Intolerance, Lies and Half-truths
By Dr Shireen M Mazari

As a nation, we continue to display a degree of tolerance for abuse inflicted on us from outside, especially allies like the US, as well as from some amongst us who decry the alleged intolerance of the so-called 'fundamentalists' but are themselves intolerant of alternative viewpoints or criticism. This group writes and speaks in support of the Pakistan-bashing indulged in by 'scholars' and 'analysts' in the USA and India. Ironically these compatriots make much of free speech and freedom of the press, but where they are in control, they themselves practice the most extensive form of censorship -- primarily in the English language press.

The issue at hand is that of suffering an amazing amount of abuse and invective in the form of deliberately distorted books that have little basis in proper scholarship, produced by US analysts and academics who have become 'South Asian experts' primarily by playing to a seductive audience in the US. Take the now infamous Bruce Reidel assertion, at the time of Nawaz Sharif's visit to Washington in July 1999, that Pakistan had readied her nuclear tipped missiles for launch during Kargil. Since most Americans want to see Pakistan as a violent Muslim state, Reidel's contention fitted into the preconceived misperceptions within their mindset. Unfortunately for Reidel, General V. P. Malik, Indian Chief of Army at the time of Kargil, publicly rebutted this fanciful claim at a conference on Kargil in Monterey, California, in May-June 2002. But even if he had not done so, sheer logic should have exposed the absurdity of Reidel's claims given that Pakistan had only tested in May 1998 and it was not possible to match the warheads to delivery systems fast enough to make them operational by June-July 1999.
But logic has never mattered in the doomsday scenarios of Pakistan painted by many analytical groups and think tanks in the US. The Indian-US complicity in trying to use academic forums to attack Pakistan, especially on Kargil, was most clearly reflected in the Monterey Centre for Contemporary Conflict's (CCC) Kargil project. The architect of this project refused to accept a chapter authored by a Pakistani -- selected by the CCC in the first place -- because they disagreed with his findings. So, in a totally unethical fashion, they sought the help of a more pliable Pakistani to co-author the chapter in question. The ploy has not worked so far as the original author has refused to play along because he feels the rewritten and doctored chapter is "90 per cent in support of the Indian version" which in his opinion is "untenable". This attempt to put forward a particular viewpoint, but with the token Pakistani name included for credibility has had to suffer a long delay because one Pakistani refused to compromise on his academic integrity - probably taking the Monterey project architects by surprise.

That the Kargil project in Monterey was inspired by Indian-US complicity can be judged by Strobe Talbot's revelation in his latest book, Engaging India. While revealing how Jaswant felt Clinton's handling of Kargil had reduced Indian mistrust of the US, he suggests that "our (US and Indian) governments engage in a joint case study of the crisis. This would be helpful ... in that it would transform the Kargil affair from a cautionary tale of Pakistani perfidy into a more positive one about US-Indian mutual trust."
Of course everybody has the right to use all resources to further their ends. My contention is with the Pakistani state and civil society opening their resources and hospitality to those with political agendas targeting this country. Yes, we should interact with anyone interested in working on Pakistan, but we should also be able to discover the genuine scholars from those with their own agendas - especially when the latter have already spilled their venom on Pakistan in earlier writings, thanks to the open access granted to them, an access not granted to Pakistani scholars.
Genuine scholarship can be distinguished from agenda-driven works and two recent books on Pakistan reflect this very clearly. Take American writer Stephen P. Cohen's book, The Idea of Pakistan and French scholar Christophe Jaffrelot's The Origins of Pakistan. Given Cohen's past record of books on Pakistan, especially on the Pakistan Army, it would have been foolish to expect a rational approach in his latest work - and one does not find it.
In contrast, the French scholar, while critical, has at least maintained a scholarly approach to the work. American scholars, like their civil society will only accept images and ideas that fit their preconceived notions and beliefs. That is why works like those published by Christine Fair for the Rand Corporation on Pakistan find ready acceptance.
Having experienced Pakistan at a highly personal level, Ms Fair has her own axe to grind. Some years earlier she had also used unsubstantiated statistics, whose source she was unprepared to reveal, to try and prove Indian contentions on Occupied Kashmir. She was totally affronted to find questions being raised on her statistics and contentions. After all, US scholars do not expect Pakistanis to challenge their assertions!
Now Ms Fair has once brought out a report on Pakistan's security forces and, as expected, she asserts that we view our police as an "occupying force". Now I know that most people in Pakistan view the police with either fear and mistrust -- and this is not half as bad as the way American-Africans view the US police -- or even ridicule. But I have not met anyone who sees the police as an "occupying force", with all that implies. Her claims - especially her figures -- once again have no rational basis and many of her contentions remain simply that. But we, as Pakistanis, must accept her analysis as the gospel truth. Worse still, the even more ignorant US decision makers probably will accept what she has to say as the truth and act accordingly.
And what some of our own scholars in the US bolstering misperceptions about Pakistan because that is what the audience wishes to hear? Only recently, one of our scholars, an expert on defense production, presently based in a US think tank (incidentally sponsored by a Pakistani business community sponsorship), chose to hold forth on Balochistan on which she is not an expert. Perhaps she should have read a most commendable recent article in a Pakistani newspaper by a well-informed Baloch, Qazi Faez Isa, entitled, "Facts about the crisis in Balochistan", before claiming that 65 per cent of the Baloch favor armed struggle. How she arrived at this statistic is highly questionable, but her lack of knowledge was exposed during the question and answer session when she was asked how she could have given a talk on Balochistan without even discussing the Sardari system and the feudal stranglehold on Baloch society and she failed to respond. Incidentally, there is a book entitled How to lie with statistics and I am sure many academics are aware of this slim volume. In any event, as any good propagandist knows, if you have to lie then tell a big lie so that it takes time to refute it!
Moving beyond the inbuilt biases of academia in the US, the American intelligence services have been predicting the end of Pakistan for almost a decade - although the red line continues to move forward by a decade every time a new report on this issue comes out and Pakistan continues to exist ever more robustly. This robustness should be used to expose the lies and half-truths that seek US academic guise.
(The writer is Director General of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The News)


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