True lies - Sana Bucha - Sunday, March 13, 2011

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For Muslims, the day of Friday is blessed. It is the juma prayers that bring many Muslims to the mosque, clad in their freshly washed and starched shalwar kameez. Mosques in Pakistan witness their highest attendance on Friday – a good thing for the maulvis who lead the khutbah. The more people present, the more the impact.

Last Friday, there was reason to celebrate. Pakistan test fired its Hataf 2 (Abdali) missile that has a range of 180 miles – another feather in the cap of the armed forces and its engineers. Pakistan is safer today courtesy the latest addition to our weapons arsenal. Maybe there’s hope for hundreds of people who gather in mosques on Friday, or collect to offer namaz-e-janaza. Perhaps our nuclear capability will also offer some security to the minorities – may the Hataf protect them from false fatwas issued by clerics ordaining their death.

A few hours later India tested its Prithvi-II missile and burst my bubble. For us, our enemy is still across the border – and aren’t we glad Pakistan tested its ballistic missile first. Our powerful army has the India problem sorted. Bless them. But isn’t that what we thought in 1965, in 1971 and in 1999? The greatest threat to Pakistan security is always being ‘sorted’. And if the cause is so noble, then why are we fed lies by both - our political leaders and our military establishment?

In 1965, we read in our textbooks that India attacked Pakistan in the middle of the night for no reason or because some of their generals wanted to have a non-vegetarian meal at the Lahore Gymkhana! But then I grew up and found out that we started this confrontation by picking a fight along, what we now refer to, as the LoC. India overreacted by starting a war on international borders. Why is it so hard for us to speak the complete truth? The truth is that Pakistan believes that it has a legitimate right on Kashmir and history is rife with war attempts we have made to take over what is already ours. Then why not accept it? Why exaggerate the Indian threat and undermine our own confrontational policies.

The lies carried on in 1971. We had West Pakistan believe that we were on a winning streak till the 15th of December. However, on the morning of the 16th we had lost East Pakistan. We were also told that the Pakistan Army was up against just a bunch of mukti bahinis – however, truth be told, we were actually fighting against the entire nation of East Pakistan. Ironically, we were fighting against those in ‘71 who had helped build what we stand for since ‘47.

Come 1979 and we started living another lie. For ten years, we were told that Pakistan was just a source of moral support for the mujahideen waging jihad against the Soviets. The truth: we were creating an enabling environment for them to grow in. We were responsible not just for their recruitment but also their training. We were fighting a war against a superpower for another superpower, which we now identify as the greatest evil. Yet, she was our only companion through most of these lies. With the Soviet War ending, we decided to morally engage ourselves in “our jugular vein” – Kashmir. Again our ‘moral support’ included training camps, militant groups and a few operations, Kargil being one of them.

The Kargil War, we were told was initiated and fought by the mujahideen. Again, we were only ‘morally’ supporting them. Yet, hundreds of our soldiers were martyred – and there were brave men like Lalak Jan Shaheed who sustained serious injuries as enemies pounded the area with heavy mortar shells. It is these foot soldiers that protect us from internal and external threat. While the Pakistan government continued to harp on its “successes” in Kargil, Pakistani media – over the years – discovered that not only was Kargil Pakistan’s misadventure, but also a diplomatic disaster. And the world was no longer sympathetic to the cause of religious militancy.

That’s the power of an independent media. The truth finds its way to the people, as it did in the case of Kargil. However, in ‘65 and ‘71 there was only state-controlled media and we were made to believe what now appears to be only the partial truth. This evasiveness has led our Establishment to control our thoughts and speech. We blame political forces for diplomatic disasters, forgetting that the only constant throughout our 63 years of existence has remained our military establishment.

We drone on endlessly about drone strikes, sometimes blaming the US, at other times demanding explanation from our political leaders. However, when Major General Ghayur Mehmood gave his personal assessment to the media in Miranshah, hardly anyone noticed. In what he termed his ‘personal assessment’ the General said that most of those killed in drone strikes were “hardcore Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants”. Some media gurus demanded the General be court martialled. Not a whimper from the ISPR. The establishment needs to come clean on whether the drone strikes are indeed helping get rid of militants or killing innocent civilians. They shouldn’t allow the drones to continue in either case. But at least we should know who is the driving force behind these pilotless drones? They should not be allowed to fan the flames of extremism in the garb of their hidden ‘interests’.

These lies have helped create a nation with strange characteristics. We would go to war with India in an instant, yet just one Indian entertainment channel has more viewership in Pakistan than all Pakistani channels combined. We will continue to see our people die in bomb blasts and wonder where these ‘terrorists’ came from. No one concedes to the fact that these terrorists were bred for our own “national interest” and “strategic depth”.

Years and years of concocted lies, artificial or make-believe truth has led our nation to suffer from a multiple personality disorder and paranoia. We smell a conspiracy at every corner; blame the ‘foreign hand’ for all evil. Friday is believed to be the day when the sun rises best and the day when prayers are surely answered. This Friday, say a little prayer for Pakistan: God give us the strength to fix it.

The writer works for Geo TV.

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