Quarantine by Rajinder Singh Bedi

translated by C. Christine Fair

Introduction:

Rajinder Singh Bedi’s story written in 1939, is a timeless story of one ordinary man who selflessly worked to save people during the Plague.

Although he was Punjabi, he opted to write his stories in Urdu and later in Hindi because his mother tongue, Punjabi, was not regarded as a literary language. This bias towards Punjabi, unfortunately, endures in much of South Asia even though Punjabi literature dates back to the twelfth century and even though Punjabi culture dominates much of South Asian popular culture. This story, “Quarantine,” was published as a part of Bedi’s first volume of short stories, Daanaa o Daam (Baited Trap), which was published in 1939. It was subsequently published in Hindi decades later as well as Punjabi. The Urdu version has been used as the basis for this translation. Both the Hindi and Punjabi versions significantly differ from the Urdu original.

The story takes on an uncanny resemblance during the current pandemic situation the world faced and from which we as a human race, are just emerging. People’s stories, the problems of middle-class lives, love and pain, inherently remain the same through the ages.

In this wonderfully translated story, we understand this more than ever.

***

Like the fog that spreads out and obscures everything across the plains lying at the feet of the Himalayas, the fear of plague stretched out in four directions. Every child in the city would shudder upon hearing its name. 

While the plague, in fact, was dangerous, the quarantine was even more deadly than the illness. People were not as immiserated by the plague as they were by the quarantine. To save the citizens from the rats, the Health and Safety Department printed up life-sized banners and put them on doors, roads, and avenues emblazoned with the caption “No Rat. No Plague. No Quarantine,” expanding upon the earlier slogan, “No Rat. No Plague.”  

The people were frightened of the quarantine. Given that I am a doctor, you can believe me when I claim that more people in the city died from the quarantine than from the plague.  The quarantine is not a disease; but rather the name of an area where, during the days when the epidemic was spreading through the air, sick people were separated from healthy people by force of law to prevent the disease from further proliferating. Even though there were reasonable numbers of doctors and nurses in the quarantine, it wasn’t enough because patients kept coming in ever-increasing numbers. Patients were not given—and indeed could not be given—personalized care. Because patients’ family members were by their side, I saw many patients lose their mettle. Having watched so many others die, one by one, all around them, many patients died well before death. On many occasions, a person would come in with a minor illness but would die from the pathogens pervasive in quarantine. Because the death toll kept climbing, last rites could only be performed per the special procedures of the quarantine, which is to say, hundreds of corpses were strung out like the carcasses of dead dogs atop a mounting heap. Then, without any religious formalities, petrol would be tossed on the pile and set ablaze. Seeing the flames climbing up towards the evening sky, the remaining patients felt that the entire world was aflame.

The quarantine was the reason for the swelling deaths because, upon seeing the symptoms of the disease, family members of the afflicted began hiding them so that they would not be remanded to the quarantine forcibly. Doctors were instructed to report every person who had been infected to the department. Consequently, people did not seek treatment from doctors. One would come to know that a family had come into the clutches of the epidemic only when corpses were pulled from the house amidst heart-rendering shrieks.

In those days, I was working as a doctor in the quarantine. Fear of the plague consumed my heart and mind too. In the evening, upon reaching home, I would wash my hands with carbolic soap for a long time; or gargle with an antiseptic potion, or drink hot coffee that would give me indigestion or drink brandy. Because of this, I suffered from sleep deprivation and blinding light in my eyes. On several occasions, I would take emetics to induce vomiting to cleanse my body. Whenever I would get indigestion from drinking very hot coffee or brandy, which caused bouts of hot gas to rise and steam my brain, I would fall prey to all sorts of superstitions just like someone who had lost their wits. If there was the slightest pain in my throat, I’d think, “Oh God! I must have caught the murderous disease… Plague! And then… Quarantine!”

In those days, there was a newly converted Christian named William Bhagu. He was the sweeper who cleaned my street. One day, he came up to me and said, “Sir, it’s strange. Today, about twenty-one have been taken from this area in an ambu.”

“Twenty-one? In an ambulance…?” I asked in shock.

“Yes, sir… Fully twenty and one. They have been taken to the kontine. Will those hapless people ever be able to come back?”

I gathered that Bhagu would get up at three in the morning. After quaffing a small bottle of alcohol, he would spread lime powder in the streets and drains under the committee’s jurisdiction, as instructed, to prevent the microbes from spreading. Bhagu told me that he got up every day at three in the morning to collect the corpses strewn about the bazaar.  He also does small chores for those people in the neighborhood where he worked who don’t leave their homes for fear of the disease. Bhagu was not at all afraid of getting the disease. The way he saw it, if death was coming for him, there was nothing he could do to save himself no matter where he was.

In those days, when no one could go near anyone, Bhagu would cover his face and head with his turban cloth and, with great devotion, busy himself helping people. Even though his knowledge was very limited, he could expertly explain to people how to save themselves from the ailment. He instructed them to practice basic hygiene, toss lime powder, and remain inside their homes. One day I saw him counseling people to drink a lot of alcohol. On that day, when he approached me, I asked, “Bhagu, aren’t you afraid of getting the plague?”

“No, sir. Until death comes for me, not even a hair will be askew. You are such a prominent doctor. Thousands have been cured by your hands. But when my time comes, even your medicines will not save me…Sir, I hope you are not offended. I am just saying the plain truth.” Then, to change the subject he asked, “Sir, explain to me what a kontine is… tell me about this kontine.”

“Over there in the quarantine, there are thousands of patients. We treat them to the extent that we can. But how much can we do? The people who work with me are themselves afraid of staying with the patients for a long period of time. Their lips and throats are dry with fear. Unlike you, no one will get close to a patient. Nor will anyone try as hard as you, Bhagu. May God bless you for selfless service to humanity.”

Bhagu bowed his head. Lifting the corner of his scarf and showing me his face, flushed red from drunkenness, he said: “Sir! Of what use am I? I am fortunate if any good comes from my useless body. Sir, L’abe (Reverend Monit L’abe), an important Father who usually comes to my neighborhood to preach, says that the Lord Jesus Christ teaches us to do everything to help the ill… I understand….”

I wanted to appreciate Bhagu’s bravery, but I stopped because I was overwhelmed with emotions. I began to feel jealous upon seeing his faith and practical life. That day, I decided then and there that I would make every effort in the quarantine to keep alive as many patients as possible. I would risk my own life to provide them comfort. But there is a huge gap between saying something and doing it. Upon reaching the quarantine and seeing the patients’ perilous condition, I became overwhelmed by the stench emanating from their mouths. My very soul began to quake, and I was unable to summon the courage to serve them as Bhagu did.  

Nonetheless, on that day, I took Bhagu with me and got a lot done in the quarantine. I delegated to Bhagu the varied tasks which required someone to be near a patient; he performed the role without complaint. I remained quite distant from the patients because I was petrified by the thought of death and even more so of the quarantine.

But how is that Bhagu is above both death and the quarantine?

That day, four hundred patients came to the quarantine, and about 250 succumbed to the jaws of death.

I was able to save so many because of Bhagu’s willingness to gamble his own life. There was a graph hanging on the wall of the chief medical officer’s room, which depicted the latest data on patient survival outcomes. It showed that those patients who fared best were those under my care. Every day, I made one excuse or another to take a peek at the chart. It was exhilarating to see that line on its way towards one hundred percent.  

One day, I had drunk more brandy than was necessary. My heart began to pound. My pulse started racing like a horse. I began to run around here and there like a madman. I began to worry that perhaps the plague pathogens had finally grabbed hold of me and that soon the lymph nodes in my neck and thighs would begin to swell. I immediately panicked. That day, I wanted to run away from the quarantine. I was shaking the entire time I was there. On that day, I was able to meet Bhagu just twice.

In the afternoon, I saw him embracing some patient. He was patting him lovingly on the hand. The patient mustered as much strength as required to say “Brother, Allah is the king. God would not even bring an enemy to this place. I have two daughters…”

Bhagu interrupted him to say, “Brother, thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ, you look just fine.”

“Yes, brother, by god’s grace… I am much better than I was before. If I could… this quarantine….”

And with that word still on his tongue, his veins bulged. He began frothing at the mouth. His eyes became stones. His body jerked several times, and the patient, who just a moment ago before appeared to everyone –even to himself—to be fine, fell quiet forevermore. Bhagu’s tears seemed as if they were tears of blood.  Who else would cry for the dead man? Had any relative been there, they would’ve rendered asunder the earth with their mourning. He only had Bhagu—the relative to everyone. He had pain in his heart for everyone. He cried for everyone and seethed on everyone’s behalf. One day, he humbly offered himself to Lord Jesus Christ in recompense for the sins of mankind.

That day, around evening time, Bhagu ran to see me. He was out of breath. He said in a painful voice, “Sir, this quarantine is hell. Just hell. Father L’abe drew a map of this kind of hell.”

I told him, “Yes, brother, this is even worse than hell. I myself was thinking about making an escape from here. I am feeling very unwell today.”

“Sir, how can hell be worse than this? Today, a patient fainted from fear of the illness. Someone mistaking him for dead tossed him onto a pile of corpses. After dousing the heap with petrol and setting it ablaze, the flames began to consume the corpses. I saw him in the fire, moving his hands and feet. I leapt in and pulled him out. He was so badly burned that my right arm was completely burned while rescuing him.”

I looked at Bhagu’s arm.  The yellow fat tissue of his arm was exposed. I was stunned to see him like this. I asked, “In the end, was that man saved?”

“Sir, he was such a noble man. This world could never appreciate his virtuousness and honesty. Even in that state of sheer agony, he lifted up his scorched face, gazed into my eyes with great frailty and thanked me.”

“And sir,” Bhagu said, continuing his story, “then, after so much agony—so much more agony than I have ever witnessed in a dying patient—he passed. It would’ve been so much better had I not saved him from that inferno. By saving him, I kept him alive to bear yet more misery. Even then, he could not be spared. And then I picked him up with my burnt arms and tossed him on the pile.” 

After this, Bhagu could say no more. With pangs of pain, he said haltingly, “Do you know… from which disease he died? Not from the plague… From the kontine. From the kontine.”

Even though the idea of hell brought some modicum of solace from the brutality, the sky-rendering shrieks of the terrified patients relentlessly echoed in one’s ears throughout the night. Even though the owls hesitated to hoot, the lamentations of mothers, the screams of sisters, the grieving of wives, and the cries of children could be heard across the neighborhood. If this was a heavy burden upon the chests of those who were safe and sound, how did it demoralize those who were ill in their homes who could see only yellow despair dripping from the doors and windows like a jaundiced person. Then there were those patients of the quarantine who, after crossing all limits of despair, were staring down the king of death. Yet they gripped life as if they were clinging to the top of a tree during a great storm. And as the powerful waves of water kept coming at them, they wanted to take the top of that tree with them when they went under.

That day, I didn’t go to the quarantine either due to my fear of the illness. I made an excuse to do some urgent work. Actually, I was experiencing severe psychological distress…Although it was possible that I could help some patients, the fear which seized my heart and mind also shackled my feet. Late that evening, I received news that some five hundred patients had arrived in the quarantine.  

I was about to fall asleep after drinking the scalding coffee, which was still burning in my stomach, when I heard Bhagu’s voice at the door. The servant opened the door, and Bhagu entered panting. He said, “Sir, my wife has fallen ill… her tonsils are swollen… For the love of god, save her… The one and half-year-old child is still nursing. He will die too.”

Instead of mustering even an iota of genuine sympathy, I said angrily “Why didn’t you come sooner? Did the illness begin just now?”

“In the morning, a minor fever… when I went to the kontine…” 

“Okay. So, she was sick at home, and yet you still went to the quarantine?”

“Yes, sir. Yes.”  Bhagu said, trembling. “It was an ordinary illness. I assumed that perhaps her breasts could not express milk. Apart from this, she had no other problems. And both of my brothers were at home. And there were hundreds of helpless patients in the kontine…”

“You, with your excessive generosity and sacrifice, you brought those germs into your own home. I told you that you should not get so close to the patients… Look, this is the very reason I did not go there today. This is all your fault. Now, what can I do? Heroes like you need to suffer a taste of your own heroism. Wherever there are hundreds of patients piled up in the city…”

Bhagu said beseechingly “But for the sake of Jesus Christ…”

“Go. Leave. Who do you think you are? You deliberately put your hand in the fire. Should I pay the price for your imprudence?  Does anything good come from such sacrifices? I can’t help you at all at this hour….”

“But Father L’abe….”

“Leave. Go and see your Father L’abe…”

Bhagu bowed his head and left. Half an hour later, my anger had dissipated, and I regretted my behavior. At least I had enough sense to feel terrible about it afterwards. Without a doubt, my most severe punishment would be trampling upon my pride, begging Bhagu for his forgiveness, and making every conceivable effort to save his wife. I changed my clothes as quickly as possible and ran to Bhagu’s home. Upon arrival, I saw that Bhagu’s younger brothers had laid their sister-in-law on a charpai and were taking her outside….

I asked Bhagu, “Where are they taking her?”

Bhagu said softly, “To the kontine…”

“But don’t you still think the quarantine is a hell, Bhagu?”

“Sir, when you refused to come, what other option was there? I was thinking that we would get the hakeem’s help there, and I could care for her along with the other patients.”

“Put the charpai here… Even now, your brain is still fixated upon other patients…? Fool…”

The bed was taken inside, and I administered to his wife whatever effective medicines I had, and then I began to struggle with my invisible opponent. Bhagu’s wife opened her eyes.

Bhagu said in a trembling voice, “I will never forget your kindness for the rest of my life, sir.”

I said, “Bhagu, I can’t tell you how much I regret how I behaved before… May god repay your service by making your wife healthy.”

In that moment, I saw my invisible foe deploy his last weapon. Bhagu’s wife’s lips began to tremble. Her pulse, which had slowed in my hand, continued to weaken. My invisible enemy, who is regularly victorious, knocked me down on all fours as usual.  I lowered my head remorsefully and said, “Bhagu, ill-fated Bhagu! This is a peculiar reward for all of your sacrifices.”

Bhagu burst into tears. It was difficult to watch as he removed his crying child from his mother and humbly asked me to leave. I had thought that Bhagu, having accepted the darkness of his own life, would no longer care for others…. But the very next day, I saw him helping even more patients than before. He saved the lights of hundreds of homes… And he paid absolutely no heed to his own life. Even I followed Bhagu’s example and began working with enthusiasm. In my spare time—when I was free from my work in the quarantine and hospital—I turned my attention to the homes of the city’s poor, which are epicenters due to their proximity to sewers or filth.  

Now, the atmosphere is completely free of the pathogen that caused the illness. The entire city has been cleansed. There are no signs of rats. In the entire city, there are but a few cases of the disease which, after getting immediate attention, do not spread further.

Throughout the city, business returned to normal. Schools, colleges, and offices began to reopen.

One thing I felt for certain was that people were pointing at me from every direction as I passed through the bazaar. People looked upon me with grateful eyes. My picture was published in the newspaper along with flattering words. I began to feel pretty arrogant after receiving so much praise and compliments wherever I went.

Ultimately, there was a large ceremony to which all of the city’s well-heeled citizens and doctors were invited. The Minister of the Municipality presided over it. I was seated next to the minister because this program had, in fact, been organized in my honor. My neck strained under the weight of the garlands. Feeling honored and looking about, the committee was giving me a token sum of one thousand rupees as recompense for my diligent work on behalf of humanity.

All of the people who were there praised my colleagues generally and me, in particular, and exclaimed that the number of lives that were saved during the plague due to my diligence and dedication were innumerable.  I couldn’t tell you whether it was day or night. I believed that my life was tantamount to the life of the nation and my wealth to be the treasure of society. I entered the homes of the ill and gave the dying patients the elixir of health!

The Minister of the Municipality stood on the left side and picked up a walking stick. Addressing the audience, he used his stick to draw their attention to a black line on the chart, which was hanging on the wall. The line depicted how, throughout the course of the epidemic, the health of the public continuously improved at every moment during the crisis. He concluded by referencing the chart, which also indicated the day when fifty-four patients were remanded to my care, all of whom recovered. In other words, my success rate was one hundred per cent, and the black line reached its zenith.

After this, the minister acknowledged my courage in his speech and said that the people would be pleased to know that Bakhshi was being promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in acknowledgment of his service. The hall was filled with the thunderous sound of loud applause.

During the ovation, I raised my head in pride. I thanked the dignitaries and distinguished audience in a lengthy oration. In addition, I also explained that doctors did not just devote their attention to the hospitals and quarantines but also to the homes of the impoverished. Those people had no one to help them, and they generally succumbed to this fatal disease. My colleagues and I searched for—and found—the epicenter of the illness and focused our attention upon eradicating the disease at its source. After finishing up our work in the hospital and quarantine, we would spend the night in those dreadful houses.

That same day, after the ceremony, with my rank of lieutenant colonel, I held my head high with pride, laden with garlands and one thousand rupees—a token gift from the people–stuffed in my pocket. Upon reaching home, I heard a soft voice off to the side.

“Babu Ji… So many congratulations to you!”

And Bhagu, while congratulating me, placed that same old broom on the lid of a filthy, nearby cistern and, with both hands, removed the cloth he had tied around his face. I was startled.

“Is that you?… Bhagu brother!” I barely managed to say… “The world doesn’t know you, Bhagu, and even if it never does, I know you. And I know your Jesus.…L’abe’s great disciple… May god bless you.” At that time, my throat became dry. The image of Bhagu’s dying wife and child flashed before my eyes. My neck felt as if it was snapping from the heft of the garlands, and my pocket was bursting at the seams from the weight of my wallet and. Despite receiving all of these honors, I began to mourn this world that had so much appreciation for a worthless man.

***

About the Translator:

C. Christine Fair is a professor in Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program within the School of Foreign Service.  She studies political and military events of South Asia and travels extensively throughout Asia and the Middle East. Her books include In Their Own Words: Understanding the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (OUP 2019); Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War (OUP, 2014); and Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States (Globe Pequot, 2008). Her forthcoming book is Lines of Control: Lashkar-e-Tayyaba’s Militant Piety, with Safina Ustad (Oxford University Press, 2021).  She has published creative pieces in The Bark, The Dime Show Review, Furious Gazelle, Hyptertext, Lunch Ticket, Clementine Unbound, Fifty Word Stories, The Drabble, Sandy River Review, Barzakh Magazine, Bluntly Magazine, Badlands Literary Journal, among others. Her visual work has appeared in Vox Populi, pulpMAG, The Indianapolis Review, Typehouse Literary Magazine, The New Southern Fugitives, Glassworks and Existere Journal of Arts. Her translations have appeared in the Bombay Literary Magazine and Bombay Review. She causes trouble in multiple languages.


CATEGORIESTRANSLATIONS

Rajinder Singh Bedi

Rajinder Singh Bedi (1915-1984) was a famed Urdu story writer associated with the Progressive Writers’ Movement in India. He is most renowned for writing short stories that dilated upon the lives of India’s lower middle-class. He was born in the Sialkot district of pre-partition Punjab, which is now in Pakistan. He spent his formative years in Lahore (currently in Pakistan) where he was educated in Urdu.ALL POSTS

This was published in the Bangalore Review in September 2022.

Caste apartheid: India’s Less Salubrious Export to the United States

Until American state and federal laws — and domestic law elsewhere — catch up to the realities of caste apartheid, the most vulnerable of Indian-origin persons will suffer

Source: Equality Lab, “Caste In the United States,” https://www.equalitylabs.org/castesurvey

India exports nearly $20 billion in pearls and precious stones, pharmaceuticals, machinery, electronic equipment and textiles. But there’s another export that is increasingly apparent: India’s caste apartheid.

This was first brought to my attention in 2017 when students approached me about alleged caste-based intimidation and harassment they were experiencing in their graduate program. While I was dismayed by their reports, I wasn’t entirely surprised because Silicon Valley firms had already been in the news for similar reasons as the State of California sought to find a legal remedy and came up empty-handed based upon federal or state legal protections, which include the US Equal Employment Discrimination Opportunity (EEOC) enforced American laws which criminalize employment discrimination on the basis of a person’s “race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, transgender status, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information”. California’s own EEOC protects more classes of persons based upon ancestry, marital status, military/veteran status.”

But where does caste fit within these protections?

Source: Equality Lab, “Caste In the United States,” https://www.equalitylabs.org/castesurvey

Indeed, while such caste-based abuse is sinister and dehumanizing, American law has had difficulty finding a legal remedy for it. Two prominent lawsuits shed light upon this brutal form of discrimination in the United States In July 2020, the state of California sued Cisco Systems over alleged caste-based discrimination towards an Indian engineer by his Indian colleagues; however, the state struggled to argue that caste is protected as a form of religious-based discrimination but ultimately withdrew that case under pressure from Hindu groups which sought to minimize the role of caste in the Hindu religious tradition among other specious arguments including the argument that it violates due process and “uniquely endangers Hindus and Indians.”

In March 2021, a federal lawsuit alleged that a Hindu organization lured some 200 low-caste workers to the United State and forced them to work on building a sprawling temple complex in New Jersey for as little as $1.20 per hour. While lawsuits are battling out these issues, Krishnaswami and Krishnamurthi, in contrast, argue that caste discrimination is cognizable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In the United States, it is true that caste is most typically associated with Hindus; Sumitra Badrinathan et al emphasize that caste hierarchies and caste self-identification are prevalent in most, if not all, the major religious traditions in South Asia. This is true in Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. Given that the vast majority of Muslims in South Asia converted from Hinduism, most Muslims carry with them the caste of their Hindu ancestors.

Additionally, Islam in South Asia has developed its own additional social hierarchies in South Asia, such as the Ashraf and Sayyids (persons who claim to be direct descendants of Prophet Muhammad), the local South Asian converts from Hinduism (Ajlaf) who also still bear the imprimatur of their Hindu caste origins, as well family and other network-based forms of social stratification (e.g. the Biradari System). Equally important one can be religiously secular while still perpetrating caste-based bigotry because it also confers notions of social status.

Two recent empirical studies demonstrate the impacts of India’s less salubrious transplant among its myriad diasporan communities in the United States. The Equality Lab, in its 2016 survey of 1,500 self-identified Hindu Americans, observes that many caste-oppressed migrant communities in the United States are affected by caste discrimination because this caste-apartheid has “replicated itself in South Asian community, religious, and business institutions. This has led to many shocking experiences of caste discrimination in the United States that includes physical assault, verbal slurs, and discrimination in schools, businesses, and workplaces.”

Moreover, they found that 41 percent of those identifying as lower-caste reported caste discrimination in American schools and universities compared to only 3 percent of those who identified as upper-caste Hindus. More than 67 percent of lower-caste respondents indicated that they suffered caste discrimination in the workplace compared to merely one percent of upper-caste respondents. Unsurprisingly, the Hindu American Foundation, lambasted this study perhaps revealing its own proclivities to upholding caste-based apartheid. While pro-caste trolls attacked this study, it is not the only effort to understand this phenomenon in the United States. In 2020, Badrinathan et al of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace oversaw a survey of 1,200 Indian American residents in the United States. They report that more than eight in ten Hindus identify as upper caste with foreign-born respondents being more likely to embrace a caste identity than are those who were born in the United States.

While the vast majority of Americans are likely to be blissfully unaware of this form of discrimination, South Asian Americans are. According to Krishnaswami and Krishnamurthi, in the summer of 2020, “[S]everal employees of large tech firms like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Cisco came forward with harrowing tales of workplace discrimination, including being paid less, denied promotions, and mocked for their caste background. And, undoubtedly, the scourge of caste discrimination extends beyond Big Tech. While caste discrimination is in no sense new, these recent reports should serve as a needed wake-up call. Eradicating caste discrimination demands our immediate collective attention and action.”

There are several scholarly as well as journalistic accounts of caste-based discrimination among diasporan communities in the United States and elsewhere, such as the United Kingdom and other countries with large South Asian diasporan populations.

Another venue that is increasingly emerging as a site of caste-based discrimination in the university system where Indians live in large numbers. Times Higher Education, which studied this phenomenon in the United Kingdom and the United States, concluded that caste is a global problem. Given the so-far undefined legal protections to low-caste South Asians, many American universities are taking action to codify caste as a protected category under its anti-discrimination policy. As of December 2021, the University of California Davis, Maine’s Colby College and Massachusetts’ Brandeis and Harvard universities have done so.

Until American state and federal laws — and domestic law elsewhere — catch up to the realities of caste apartheid, the most vulnerable of Indian-origin persons will suffer. It’s bad enough that black and brown bodies must endure the brunt of American white supremacy, but they seem to be increasingly facing the brunt of a brutal system that they thought they had left behind when they left India.

A version of this essay was published in The Print on 9 February 2022.

Why Pakistan is happy to pay a heavy price this time for strategic depth in Afghanistan

Imran Con: Pakistan’s Selected Prime Minister

For the first time in over 75 years not only are there no Indian advisors in Afghanistan, there are now Pakistani advisors in their stead. This alone may be worth the price that Pakistan will continue to pay for its victory in Afghanistan

C Christine Fair January 24, 2022 11:22:14 IST

For the first time in 20 years, Pakistan believes it has a friendly government in Kabul. All of the pesky nuisances — such as the United States and India — have been vanquished and their embassies shuttered, while the embassies of Pakistan, China and Russia (Pakistan’s newest ally) remain open for business. That business is not salubrious for the international community or most importantly for Afghans. This has come at a steep price: Pakistan’s own Tehreek-e-Taliban-Pakistan has been revivified within Pakistan. Yet, more Afghans are trying to flee the brutality of Pakistan’s puppet regime and Pakistan is the only option as the international efforts to evacuate Afghans have wrapped up. And the Taliban — just like every other regime in Kabul — repudiate the colonial-era Durand Line, which Pakistan recognizes as the rightful border.

Far too many ingénues have been busy drafting lugubrious repines for the troubles faced by Rawalpindi and Islamabad, the seat of the army’s power and that of the ISI and their selected prime minister, Imran Khan, respectively. These are all prices that Pakistan’s real political masters in khaki are happy to pay. It is the ordinary Pakistani who will pay the price. Fortunately for the Khaki Condominium running Pakistan, the country is not a functioning democracy, rather a praetorian state with a democratic patina. This means that while Imran Khan may not be re-elected, it will not be because of Pakistanis’ immiseration. Instead, it will be because the Men in their Pajeros have finally created an alternative to Imran Khan after he’s ceased being a useful idiot. From the points of view of the army and the intelligence agency it controls, the ISI, these are not merely prices but investments for the future. Here, I explain why.

For much of the time period of the Raj, Afghanistan was a fealty of the British. British Indians were very active in Afghanistan. With the onset of World War I (1914–18), Afghans supported Ottoman Turkey against the British. Following the defeat of Ottoman Turkey, the so-called Khilafat Movement (1919–24) would start in earnest in South Asia. Afghan’s ruler, Habibullah Khan, navigated a policy of non-involvement in the war while British Indians were dispatched to fight in it. Habibullah was assassinated in February 1919 by anti-British activists. His son, Amanullah Khan, took the throne and promised complete independence from Britain. Persons. With this declaration, the Third Anglo-Afghan War began in May 1919. War-weary Britain was drained and the British Indian Army was exhausted from the brutal demands of World War I. In August 1919, both sides signed a treaty in Rawalpindi — not Calcutta or Delhi.

After a month of desultory skirmishes, the Afghans had successfully secured their own sovereignty with a caveat. Afghanistan had always been a rentier state, dependent upon the financial support of the British to maintain its military among other important functions. When the British left, they took their coffers with them. Consequently, prior to formalizing the treaty, Amanullah’s government signed a treaty of friendship with the Bolshevik regime in the Soviet Union. In fact, Afghanistan was one of the first states to formally recognize the Soviet Union. Increasingly, the Soviets picked up Afghanistan’s tab, and their involvement culminated in the Christmas Day invasion of the country of 1979.

Until India’s Independence in August 1947, British Indian Muslims played an important role in Afghanistan as advisors. Also, during the Khilafat movement and at the urging of many religious leaders, many Indian movements spontaneously moved to Afghanistan where they could be free of British bondage. The Khyber Pass became choked with those seeking to enter Afghanistan along with their animals and carts festooned with their possessions. Overwhelmed by this migration, Afghanistan blocked their emigration. Unfortunately, their woes were not over: Many of the emigres were robbed by Afghan tribes or died of hunger or heat. Those who did make it back to India were destitute.

With India’s Independence, the Afghan government preferred to work with Indians as the Afghan government repudiated the Durand Line, which was the international and lawfully recognized border with the new state of Pakistan; rejected Pakistan’s admission to the United Nations; launched military incursions along the border; and fanned the flames of Pashtun irredentism. From Pakistan’s point of view, a further irritant was a reliance upon Indians advising the various Afghan regimes from 1947 up until the 1988 Geneva Accords which formally ended the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. During this period, estimates of Indian advisors aiding the various governments in Kabul at any given time vary between several hundred and 1,500. After the Soviets withdrew, Afghanistan entered a long and protracted period of civil war followed by the Taliban regime which terrorized Afghans from 1994–to 2001, when the United States routed them.

For the first time ever, it is Pakistan that is sending advisors to Afghanistan. While the Soviet Union left Afghanistan a large rentier state, the United States and its NATO partners built the largest Afghan government in its history and the largest rentier state in its history. Whereas when the Russians left, they were paying about 35 percent of the government’s recurring cost, the Americans were picking up the lion’s share of the enormous tab to keep the government afloat. The Taliban, which were never terribly interested in governing, are now under pressure to do so. However, they inherited a large rentier state.

Even though the Taliban purported to offer amnesty to the civilians who worked in the government during the last 20 years, many did not trust them, and they left if they could with the international community that was still able to evacuate terrified Afghans. In fact, some 120,000 left Afghanistan over the objection of the Taliban which believed these Afghans should have stayed to “rebuild” their Emirate. Despite earlier Taliban claims that it had the money to pay for the new government including civil servant salaries, it is now clear that the freeze on Afghan sovereign funds and sanctions has made this impossible. Moreover, the Afghan “government” now faces a serious personnel shortage.

Following this reporting, Pakistan announced that it will send “qualified and trained Pakistan manpower to Afghanistan”, specifically those in “medical, IT, finance and accounting”. Pakistan’s selected prime minister also ordered “relevant Pakistani officials to extend cooperation in the fields of railways, minerals, pharmaceuticals, and media to help Afghanistan’s rehabilitation and development”. Afghans understood that the Taliban defeat of their country was actually Pakistan’s victory over Afghanistan via their proxies. Afghans now worry that their colonization is complete.

For Pakistan, this is a dream come true: For the first time in over 75 years not only are there no Indian advisors in Afghanistan but there are also now Pakistani advisors in their stead. This alone may be worth the price that Pakistan will continue to pay for its victory in Afghanistan.

The writer is a professor of Security Studies at Georgetown University. She is the author of ‘In Their Own Words: Understanding the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba’ and ‘Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War’. She tweets @cchristinefair. Her website is christinefair.net. Views expressed are personal.

A version of this post first appeared in First Post on 24 January 2022.

We asked why Pakistanis support Lashkar-e-Taiba. Results will surprise you

The Pakistani deep state prefers the Lashkar-e-Taiba over others. At home, the brutal terrorist group is quite the opposite.

C. CHRISTINE FAIR

24 January 2022 09:23 am IST

Lashkar-e-Taiba, along with Jaish-e-Mohammed, remains Pakistan’s most virulent export. It remains the most effective and brutal terrorist group operating in India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and possibly elsewhere. Understanding who supports this nefarious organization remains an important scholarly and policy analytic question. To cast light on which Pakistanis support this group, my colleague, Karl Kaltenthaler and I, fielded a novel, nationally-representative survey of 7,656 Pakistanis in the country’s four provinces of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Our results may surprise you.

Ideology matters

The Lashkar-e-Taiba (and other various noms de guerre it has used and uses) differs from many of the Islamist terrorist groups operating in the region that hail from the Deobandi religious interpretive tradition, in that the LeT draws from the Ahl-e-Hadees tradition. In fact, the organization has a considerable conflict with these Deobandi groups in large measure because most of the Deobandis engage in a practice of takfir, or declaring Pakistanis to be non-Muslim, which then render them subject to lethal violence. Moreover, the Islamic State in Pakistan draws from Deobandi militant organizations because the madrassas and the terrorist organizations the Deobandis support are deeply sectarian with a rich history of targeting non-Muslims, Shia, Ahmadi and increasingly Barelvis over the last decade.

More than anything, Pakistan’s deep state values the Lashkar-e-Taiba precisely because it preaches non-violence within the country. As I discuss elsewhere, the organization does not even publicly advocate death for Ahmadis, which puts it in stark contrast with Pakistan’s Deobandis and even Barelvis, who view Ahmadis as the worst perpetrators of shirk(apostasy). Moreover, Lashkar believes that it provides the only ideological competitor to the Islamic State in Pakistan.

Despite the organization’s claims to be Ahl-e-Hadees, most of Pakistan’s Ahl-e-Hadees ulema and institutions reject Lashkar’s primary claims that waging military jihad is an inescapable obligation of all Muslims and that it can be waged only by non-state actors. Instead, most Ahl-e-Hadees ulema believe that only an Islami Riyasit (Islamic State) can wage jihad. While the LeT preaches nonviolence towards anyone who recognizes the supremacy of Allah, it has real ideological differences with virtually all other Muslim sects in Pakistan. It accuses Barelvis (likely the largest market share in Pakistan) of committing idolatry for their cult-like adoration for the Prophet, who in Islam is merely a human being. Barelvis not only ascribe attributes to the Prophet that are reserved for Allah alone, but they also engage in practices – wearing amulets, worship of pirs, erection of elaborate graves, etc. – that the Lashkar believes to be apostasy.

Lashkar, like Deobandi militant groups, also take issue with Shias because they reject the succession of the Prophet. Unlike Deobandis, who believe that Shia are wajib-ul-qatil, worthy of being killed, Lashkar believes that they should be educated and converted.

Despite significant ideological differences with mainstream Ahl-e-Hadees institutions in Pakistan, according to our study, Lashkar-e-Taiba still draws support from Ahle-e-Hadees adherents. Notably, we find that Barelvi, Shia, and Deobandi oppose the organization, which is consistent with the LeT’s proselytization efforts (dawa and tabligh) to convert such persons to the Lashkar’s understanding of the Ahl-e-Hadees interpretative tradition.

But ethnicity matters more

Lashkar has long claimed to be a Kashmiri Tanzeem, comprising Kashmiris fighting for Kashmiris and dying in Kashmir. But it has long been suspected and recent data somewhat demonstrates that only the latter claim is true (See Figure 1). Whereas some 90 percent die in India, and over 90 percent of its cadres come from a mere ten districts in Pakistan’sPunjab. A meagre 1 percent comes from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Irrespective of the LeT’s claim to be a “Kashmiri” organization, it is by all measure a Punjabi organization.

This raises an interesting question: Do Pakistanis support the organization because of its religious or ethnic bona fides? It turns out that while ideology matters, ethnicity is the strongest predictor of support. It is far more important than ideology. At the same time, the Baloch are significantly more likely than others to oppose the Lashkar-e-Taiba whereas Sindhis are weak in their response. This also tracks with reality: Pakistan’s deep state has used the Lashkar in Balochistan for various reasons.

First, it is expected that Lashkar can persuade Baloch to abandon their ethnonationalist aspirations and embrace the State-sponsored notions of Islam propounded by Lashkar. To advance this agenda, when natural disasters hit Balochistan, as they often do, Pakistan only lets “humanitarian” organizations in to do relief, which are tied to Lashkar. Equally important, the Lashkar is explicitly pro-China and endorses the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Given that Pakistan will fight to the last Baloch to make the resource-rich province safe for Chinese exploitation, the Baloch rightly view the Lashkar to be another guise of Punjabi domination working in concert with the Punjabi-dominated army, which many Baloch believe has immiserated Baloch in their own province.

Support of the Army-led status quo in Pakistan

While the Lashkar is an important and violent disruptor abroad, at home in Pakistan, it is an explicitly status quo power. While LeT advocates killing kuffars (nonbelievers) in India, within Pakistan, it insists upon converting them through social services, humanitarian relief, and lived examples of pious Muslims. LeT’s staunch opposition to sectarian violence pits it against the Islamic State and many of the Deobandi militant groups, such as the anti‐Shia Lashkar‐e‐Jhangvi (LeJ, which also operates under the names Sipah‐e‐Sahaba‐e‐Pakistan and Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat) or the Tehreek‐e‐Taliban (TTP or the Pakistani Taliban), which draws many of its commanders and cadres from the LeJ.

Moreover, Lashkar argues against any kind of protest of the State—irrespective of its leadership—and is a staunch supporter of the current domestic, political and economic system in Pakistan, including Pakistan’s unaffordable friendship with China. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the third-strongest predictor of support for the Lashkar was satisfaction with the status quo. Our results should put to rest any thinking that Lashkar is a revolutionary organization.


Mothers of brutes

While very little work has been done to explicate whether and why women support Islamist terrorism, women in Pakistan are much more likely to support the Lashkar than are men. As I describe elsewhere, the organization dedicates significant resources to recruit women to the organization’s goals to ensure that they support the LeT by encouraging their sons and other male family members to join it either as militants or in supporting roles.

The LeT empowers women to promote the organization’s creed, which empowers them and frees them to move about without hindrance. To ensure that mothers are not disenchanted with the organization, the Lashkar-e-Taiba requires the mother’s explicit blessings for every mission in which her son may meet so-called martyrdom. The organization dispatches senior personnel to notify the parents of their sons’ death and it oversees the important ghaib-e-janaza, or funerary prayers in absence of a body.

None of this is good news

So, what does one do with this information? These results continue to show that it is very likely that there is a viable non-kinetic strategy to deal with the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Given the extensive State support for the organization and the stronghold that Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies have in the country, there is little scope to conduct information offensives that would undermine any of the sources of support we find.

The only options to deter the LeT—absent capabilities to impose India’s will over Pakistan decisively through overt military operations—are covert and kinetic. As I have shown elsewhere, the pyramidal and open leadership structure in Pakistan make it vulnerable to leadership decapitation. While this option is challenging and difficult to execute, other options seem elusive.

C. Christine Fair is a professor within Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program within the Edmund A. Walsh school of foreign service. She is the author of In their own Words: Understanding the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War. She tweets at @cchristinefair. Views are personal.

A version of this piece first appeared in The Print, on 24, January 2022.

पाकिस्तान और सऊदी अरब के बीच बिगड़े रिश्ते

सी. क्रिस्टीन फ़ैर

Nov 28, 2021 

31 अक्टूबर को, पाकिस्तान के प्रधान मंत्री ने सऊदी अरब को “वर्ष के दौरान $3 बिलियन जमा करने और $1.2 बिलियन विकाशन किया हुआ  पेट्रोलियम उत्पादों के वित्तीयन के लिए” उसकी हालिया प्रतिबद्धता के लिए कृतज्ञता व्यक्त की, और आगे कहा कि दोनों राज्य के दरमियान  “लंबे समय से भाईचारे और आपसी संबंध, जो साझा आस्था, साझा इतिहास और आपसी समर्थन पर आधारित हैं”|  इमरान खान ने आगे कहा कि यह कदम “दोनों राज्यों के बीच सदाबहार दोस्ती की पुष्टि करता है“।

यह वाकपटुता मात्र एक छोटा “अंजीर का पत्ता” है जो सत्य को छुपाता है: दोनों राज्यों के सम्बन्ध में लम्बे समय से तनाव है |  रियाद ने अब एक सौहार्दपूर्ण संबंध बनाने का प्रयास क्यों किया है? अफ़ग़निस्तान में हाल के घटनाक्रम और पाकिस्तान की तरफ़ ईरानी कहाव कुछ हद तक इस कदम की व्याख्या किये जा सकते, लेकिन भारत के साथ रियाद के बढ़ते आर्थिक संबंध सऊदी-पाकिस्तान संबंधों की सीमाओं को बाधित करेंगे।

जन्नत खतरे में है

पाकिस्तान और सऊदी अरब के संबंध सऊदी अरब के विशाल संपत्ति के अधिग्रहण से पहले के हैं। 1960 के दशक के दौरान, दोनों राज्यों ने पारस्परिक कारणों से एक-दूसरे को महत्व दिया। सऊदी ने सराहना की कि पाकिस्तान, मिस्र में जमाल अब्देल नासिर के समाजवादी शासन के प्रत्युपाय के रूप में, सऊदी के सशस्त्र बलों को सैन्य प्रशिक्षण प्रदान किया|  सऊदी अरब ने सैन्य प्रशिक्षण के लिए पाकिस्तान भेजा।  बाद में, 1960 के दशक के मध्य में एक समझौते के बाद, सेवानिवृत्त पाकिस्तानी सैन्य अधिकारी राज्य के सशस्त्र बलों के निर्माण के लिए सऊदी अरब गए|  इन अनुभवों  से, पाकिस्तान 1965 और 1971 में भारत से अपनी हार के बाद भी एक अंतरराष्ट्रीय उपस्थिति स्थापित कर सकता था| 

1970 के दशक के अंत में कई घटनाओं ने सऊदी की रुचि पाकिस्तान की सैन्य मदद से अपनी सुरक्षा को मजबूत करने में  बढ़ाई । इनमें विद्रोहियों द्वारा 1979 में मक्का में मस्जिद की घेराबंदी, ईरानी क्रांति, ईरान-इराक युद्ध और अफ़ग़निस्तान पर सोवियत आक्रमण शामिल हैं।

1981 तक, पाकिस्तान सरकार ने स्वीकार किया कि “सऊदी अरब में 1500 से 2,000 आदमी  सैनिक ड्यूटी पर हैं, जिसमें वे इंजीनियरिंग और प्रशिक्षण असाइनमेंट के रूप में वर्णित करते हैं“। बदले में, सऊदी अरब ने पाकिस्तान को शायद 1 अरब डॉलर का भुगतान किया। इस अवधि के दौरान, पश्चिमी ख़ुफ़िया एजेंसियां ​​पाकिस्तान के परमाणु बम बनाने के प्रयासों से अवगत थीं। 1980 के दशक के दौरान, पाकिस्तान सऊदी उदारता का लाभार्थी बन गया, और सऊदी अरब पाकिस्तान की सैन्य परिसंपत्ति से फ़ायदा उठाता गया।

जैसे-जैसे पाकिस्तान की आर्थिक स्थिति और गंभीर होती गई, सऊदी अरब पर उसकी निर्भरता गहरी होती चली गई। सऊदी अरब उपकृत करने से अधिक खुश था: इसने सब्सिडी वाले पाकिस्तानी तेल आयात करने के लिए कर्ज़ भुगतान स्थगित कर दिया; मदरसों के बड़े नेटवर्क बनाने में मदद की | सऊदी ने पाकिस्तान के 1998 के परमाणु परीक्षणों के बाद प्रतिबंधों के प्रभाव को कम कर दिया और बदले में, पाकिस्तान ने सऊदी अरब को सैन्य सहायता प्रदान की और अपने क्षेत्रीय हितों को बढ़ाने में मदद की|  इसके अलावा, सऊदी अरब में पाकिस्तानी प्रवासी श्रमिकों के विप्रेषित धन पाकिस्तान के कुल विदेशी प्रेषण धन का लगभग एक-चौथाई हिस्सा है, जबकि पाकिस्तान सऊदी अरब को बहुत आवश्यक मानव संसाधन प्रदान करते हैं।

सऊदी अरब पर पाकिस्तान की अत्यधिक वित्तीय निर्भरता को देखते हुए रियाद ने उम्मीद लगाई कि  पाकिस्तान यमन में सऊदी के क्रूर अभियान में जहाजों, विमानों और सैनिकों मे योगदान करेगा, परंतु जब पाकिस्तान ने से इनकार किया तो सऊदी अरब उग्र हो गया| सऊदी अरब यमन में सैन्य बल द्वारा राष्ट्रपति अब्दराबुह मंसूर हादी को बहाल करना चाहता है। सऊदी अरब को इस मिशन में पाकिस्तान की सहायता की उम्मीद थी, लेकिन अप्रैल 2015 में, पाकिस्तान की संसद ने तटस्थ रहने के लिए मतदान किया। तत्कालीन प्रधानमंत्री नवाज़ शरीफ़ के सऊदी अरब के साथ घनिष्ठ संबंधों के बावजूद, शरीफ़ कि सेना के विरोध ने उनकी सरकार को रियाद की नज़र में अविश्वसनीय बना दिया। रियाद की झुंझलाहट को शांत करने के लिए, पाकिस्तान ने सऊदी अरब और उसके सहयोगियों के साथ 2016 के “नॉर्थ थंडर” सैन्य अभ्यास में भाग लिया और इसके अतिरिक्त दोनों देशों के विशेष बलों के साथ संयुक्त अभ्यास किया।

शरीफ सरकार ने अतिरिक्त रूप से 1,000 से अधिक सैनिकों को सऊदी अरब में भेजा, जिसने सऊदी अरब में पहले से तैनात 1,600 को “इस्लामी पवित्र स्थलों को सुरक्षित करने और अन्य आंतरिक सुरक्षा भूमिकाओं में सेवा करने” के लिए बढ़ाया।  नवंबर 2017 में शरीफ की सरकार सऊदी के नेतृत्व में इस्लामिक मिलिट्री काउंटर-टेररिज्म गठबंधन में शामिल हो गई, जिसमें 41 इस्लामिक देशों के सैनिकों ने भाग लिया। पाकिस्तान के सेवानिवृत्त सेना प्रमुख राहील शरीफ ने समूह की कमान संभाली। इस गठबंधन का उद्देश्य पूरे मुस्लिम दुनिया में आतंकवादी समूहों और उनकी गतिविधियों से लड़ना था।

अगस्त 2018 में, पाकिस्तान सेना ने इमरान खान को प्रधानमंत्री के रूप में चुना, जो कि रावलपिंडी और इस्लामाबाद के बीच अधिक से अधिक संरेखण का सुझाव दे रहा था । एक संक्षिप्त अवधि के लिए, प्रधान मंत्री खान और सऊदी क्राउन प्रिंस मोहम्मद बिन सलमान ने मिलनसार का आनंद लिया| 

जैसे ही खान प्रधान मंत्री बने, वैसे ही पाकिस्तान की सेना ने रियाद से एक आर्थिक पैकेज हासिल कर लिया था और क्राउन प्रिंस ने व्यक्तिगत रूप से खान को निवेश पर एक सम्मेलन में भाग लेने के लिए किंगडम आने के लिए आमंत्रित किया था। अमेरिका में रहने वाले एक विरोधी सऊदी पत्रकार जमाल खशोगी की 2018 की हत्या के बाद प्रतिष्ठापूर्ण आमंत्रित लोगों ने सम्मेलन में भाग लेने से इनकार कर दिया था । सम्मेलन के एक महीने के भीतर, 3 अरब डॉलर के ऋण में से पहला $1 बिलियन पाकिस्तान को दिया गया था।

 क्षेत्र में रियाद के कनिष्ठ साथी, अबू धाबी ने एक तुलनीय पेशकश की। एक कुशल ग्राहक को पुरस्कृत करने के लिए, फरवरी 2019 में, मोहम्मद बिन सलमान ग्वादर में एक अरामको तेल रिफाइनरी सहित, $20 बिलियन की परियोजनाओं के साथ, व्यवसायियों के एक दल के साथ इस्लामाबाद पहुंचे| (2021 में, सऊदी ने रिफाइनरी परियोजना को कराची में स्थानांतरित करा ।) मार्च 2019 में, पाकिस्तान ईरान के ख़िलाफ़ सऊदी के नेतृत्व वाले गठबंधन में शामिल हो गया | पाकिस्तान की भागीदारी ने राज्य के प्रति पाकिस्तान की प्रतिबद्धता के बारे में रियाद की चिंताओं को कम कर दिया।

एक अल्पकालिक राहत

अगस्त 2019 में, भारत ने कश्मीर के विशेष दर्जे को समाप्त कर दिया। दिल्ली के इस फैसले से पाकिस्तान नाराज था|  सऊदी अरब और संयुक्त अरब अमीरात के इस मामले पर चुप्पी साधे रहने और ऐसे ही बने रहने से पाकिस्तान और परेशान हो गया था| इसके विपरीत तुर्की और मलेशिया ने पाकिस्तान के साथ मिलकर इस फ़ैसले का विरोध किया| तीन देशों ने भारत के साहसिक कदम के बारे में अरबों को आगाह करते हुए एक वैकल्पिक इस्लामिक ब्लॉक बनाने का विचार किया। 

मलेशिया ने दिसंबर में एक शिखर सम्मेलन निर्धारित किया। मलेशिया के प्रधानमंत्री ने सूचित किया कि यह “इस्लामिक सहयोग के निष्क्रिय, सऊदी-प्रभुत्व वाले संगठन के लिए एक वैकल्पिक ब्लॉक के रूप में कार्य करेगा।” अंततः, सऊदी धमकियों के तहत, पाकिस्तान कुआलालंपुर शिखर सम्मेलन से हट गया, जिसमें सऊदी के क्षेत्रीय प्रतिद्वंद्वियों ने, यानी कतर, तुर्की और ईरान, भाग लिया था

कश्मीर को उसके विशेष दर्जे से छीनने के भारत के फैसले की बरसी पर, और सऊदी की निष्क्रियता से हताशा होने के बाद, पाकिस्तान के विदेश मंत्री, शाह महमूद कुरैशी, ने मांग की कि सऊदी अरब इस मामले पर नेतृत्व दिखाए और ओ.आई.सी की एक विशेष बैठक बुलाए। अगर रियाद ने इनकार करा, तो कुरैशी ने मलेशिया, तुर्की और ईरान की ओर रुख करने की धमकी दी, जिन्होंने इस मामले में पाकिस्तान का साथ दिया| 

रियाद खुश नहीं था। उन्होंने मांग की कि पाकिस्तान तुरंत 1 बिलियन डॉलर का भुगतान करे, जो नवंबर 2018 में पाकिस्तान को दिए गए 3 बिलियन डॉलर का हिस्सा था|  अब जब चीन ने पाकिस्तान की मदद के लिए कदम बढ़ाया है , एक महत्वपूर्ण सवाल लटका हुआ है:  सहायता पर निर्भर पाकिस्तान के पास अपने उपकारी के ऊपर क्या उद्यामन है?

क्या भविष्य?

सच तो यह है कि सऊदी अरब ने भी दीवार पर लिखावट देखी है। 2019-20 में, भारत और सऊदी अरब के बीच द्विपक्षीय व्यापार 44 बिलियन डॉलर से अधिक का था, जबकि पाकिस्तान के साथ व्यापार केवल 3.6 बिलियन डॉलर था। मोहम्मद बिन सलमान को नकदी की परवाह है, न कि मुस्लिम दुनिया में मंजस्य।

इस वास्तव पर जोर देने के लिए, मोहम्मद बिन सलमान ने झिंजियांग में चीन की नीतियों का समर्थन किया, जिसे अन्य राज्यों ने “जातिसंहार” घोषित किया है। चीन सऊदी अरब का सबसे बड़ा व्यापारिक साझेदार है।

हालाँकि, सऊदी अरब इस क्षेत्र के सबसे महत्वपूर्ण घटनाक्रमों से बाहर रह गया है: अफ़ग़निस्तान में तालिबान की जीत जो पाकिस्तान के अथक सैन्य, राजनयिक और राजनीतिक समर्थन के कारण संभव हुई। 2013 में, तालिबान ने दोहा में अपना पहला विदेशी कार्यालय खोला। कतर सऊदी अरब का अहम प्रतिद्वंद्वी है| उस समय  से, दोहा और चीन ने, पाकिस्तान, तुर्की और अमेरिका के साथ-साथ, सऊदी अरब के बिना, अफ़ग़निस्तान कि घटनाओं मे अपना प्रभाव डाल दिया है| 

कई वर्षों तक अपने क्षेत्रीय प्रतिद्वंद्वियों द्वारा ग्रहण किए जाने के बाद, सऊदी अरब इस क्षेत्र में अपनी प्रमुखता को फिर से स्थापित करना चाहता है। हालांकि सऊदी अरब पाकिस्तान के इशारे पर भारत के साथ संबंधों को सीमित नहीं करेगा, वह ईरान के साथ संबंधों को फिर से स्थापित करने के लिए पाकिस्तान के प्रलोभन को सीमित करना चाहता है। बीजिंग के साथ पाकिस्तान की साझेदारी, जो लगभग पूरी तरह से कर्ज पर आधारित है, सऊदी अरब की जगह नहीं ले सकती, जिसका अभी भी मुस्लिम दुनिया में बहुत प्रभाव है। हालांकि पाकिस्तान को कश्मीर पर सऊदी समर्थन नहीं मिलेगा, वह रियाद के चेक को भुनाकर पूरी तरह से खुश है।

A version of this was published in the Indian Star on 28 November 2021.

The Unfinished Business of the 1971 War

The signing of the Instrument of Surrender

On December 16, 1971, Lieutenant-General A.A.K. Niazi, the Commander of the Pakistan Eastern Command, signed the Instrument of Surrender in Ramna Race Course in Dacca which was signed and accepted by  Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of India’s Eastern Command. This formally concluded the military conflict that is usually called the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971. However, this nomenclature elides and even eclipses several distinct wars that culminated in Pakistan’s surrender. Oddly, while biographic accounts, which are frequently blatantly self-serving,  there are relatively few empirically robust accounts of this conflict, most of which focus upon the most visible dimension of the war: that between Pakistan and India. 

These lacunae are important because these other battles that culminated in the bilateral conflict continue to cast shadows over the region that are as long as those of the 1971 conflict between India and Pakistan. Notably, Bangladesh has never fulfilled its potential and remains a secular democracy in retreat. Pakistan learned the wrong lessons of the war and concluded that repressing and exploiting disgruntled minorities is a viable tool of domestic statecraft. Despite decisively defeating Pakistan, India was never able to build upon that victory to impose a settlement of the Kashmir issue in line with Delhi’s equities.  In retrospect, while Pakistan may have lost that battle, in many other ways Pakistan and its project of Islamist violence seem to have won the larger and enduring war. Let me explain.

The Wars 

The first conflict was a domestic conflict between Pakistan’s ethnic majority Bengalis, who dominated East Pakistan, and the ruling elite in West Pakistan. This conflict was apparent as early as 1952 when Bengalis began mobilizing to force the state to recognize Bengali as a national language. On February 21 and 22 that year, the Pakistani armed forces murdered several students as well as numerous others in indiscriminate fire. This internal conflict precipitously expanded after the ruling junta of General Yahya Khan refused to convene the parliament following the 1970 elections in which the East Pakistan-based Awami League, led by Mujibur Rahman, decisively defeated Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples’ Party. 

The consequences of these elections were monumental because the victors were tasked with writing Pakistan’s third constitution. Mujibur Rahman’s party, under the banner of the Six Points Agenda, had long advocated for greater federalism; separate convertible currencies; fiscal responsibility to be delegated to the federating units; as well as the right to maintain a separate militia. Each of these demands was in response to the west’s cultural, economic, and linguistic oppression; exclusion from the military and bureaucracy; as well as consistent and calibrated efforts to deprive Bengalis of their legitimate share of political power. The political elites in the west, speer-headed by General Yahya and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, wanted a strong federal government and found the Awami League’s Six-Point Agenda to be a thinly veiled demand for outright cessation. 

Despite winning too few seats to veto any constitution offered by the Awami League, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto refused to let his party participate in any convening of the parliament and made absurd demands for a power-sharing agreement. After Mujibur Rehman refused to cede and insisted upon the Awami League’s right to form the government, General Yahya Khan commenced Operation SearchLight, which was a brutal and thuggish military operation to disarm the Bengalis. 

As refugees began fleeing into India, the second phase of the war began: a proxy war between India and Pakistan. With the monsoons looming, India had few military operations at hand. Given the riverine terrain of Bangladesh, any military operations had to wait until the monsoons’ conclusion. To ensure that China would not intervene on its client’s behalf, India would have to wait until winter when snow would preclude Chinese movements through the mountain passes. In addition to these meteorological and geographical constraints, India was ill-equipped to undertake military action in the spring of 1971. India used the summer to reposition forces from the west to the east and construct necessary infrastructure to support military operations while seeking diplomatic support from Russia and imploring the United States to counsel Pakistan to end what was clearly ethnic cleansing in East Pakistan. 

US President Richard Nixon and his National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, were unmoved by India’s requests even though the United States did provide a significant amount of aid to subsidize in some measure the enormous and growing cost of caring for the refugees who continued to pour into India. While initially, the refugees were both Hindu and Muslim it soon became evident from the fact that the refugees were increasingly Hindu that the West Pakistani forces were cleansing Hindu Bengalis from the country. At independence, about one in four Pakistanis were non-Muslim minorities, most of whom were Bengali Hindus in East Pakistan.

The Nixon administration was unconcerned about the munting atrocities because it was commencing an unprecedented diplomatic overture to China and it chose Yahya Khan to be its mediator. Despite popular opinion otherwise, the Nixon administration had two other European-based alternatives to Yahya Khan. Gary Bass makes a compelling case that Nixon chose Yahya both because he and Kissinger had a deep personal affection for him– and even compared him to General Grant of the American Civil Wa–and because they had a personal, visceral, and deeply misogynistic hatred for India’s Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. However, even after Nixon had secured a personal connection to China and no longer needed Yahya’s intercession, Nixon refused to make the slightest appeals to Yahya to cease what Archer Blood, the American Counsel in Dhaka, and other dissenting state department officials described as a “genocide.” The Nixon administration even beseeched China to feign intervention in the hopes of deterring Indian involvement in the war.

While India prepared for the larger war, the proxy war continued and intensified. Throughout the summer it trained and equipped the Bengali Resistance while also mentoring the shambolic, disorganized and ineffective Bengali political elites. As India supported this rag-tag collection of non-state actors to challenge Pakistan’s formidable armed forces, Pakistan too worked through a number of Islamist militant organizations, including the notoriously violent student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami. By the end of the summer, India was providing artillery support to the Bengali insurgents who battled Pakistani state and non-state combatants. East Pakistan became a killing field.

While it is unpopular to say so: the Bengalis, in and out of the resistance, also victimized non-Bengali and even Bengali “collaborationist” non-combatants in the East. This fact renders any actual assessment of war’s noncombatant casualties impossible with extant data, which is deeply problematic. The Pakistanis wish to undercount the atrocities.  The Bangladeshis wish to overcount them. India for its part does not declassify documents pertaining to the war at all. While one may disagree with some of Sarmila Bose’s conclusions in her book, Dead Reckoning, her critique of extant data and analytical methodologies are insightful.  

The third, conventional, war officially commenced on 3 December when Pakistan’s Air Force conducted preemptive strikes on forward Indian airbases and radar installations. This too was a formality given the growing intensity of the proxy war before the official onset of the bilateral confrontation. 

When the war ended on 16 December 1971, Pakistan was vivisected with East Pakistan emerging as an independent Bangladesh. Some 93,000 Pakistani soldiers surrendered to the Indian Armed Forces and were taken to India as POWs.  Pakistan lost more than half of its population and about 15% of its territory.  However, 61% of the 54,500 square miles of land lost in the east was arable in contrast to a meager 21 percent of the 310,000 square miles it retained. All said and done, the Pakistan army was reviled for losing the east, which allowed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to ruthlessly rule the west until General Zia ul Haq ousted him in a coup in July 1977.  

Who Won the Forever War?

India successfully snatched defeat from the jaws of victory when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi signed the July 1972 Shimla Accord with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. This accord formally concluded the political conclusion of the war.  Despite being the clear victor in the war, India bizarrely acquiesced to most of Pakistan’s demands, including India’s relinquishing of the 5,800 square miles of territory it captured in the west, the repatriation of the 93,000 Pakistani prisoners of war, assurance that Bangladesh would not conduct war crimes trials against Pakistani military personal, and the inviolable viability of its long-standing, if baseless, claims on the disputed disposition of Kashmir.  India and Pakistan respectively retained the territory seized in Kashmir and a new Line of Control was defined where once the Cease Fire Line stood. 

India’s aims at Shimla were modest despite vivisecting the country, most notably securing Pakistan’s commitment to resolving outstanding disputes peacefully and bilaterally. Indian participants aver that Bhutto had agreed to make the Line of the Control the de jure border when times were more propitious to do so. He argued that this would require time given the public outrage of the outcome of the war and that to cede Pakistan’s long-nursed position on Kashmir would be political suicide. Some Indian interlocutors justify India’s appeasement of Pakistan as a strategic decision to not impose a “Treaty of Versailles”-like condition upon Pakistan. India also interpreted the accord as a potential victory because Pakistan’s agreement to settle disputes bilaterally obviated any scope for the United Nations or other bilateral or multilateral involvement.

Unsurprisingly, Pakistan has never honored its commitment to resolve outstanding disputes peacefully nor did it ever move to make the Line of Control the de jure border. In fact, Pakistan now claims that no such agreement was ever considered and continues in an unending effort to change maps in Kashmir through low-intensity conflict, proxy war, and terrorism. 

Not only has Pakistan never abided by this accord, but the Pakistan that emerged from the war ironically was also stronger than it was pre-war despite losing a significant amount of valuable territory and more than half of its population.  The Pakistan that survived was more defensible, more ideologically coherent, had significantly fewer non-Muslim minorities, and strategically positioned to extract rents by collaborating with the United States on occasion while actively furthering its own agenda at the same time. Unfettered by the problematic Bengalis, Pakistan was able to seek financial, diplomatic, and political support from the Gulf State Monarchies which, in turn, enabled Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to fulfill his dream of developing, in his own words, an “Islamic Bomb.”  

Bhutto also began the jihad in Afghanistan in 1973 following the ouster of King Zahir Shah by his cousin, Mohammad Daoud Khan. Khan began an aggressive liberalizing campaign and brutally oppressed any opposition among the Communist and Islamist ranks alike. Bhutto, along with the ISI, deftly organized the Islamists who fled to Pakistan into seven effective guerilla groups. Pakistan did this with its own meager resources because doing so was critical to securing Pakistan’s own enduring interests in Afghanistan. The United States would not become involved in this conflict until many years later, despite Pakistan’s frequent requests for US support.

In fact, in 1979, President Carter sanctioned Pakistan for its progress in nuclear reprocessing thanks in large measure to Bhutto’s perseveration. Once President Reagan was inaugurated in 1981 he began securing waivers for those sanctions, which came through in 1982 after which the United States–along with Saudi Arabia and China–provided massive overt and covert resources to Pakistan. In fact, throughout the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the United States continued funding Pakistan even though US officials understood it was still advancing its nuclear weapons program. While the United States reimposed sanctions in 1990, Pakistan was once again able to resurrect its strategic importance in the wake of 9/11. While ostensibly working with the United States, it received over $34 billion even while actively supporting myriad terrorist organizations such as the Taliban and the Haqqani Network and working to undermine US efforts in Afghanistan. While benefiting from American assistance, Pakistan became the world’s fastest-growing nuclear stockpile and has likely outgrown that of France while also developing battlefield nuclear weapons. Pakistan remains both able and willing to undermine India’s quest for hegemony in South Asia and beyond. 

During the same period, those who struggled to free the Bengalis of East Pakistan from West Pakistan’s project of subordinating ethnic identity to that of an army-sponsored project of political Islam and establish an independent Bangladesh on the principles of secular democracy failed to create a durable democratic state with a broad consensus on secularism. Within a few years, Mujibur Rehman and most of his family were murdered in a bloody coup. He left a legacy of corruption and authoritarianism that resembled that of Pakistan’s own civilian autocrat, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. After a tumultuous power struggle, by 1977 General Ziaur Rahman was in control of the country. He removed secularism from the constitution and began revivifying the Jamaat-e-Islami, which the Awami League had illegalized because of its extensive collaboration with Pakistani forces in committing countless atrocities. By 1988, Bangladesh’s next military leader, General Ershad declared Islam to be the state religion. 

While Bangladesh returned to democracy in 1990, the two main political parties vied for power and the right to rule rather than the privilege of governing. While the right of center Bangladesh National Party, “led” by Khaleda Zia (the widow of Ziaur Rahman) is reviled for its explicit reliance upon the Jamaat-e-Islami among other regressive Islamist parties, the Awami League, “led” by Sheikh Hasina (the daughter of Mujibur) has also courted Islamist parties for the purposes of retaining control. Hasina long ago instituted one-woman rule secured through electoral malfeasance, misuse of legal instruments to harass her opponents, and other oppressive state tactics to silence her growing numbers of increasingly vocal critics across broad swathes of civil society. Even though Bangladesh’s Supreme Court declared the constitutional amendments of previous military dictators illegal and presumably restored the principle of secularism as a fundamental tenant of the Constitution, Hasina has retained Islam as the state religion even as religious minorities continue to suffer persecution under her watch.  India’s desire to create a secular and democratic Bangladesh and forestall an emergence of another “Pakistan on the east,” has not fructified and is unlikely to in any policy-relevant future.  

Is India Any Safer?

Is India safer today than it was before vivisecting Pakistan in December 1971? India now faces a country of uncertain future on the east and a Pakistan that is ever more committed to using violence in pursuit of its policies at home and abroad while enjoying complete immunity from consequences and impunity to continue with its sanguinary tactics to force its will upon Afghans as well as Indians–especially Kashmiris. While British unwillingness to adopt coercive policies towards Pakistan can be explained by the political power of British Pakistanis, the Americans have consistently demonstrated that it has too little political will to consider means of constraining Pakistan even as Pakistan continues to engage in nuclear coercion and proxy warfare under its ever-expanding nuclear umbrella. Thus while India and the United States continue to forge important breakthroughs in their bilateral relationship–inclusive of defense, intelligence, and space cooperation– India has had very little success in weaning the Americans off of its inexplicable belief in Pakistan’s indispensability in managing security in South Asia even though Pakistan is the principal progenitor of this very insecurity.  It seems as if no Pakistani outrage is ever enough to persuade Americans to see Pakistan as the enemy rather than a problematic ally that can be motivated through a magical concoction of inducement. If the discovery of Osama Bin Laden in an Abbattobad safehouse a short distance from the presumably hallowed Pakistan Military Academy wasn’t an adequate motivation, one would have thought that defeating the US-led forces in Afghanistan through its unstinting support for the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network among numerous other terrorist groups should have. Instead of availing of a diminished logical dependence upon Pakistan to maintain the war in Afghanistan and adopting a coercive and punitive approach towards Pakistan–perhaps in line with the US approach to Iran–Washington in fact facilitated the hand over of Afghanistan to Pakistan via its proxies, the Taliban. Moreover, with the American embassy in Kabul closed, the United States seems poised to continue its reliance upon Pakistan’s ostensible expertise in catching the very snakes it continues to farm. 

Pakistan never suffered any punishment of consequence for its relentless persecution of its Bengali population and indeed learned a very important lesson. Namely, it can continue to violently harass, harangue, oppress and even kill its own domestic critics–often with American weaponry. The world is so numb to Pakistan’s barbarism that it no longer registers significant outcry beyond the limited purview of human rights organizations. Moreover, Pakistan long ago learned that not only can it abscond for its domestic bloodshed, but it also continues to enjoy impunity in its brutal interference in the affairs of its neighbors. While Pakistan has learned lessons, the United States has learned nothing. Americans will continue working with Pakistan, motivated by short-term-policy prerogatives. Sadly it will do so even at the expense of long-term American security interests because Pakistan invests the fungible American and international assistance into the very assets its uses to coerce the international community: nuclear weapons and terrorists. 

In turn, India continues to struggle with defense reforms; the deafening silence of nonexistent inter-ministerial debates about what kind of threats India will face; the kinds of defense requirements it needs to manage if not confront those threats; and how to source these systems much less integrate them. China continues its belligerent rise along India’s borders and within India’s near and far strategic environment. Worse yet, China is doing so by working through India’s nemeses: Pakistan and the odious Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

It’s hard to escape the discomfiting conclusion that Pakistan, despite losing the battle for East Pakistan in 1971, continues winning the wars.

A version of this was published in The Print on 14 December 2021.

Pakistan’s Latest Panga With America: Will it Pay Off?

On 5 November 2001, Pakistan announced that Sardar Masood Khan has been selected to become Pakistan’s new envoy for the United States after the current ambassador, Asad Majeed Khan, completes his three-year tenure in January 2022. Among the small coterie of South Asian analysts who have been critical of America’s unending pandering to Pakistan despite Pakistan’s demonstrable role in undermining virtually every single American national security in the region since 9/11 and beyond, several have criticized this choice arguing that Khan “is a dangerous radical with a long history of working with Islamists” whose appointment evidences “an increasingly dangerous Pakistani regime, which is working to coopt and support Islamists all around the world, including in the United States.” 

Pakistan is still celebrating its success in defeating the United States after twenty years of benefiting from American largesse under the guise of being a partner in Afghanistan while using every means possible to aid the Taliban and their murderous allies culminating in the American withdrawal. Perhaps giddy on one of the few victories the Pakistan army can celebrate (apart from its defeat of Pakistani democracy), perhaps Pakistan believes it can revivify its violently revisionist agenda vis-a-vis Kashmir and the rest of India. Managing Pakistan’s relationship with the United States has always been one of the most important objectives of the Pakistani deep state.  While Pakistan may think this is the best way to capitalize upon its victory in Afghanistan, foisting a terrorist enthusiast upon Washington is unlikely to produce the results it expects.

Who is Sardar Masood Khan? 

Uncontroversially, he is a retired career diplomat who hails from Azad Kashmir. In 2016, Pakistan’s former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, appointed him to assume the 27th president of so-called “Azad Kashmir,” that part of Kashmir which Pakistan has controlled since it snatched the territory in what became the first Kashmir war of 1947-48. Prior to retirement, he served twice as Pakistan’s permanent representative to the United Nations in both Geneva (2005-2008) and New York (2012-2015) and as ambassador to China (2008-2012). After retirement, he headed the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad (formerly known as the Pakistan Institute for Strategic Studies, or PISS), a government-funded organization charged with disseminating briefs that align with or are dictated by the uniformed men that matter, before assuming his appointment as president of Azad Kashmir.  I am sad to report, that I could find no evidence that he was involved in the think-tank jointly launched by Beijing and Islamabad, which would focus solely upon research and development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The initiative was astutely named the Research and Development International (RANDI). RANDI, according to The Daily Times, was to serve as an “‘information corridor’ to promote perspectives, data and information for policymakers, students, specialists, scholars and companies of both countries.”

Pakistan’s Ejaz Haider, a prominent pro-army interlocutor in various media platforms, has criticized this selection on several grounds, including the fact that he has already retired from his foreign service career. Haider likened it to “an army chief accepting command of a battalion, post-retirement.” Oddly, at least two service chiefs have done just that when they accepted the post of emissary to Washington after retirement: former Army Chief General (Retd.) Jehangir Karamat, who served in Washington between August 2004 and June 2006, and Air Chief Marshal Zulfiqar Ali Khan who served from July 1989 to 15 September 1990. This is in addition to a long list of lower-ranking retired army generals who have assumed the post. He won’t be the first or last person to be rousted from retirement for this enviable post.

Given his ambassadorial posting to China, his pro-China views should not come as any surprise. In October 2001, he opined that “the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and fragile peace in the region demand extension of CPEC route to Afghanistan.” Equally of note, Pakistan’s emissaries to the United Nations in New York and Geneva, prioritize raising Pakistan’s myriad mendacious claims to Kashmir at every opportunity. Given his service in both posts as well as his appointment to the presidency of Azad Kashmir, his relentless caviling about purported Indian perfidy in Kashmir should not be surprising either. Notably, upon leaving his post as appointed president, he lugubriously lamented Pakistan’s inability to “to turn the Kashmir cause into an international civil rights movement,” which he fallaciously attributed to “India’s colonial and irredentist occupation of the territory since August 2019 needs to be broken through.”

A Controversial Past and Present

His selection has furrowed eyebrows in Washington and New Delhi alike. For good reason. As intimated above, he has been a relentless interlocutor for Pakistan’s claims to Kashmir, despite their complete lack of legal or historical legitimacy. Necessarily he has trotted out the tiresome calls for a plebiscite, on the (all too often correct) assumption that anyone has actually bothered reading the United Nations Security Council Resolution on the matter. Washington has long grown tired of Pakistan’s flogging this long-dead horse and has increasingly moved towards India’s position, with the exception of a few predictable voices of ignorant persons in Congress, swayed by the efforts of Pakistan’s extensive lobbying enterprises

The more problematic issue is his pro-active support for Islamist terrorist organizations such as Hizbul Mujahideen, which the Trump administration designated as a terrorist organization in 2017, which also meant that its senior-most leader, Syed Salahuddin, is a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist.” Khan  bemoaned the move arguing that the terrorist outfit has been “struggling for the freedom of Indian occupied Kashmir, adding that their struggle is not linked to any form of terrorist activity across the border.” he furthered that “Ignoring the genocide of Kashmiris by Indian army and declaring freedom fighters as terrorists is a criminal departure from international humanitarian and democratic norms by the US.”  For the record, the data belie his claims. According to a database on global terrorism maintained by the University of Maryland, there have been 244 successful terrorist attacks by the group between 1990 and 2019, using the most rigorous coding criteria. In these attacks, 356 people were killed and 633 injured.

Figure 1: Attacks by Hizbul Mujahideen (1990-2019)

Source: University of Maryland, START, Global Terrorism Database, accessed 20 November 2021.

As Sam Westrop has detailed, he has supported–and likely still supports–numerous Islamist terrorist organizations and terrorist leaders, including Fazlur Rehman Khalil who founded the Deobandi Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM). The United States designated this group a terrorist organization in 1997 and later, in 2014, designated Khalil himself as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. Khalil is known to have “maintained a close relationship with al-Qaida, including with Usama bin Laden (UBL) prior to his death. Khalil was a key member of UBL’s International Islamic Front and a cosignatory of UBL’s first fatwa issued in 1998 calling for attacks against the United States.” 

Delhi, for its part, finds him to be a noxious provocateur for his various criticisms–with varying degrees of validity and absurdity–of the conduct of India’s armed forces in Kashmir; his ceaseless hailing of Burhan Wani, a slain popular terrorist leader associated with Hizbul Mujahideen as a hero; and his comparisons of Prime Minister Modi’s pro-Hindutvadi regime to that of Hilter’s fascist Nazi regime. The notion of continuously cleaning up after his diplomatic micturitions on Delhi’s own policy priorities as it continues to forge ties with Washington amid numerous serious disagreements is no doubt unpalatable and rightly so. Given the relentless efforts of the ISI, Pakistan’s notorious intelligence agency, to both stir up problems in and pertaining to the Punjab and Kashmir, his appointment is likely a harbinger of more reckless Pakistani shenanigans aiming to cause problems for India at home or abroad.  Given that relations between India and Pakistan on the one hand and between the United States and Pakistan on the other are at their local nadirs, it’s easy to question the sobriety of the Generals’ Selection of Khan to this important post.

Will The Panga Pay Off?

Pakistan will not likely reap the benefits it expects should Khan assume this post early next year for several reasons. First, Khan himself makes a mockery of Pakistan’s own policies towards that portion of Kashmir it mismanages. Even Aijaz Haider has noted that for all of its hollering about Indian malfeasance in Kashmir, Pakistan’s own record with respect to the Kashmiris it governs is shambolic.  International organizations such as Human rights Watch agree

Second, should Pakistan insist upon playing this one-note, sad song, on its Kashmir kazoo in Washington, he will find few takers. Americans are exhausted with the endless Pakistani terrorist hijinx and its never-ending dalliance with Islamist evil-doers.  Washington hasn’t been terribly subtle about this fact. Prime Minister Imran Khan continues to whine that president Biden hasn’t yet called him. While Biden has said very little about Pakistan since he followed through his predecessor’s disastrous plan to hand Afghanistan over to Pakistan, President Biden fully understands how Pakistan’s behavior undermined American efforts along given that he was the Vice President for eight years, during which vocal Pakistan critics like Bruce Riedell advised the Obama White House. Moreover, most of the men and women who have served in Afghanistan know full well who was behind the Taliban: Pakistan’s military. One day, those men and women will be generals and they will not have the soft spot for Pakistan’s men in uniform that many current American generals mysteriously harbor.

Given this silence buttressed by widespread antipathy for Pakistan across much of the US government, one might expect more probity from the deep state security managers in Rawalpindi and Abpaara. Alas, I suspect that Pakistan is so accustomed to farming terrorists and setting them loose in its region and then offering its terrorist-catching expertise at a premium, that it anticipates once again being Washington’s duplicitous, but well-compensated, partner in managing the crises in Afghanistan it nurtured in the first place. And, as it has happened repeatedly since 1954, Washington will fall for the ruse and continue subsidizing Pakistan’s most lucrative business: terrorist farming. 

This piece was originally published in The First Post on 22 November 2021.

The Troubled al Bakistan-Saudi Barbaria Bromance

C. Christine Fair

On October 31, Pakistan’s troubled prime minister expressed his gratitude to Saudi Arabia for its recent commitment “to deposit $3 billion and financing $1.2 billion refined petroleum products during the year”, and further opined that the two states enjoy “long-standing and historic fraternal relations, rooted deep in common faith, shared history and mutual support”. Imran Khan further effused that the move “reaffirms the all-weather friendship between the two states”.

However, this verbiage is a small fig leaf for the bigger truth: There has long been trouble in paradise for the two states. Why has Riyadh sought to begin closing the otherwise gaping chasm in relations now? Afghanistan likely explains the move in some measure, but Riyadh’s growing economic ties with India will constrain the limits of Saudi-Pakistan ties.

PARADISE LOST?

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia’s ties predate the latter’s acquisition of massive wealth. In the 1960s, both sides valued each other for reciprocal reasons. Saudi appreciated Pakistan’s willingness to train Saudi armed forces as a countermeasure to Gamal Abdel Nasser’s socialist regime in Egypt. The kingdom sent troops to Pakistan for training and later, following an agreement in the mid-1960s, retired Pakistani military officials went to Saudi Arabia both to help build up the kingdom’s armed forces while enabling Pakistan to forge an international presence in the wake of its defeats to India in 1965 and 1971. Saudi Arabia became even closer to Pakistan after the loss of East Pakistan.

Events in the late 1970s bolstered Saudi’s interest in strengthening its security with the military help from the Land of the Pure, including the dissidents’ 1979 siege of the mosque at Mecca, the Iranian Revolution, the Iran-Iraq War, and the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. By 1981, the Pakistan government admitted that “1,500 to 2,000 military men are on duty in Saudi Arabia in what they describe as engineering and training assignments”. In return, Saudi Arabia paid Pakistan perhaps as much as $1 billion. Throughout this period, Western intelligence agencies were aware of Pakistan’s efforts to build a nuclear bomb. Throughout the 1980s, Pakistan became the beneficiary of Saudi largesse while Saudi Arabia benefited from Pakistan’s military assets.

As Pakistan’s economic situation became ever more shambolic, its reliance upon Saudi Arabia deepened. Saudi Arabia was more than happy to oblige: It deferred loan payments for subsidized Pakistani oil imports; helped build large networks of madrassas, dampened impacts of sanctions following Pakistan’s 1998 nuclear tests in exchange for Pakistan military assistance while shoring up its regional interests. Moreover, remittances from Pakistani migrant workers in Saudi Arabia comprise about one-fourth of Pakistan’s overall foreign remittances while providing the kingdom with much-needed human resources.

Given the inordinate financial dependence upon Saudi Arabia and Riyadh’s expectation that Pakistan would be a reliable military partner, Saudi Arabia was miffed when Pakistan demurred from contributing ships, aircraft, and troops to Saudi’s brutal campaign in Yemen to restore President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi in April 2015 after Pakistan’s parliament voted to remain neutral. Despite then prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s close ties with Saudi Arabia, Sharif’s opposition to Pakistan’s military made his government unreliable in the eyes of Riyadh. To smooth over Riyadh’s ruffled feathers, Pakistan participated in the 2016 “North Thunder” military exercise with Saudi Arabia and its allies as well as joint exercises between the special forces of both countries.

The Sharif government additionally dispatched more than 1,000 troops to the Kingdom, which augmented the 1,600 already deployed to Saudi Arabia to “secure Islamic holy sites and serve in other internal security roles”. In November 2017, Sharif’s government joined the Saudi-led Islamic Military Counter-Terrorism Coalition, which comprised militaries from 41 Islamic countries ostensibly to fight terrorist groups and their activities throughout the Muslim world. Pakistan’s retired Army chief Raheel Sharif commanded the group.

In August 2018, the Pakistan Army selected Imran Khan as the prime minister, which suggested a greater degree of alignment between Rawalpindi and Islamabad. For a brief period, Prime Minister Khan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman enjoyed bonhomie. As Khan came into office, Pakistan’s military had secured an economic package from Riyadh and the crown prince personally invited Khan to come to the Kingdom to attend a conference on investments. Other high-profile invitees withdrew following the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident Saudi journalist residing in the United States. Within a month of the conference, the first $1 billion of a $3 billion loan was delivered to Pakistan.

Riyadh’s junior partner in the region, Abu Dhabi, followed through with a comparable offering. As if to reward a pliant client, in February 2019, Mohammad bin Salman arrived in Islamabad with an entourage of businessmen with projects in over $20 billion, including an Aramco oil refinery in Gwadar. Later, in 2021, Saudi shifted the refinery project to Karachi. In March 2019, Pakistan’s willingness to join a Saudi-led coalition against Iran appeared to have patched up any lingering concern about Pakistan’s commitment to the Kingdom.

A SHORT-LIVED RESPITE

In August 2019, India dispensed with Kashmir’s special status. Pakistan was incensed and was discomfited when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates kept mum on the matter and remained so. In contrast, Turkey and Malaysia lent their outcry to that of Pakistan. The three countries considered forming an alternate Islamic bloc given Arab insouciance about India’s bold move.

Malaysia put a December summit on the books. Malaysia’s prime minister intimated that it would serve as an alternative bloc “to the inert, Saudi-dominated Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.” Ultimately, under vituperative Saudi threats, Pakistan withdrew from the Kuala Lumpur summit, which was attended by Saudi’s regional rivals Qatar, Turkey, and Iran.

On the first anniversary of India’s decision to strip Kashmir of its special status, and after accumulating frustration with Saudi inaction over the outrage, Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi demanded that Saudi Arabia show leadership on the matter and convene a special meeting of the OIC to inveigh upon the matter. Failing to do so, Qureshi threatened to turn to Malaysia, Turkey, and Iran which had vocally sided with Pakistan.

Riyadh was not amused. It demanded that Pakistan immediately repay $1 billion, which was part of the $3 billion lent to Pakistan in November 2018. While China stepped in to bail out Pakistan, but the question lingered: What leverage does aid-dependent Pakistan have over its long-standing benefactor?

THE LONG HAUL?

So what happened? Economics happened. The fact of the matter is that even Saudi Arabia has seen the long-term writing on the wall. In 2019-20, bilateral trade between India and Saudi Arabia was valued at more than $44 billion while trade with Pakistan was a meager $3.6 billion.

Under Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia cares about cash not concord across the Muslim world. To underscore this point, Mohammad bin Salman endorsed China’s policies in Xinjiang, which other states have decried as genocide. China is Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner.

However, Saudi Arabia has been shut out of the most important developments in the region: the Taliban victory in Afghanistan, due to Pakistan’s unstinting military, diplomatic and political support. In 2013, the Taliban opened its first overseas office in Doha. Since then, Doha and China—along with Pakistan, Turkey, and the United States—have shaped the events in Afghanistan without any substantive role for Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia wants to reassert its prominence in the region after being eclipsed by its regional rivals for several years. While Saudi Arabia has no interest in limiting ties with India at Pakistan’s behest, it does want to limit the temptation for Pakistan to reassert ties with Iran. Pakistan’s partnership with Beijing, based nearly entirely on loans, cannot replace the Kingdom’s heft in the Islamic world even if it can influence it with the allure of its economy. While Pakistan won’t get Saudi support on Kashmir, it is perfectly happy to cash Riyadh’s check. And that’s enough for both for now.

This appeared in First Post on 5 November 2021.

Black Mango

by Balwant Gargi, translated from Punjabi by C. Christine Fair

I was a bachelor and had been unable to rent a home in Patel Nagar. Wherever I went, the landlord would glower at me and ask, “Where is your wife?”

I would explain “Well, sir, I’m about to get married and that’s why I am searching for a house.”  In the meantime, the landlord’s obese wife or young daughter would come outside for some chore or another and I’d realize that I wouldn’t get the house. The landlord, after rebuking his daughter, would look at me intently and explain “This is a neighborhood for families. Bachelors have no business here.”

Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t rent a home. I had one or two recommendations sent over, agreed to pay an advance of three months’ rent, and even provided proof of my monthly salary from my pakka job with the Government of India. Still, I received flat refusals from every landlord.

Finally, an elderly contractor, who had neither a son nor daughter, agreed to rent me a smallish room. The rent was Rs. 70. Opposite was a dirt courtyard in which there was a water tap and a broken bathroom. It also had a low, mud wall. Three refugee families lived on the other side of the wall.

I would get up at the crack of dawn, stand in front of the neighborhood dairyman to get some fresh buffalo milk, prepare a quick breakfast and tea, then, by early morning, I’d lock up and head to the office.  At five o’clock, I’d go to a coffee house, eat some piping hot vadde and dosa, drink some coffee, and listen to the backbiting gossip of Punjabi writers. On my return, without fail, I’d buy a pound of ripe mangoes.

From the time I was a child, my maternal aunt planted this notion in my head that anyone who slurps down a pound of ripe mangoes and drinks buttermilk every day during the summer months would be sanguine and healthy and would never fall ill. As soon as you get down at the Patel Nagar bus stand, there would be several fruit and vegetable shops.  Here there would be some twenty or so cart vendors who decorated their handcarts with various kinds mangoes: Langra, Sandhuri, Malda, Chausa, Safeda, Totapuri, Fazli, Dasheri, Saroli, Tapka and Alphonso of Bombay, which is also called Hafiz ji. The hawkers would compose verses praising their goods and jostle with each other over their prices.

Without even touching a mango I can discern how large its seed is; whether it’s hairy or bald; whether the inside is yellow, saffron-hued, the color of sandalwood, light brown like the color of an almond, or a pale green; whether the pulp is moist or stringy; whether its taste is sweet or bland, bitter or sour.

While studying in college, my childhood friend, Sadhu Singh, and I would go to fairs and weddings. Whenever we saw a young woman or a girl, we would rate their attractiveness.

If an old man were nearby, Sadhu Singh would say “It’s really hot. Let’s get out of here for a while and peek at the bounty of abundant mangoes.” “Mango” was like a secret codeword that we used to communicate with each other. Whenever we’d see women, we would swap notes on our assessments like this: Sadhu Singh would ask “Did you see that chick? Her mangoes have been sucked dry, right down to the seed.” I’d answer, “Didn’t you see that Sandhuri?” Sadhu Singh would ask “Which one?” and I’d respond, “The one standing between the Langra from Benaris and the Chausa.” Sadhu Singh would remark “Your eyes are sharp, Kanjara! I was just drooling over that Fazli, which would probably choke me if I actually bit into it. It’s nothing compared to your Sandhuri. I swear on the Guru Granth Sahib, she’s as sweet as raw sugar.”

We used to take pleasure in describing the beauty of young women and the lusciousness of their young limbs in the vernacular of mangoes as if we were connoisseurs. When we were kids, we would climb mango trees and, as we plucked the red mangoes near the top, the dense green leaves gave off a fragrance which was identical to the scent effused by the body of Rabbo, the mirasan, whenever she’d come into our courtyard and pick me up lovingly.

In our village, I grew up playing in the courtyards of my father’s sisters-in-law. Then my full, black beard came in. Even though I was still a little boy to them, in the neighborhood of Patel Nagar, I was a dangerous bachelor. I had no connection to this neighborhood. I would leave for the office in the morning and return after dark. On hot summer days, the people would sit upon the cots they opened and put out in the alleyways. Embarrassed, I’d lower my eyes and open my courtyard window. I would sit beneath the tap and bathe. Then, I’d sprinkle two or three buckets of water onto the scorched soil of the courtyard which released a musk that rose from the hot ground. I’d unfold the cot in the courtyard, tie a cloth around my nether regions while remaining unclothed from the waist up, and gulp down a chilled mango from the bucket. It was so pleasurable. I’d next drink two glasses of buttermilk and, after this routine, I’d go to sleep.

My reputation as a respectable man spread throughout the neighborhood.

One evening, after completing my routine, I laid down on the bed and saw something hanging from the clothesline in my courtyard.  A small shirt of some kind was dangling. It couldn’t have been my shirt.  Nor could it be my pajamas or underwear. I kept thinking that maybe when I left for the office early in the morning, I hung my scarf to dry and then forgot about it. But I wrung out my scarf and hung it upon a nail to dry. To solve this mystery, I got up and removed the garment from the clothesline. It seemed as if I had a snake in my hand. It was some woman’s bra.

I began to wonder how this bra got into my home. Who left it here? I knew that while I was away during the day, the neighborhood women would come here to fetch water and do their laundry. The neighborhood dairyman told me that whenever he brought water from the tap to wash his water buffalo, several women were always there in the courtyard washing their clothes. I didn’t say anything when I heard this because it meant that my house was safe during the day and because of the accessibility of my courtyard, in their eyes I was a gentleman. So, what did it matter to me? On Sundays, when I was always at home, no one ever came.

In the darkness, I examined the bra by feeling it. It was netted, soft, had round things that were made of chintz and its straps were still damp. Feeling mischievous, I pulled two left-over mangoes out of the water and placed them in the bra’s chintzy cups. I strapped it to my chest and began stroking them.  Then, feeling embarrassed by what I was doing, I burst out laughing. I looked all around. Even though no one had been watching, I nonetheless felt silly about what I did. I removed the bra, tossed the mangoes back in the bucket and hung it back on the clothesline as I found it.

In the morning I went to get milk. When I returned, the bra was gone.

I made tea, had breakfast, and headed to the office. The day passed per the usual routine.

One day, I returned from the office as I was having a headache. On that day, I was immersed in an old file in the office. The officer insisted that I could leave only after I finished the work. In the evening, when I wrapped up my work and left the office, my body felt as if it were breaking. I didn’t even have the strength to stand in the long line for a bus ticket. I grabbed a scooter, went straight home, and laid down on the bed. That day, I did not buy any mangoes.

My head hurt until very late into the night. I couldn’t sleep because it was hot and humid. In the middle of the night, a cool breeze came in and mixed with air, and I could finally doze off.  I slept until the break of dawn. That day, I took leave from the office, brought the bed inside and considered resting for the day. I drank tea, shut the door, turned on the fan and fell asleep.

At about 11 o’clock, I got up drenched in sweat. The power went out unexpectantly and the fan had stopped. I was suffocating in that room. To get a bit of fresh air, I opened the little window. In the courtyard, there was a woman hanging her bra on the clothesline.  From the waist down, she wore a delicate petticoat which, when wet, clung to her body. From the waist up she was naked, her hair was open, and her complexion was perfectly black. She was the young wife of the man who operated the neighborhood tandoor—a mother of two children, who sat in her lap as she baked the bread in the tandoor.

I immediately closed the window and then opened it ever so slightly and began to peer out through the crack.

She had been looking for an opportunity to come here and bathe.  She closed the door to the courtyard, crammed a stick used to clean teeth into the lock, and was enjoying her bath without worry. She shook out the water from her bra then stood on her tiptoes to hang it on the clothesline.

I stood there, holding my breath.

Both of her arms were stretched upwards. I could see the shaved hair of her armpits as well as her firm, black breasts. Upon then were dark areolas, as if someone had painted them with tar and a brush. Purplish nipples swelled up upon the areolas. They reminded me of two black mangoes dangling from a branch, which bent beneath their weight.

In the sunlight, two drops of water were glistening upon them as if they were drops of juice that seep from the mango as you ever-so-slightly squeeze it. I was beholding the beauty of these juice-filled black mangoes when, suddenly, she glanced towards the open window. She dropped her bra and at once turned her back towards the window.

I quickly stepped back from the window. I heard the clanking of the bucket from within the bathroom and the fluttering of footsteps. After some time, there was a banging sound of the door to the courtyard opening then closing. She was gone.

I came back to bed and stretched out. After some time, the electricity returned. The fan began to blow, and I laid in bed, half-asleep, until evening. By the time I got up, the sun had already set behind the walls. My body felt refreshed and in good health. I washed my hands and face and headed out for a walk. Per my usual habit, I went out to buy some mangoes from the fruit carts near the bus stand.

The cart wallah, who has long known me as a regular customer, said “Babu Ji! Fresh Sandhuris came today! Have a taste.”

I tasted the mango. It was flavorless. When he saw me shake my head, he showed me a Banarasi Langra and said “Take this. Take it. It’s very sweet.”

I felt it and bought it as a sample to try. It was absolutely tasteless. After this, he showed me Saroli, Chausa, Dusehri and Maharani varieties. But each struck me as unpalatable and bitter. The fruit seller indignantly asked “Babu Ji, I have shown you all of the very best varieties. What kind of mango do you want?” Impulsively, the words fell from my mouth “Black Mango.”

The fruit seller looked at me in astonishment.  

Acknowledgments: The translator is grateful to Balwant Gargi’s son, Manu Gargi, for giving me permission to translate this story as well my various Punjabi instructors over the years, especially Seema Miglani of the American Institute of Indian Studies program in Chandigarh.

This story was originally published by Muse India in November 2021.

एक्सपर्ट एनालिसिस:पाकिस्तान जिस तरह खालिस्तानी समूहों को पनाह दे रहा है, उससे लगता है करतारपुर कॉरिडोर कहीं खालिस्तान कॉरिडोर न बन जाए

वॉशिंगटन, अमेरिका5 दिन पहलेलेखक: क्रिस्टीन फेयर

तारीख 9 नवंबर 2019, जब गुरु नानकदेव जी की 550वीं जयंती से 3 दिन पहले करतारपुर कॉरिडोर का उद्घाटन हुआ, तो सिखों में खुशी की लहर दौड़ गई कि अब वे पाकिस्तान स्थित करतारपुर साहिब जाकर माथा टेक सकेंगे। बंटवारे के दौरान भारत और पाकिस्तान के बीच बंटे सिखों के 2 प्रमुख धर्मस्थलों- भारत में रावी नदी के तट पर बसे डेरा बाबा साहिब और पाकिस्तान के शकरगढ़ में स्थित श्री करतारपुर साहिब को इस कॉरिडोर ने फिर से जोड़ दिया, लेकिन भारत की सुरक्षा स्थिति पर नजर रखने वाले एक्सपर्ट्स को चिंता है कि ये कॉरिडोर कहीं ‘खालिस्तान कॉरिडोर’ में तब्दील न हो जाए। उनकी चिंता बहुद हद तक जायज भी है।

पंजाब में 1992 में हुए विवादित चुनावों के बाद खालिस्तान का हिंसापूर्ण आंदोलन लगभग खत्म हो गया था, लेकिन पिछले एक दशक से इस हिंसक आंदोलन और इसके सबसे प्रमुख आतंकवादी नेता जरनैल सिंह भिंडरावाले के राजनीतिक अस्तित्व को फिर से जिंदा करने के प्रयास किए जा रहे हैं। भारत में भले ही खालिस्तान के लिए मुखर समर्थन ना हो, लेकिन कनाडा, ब्रिटेन और दूसरे पश्चिमी देशों में रह रहे सिख डायस्पोरा और बाकी जाट सिख समुदायों में इस हिंसक और क्रूर आंदोलन का समर्थन जारी है।

भिंडरावाले की तस्वीर वाली टी-शर्ट, खालिस्तानी साहित्य और अन्य सामान सिख धर्म के सबसे पवित्र स्थल श्री हरमिंदर साहिब एवं भारत के विभिन्न गुरुद्वारे के आसपास के बाजारों में बेचे जा रहे हैं। भारत के कई गुरुद्वारों में सिखों के ऐतिहासिक शहीदों के साथ भिंडरावाले की तस्वीरों को भी शामिल किया गया है। भारत के लिए सबसे चिंता की बात ये है कि हाल के सालों में कई खालिस्तानी हमले हुए हैं, जिन्हें सुरक्षाबलों ने रोका है।

मैंने और मेरे सहयोगियों ने जो रिसर्च किया है उसमें सामने आया है कि हाल के वर्षों में भारत में दर्जनों खालिस्तानी हमले हुए हैं। ये घटनाएं एक जनवरी 2009 और 25 जनवरी 2019 के बीच हुई हैं।भारत-पाकिस्तान के सुरक्षा हालातों पर नजर रखने वाले एक्सपर्ट और स्कॉलर सबसे ज्यादा चिंतित पाकिस्तानी अधिकारियों के सार्वजनिक बयानों को लेकर हैं। जिनमें उन्होंने कहा है कि ‘करतारपुर कॉरिडोर’ पाकिस्तानी सेना प्रमुख जनरल कमर जावेद बाजवा के दिमाग की उपज है।

पाकिस्तान में 1991 के बाद से कई बार केंद्रीय मंत्री रहे राजनेता शेख राशिद ने चुटकी लेते हुए एक बयान में कहा, ‘भारत करतारपुर कॉरिडोर को हमेशा जनरल बाजवा के दिए गए गहरे घाव के रूप में याद रखेगा। जनरल बाजवा ने करतारपुर कॉरिडोर खोलकर भारत पर जोरदार प्रहार किया है।’

भारत के लिए चिंता की एक और बड़ी बात ये है कि पाकिस्तानी खुफिया एजेंसी ISI ने प्रवासी सिखों यानी सिख डायस्पोरा के बीच खालिस्तान के लिए समर्थन जुटाया है। ISI हमेशा से ही भारत विरोधी कश्मीरी अलगाववादी समूहों का साथ देती रही है। अनेक सबूतों के अनुसार इस्लामी आतंकवादी समूह लश्कर-ए-तैयबा और पाकिस्तान में रहने वाले खालिस्तानी कार्यकर्ताओं के बीच सहयोग और साठगांठ जारी है।

पाकिस्तान लंबे समय से खालिस्तानी समूहों को मजबूत कर रहा है और पनाह भी दे रहा है। इन खालिस्तानी समूहों के साथ मिलकर पाकिस्तान के साजिश रचने का उद्देश्य भी साफ है। पाकिस्तान पर लश्कर और दूसरे इस्लामी आतंकवादी समूहों का इस्तेमाल करने की वजह से अंतरराष्ट्रीय दबाव भी बनाया जाता रहा है। अब बदले हुए सुरक्षा हालात में पाकिस्तान के लिए खालिस्तानी समूह बेहद अहम हो गए हैं। हो सकता है पाकिस्तान जिन समूहों का लंबे समय से विकास कर रहा है, उनका इस्तेमाल अब शुरू कर दे।

This piece published in the Dainik Bhaskr on 10 September. Note that this was the article originally plagiarized by a dubious joker, as I detail here: https://shortbustoparadise.wordpress.com/2021/08/05/should-i-be-flattered-or-irked-that-my-hindi-article-was-plagiarised-by-a-hindi-language-journalist/.