Chomsky's prescription for Paksitan

Daily: The Statesman
Date: 13.02.08

Noam Chomsky said in the beginning of February, 2008: Pakistan was in danger of
collapsing. Chomsky, an eminent left-wing intellectual and a Professor at Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, USA, also warned that Pakistan was the “paradigm example of a
failed state and has been for a long time.”

Under the sheer drift of patriotism, there is a vivid tendency in Pakistan to criticise these
sorts of statement. Some call this propensity an outcome of fear of insecurity of which
people have no solution. The state machinery spurs into action to refute and ridicule such
analysis. Nevertheless, the same offices pick (and, of course, choose) favourable
statements from across the globe in order to bolster their own (official) position.

Despite the independence tenure of almost sixty years, it is still difficult to pin point the flaws
existing in the policies or strategies meant to keep Pakistan secure. Anti-Pakistan is an
ultimate term hurled on the critics. Resultantly, the critics are either staying away or have
been languishing in the private jails of the ‘agencies’ which have already attained a status
of self-righteous bodies. Even the (former) Supreme Court was subordinated to them on
November 3, 2007, of course, in the ‘best interests’ of the country.

On the ground, on the other hand, the result of the former ‘strategic depth’ rhetoric is now a
millstone around the neck. It is easier now to criticise that ‘depth’ than when it was attained
and being celebrated: it has proven a ‘strategic blunder,’ given the ramifications of the
‘depth’ in the post-9/11 era. Now, the discussion is whether Mullah Umar is in Afghanistan
or Pakistan. Either of the countries is passing the buck to the other – to be in the good
books of the mentor, the USA.

Chomsky opined that the US was responsible for the growing unrest in Pakistan since it
backed the military dictatorships there. Further, according to him, under dictatorships – in
whatever polite forms these were – not only militancy spawned but democracy also suffered
a grave set back. Absence of democracy allowed Islamists to proliferate and watch their
interests in the state affairs. Resultantly, today Pakistan has been witnessing “extremely
dangerous form of Islamic radicalisation.”

It seems that his observation is quite apt, as in the post-9/11 time, the US extended support
to General Pervaiz Musharraf who in turn sought help of the religious-cum-political parties
in passing the 17th Constitutional Amendment to legitimize and perpetuate his rule. Hence
is the vicious cycle. An interesting bifurcation has happened, however, between these
religious-cum-political parties which are siding with Musharraf and which are opposed to
him. Consequently, today Maulana Fazal ur Rehman of the JUI, being pro-Musharraf, finds
it difficult to come out in the public to continue his election campaign. Instead, he prefers to
hide himself in a security capsule. One possibility may be what Musharraf said, “Extremists
have become more extremists,” but the second possibility may be that anti-military
sentiment has grown in the country exponentially. A major escalation in the militancy trend
encompassing both the possibilities has been witnessed in the aftermath of the Lal Mosque
massacre. It was a massacre because innocent children, both boys and girls, died as a
collateral damage, the damage which must have been averted. That one act shrunk space
for the military in society and left few to defend its position. Waving of the ‘V’ signs after
making the collateral damage at the Lal Mosque is devouring lives of the military men. More
than the militancy, the army is facing a threat of isolation in society. Attempts are underway
to reclaim the space, as can be witnessed through the latest decision of the Chief of Army
to return the army men from the civilian posts.

Chomsky advocated a kind of democracy in Pakistan having an Islamic tinge, as per the
aspirations of the Pakistanis. His basic premise was that if India could sustain itself despite
well-embedded inter-ethnic differences, Pakistan could also do the same. For Pakistan, he
proposed flavour of religion in democracy to keep the religious thirst of the Pakistanis
satiated. In this way, he did not propose a liberal form of democracy but a democracy
meeting the local needs. Secondly, in so proposing, he might have considered democracy
a balancing force to the religious extremism.

It seems that his advice is quite late but better than never. Today, the Pakistanis are not
confident whether they are fit for democracy or not. So, the problem is not just whether
democracy suits them, but also the vice versa. Message of November 3, 2007, was loud
and clear that the Pakistanis should forget their fundamental rights and overlook inversion
of the Constitution if they are to enjoy democracy, the one which is allowed to flourish in
Pakistan. This clearly shows where the problem lies: whether in the genes of the Pakistanis
or in the benefaction formula. That is why; perhaps, Chomsky asserted in a bleak tone that
he was “sceptical about a democratic system ever taking roots in Pakistan though the
people of Pakistan desired it.”

Chomsky did not just go on criticising but delivered a formula: if Pakistan wants to enjoy a
functioning democracy, “it has to disentangle itself from the domination of the Untied
States.” According to him, this disengagement will not only put to rest the infiltration of
instability pouring down from the western half of the country but also allow the people to
determine effective policy (through political and social arrangements called representative
democracy) that favours them.

Nonetheless, it seems that the era of absence of representative democracy in Pakistan is
far from over: on February 10, 2008, in Munich, Germany, at an international security
conference, the US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has urged Pakistan to undertake an
anti-militancy sweep in its western half. For Pakistan, time repay $ 10 billion has arrived.
Elections are due in the US. Pakistan has to act now. Consequently, the dream of a
functioning democracy has to postpone. In the meantime, if the Pakistanis go despondent
of democracy, they have to being left with no choice, the fait accompli. They are just pawns
in the great game of survival

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