In the current crisis why the world believes India but not Pakistan? The short answer is because it views India as a democracy and Pakistan a theocracy. This view stays constant no matter whether the government here is elected or military. It is a failure not just of diplomacy but of the national way of life itself.
The intentions of Pakistan, whether it is human rights, economic development, nuclear capability or the people's right of self-determination in Kashmir, remain suspect and its standpoint suffers just because in all these activities the name of religion is invoked but without its gentle or moral touch.
The disability that the Constitution imposes on some classes of citizens on grounds of religion or the penal laws like the one which provides for stoning to death of an adulteress (who, in fact, may be a victim of rape), or the judicial verdicts like the one which has outlawed the modern banking system create an impression worldwide that Pakistan's laws and institutions are both archaic and harsh. Ironically, these innovations in the system hurt many but hardly benefit any. The people at large remain unaffected or unconcerned.
One sometimes wonders how the faith of the people would have come to harm if Justice Cornelius were to be made the president of the broken country in its reconstruction years instead of Chaudhry Fazal Elahi, and again, in the more recent times, the indignity and upheaval the people and the country would have been spared had Nawaz Sharif chosen Dorab Patel instead of Rafiq Tarar as the president, and the image of the country as well as of Islam would have shone brighter.
Likewise, the raped woman, perhaps, will never die the cruel way the court has ruled nor the banking will be abolished but the shame of one and uncertainty of the other will stick on the country for all times.
India has its more numerous fanatics and cults deadlier than Pakistan's and they were never represented in a government more than they are now in Vajpayee's coalition. Yet the world listens to India for it is a democracy in which the laws and public policy make no distinction between one citizen and another on grounds of religion. In practice the discrimination against the minorities in secular India may be severer than in Islamic Pakistan but the world judges the two countries by the fact that a Muslim or a Dalit can be, and has been, the president of India but a Hindu or a Christian simply cannot be in Pakistan.
The complexion of its laws and policies has cost Pakistan dear in its relations with India. Nowhere has this cost been greater than in the context of Kashmir and never fraught with greater danger to the existence of the country than at present. It has also brought the credibility of Pakistan in world power circles at an all-time low.
Ignoring President Musharraf's categorical statement that there is no infiltration across the Line of Control in Kashmir nor is Pakistan allowing the use of its soil for terrorism, the visiting ministers and UN officials continue to condemn Pakistan for "cross-border terrorism" without mentioning even in passing the revolt of the people against Indian repression in which, by Indian admission, thirty thousand and, by independent accounts, twice as many Kashmiris have lost their lives. Against that, the troops and the police killed by the Mujahideen, or terrorists, even by the Indian accounts, are fewer than five thousand. Thus, even with the alleged cross-border support, it is an uneven contest and its economic misery is borne by the people alone.
Chris Patten, EU's commissioner for foreign relations, sounded almost like a spokesman of the Indian government when he said that the patience of India was at a breaking point. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw spoke no less when he said that Britain firmly stood behind India against cross-border terrorism even if it were labelled freedom-fighting. The Russian backing for India, as always, is unqualified. The refrain of the statements of other world leaders may be less partisan but all of them, Kofi Anan included, have demanded of President Musharraf to match his words with action. Even President Bush in whose war on terrorism Pakistan is a key player had to warn Musharraf to stop raids rather than fire missiles. The silence of the Muslim countries is deafening
All these statements came after their authors had heard Pakistan's viewpoint first-hand. Whatever the ultimate outcome, Pakistan has already lost the battle of reasoning and propaganda. The past denials of its participation in the Afghan conflict and in Kashmir freedom movement, when it had become common knowledge, had robbed the country of all credibility. In order to restore international confidence in its commitments as also for its own survival and stability, it must now change the strategy and posture both.
In the current state of world opinion Pakistan cannot win the war nor the heart of the Kashmiris. Whether it is the Indians or Pakistanis who fire across the Line of Control only the Muslims get killed and displaced. In the desperation of their unending agony, they might reconcile to live under Indian domination rather than continue to fight for accession to Pakistan.The world press, like the world leaders, also holds Pakistan's aggressive intervention in Kashmir responsible for bringing the two countries to the brink of war. A prominent exception is The Economist which finds it wrong to heap all the blame at Pakistan's door. "The encouragement of Pakistan's security apparatus", the paper said in its last issue, "is only one of the things that make the jihadis such an intractable problem. Another is the way in which mainly Hindu India has treated mainly Muslim Kashmir since independence. The record of abuses committed by the hundreds of thousands of troops stationed there is a blot on the reputation of the world's largest democracy. ...In Pakistani eyes, arming the jihadis is the only available response to an India that refuses to compromise."
With this fair assessment, The Economist poses a question: "Could the general (Musharraf) rein in the militants even if he wanted to?" An answer to it may be found in the general surrendering to the demand of his not-so-militant an audience on the birth anniversary of the holy Prophet to keep the voting lists of the minorities apart from the Muslims even though now they have to vote jointly.
When the general has driven the main body of the politicians out of public life and some into exile, he has to keep the maulanas - mild or militant - on his side. He can rein them in if he doesn't want to use them. So could have his predecessors. Fundamentalism has thrived on Pakistan's power tussle, and not on the support of its people.
Published in Pakistan Daily Dawn, dated June 02, 2002