasting time in these SELECTIONS/ELECTIONS. Why cannot I see all politicians in the same room denouncing it like they did against Qadri and giving the Army support by sending volunteers to fight against TT/LEJ? Why cannot I see the PATRIOTIC SONGS on TV/Radio like in 1971/1965? When will I see them when five hundred thousand of us are butchered instead of fifty thousand???
Muhammad Omer Khan Apr 28, 2013 02:56pm
i guess none, he's just riding the wave and taking the matter beyond its original boundaries. A very typical sort of behavior in pseudo liberal people.
a.k.lal Apr 28, 2013 04:20am
the clever general is only trying to see that his toast remains heavily buttered.
Mother Apr 28, 2013 04:31am
Thank you Mr Paracha, for laying bare the nasty truth. We mothers are sick and tired of seeing our sons used as fodder by the high command to wage their ideological battles. Seriously sick dear General.
ahmed41 Apr 28, 2013 05:28am
"--Telling the soldiers the whole truth is better. This should mean organising a re-orientation program with a view to ready them to fight an enemy that is not dropping from the sky or rolling in from across the border, but emerging from our very own mountains and cities. The threat remains very much internal, ----" If this is the recommendation, then one should add : **It is not easy to fight and kill ones own people **. Good Luck in this campaign !! ~~~~~better to try to look for a non-violent real solution. Violence breeds counter-violence. The area is already violence prone .
Sh Apr 28, 2013 06:29pm
R Singh Apr 28, 2013 06:35pm
The fact is military is for war and not politics.And even Indians want Pakistan to be stable, its good for everyone.
umer Apr 28, 2013 05:44am
Sir, you are writing as if the army really considers Pakistani extremists as enemies.The generals would like to tell the rank and file that most of the extremists are 'true muslims' and only handful of them are actually a threat to the army. Alas! if things were that simple.
sohaib ahmed Apr 28, 2013 06:27pm
I appreciate the keenness of your observation on the Generals speech, and share the same thoughts as yours, but having said that i think we should not take this speech as a policy statement or a plan in General's head. We all know that all these are nothing but figurative speeches filled with rhetoric just to cater for the ceremony at hand. It neither has any effect on the cadets nor at the Generals mind or the policy of armed forces.
pathanoo Apr 28, 2013 06:23pm
Army Chief's job is to lead the army and defend the nation from external threats. Nothing more. Where does he come from making political and religious statements.
Ali S Apr 28, 2013 06:08am
The main problem is how to make such a statement as an army head, it requires a gradual change of mentality as a society to isolate the extremists within, and right now that's not possible thanks to how much implicit support they have within certain very mainstream institutions of society - the media, clergy and even businessmen consider politicians a bigger threat than these nutjobs. Right now, if an army head were to tell a batch of soldiers what you suggested, they'd understand it as him saying "we're paying you to kill and murder your own people". The average soldier is very much a common man, and they'd leave in droves (or possibly even rebel and throw over the command) to such an outrageous statement as someone whose main purpose (and motivation for being in the army in the first place) is to protect his countrymen. Society needs to change its mentality as a whole and until then it's part and parcel of the enemy you're describing.
caz Apr 28, 2013 06:32am
Pakistan's perennial existential crises cannot be resolved by using islam ( by the bucketful).
akbar Apr 28, 2013 06:40am
Mr. Paracha, to me problem with army is at a different level. All the writers in favour of Army being guardian of Islamic idealogy of Pakistan, want Pakistan modelled on welfare islamic city state of Madina (Yattrib). Now if you look at that model, there was no standing army and no permanant Army chief. After the first Ghazwa (Jang-e Badr) the prisoners of war from Quresh were told (the literate ones) to teach 10 people how to read and write and win the freedom. They could come back and fight the muslims another day. That was the time when Islam was in most peril and Quresh were hellbent to wipe it off the face of earth. Even when Muslims fought Romans or Persians, who had army structured like ones these days, they never adopted that model. Now with billion strong muslims and message being out there, each Muslim majority population country has 100s of thousands of standing Armies and hardly any universities of repute or emphasis on education. To me that is the real fraud and scandal that needs to be highlighted.
peace Apr 28, 2013 06:41am
One can justify a lie to discard another lie. Only honest and truthful insight and propagation will do.
Capt C M Khan Apr 28, 2013 06:47am
I am speechless at this empathy by the General, the Right wing politicians, the business middle class that now after the brutal deaths of over 50,000 innocent Pakistani men,women,children, blowing up of 800 schools,reducing the game of cricket to a third rate domestic completion, NO WONDER the extremists have exploded 12 bombs in the past 24 hrs.If this happened in India, US or China or any other country the whole country would have stopped working and gone on WAR, but in Pakistan/Nepal/Somalia/Nigeria/Mali it is BUSINESS AS USUAL.Sad.
SBB Apr 28, 2013 06:17pm
I did not know that Military training and credentials are required to have an opinion on war.
Nony Apr 28, 2013 06:57am
I think these all facts are very much known and even experimented by our Generals, but some people and institutions find their survival in the use of religion. Better we bring in some strict laws and strong civilian institutions to handle these issues rather than trying to advise our Generals what to do.
a.a.khan Apr 28, 2013 08:34am
Yes Sir, reading your article and comments I have realised that this nation and its people are sick of these sick ideolegy that is forced down on us.We want peace and progress to practice our religeon as we have done for centuries and a happy prosperious nation where life is valued and merit practised.
TrollyMcTrollton Apr 28, 2013 04:57pm
Are they? Doubtlessly a exact copy is impossible, as the conditions would never be the same. However, there is no shortage of countries without professional armies, some with very tense geopolitical situations. Examples include Costa Rica, Switzerland, Austria, and so forth. Invariably, they are better off than countries with large armies. They large depend upon citizen soldiers. Also, there is no shortage of welfare states spending on health and education are primary priorities.
Bakhtawer BIlal Apr 28, 2013 11:42pm
Thank You M Khan. Your answer is to the point and very logical. I wish people respond with substance, instead of hollow emotions.
saleem Apr 28, 2013 11:44pm
as Beyghairat brigade rightly pointed, their strategic depth has created a deep well behind and a ditch up ahead
Mohammad .Riaz Apr 28, 2013 11:56pm
The Pakistani Army consists of Pakistani people, not robots, and just like any Pakistani it is the duty of the Army to defend Pakistan from any threat whether external, Internal or anything.
sri1ram Apr 29, 2013 12:03am
As an expressive concerned citizen whose rights have been repeatedly trampled by well-meaning but ultimately harmful dictatorships. I am amazed at how people of the pure land do not even now consider the current situation of wanton mayhem and suicide bombings squarely as a result of army policies. Political corruption by civilians hurts for a short time, but constitutional corruption by unwanted dictators is a long-term assault on the nation and its hapless citizens.
Tahir Alam Apr 29, 2013 12:26am
Your question shows lack of knowledge. COAS retire according to the rules. Current one has got extention due to political reasons but he will get retired soon as per rules.
LOL Apr 29, 2013 01:14am
An ad hominem is no argument.
Visucius A. Apr 29, 2013 01:21am
Pakistan's military commander has all the right to speak to his cadets and officers as he thinks fit. Far greater a right than foreigners to tell him what he needs to say or do.
Nasir Apr 29, 2013 01:36am
I would like to withdraw Neanderthal comments from above note of mine.
Nasir Apr 29, 2013 01:42am
But this is a crucial delivery last of the over you need a run, can't be left.
Nasir Apr 29, 2013 01:45am
But what is the reason of your disagreement to his statement???
Rao Apr 29, 2013 01:59pm
Thats what Pak Army doesn't want to happen....
numbersnumbers Apr 29, 2013 01:57am
My dear Captain, please tell US whether INTERNAL or EXTERNAL forces resulted in the deaths of some 30,000 PLUS Pakistani citizens over the last decade or so??? Just checking to see if your military qualifications give you a hint!
Javed Apr 29, 2013 02:02am
Gentlemen: Please be realistic..we have seen military credentials in '65 & '71; NFP analysis makes sense in today's Pakistan....why can't you accept that?
numbersnumbers Apr 29, 2013 02:04am
Dear Major, you say that "war has been declared on Pakistan by powerful nations" but then your keyboard ran out of ink (conveniently) before you could IDENTIFY THOSE NATIONS!!!! Please load a new ink cartridge and tell us WHO!!!
Iftikhar Ahmed Apr 29, 2013 02:22am
Currently I am based in Vietnam and was shocked to know that during the war in Vietnam an extended family shared power on both sides. Today, I happen to deal with that family as a business partner and both sides are making the best of what Vietnam has to offer. This tells me that ideology only persists temporarily and within decades people move on and ultimately surrender to economic well being rather than dwell on the futility of the past ideologies. Ordinary people make sacrifices but at the end they loose either way while the preachers of ideology benefit from their ignorance. As far as Pakistan is concerned, it was proposed as a state for the people of Islamic faith but Nehru rejected the idea and Jinnah had no choice but to pick up the pieces and move on with Pakistan, not as a state but a separate country. There was no consideration beyond that no matter how many intellectual arguments are made in favor or against this reality. Iftikhar, Saigon (Hochiminh City), Vietnam
ram Apr 29, 2013 04:22am
Question every pakistani should ask themselves Why Islam needs to be protected in a country where everyone is a Muslim and why Army is so worried about protecting Islam If Army distance itself from religion in Pakistan very soon shias and sunnis will get along well and soon Christians and hindus may join too, this will clearly put Pakistan army out of business
PakElan Apr 29, 2013 05:33pm
Well said. Every Tom, Guptha, and Singh are standing up for the author who has no military education or experience, against the COAS who has had a lifetime of both.
ToutatisCeltic Apr 29, 2013 05:04pm
Obviously...! A knowledge base is essential to rational opinion. Do you think medical credentials and training is required for an opinion, or a second opinion on illness and disease?
Waqas Apr 29, 2013 07:27pm
All you need is common sense and an open mind,