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 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.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

A South Asian Union

During the year 2006, I hope the leaders of all South Asian nations will begin to think seriously about creating a South Asian Union akin to the European Union, where the national boundaries have almost become meaningless.

We have thousands of years of common history between the peoples who now reside in the nation states of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Admittedly, some of it is violent history but a lot more of it is not. There have been long spells of peaceful co-existence in the past. If theEuropeans, with their intense history of hatred and violence, can "turn their swords into ploughshares," why can't we.

Having learnt from the excesses of the distant and not too distantpast, we should move toward a vision of shared humanism. We should foster an inclusive vision that allows for diversity of ideologies and lifestyle, not an exclusive vision that dictates what everyone will do in their personal and public lives. In other words, we should use the energy released by the start of a new year to transcend this drift toward authoritarianism, nationalism and militarism that is rife in South Asia and most certainly in our beloved Pakistan.

With best wishes to everyone for the New Year!

More Re: Dr. Amartya Sen

A while back on this blog, I had mentioned a post on my own blog which mentioned Dr. Amartya Sen's description of Pakistan's Civil Society. There were a couple of other things in that interview of his that I have been wanting to draw attention to and have now placed a short post on my personal blog doing exactly that. Please take a look.