Thursday, 5 May 2011

Pakistan days...

5th May, 2011
Recent elimination of Osama by Obama on May 2nd brought back the thrilling but sweet memories of my stay in Pakistan. from 1980 to 85. It was unusually a very long period of stay in a hostile country by any standard. (you know what I mean if one has to work under cover). But it was fruitful & satisfying.

I was much younger then and was always keen to explore the country, driving long distances. The picture below was taken on 21 Oct.1981, during one of the trips to the Khyber Pass in the west of Pakistan. The pass lies between Peshawar and Landi-kotal from where one enters Afghanistan. Jamrood fort is just few kms. from Peshawar and can be spotted on the left of the bus.

The area all along the Khyber Pass which stretches between 30-40 Kms is rocky, dry with hardly any vegetation and water. If one remembers the ancient history of India correctly, this was the route followed by most of the invaders, of whom many perished or had to abandon their journey as the pass provided a natural barrier on India’s western flank.

The area came to be known as FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Area) once the British Raj came in to power. However, it always remained a partially independent area, run and administered by the local tribes according to their own customs & traditions.  The main source of income, since time immemorial, continues to be from sales of drugs and locally manufactured fire arms. Durra village, the main arms manufacturing centre in FATA, is worth a visit for their workmanship.

(To continue...)

1 comment:

  1. With regards Pakistani thinking about India, it is true that the compulsive "anti-Hinduism" suggested by Sri. A. K. Verma exists and that the conflict industrial/economic ideas (as publicly discussed by Sri. Raman and others) are quite strong also. Certainly the tanzeems exert a disproportionate influence on the national sensibility there.

    But in my limited interactions with Pakistanis I have come to sense that at least one other factor is at play in their thinking about India.

    I feel that over the past thirty odd years, the Pakistani identity has become estranged from the subcontinent. People like Zia ul Haq laid the path to Pakistan's modernisation. They held out the notion to the public that the way for Pakistan to become better was to become less subcontinental and more "global" in its Islam. This was the basis for arabizing Pakistani Islam.

    This view was force fed to large sections of Pakistani society over several decades. This has created a kind of an intellectual backlash in the minds of educated Pakistanis.

    If the Zia prescription was to be followed, then Pakistan should have been a prosperous self-reliant state. That is not where they are now - and India which did the exact opposite of what Zia prescribed is actually where Zia wanted Pakistan to be.

    India celebrates it diversity, people retain their identities and yet seamless meld into missions of national purpose - while Pakistanis struggle with the absence of tools to deal with diversity and at the first chance people attempt to split the nation based on their limited ethnicity. India should have become completely balkanised by now - but instead it is Pakistan that faces the prospect of another disintegration.

    Pakistanis cannot get their heads around how that could possibly happen.

    In my opinion this breeds a certain curiosity about India in the minds of Pakistanis.

    I used to think this was limited to educated Pakistanis but then I watched the CCTV footage of the 26/11 terrorists in the Taj and I realised this may go a lot deeper than just the top echelon of society.

    There is a brief moment in the CCTV video where the terrorists step out of the lobby and walk past a large bank of flat screen computers in an opulent corridor in the Taj. And then they stop and they stare at the screens and the dazzling technological display. It is obvious to anyone watching this that these boys have never seen anything like this. There is a childlike inquisitiveness as one of them approaches the computer screens - quite distracted from the jihadi mission they are on - and there is a corresponding electronic intercept of one of a conversation with one of the controllers where the terrorists relay the beauty of what they see around them and the controller has to remind them that the pleasures of heaven are infinitely greater.

    If the corridor of the Taj can sway the resolve of a hardened Jihadi, then I can only imagine what the same image has on the minds of moderates.

    Your experience of Pakistanis is quite greater than mine and I agree we are not at the point where Pakistanis ask inconvenient questions like "why is drinking cow urine bad - but drinking camel urine okay?" to the proponents of the Nazariya Pakistan or the so-called Ghairat Brigade but I think this curiosity aspect is worth investigating.