Shelve the Old Music Please!

This piece originally appeared in Daily Times as my weekly OpEd BAAGHI on Monday August 1, 2011

When your favourite songs are labelled under ‘old music’, it reminds one of changing times and trends. From the vintage black telephone sets transfigured into sleek smartphones, to big noisy typewriters metamorphosed into iPads, everything has changed.

Guest-lists at the White House have changed dramatically from President Reagan hosting the mujahideen with flowing beards to President Obama hosting ISI officials to ponder how to kill these mujahideen, who are now terrorists. ‘Communist threat’ in meeting agendas has been replaced by ‘right-wing threat’. Everything has changed except the Pakistani military establishment’s timeworn security paradigm and phobias centred on India.

Despite this changed panorama, we are refusing to move at its pace or even to adapt to the transformation. Stuck with the concept of ummah, we still think religion can be made the sole common ground in the international arena with interests peculiar to every nation-state. Our state-defined interest remains that of saving our borders from an ‘enemy’ that has never attacked us, a country we have attacked three times in 63 years, an economy that is too big for us to compete with under the present circumstances and a people we have waged proxy wars against.

If it is just India, here is something that should ring an alarm bell: India has finally cut a deal to pay Iran’s oil bills via Turkey. Hello? It is India thawing with your Muslim brothers! Or vice versa? If you are thinking the US will come to your rescue and raise eyebrows at India-Iran cosying up to each other, why would it oblige you? The US gets its flag burnt in our streets every day. Our corps commanders issue valiant public statements to vow that they could do without the US. We oust the Americans from our country. Surprisingly, the arrangement of India’s payment to Iran through Turkey was in fact proposed initially by the US itself.

It is, therefore, not just our souring relations with the US that are pushing it towards more balancing actions in the region. There is more to it. India matters. India gives the US jobs and a market. India has emerged as a responsible nation that is not causing trouble in the world, not even in Pakistan. At least that is the perception India has created for itself. India has emerged as a stable, viable and trustworthy partner that has no underlying agenda of destroying the US or the west or of its own ideological expansion. Despite having a Muslim population now equalling the entire population of Pakistan, India could never be traced as the source of Islamic terrorism.

“Pakistan has everything that gives you an international migraine,” said Madeleine Albright once, alluding to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, terrorism, extremism, corruption and poverty. She was probably being kind, as she did not mention how it has become a migraine for even itself.

The migraine story does not, however, start from 9/11 or with the Afghan ‘jihad’. It did not start with the India-centric security policy and the entire defence and strategic paradigm gifted to Pakistan’s military establishment by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The quest for global expansion, influence and unity among Muslims beyond cultural and geographic boundaries dates back to the Khilafat Movement, or maybe even before that. Supported by senior Indian leaders, the Khilafat Movement led the Muslims of the subcontinent closer to the message of Ikhwanul Muslimeen — the ummah. India was saved due to its state-endorsed pluralism and secularism while Pakistan could not survive state-patronised insanity. We calculated religion to be the most effective tool to tackle ‘Hindu India’ and to bond with ‘Muslim brothers’ for strategic edge.

Pursuance of national interest by every state goes much beyond religious or ideological considerations in the real world. A normal state would not say no to economic ties with any viable country just based on their religious preferences. The world’s sole superpower considers itself dependent on others in economic and security fields despite its technological superiority. China and India decide to grow their trade relations despite a hostile historical baggage. India pursues economic ties with the US despite ideological differences. Where is the logic of intransigence from an underdeveloped resource-starved country?

China became India’s largest trade partner in 2008 with around $ 51.8 billion in bilateral trade — a 43 percent leap in trade volume from the previous year. Sino-Indian bilateral trade exceeded the target in 2010, thanks to rising Indian imports of Chinese machinery. The 2010-11 figures show that Chinese exports to India have already touched a record $ 40.8 billion. In addition to machinery and IT, Indian pharmaceutical companies are accelerating some $ 2 billion in China from its healthcare reforms, informs The Economic Times.

Similarly, Iran is all set to continue crude oil exports to India after the two countries worked out the payment method through Turkey, new rupee accounts and barter deals. The barters might include Indian exports like steel, food and electronic goods, reports The Financial Times. If this happens, it would be the first time after the Iran-Iraq War back in the 1980s that Iran would be entering into such barter deals. According to one report, the annual trade between India and Iran is estimated at $ 12 billion with India purchasing about 400,000 barrels of Iranian crude oil.

Not only are Iran and Turkey ‘betraying’ Islamic brotherhood and China ‘deceiving’ a friendship higher than the Himalayas and deeper than the ocean, Brutus — the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — is also in on it. According to a report by the Press Trust of India, Saudi Arabia has already agreed to sell three million barrels of extra crude oil to India to offset a possible energy crisis. Just when handsome petrodollars are being poured into financing terrorism in Pakistan in the name of Islamic supremacy in hypothetical Khorasan (which includes Pakistan, Afghanistan, some Central Asian States and parts of India), Brutus is shaking hands with Caesar, so to speak.

India conducted a nuclear test much before us but what makes it more acceptable is its constant efforts to improve its human development indicators, its serious commitment to non-proliferation, its democratic mechanism of checks and balances, accountability of its defence sector that to-date remains subservient to its people’s will through their representatives. Most of all, India stands out because of its commitment to pluralism, its recognition of new opportunities to improve relations with world powers due to economic considerations, its renewed focus on internal development, less prickly attitude to the outside world and responsible nuclear behaviour that comes from its complete refusal to impose its own system on the entire world.

Before the readers dismiss it as a eulogy of India, please consider what havoc we have played with our own people, our own country by not doing what India has been doing. And today, India remains much more respected and trusted than us when not even our closest allies are ready to trust us, including our ‘Muslim brothers’. Even if the central focus of our existence is to tackle India (really?), should we not re-assess our policies urgently? Or do we want our people to keep suffering for shortage of just everything that life demands and inflation of a useless collective religious zeal, which pushes extremist ideologies deep down our system?

Suffering is not a seasonal pursuit in Pakistan. It seems permanent, obscure, dark, infinite and undying. When every moment brings a new embarrassment, anguish, travail onto us, a new migraine to others, and our Generals still talk of hollow and ambiguous ‘honour’, one is obliged to think that Pakistan is a General away from peace, prosperity and honour. Time to shelve old, not-so-melodious music.


5 thoughts on “Shelve the Old Music Please!

  1. Asif Ali says:

    …and I hate it too when somebody puts Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond, Abba, Alabama, Charlie Daniels Bank, Gordon Lightfoot, Barbra Mandrell, Eagle, Eddie Rabbit, Loretta Lynn under “Old Music”….

    Its like I am being repaid when I used to call my daddy’s records the same…….


  2. Abhaya says:

    The more I read you.. the more I am convinced that you are not only brilliant in style but as much in the contents as well.. the title had first put me off.. for I love old music.. Rafi, Mukesh, Hemant da Manna dey sahab and even Kishore da..

    With the impressions I had made about you from the first time I accidentally came to your blog yesterday and later shared some tweets with you.. I could not desist but to read on.. such was the content of the article that I feel like saluting you.. really.. if there are even few paople like you in the Pakistan how it could have been lagging so much behind India.. it was not so much of a surprise to find the article using the title in more of a metaphorical manner than in the literal sense of the words..

    Do I have to say further that your observations and insight into some of the present issues concerning Pakistan could well be responsible for the country to come to terms with itself.. to rediscover itself from its grassroots and inculcate and invigorate the feeling of belonging to the state we all know as Pakistan..

    Every country faces the music when it overtly depend on its military rulers to dictate terms and I have no fear in saying that Pakistan is no exception.. however.. from what I learn from you and few other Pakistani friends that not all of the Pakistani people have been blindfolded into submission by the anarchy..

    I must say that after I read Benazir’s autobiography I was drawn to learn more of our neighbours and look beyond pessimistic feeling that surrounded my myopic vision of Pakistan as ruined by military rule..

    That feeling of well being of pakistan is further enhanced on knowing you and Nayyaruddin Ahmad sahab.. and of course the goodwiil acceptance of YRG to visit Mohali during a world cup match..

    I believe what you have said about India is told after much research and much of it is not incorrect.. yet there exists another India within the prosperous India.. an India which shows itself in poor light on the map of the world.. rampant corruption appears as much politically motivated as it may have to do with an individual man indulging in corrupt practices..

    The issues of Raju – Raja and Kanimozhi-Kalamadi are only the tip of the iceberg.. the roots are deeper than that and the opposition to civil society’s demand for a strong Lokpal Bill are a proof enough of the fact that all is not well with the Indian politics..

    I am afraid I may not have pleased you as much when I said what I had to say.. on one issue that I felt highly offended was the case of non-inclusion of Pakistani cricketers into IPL.. We all know that Pakistan has got much more cricketing talent than we assume otherwise.. atleast every IPL team should have had one player each from across the border.. I hope it would change in the next season of IPL..

    Of China too there are repercussions that all is not as well in Indo-china relationships.. yes India did make sufficient in-roads for better ties with US.. maybe it had something to do with the deteriorating conditions with Pakistan.. I am sure a democratically run Pakistan would absolve itself from some of the major drawbacks concerning the state and this should in the long run generate good will among our two countries as well…



  3. Kamaal says:

    Marvi, great blog! Not because it speaks well for India, please no, not at all because of that. Rather you have given your fellow countrymen some thoughts to ponder over and get them thinking big. Its people like you and other liberal persons that gives one a sense of hope for the future.

    Keep sharing your views with us please.


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