I am pleased to see a new generation of Pakistani analysts: The twenty-somethings whose western education makes them credible in Pakistan and whose Pakistani heritage and once-a-year visit to Pakistan makes them extremely credible in the west. I am also pleased to note that this generation is diligent in not letting scholarship get in the way of creativity. While they have no doubt realized that any good analysis of Pakistan is like a piece of modern art — its beauty should be appreciated, without searching for meaning — some seem to lack the vocabulary that should be mandatory in any article written by Pakistanis which discusses Pakistan. For their benefit, I am presenting a few such phrases and their semantic deconstruction:
South Asia: Indians are Indians, and Pakistanis are Indians too. Especially in tight situations involving airports in foreign countries. In most other situations, Indians and Pakistanis are “South Asians”. Being a South Asian confers three type of advantages. The first advantage is that credit can be earned by association. This is useful while reporting positive news like: “A lady of South Asian origin wins the Governorship of South Carolina” and “As usual, South Asian children sweep spelling-bee championships.”.
The second advantage is that blame can be spread over a larger geographic area. This is particularly useful while discussing terror groups. Examples include “South Asian terrorist group suspected of attacking Mumbai” and the “South Asian terrorist who tried to attack Times square” or our very own Ambassador Hussain Haqqani’s scholarly study: “The Ideologies of South Asian Jihadi Groups”. Of course, one wouldn’t want to go into divisive details like the exact nationality of these organizations and individuals! That would just make you petty minded and someone who is against unity and peace. If you did want to go into details, usually substituting “Indian” in positive news articles and “Pakistani” in embarrassing ones would usually serve the purpose.
The third and the most significant advantage is numerical. This includes a vast South Asian market for “South Asian” artists and an equally vast room to wriggle out of uncomfortable questions. For example, when posed the question “Is radicalization a problem?” South Asians can reply with a straight face “Only 170 million, or about 10% of the South Asians are radicalized”. Which sounds entirely reasonable and makes me proud of being a South Asian.
While we are on the subject of radicalization, a subject of interest is the set of issues which are likely to radicalize Pakistani extremists. It is important to keep in mind that a good analyst does not complicate issues with deep analysis of ideologies, supporters and funding of extremists organizations and instead speaks with authority derived from having lived in Pakistan, which brings us to issues which:
Will Only Strengthen the Hands of Extremists: The exact issue which will strengthen the hands of the extremists depends on the current hot topic in the media and should strangely align with the objectives of the state. For example: If India’s prime minister says borders cannot be redrawn, a suitable analysis could be: “Such controversial statements could strengthen the hands of extremists” (Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri circa 2004). If the west plans to attack Iran, a suitable cautionary advice would be: “This will strengthen the hands of extremists” (Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri circa 2006). If NATO violates Pakistan’s border, a stern warming would include: It will “Strengthen extremists” (Zardari circa 2008). In short, the “hand of extremists” is the adult version of “My daddy will come by tomorrow” — a subtle threat that can be used in every occasion. Ofcourse, only a Pakistan-hater will pause to ask “Who are these extremists? What do they want? Why do we even care what they want? How about some good policing and laws to weaken the hands of extremists?” because asking such sensitive questions will only serve to strengthen the hands of extremists in Pakistan.
While every sensitive issue strengthens the hands of extremists, every intractable issue can be solved by:
Solving the Kashmir Issue: Which has, at various times, has been touted as the solution to the mess in Afghanistan, to prevent future “Kargils” (as argued by Musharraf), to reap the “Peace dividend” for the economy (hinted whenever India’s finances are in a mess), to prevent nuclear war in the region and to even prevent floods in Pakistan by preventing glacier melting in Siachen! In short, Kashmir solution is like your grandmother’s home-remedy — It cures everything!
Thus, a well-informed analysis of Pakistan will read:
Ignoring the Kashmir issue will only serve to strengthen the hands of extremists in South Asia and solving the Kashmir issue is necessary for strategic stability in the subcontinent.
Which sounds entirely reasonable, informed and enlightened! But I got ahead of myself by not explaining:
Strategic: Which is a mystical word, evoking thoughts of the Army, courage and intelligent planning, which automatically makes any bad idea sound profound. Try arguing along the lines of “If India attacks Pakistan, we will all run away, hide in the mountains of Afghanistan, re-group and then fight back” and you will be laughed out of the room. On the other hand, declaring with a solemn face “Pakistan needs strategic depth” and committing several million dollars to run training camps to train and send several thousands of illiterate, brainwashed fighters across the border is a profound military strategy. In this vein, while assets are needed for economic security for civilians, Strategic assets are needed for the security of the country (acquiring which, will make a country insolvent, but secure). Again, Pakistan’s propensity to pick up fights with the U.S. can be explained away as “Strategic defiance” which will not invite any retaliation from the U.S. due to Pakistan’s geostrategic location. Using the word “Strategic” liberally like:
Pakistan’s strategic defiance of the U.S. to acquire strategic depth in Afghanistan leaves little strategic options for the U.S. due to Pakistan’s geostrategic location and strategic assets.
Will elevate your columns from merely being an “Analysis” to the exalted heights of a “Strategic Analysis”. While a cynic will characterize Pakistan as a country of extremists and people who write columns about extremists, a strategic analyst on the other hand will highlight positive aspects of the society like:
The Silent Majority: Which forms the core of Pakistan and is the vanguard of liberalism and modernity. Though like the name suggests, it has never been seen or heard from, it can be effectively used to re-assure the terrified west (terrified presumably due to the extremists and columns about extremists pouring out of Pakistan). When vague allusions to the silent majority is inadequate, its effectiveness can be increased manyfold when used along with the percentage of support religious parties enjoy. Thus yet another massive protest of support for religion-inspired murder can be effectively explained away by:
The protesters are a fringe group in a country where the moderate silent majority ensures that religious parties win less than 10% of the votes.
Which should be written in english, to make sure that the vocal supporters of the said religious parties dont chase you down and silence you. When such allusions to silent majorities and the unpopularity of religious parties dont reassure an anxious (and frequently exasperated) west, it is time to pull out the victim card by declaring that:
Pakistan is the biggest victim of terrorism: However, care should be taken to follow it up with a statement that blames “non-state actors” and other people without nationality or religion for terrorism. Without this, using the phrase “Pakistan is the biggest victim of terrorism” runs the risk of hinting at carelessness — somewhat like an arsonist who sets his own house on fire by improperly storing flammable materials at his own house.
Putting it all together, a timeless strategic analysis of the latest terror incident (with the inevitable Pakistani connection) would read:
Before the world pressures Pakistan to do more against terrorism, they should realize that Pakistan itself is the biggest victim of terrorism. A key step towards reducing the influence of extremists in Pakistan is finding a solution to the Kashmir issue. Ignoring the Kashmir issue will only serve to strengthen the hands of extremists in South Asia. Without solving the Kashmir issue Pakistan will continue its strategy of strategic defiance of the U.S. to acquire strategic depth in Afghanistan, which leaves little strategic options due to Pakistan’s geostrategic location and strategic assets. A solution to the Kashmir issue will strengthen the silent majority and further marginalize the religious parties who, in any case, win less than 10% of the votes in Pakistan.