Friday, February 26, 2010

Thirty Thousand Pakistanis Dead Since 2003

Thirty thousand dead. Only a fraction of them soldiers. Who killed them? The hand of death in almost all cases was Pakistani, yes? Was it terrorism that killed them or organized crime? Is there really so much of a difference? Could foreigners be at fault? If so, how?

I look at the big picture. I start from Pakistan's creation. Jinnah wanted Pakistan for Pakistanis, yes, but a big reason why he rejected a united India was because in a separate state Muslim leaders would have far more opportunity to raid the public till, without the bother of negotiating such matters with more numerous non-Muslim Indians.

The independence war was almost welcomed by the leadership of both sides. The British Indian Army was a magnificent creation; splitting it in two created fear among the two armies that their days as honorable soldiers might be numbered. As for the British Indian bureaucracy, they were looking forward to a day when they could reap all the advantages of their position without the Brits looking over their shoulders. Why would they want their fellow citizens doing the same? War was a welcome distraction.

Of course, war means death, but that's mostly for the little people. Corruption is great for those in power, and there are only two threats: domestic revolt or maybe some bigwig who takes it upon himself or herself to reform the system.

Both Pakistan and India inherited Britain's legal system. That system itself was an impediment to corruption. If it couldn't be gotten rid of, it could be made ineffective: by killing judges, subverting law enforcement, or giving it only a trickle of funding. In India this has meant years of waiting before a case reached court.

In Pakistan, the situation was worse. A winner-take-all attitude to corruption meant that the stakes were much higher. Politicians ignored democratic elections to stay in power, generals clung to their position to maintain prestige. And everybody in power did their best to keep the attention of the people away from their greed, just as the magician wants people to look at the girl rather than what his fingers are doing.

So you got repeated wars with India, until it was realized that by maintaining low-level conflict secrets could still be hidden yet more money remained in the public coffers to be stolen. People still screamed for justice, of course, but they could be suppressed - up to a point. East Pakistan broke away in 1971. Islamicization weakened the legal system further. And the Soviet-Afghan war brought in so much money, with so few questions, both from foreigners and from illicit drugs, that justice became justice for the rich, exploitation for the poor.

The Taliban thought their version of Islam was the solution. Pakistanis now are convinced that the Taliban are in the wrong.

Yet the Pakistani government isn't promising to clean things up, is it? They only promise that they aren't the Taliban. The best people can hope for, in former Taliban-ruled areas, is that the same corrupt clique will return to run their lives as before.

Without the Taliban, what can the elite do to keep the attention of the public away from their activities? Conflict with India? The creation of more enemies, like Israel?

To these people, who killed at least 300,000 (and probably over a million) in 1971 in their effort to maintain corrupt rule, and who let Swat fall temporarily to the Taliban last year, creating 250,000 refugees as a lesson, thirty thousand deaths in a decade is a mere bagatelle.

And of these people, how many have sons and daughters here, on PDF? Are they so willing to boost without question a Pakistan that their parents were loyal to because it was a vehicle of corruption hiding behind Muslim rights or Islamic rule?

That's your flag. What I described above is much of what it means to me, as well as many Bangladeshis, Indians, and Pakistanis. If you want that to change, don't you think that changing the system that promoted the deaths of so many people is a really good place to start?

(Cross-posted at Pakistan Defence Forum.)