Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Of Balochistan, Civil Wars, and Accountable Governments

There's a article on the Internet by an academic at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, titled "Should Pakistan Be Broken Up?" and dated January 1, 2002. You can read it directly (google it if the link here doesn't work) or go to www.saveindus.org and follow the link from there.

Every once in a while, or should I say at least once in the life cycle of each mailing list related to Pakistan, this piece comes up and is discussed. This happened recently on a list I am on. Of course, the discussion of that list took an arc that is now often very familiar: some took the position that it was anti-Pakistan; others discussed the greviances of various groups that were mentioned in the article--or not; inevitably the Civil War came up. And then one person chimed in with the "why are we discussing this; why don't we discuss real issues?" I think the words "negative attitude" came up, too."

Here's part of what I quoted in reply.

"Closing one's eyes to unpleasant truths OR lies that are circulating out there is not good for anybody--whether you want to defend your country or whether you want to fight injustices that you think are being or have been done.

I just pray that more of us would try to understand what grievances some of our fellow countryfolk have, so we can discuss them, address them, and either dispel them as not necessary or remedy them, if they are based on real situations. Outsiders being able to divide a nation, a group, or a community only works when they can use/exploit people within who have grievances that are not being addressed. That's how Bangladesh was born. That's why we had another civil war we seldom talk about in the 70s in Balochistan. And, if I may say so, that's how Pakistan itself was born: because--justifiably or not--the community felt they would not be able get a fair shake in a united South Asian state after the British left.

I consider myself a very patriotic Pakistani and a believing Muslim, but as far as I am concerned, the interests or continued existence of a given country/nation-state/geo-political entity is not more important than the basic rights and well-being of individual humans and communities of citizens. If a citizen or a community feels that a government or state has become oppressive, people have not just a right, but a responsibility to try to correct that: working within the system where at all possible, but not ruling out more extreme measures. That's the understanding of the ideal of Pakistan I was brought up with (see the Objectives Resolution or any number of documents); that's the understanding of Islam I was brought up with (see Hazrat Abu Bakar's "Acceptance Speech" as Caliph, for example; and Bibi Ayesha, for example, did not sit quietly when she thought the government was not doing the right thing ;and then we have the example of the Hasnain...); and that's the understanding of good governance and democracy I was brought up with (see the American Declaration of Independence, the preamble to any of the constitutions Pakistan has had...)."

[NB: I have posted a version of this entry on my personal blog.

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