National Masochism
By Dr Shireen M Mazari


It is clear that how the state handled Mukhtaran Mai's travel abroad did exactly the kind of damage that it wished to avoid. In any event, harassing or exploiting a brave and suffering woman like Mukhtaran Mai is simply unacceptable. However, the whole issue, as it has evolved, has also once again reflected the questionable role of foreign-funded NGOs. President Musharraf has been spot on with his comment on their agendas.
Unlike in India, where there are strict laws circumscribing the work of such NGOs, in Pakistan there seems to be a laissez-faire approach towards these organizations. The NGOs never make their funding public knowledge, nor are we informed about the agendas that come with the funding. Only recently, the International Crisis Group's (ICG) findings on madrassahs was challenged by a World Bank funded study entitled Religious School Enrolment in Pakistan: A Look at the Data. It is pertinent to note that the ICG was ordered out of India once it started working on Kashmir. Indonesia has also expelled the ICG.
Our national psyche seems to have a strong masochistic streak which allows us to tolerate abuse after abuse heaped upon us. The NGO community has run riot in Pakistan with donor funding in abundant supply if the "right" stance is taken. Interestingly, an Indian woman lawyer recently told me how human rights NGOs in Pakistan never invite Muslim women lawyers from India because they feel they will discuss the problems they face as Muslim women in India, which would not fit into the agenda of the human rights advocates in Pakistan. I wonder how many people in Pakistan are aware that India curtails the working of human rights organizations, especially in relation to human rights abuses in Occupied Kashmir.
NGOs in Pakistan and the US who are so interested in pushing forward the women and children rights agendas should perhaps also invite the child victims in the Michael Jackson case where the celebrity was let off by the US judicial system, despite strong evidence of his guilt. How could a US court allow a paedophile to roam free? Surely we in Pakistan would like to know the views of the victims of this crime as eagerly as the US public wants to know the views of a rape survivor from Pakistan. This is not to say that rape does not occur in the US or that rapists do not go free in that country, but our NGOs and their foreign supporters would have us believe that rape only takes place in Pakistan.
Our masochism is not limited only to women's issues. We continue to allow academically dishonest researchers to access data and institutes in this country. In earlier columns, I cited the case of Peter Lavoy, Director Center for Contemporary Conflict at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, USA, who refused to accept a chapter for a book on the Kargil conflict by a Pakistani academic that he himself had tasked, because it did not fit into his plan of things. Despite his own political agendas, Lavoy was back in Pakistan last week on a new project and again gaining access to data sources. One has no problem with divergent viewpoints, but academic dishonesty is not acceptable. Why we in Pakistan should entertain such academics is mystifying, except in the context of a masochistic desire to be abused once again.
And with reference to Kargil, an English language daily reported that Hussain Haqqani's new book on Pakistan includes a reference to the now-discredited Bruce Reidel claim that Pakistan had readied its nuclear warheads during Kargil. Given that Mr Haqqani was present in Monterey when General V.P. Malik, India's Chief of Army Staff at the time of Kargil, categorically rejected Reidel's claim as an outright falsehood, why would he now revert to this falsehood, unless it serves to add to the vilification of Pakistan in the US? Clearly, Pakistanis also seem to be unable to distinguish between attacking a government and attacking the state.
Given the easy pickings amongst our civil society that foreign donors find, it is not surprising to see even supposedly serious think tanks abroad having value-laden agendas. Take the case of Chatham House, England which runs a series of discussions/seminars on Pakistan organized by a so-called Pakistan Study Group. The very title reveals the intent: "Unraveling Pakistan: Threats to Stability". Clearly there is already a conclusion here; it is unfortunate that a respected institution like Chatham House has become prey to the political agendas of certain groups of academics in England -- some of whom are Pakistani. These assertions could be made in individual presentations, but to have such a value-laden topic for the meeting itself certainly does no credit to the organizers' credibility.
One clearly emerging pattern in these developments is a national masochistic trait, which has also allowed us to be exploited by India under the cover of the new feel good atmospherics. For anyone who was confused by Mr Advani's praise for the Quaid as a secular leader, recent developments should help in explaining what Advani was up to. To witness an overnight change in political diehards like Advani is hardly rational. But what he did achieve was to spark a full-fledged debate on the Quaid, including unfortunately within Pakistan -- which at the very least seeks to undermine his standing as a larger-than-life hero and leader. Perhaps we should also begin a debate on Gandhi to examine whether he was covertly a Hindu fundamentalist or truly secular and how important were his teachings on abstinence.
The Indians are also trying to play semantic games to try and outwit us on issues like Siachin. On the surface it would seem to be difficult to fault Manmohan Singh's call to convert Siachin into a "peace mountain". But if one examines his suggestion it really implies Pakistan giving up its rightful claims to sovereignty over Siachin and a legitimization of the Indian incursions into this region. This is similar to the proposals India recently floated on the Baglihar Dam to avoid being found guilty of transgressing the Indus Waters Treaty.
If we were to accept the Indian game plan, our sovereignty would be on a slippery slope towards a truncated state of Pakistan. That is why we need to make it clear to the Indians that when Pakistani leaders talk of autonomy for Kashmir, they are naturally referring to Article 257 of the Constitution which states, "When the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir decide to accede to Pakistan, the relationship between Pakistan and the State shall be determined in accordance with the wishes of the people of that State."
After all, there have to be limits to our collective streak of masochism.
(The writer is Director General of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad. Courtesy The News)


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