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58

The Baloch are sitting ducks. With the sea on one side, and Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, they literally have nowhere to go. The world watches in horror as a steady trickle of deaths flows through the news on a daily basis. I call it “The Baloch Black” in my mind – the season’s color, except the season doesn’t end. No one seems inclined to take risks with safety or popularity for these people – no matter what they sufer.

Pakistan holds a unique record in the world. A six decade old country with killing sprees – state sponsored killing sprees in four different places. Bangladesh, Kashmir, Afghanistan and Balochistan. In each instance, there is documented involvement of the country’s armed forces acting in collaboration with various militia – be them the Razakars, the various Kashmiri militants, the Taliban or in the case of Balochistan, the local militia. And we are not looking at torture videos from FATA, etc, because I don’t know what slot to put them in. Let’s call them extracurricular.

This, on an average amounts to one genocide every fifteen years, so to say. Not counting the boundary skirmishes with Afghanistan and India including out and out wars, not counting the terrorist training infrastructures, not counting indoctrination for conducting human rights abuse, not counting possible large scale radiation poisoning of the region, not counting sabotage of US+NATO interests and lives after explicit agreements of cooperation.

I see here a worldwide conspiracy of silence. The US in particular. The idea seems to be to not say anything that makes Pakistan unhappy unless absolutely needed. This idea is also backfiring, because career terrorists can simply change employers to remain perfectly safe, and they can take up new job opportunities once the market in Afghanistan opens on US exit. There has been no US comment on the kill and dump policy against Balochistan, there has been nothing on the massive JuD rallys with a few journalists raising alarm. Pakistan is an ally and that is that, except for selective condemnation. The rest is the gift of impunity in return for goodwill.

It is easy to say that Pakistan is a nuclear power, but that applies only to the Kashmiri Pandits. They were driven out of Kashmir, but the actual people dead by all accounts is less than a thousand. But for the other three genocides, Pakistan’s nuclear bombs cannot be called an excuse. The United States, for its own interests in the region “cultivated” Pakistan, making the Pakistani Army disproportionately powerful. Did they not have an ethical responsibility to monitor how that power was used? Wouldn’t today’s war on terror and its immense losses in life and money be prevented? Where is the accountability?

Today, the carte blanche that the world gave Pakistan has resulted in an Army/ISI state within a state. They have dragged the country into surprise wars with India, they have butchered people in their own and in neighbouring countries. The government is helpless to prevent anything they do. US itself is now helpless and expects the government to put their Frankenstein’s monster in the box again. The Pakistani on the street is living in an increasingly deprived and difficult situation, children are deprived of education and health, but the Army’s budget knows no bounds. By Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani’s own confession, in the aftermath of the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the Army stood thoroughly discredited on a moral and defensive perspective, yet their salaries were doubled as the country lived on in staggering insecurity and anger.

News reports speak of the Pakistan Army supporting the Taliban in anticipation of the US exit from Afghanistan. The astonishing part is that the strategic analysts are still peddling this as news – something that any ten year old in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Balochistan and possibly India too could have told them on the first day of the war. The pretense goes on, the drama goes on. In the meanwhile, there are people paying hideous costs. 2.3% of Afghanistan’s total population is DISABLED. The Baloch black – as I call it – just unrelenting doom and gloom in the news, continues.

Today, Balochistan is fighting desperately for independence as the world continues to watch. They have no alternative if they must live. Most Pakistanis insist that the real problem is the human rights abuse and not independence. But there is no question of human rights in Balochistan. Human rights are for humans, and there seems to be no indication that the Army/ISI think that Baloch are humans as they are kidnapped, killed, assassinated, murdered .

The killing of Brahmadagh Bugti’s sister and niece in Karachi has been understood and condemned for the chilling expansion of the war against the Baloch that it is. Yet what difference does that make? What does it mean that people understand what is happening, if it cannot result in any change what so ever? There is NO ONE in Pakistan that can prevent the Army/ISI from doing what they want. The Court has not succeeded in bringing about justice for the numerous crimes against the Baloch stagnating and accumulating.

In a post Fukushima world jittery about radiation, the Baloch are living with alleged significant contamination of their area with no recourse to even measuring for confirmation and identification of risk areas. There is no monitoring, there is no information on if and how much radioactive contamination exists. Last year, American soldiers who served in Afghanistan had radiation levels in their urine. They have been attributed to tactical nukes by commentators, and denied as inexplicable by the official speakers. What if they are from the contamination of the area they worked in? It is close to the area of Balochistan that has been contaminated.

There is no information about the real situation except for photos of deformities and descriptions of illness that can match radiation exposure, but there is no way of knowing without tests being allowed, and Pakistan doesn’t allow independent access to the region for such work. Pakistan had even refused humanitarian assistance access to this area after the flood claiming that they would do it themselves. So the Baloch people are tired of asking for help, but have no other option open to them other than asking for help. No matter how many walls of silence they bounce off. Some of the walls are you and I. They are fighting a heavily unequal war for survival. Militarily, politically and even on health and humanitarian terms. Where is our own humanity in this story?

There literally is no way out for them unless something is done specifically to bring them relief and solutions, and the ethical responsibility for this assistance lies on the world and particularly the US that stood complicit in Pakistan Army’s use of weapons supplied by them on civilians. Even more, because the US is doing precisely the kind of rescues worldwide, for ages that it is refusing Balochistan – a victim of torturers armed by them. The Leahy Law prohibits U.S. military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity. It doesn’t get more impunity than this, it doesn’t get more blatantly human rights abuse than this, and it doesn’t get more studiedly ignored than this. So, in calling Pakistan a partner, arming their Army, funding them and refusing to exert any preventative influence on their human rights abuses is blatantly flaunting its own laws. It is a question for Americans why have a law like that if it will not be followed?

What needs to be done is a matter of strategy and the Baloch people should be consulted. It also needs to be a practical and sustainable solution. It doesn’t make sense to only separate into independence a sparsely populated region sharing a border with a country that overflows every national border they have to commit human rights abuses. They would do the same thing in Balochistan that they are planning in Afghanistan – install proxies, subjugate people again. It is their default mode. There needs to be a comprehensive political regional solution – a sustainable one that ensures that boundaries that allow the Baloch safety are established.

The 10th Anniversary of 9/11 came and went and everyone has on their minds the big question of terrorism. India is no stranger to terrorism, though we started calling it so mostly post 9/11. Till then, blasts were blasts and the perpetrators were militants. Then, we found a parallel with what we suffered in what the world was willing to fight - terrorism. I suspect part of our wide adoption of the word terrorism lies in the validation we felt in our suffering at the hands of covert elements and the blind eye the world turned to it till. There is an aura of "we have suffered this exact thing for a long time".

India's disbelief that Pakistan could sponsor terrorists and become an ally in fighting them is also reasonably vindicated in the decade that followed. How we experienced Pakistan is largely understood by the world now, and we are able to make more obvious overtures for reconciliation now that the overtures don't mean denial.

On another note, I want to look at the effect of radicalization and extremism in Pakistan on India. What the radicalization did to Pakistan is evident. Less evident is how it led to subtle radicalization in India. If the majority religion in Pakistan is Islam, the majority in India are Hindus.

While the overt influence that we see in Pakistan - officially changing narratives in history books, encouraging calls to arms in the name of religion etc are missing in India, the outrage over the Pakistani attitude has led to several less visible thoughts along the same lines. Visibly they may be in direct opposition, but they follow the same way of thought.

This is natural. This is automatic. If I say apple, you may say orange or red or fruit, but it is unlikely you will say desert or something totally unrelated. That is a process of coherent response. Our response is relevant to the stimulus if it is to be rational. If we don't like, we may do or say the opposite, but we play the same game unless we make conscious choices to disengage. We validate a dysfunctional premise of mistaken actions by countering actions.

Some ways I see it playing out here:

  • Focus on Muslims as potential terrorist agents. While it is true that covert agendas have tried to recruit Muslims, we play the same game when we investigate Muslims, or we defend them - both. If we don't agree with military alliances in the name of religion, we need to stop thinking from a religious perspective or at the very least narrrow the scope so much that we avoid that same broad match. Frankly, while it may be useful for terrorists to recruit in the name of religion, it is more difficult to investigate people based on religion rather than suspicious behaviour, because while influence can be exerted at a religious place, monitoring will have to happen in the wild.
  • Carte blanche to agents with "our" agenda. Terrorists summarily execute people who don't fit in with their agendas. To counter terrorists, we created anti-terror squads with similar carte blanche or made laws like the AFSPA. Both were difficult to control for a fundamental similarity - a belief that a certain kind of "good" people will kill only "bad" people - without the recognition of those people as individuals with their own ideas of loyalty, integrity or even who was wrong. Pakistan did it on a massive scale and has almost lost the country to them, India did it on a more cautious scale (also as a retaliation rather than initiative) and suffered fake encounters and police brutality overall. Both these plagues are difficult to control. Both these plagues continue on an assumption that they are "necessary". Terrorists are necessary for Pakistan's "strategic depth", and our extra legal powers of killing them are necessary for our "security".
  • The "good" protector guys. Atrocities by a certain kind of people getting a blind eye. These are usually the custodians of the "National Agenda". Their actions are immune from punishment because of one of three reasons. First - they "protect" against the bogeyman. If the bogeyman for the Pakistan Army is India, the bogeyman for the Indian Armed forces is terrorists. Because these guys "protect" the country, they cannot be called to account. Second - they are too powerful. It is an open secret that people can't do a damn thing against the Pakistan Army. India has a veneer of civilian control over Armed Forces - at least on a policy and decision making and salaries level. But the ground reality is untested. The control may exist, it may get thrown off - we tread carefully and avoid confrontations. The local public on the other hand has a healthy fear of their protectors and their potential to destroy their well being - and not just in areas with insurgency. Many wrongs by Armed Forces go unchallenged because they are fighting terrorists. Third - the voice of the majority and extra-curricular pressure. Challenging these protectors will quickly get one dubbed anti-national, targetted for verbal victimization, etc by a large number of people who believe in their heroism.
  • The role of the Army. Here there are opposite extremes. The Pakistan Army and ISI pretty much rule the country. They have thrown over governments, they have directly vetoed government statements... the works. The Indian Army on the other hand is firmly under the civilian thumb - at least on an official level. It got neglected for several years in terms of weapons upgrades, it is very low key in terms of a National presence, even top generals will rarely communicate to the media (and thus the public) directly about anything on policy or decisions. The few times they do, it is a big sensation and very marked deviation. The smallest disagreement, even if it isn't a conclusive refusal hits news instantly and reinforcing news articles will hit about the hierarchy in India. One would think that there is no similarity. But there is. There is a very serious fundamental similarity - the assumption that the Armed forces are a threat to the country's autonomy in India is similar to the reality in Pakistan - but it actually has no factual basis in India. The understanding of the nature of Armies seems to be influenced. They either take over, or they need to be kept severely in check. This is in spite of the fact that our Armed Forces have showed no actual inclination to do any such thing and in fact seem in agreement with the power distribution. This is in spite of the fact that lower attention to needs of the forces will be counterproductive to national interest. This is a largely unconscious thing, but the manifestations are visible. It is also interesting to note how the stronger the presence of the Army in National decision making became in Pakistan, the more low key it became in India.
  • Other similarities are obvious - religious extremism on the rise. Majoritarian justifications of injustices against minorities, and a strong opposition to minority supporting initiatives. This domination of national space on the basis of religion may have been more visible during the times of communal conflicts, but it is actually stronger now. It looks peaceful because there is no need to fight. There IS no fight for the most time. A fight needs a strong opposing force to exist in order to happen. The riots were hideous, but that force was at least present. Now, while a large number of minorities are reconciled to the National vision, the few that are not are small, explosive pockets with no ability to overtly take on the majority. Pakistan is far ahead of us on this road, and the extremists are actually in a war with the state for running it over entirely.
  • Both countries live under the illusion that extremists are a minority. In fact, extremism is on the rise in both. It is less visible in India, because there is a diversity of extremists, but make no mistake, there are actually very, very few people who are tolerant in both countries. Even liberals are what can only be described as "extremist fundamentalist liberals" who have extremist fundamentalist prejudices about non-liberals - paradoxical as it seems. Most of the people have concrete alliances of beliefs they have made and there is little space for tolerance or negotiation. This is risky for both countries. More visibly for Pakistan, but India has more to lose.
  • There are victims who are known victims who rarely get any assistance or acknowledgment - be it tribals or Kashmiris or people in the north east, or the Baloch or Pashtuns or Pok Kashmiris.

This may seem like a strange article, because it speaks of none of the obvious differences, or visible factors. What I am trying to do here is bring up the dynamics in the society and the processes influencing our thoughts.

There are many common patterns that trigger parallel versions across the border. We are born of one region. These Jekyll and Hyde games both countries play only help to blur the picture in unhelpful ways.

So what can be done? Responding rather than reacting. If we don't like something, there is no need to react to it no matter what the provocation. Some think that reacting to provocation is needed as a show of strength or whatever, but there is no strength in dancing to another's tune. We can explore all the options we have and choose ones that will be most useful rather than doing tit-for-tats like an unending game of table tennis.

Even better, if we can really understand how these influences work, we can use them to initiate transformation. Borders are for lands, not thoughts. If we can understand how our actions invoke relevant responses, we can invite change through what we do. Some very different patterns for interaction with Pakistan that disengage from previous dysfunctional patterns are described in "Hold your missiles". There can be more. There can be others.

More importantly, we can initiate transformations within the country to disengage from compulsive extremism and dysfunctional mistrusts. While I don't think these are some kind of Pakistani copyrighted rule, learning to avoid reactive behavior will help tone down a lot of reactive anger as well. We can deal with more transparency and tolerance.

I do think it will take dedicated minds to lead this change. Ideally social scientists, but politicians, media, civil leaders or any influences with high EQ could work too.

1

Update: After getting praise mails that I am, as a journalist encouraging war, I need to state specifically that I am NOT a journalist, and my knowledge of politics is minimal. What I am is a concerned and distraught citizen. My posts are not informed political opinions or advice about policy, but thoughts that cross my mind as I follow this crisis. I am against war and violence. I even feel pity for the poor captured terrorist for that matter. This is only a perspective and reaction about the threat of a nuclear war from Pakistan. This threat is actually explained by recent news about a hoax call that led to the Pakistani government thinking India was about to attack them. More than that, any comments like "kill the Pakistanis" will immediately be deleted, as I have no wish to encourage the circulation of such views. So, if you find that the comment you posted has been deleted, that's me in action. If hostile comments recur, I will delete this post. This post is about the Indian attitude toward the threat of nuclear war and what at that time seemed an insane attitude to me and not about hatred for Pakistan.

Current worry is that Pakistan is apparently never in the wrong, even as many Pakistanis raise questions about the ISI in their daily lives. Strange that the average Pakistani believes that their ISI can sabotage their own country but no other. Strange kind of organization to have, no? But I don't think logic has anything to do with the Pakistani response at the moment.

As for the Pakistani government not being involved, no one believes that. I doubt if the Pakistani government was ever directly involved with happenings in India. I doubt if it ever was in the loop. For that matter, the government was clueless about the Kargil conflict. Doesn't mean it didn't happen.

It is transparent that Pakistan WANTS the excuse of war with India to escape from its "coerced commitment" to the war against terror on the Afgan front. So I don't really think any actionable cooperation is ever going to come from there beyond demands of proof. Even if Zardari wants to cooperate, I doubt if he has the power to do so, when the army has another agenda. He is the sitting duck for pressure from his own country, the army, US, India, world opinion...... with no real power to do anything, because doing anything on this front will mean hurting the unofficial ISI weapon against India, which the ISI will not allow and I don't see how Zardari can make them, even if he wants to, even if he accepts that LeT are the culprits, even if he commits to getting rid of them.

A country that disowns terrorists as non-state actors (after first denying their existence) is willing to go to war over protecting them - anyone else find that incongruent?

Meanwhile, India is pissed and frustrated that its proof is dismissed and proofs are demanded. Terrorists wanted for causing harm in India are not to be given over. Pakistan speaks of strikes being seen as acts of war, and nukes are laid out on the table straight off. For someone cooperating, its a strange attitude of denials, refusals and threats.

Meanwhile, US and the rest of the world is shitting bricks at the thought of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan, and doing all it can to prevent it.

What I literally see is a world held hostage to Pakistan. No one is convinced of their innocence, but no one also wants to provoke them because they have *melodramatic shudder* nukes, you know?

Pakistan is not the only country in the world to have nukes, but it is the only country to act against the interests of the world and then threaten to use nukes if it thinks there will be retaliation.

For that matter, it does the same with its own people. The threat is not nukes, but its own extremist and army agendas of power to control that hold the common man hostage with threats of physical harm. For example, in this current scenario, what the Pakistani common man thinks is as irrelevant as what Zardari thinks. The situation hinges on the army deserting the war on terror and threatening nukes and the militants talking of defending the country they were relentlessly destroying, which incidently were both irrelevant to the talks happening between the governments.

Perhaps I'm direct, but this is how I see it.

As long as the Kashmir issue is resolved, India and Pakistan will never be truly at peace. Pakistan has nukes and doesn't even consider an option of no-first-strike as a part of its "defence", so that problem is unlikely to be over, ever. For that matter, I don't even think Pakistan really wants Kashmir resolved, because that will take away their reason for acting on their hatred of India.

From how I understand, Pakistan sees nukes as any other weapon, and one of the most powerful in its arsenal. Its not particularly bothered about the damage it will cause to India, because that is the whole idea in any case. It counts on this attitude to be a deterrent in itself, with the entire world pressurizing India to avoid war, because they sure as hell know that there will be no reasoning with Pakistan.

My approach to this is different. Much as I hate violence, and my dream of a good world includes armies dismantled because they become redundant, I hate being held hostage by bullies even worse. I am aware that I could be one of the casualties if Pakistan makes a nuclear attack, and one of the more likely ones by virtue of living in Mumbai. Yet, I do think what India and the world needs to do at this moment is a nuclear war. Pakistan needs to go to the stone age before it can become a civilization.

I thought long and deep over it, considered my abhorrence of violence, the situation with Pakistan...... a whole load of things. I know it will be terrible thing. It will harm Indian economy, lives, morale, and cause a whole load of pain.

Yet, as I consider:

  • Pakistan is never ever going to stop harming India directly or indirectly.
  • Even if the LeT is finished, the reason for its creation is still there, and it is only a matter of time before it is resurrected or something else created to fulfill that need.
  • Pakistan has nukes and will continue to have them till they are destroyed or used. 50 years from now, we will still be bearing attrocities exported from that country because it has nukes. It will still be operating without a conscience, because it believes that its irresponsible attitude toward human lives will continue to protect it from those who value them.
  • India is a strong country. It will be devastated, but it will regenerate. Hopefully, it will regenerate without the hanging sword of Pakistani nukes over its head. I may die, but the future of hundreds will be safer from threat.

It is with a heavy heart, and against my instincts that I admit that a nuclear war between India and Pakistan is what India and the world needs, provided that we are able to work together and take out their nukes completely.

Rather than cringe and tolerate endlessly that which has no intention of ever going away, we need to face it and conquer it. If we pay a price, it is the price of a future of not being held hostage and harmed.

What is needed is for Pakistan to be conquered, and reorganized under a stable country (preferrably not India) and led to prosperity. It needs to find a future in creation rather than vengeance for perceived attrocities. It needs hope and well being.

The other option is to sit and do nothing. Ignore the attack completely, strengthen internal security, hang the terrorist and leave Pakistan alone to collapse under its own weight or in the "war against terror".

I've been following news on the Mumbai terror attacks religiously, and to my surprise, today, there are reports in various UK newspapers that Mumbai police are looking for a woman in a burqa who assisted the terrorists.

All these news pieces agree that the captured terrorist confirmed her presence and that she visited the terrorists staying in the Taj and that she was the local contact. Strange, because this only seems to be appearing in UK newspapers so far. No other country. Not even India, where most other news comes up first from. What's happening?

Earlier, police had dismissed rumours of a woman seen assisting the terrorists at CST and Cama Hospital. I don't know what happened of the stories of the shopkeeper who had seen the captured terrorist with a woman.

The news in all the above linked articles agrees on details. So is this a take off on those rumors by the UK media, or do they know something we don't?