Saturday, 30 June 2012

Critique: Whither Pakistan? A five-year forecast

Critique: Whither Pakistan? A five-year forecast

                          Pakistan emerged as a separate homeland for Muslims by assiduous hard work and enormous sacrifices of Muslims. The pioneers of Pakistan movement dreamed of a state that could offer a peaceful milieu for free exercise of religion and attainment of one’s rights. It is highly disheartening to see the state crippled by the ethnic conflicts, religious extremism, terrorism and dissension between the public and government. The article, “Whither Pakistan? A five-year forecast”, was published on June 3, 2009 but it also talks about the current situation of Pakistan. It was published in the magazine “Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists” at the time when Pakistani Army was fighting against Taliban in the northern areas. The author of this article is Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy who is a nuclear physicist, political defense analyst and also ranked among global top hundred thinkers. He got his Doctorate degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has since then continued his research in Particle physics. Besides this he is a social activist, political writer and an ardent supporter of the peaceful use of Pakistan’s nuclear assets (Aik Din Geo ke Saath). The article annotates that Pakistan needs to wipe out the terrorist forces completely and focus on the real issues such as unemployment and economic downturn. It also warns of the consequences that the country might face if reform does not take place promptly. Although, Pervez Hoodbhoy progressively develops his arguments, effectively uses various literary devices to fulfill his purpose towards the targeted audience and sincerely urges the reader to think that a terror-free Pakistan fulfilling the real needs of its citizens is indispensible, however, he uses biased generalizations, provides fallacious supports for his assumptions, presents only the western perspective of Pakistani politics and gives somewhat reductionist solution for the problem.

                   To summarize in a few sentences, “Whither Pakistan? A five-year forecast” discusses how the brutal terrorist forces originated in a peaceful country like Pakistan and then triggered an endless series of atrocities especially in the areas of Swat, Waziristan, Buner and Malakand. These so-called guardians of religion aimed at forceful implementation of their own version of Sharia. For instance, innocent locals were slaughtered for idiosyncratic causes in the name of Jihad. Hoodbhoy claims that Pakistani army has itself nurtured the Taliban and unknowingly put the safety of this country at stake. According to the author, religious extremism and terrorism are devouring Pakistan and the only hope for this country lies in formation of alliance with America and India. He further asserts that the recognition of the real issues and needs of citizens is also mandatory for the sustenance of peace in every nook and corner of this Islamic State. 
One of the commending features of this article is that Pervez Hoodhoy uses progressive point by point development of his arguments and maintains a chronological order. He starts by confuting the depressing American predictions regarding the impending collapse of Pakistan. He goes on to describe the historical events and actions taken by the government and the army which had thrust the country into 2009’s partially successful war against terrorism. Finally, he depicts terrorism in Pakistan as a threat to the global community and responsibly proposes a solution for the problem.

                  In this non fictional article, the main purpose of the author is to inform the audience that regional terrorism poses global threats to the world at large. Hoodbhoy’s intended audience is the global community especially the neighboring countries of Pakistan and the super powers. He uses various rhetorical devices to effectively illustrate his view point. For instance in the first paragraph, “First, the bottom line…the Islamic sharia will not become the law of the land”, the author has used technique of asyndeton. This gives the effect that the author is speaking spontaneously. Furthermore, in paragraph 14, “Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is overthrown in a coup by radical Islamist… and sharia is declared across the country”, and in paragraph 13 the author has used techniques of pathos and hyperbole. These techniques aim at elevating the reader’s emotions. Thus, it is evident that Hoodbhoy has good command over the various writing techniques and he wants to leave no stone unturned to persuade his readers. 

                Moving on to the tone of the article, it is quite formal, straight forward and also somewhat threatening. In paragraph 3 the author says, “The clouds hanging over the future of Pakistan’s state and society are getting darker”. Similarly, in paragraph 7 he exhibits Pakistan as a weak-kneed state. Furthermore in paragraph 17 he asserts, “Pakistan's support lifeline must not be cut, or economic collapse would follow in a matter of months”. All these statements expressing the deteriorating situation of the crippled country are meant to induce fear among the Pakistani masses. He tries to present his arguments as a distant observer. Somewhere he uses advanced and learned words such as ‘blitzkrieg’ (paragraph 4), ‘idyllic’, ‘en masse’ (paragraph 7), ‘ubiquitous’ (paragraph 13) and ‘retaliatory’ (paragraph 9). The use of such words hinders the complete understanding of the article for a common man. All in all, the tone used and rhetorical devices employed successfully serve the purpose of the article that is directed at the targeted audience. 

                     Another feature of the article is that it contains various evidences and tentative arguments on how terrorist forces accumulate power from the institutions within the country. Pervez Hoodbhoy blames madrassas and extremist religious groups to be the root cause of terrorism. He says that fiery mullahs spout hatred from mosques and produce suicide bombers and fighters. Thus the mullahs serve the purpose of providing man power to the terrorist forces. Although all madarassas are not involved in creating extreme religious groups and terrorist forces, however, they serve more or less the same function. Those which are not in direct collaboration with terrorist forces are still instigating hatred against America and offering a soft corner for the so called mujahidins who are fighting against the US in Afghanistan. There have been examples of madrassas which physically train the students for fighting, guerrilla warfare and suicide bombing. A vast majority of them is proliferating extremist views, fundamentalism, hatred against west and anything which may conspire against their religious views. Lal Masjid was also one of such madrassas which was engaged in forceful imposition of sharia, violent demonstrations of power, armed clashed and arson. They captured the children library, set fire to Ministry of Environment building and also attacked army officials. Such madrassas aim at removing secularism, traditional laws and culture from the society and want to incorporate their own will which they conceal under the cover of Islam.

                 The article amply depicts the situation of areas under extremists influence. In the paragraph 13, the author proclaims that in the Taliban controlled regions, women are forced into burqas, men are advised to dress according to the wishes of the conservative terrorists and coeducational schools and video shops are being shut down or often attacked as well. The bomb attack on International Islamic University of Islamabad and various threats to NUST and Quaid-e-Azam University are manifestations of the antagonistic views of extremists. According to UNICEF report “Since 2007, more than 170 government and private schools, particularly girls’ schools, have been blown up or burned down in the Federally Administered Tribal Area and the North West Frontier Province, reportedly by illegal armed groups.” (UNICEF condemns attacks on schools in Pakistan). Pervez Hoodbhoy has been successful in persuading the reader that complete extinction of terrorism is necessary for making the society worth living. This act would enable people to exercise their cultural, national and individual rights. It would also help government and public to focus on the real issues of Pakistanis such as unemployment, economic downturn, poor health care and corruption. 

                In the article, Hoodbhoy has also mentioned some points for which he could not find any tangible support and he has used over simplified or biased generalizations to address his argument. For instance in paragraph 9, the author says, “Today, that fight is on… if the army hadn't nurtured extremists earlier”. This statement is an over generalization and seems to be blaming solely Pakistani army for the cultivation of insurgents. Similarly, in paragraph 12 the author said that being protected by thousands of military troops, Islamabad and other big cities cannot be harmed by tribal insurgents but various attacks in these big cities (Merriott attack, Mehran Base attack, Rawalpindi GHQ attack, and Lahore FIA attack) question the safety and defense systems employed in these areas. The author seems to be showing unrealistic optimism in this regard. Moreover, in the same paragraph the author states “Rogue elements within the military and intelligence…nuclear arsenal improbable”. Here again the author has blamed the military of Pakistan for killing of its own people but he has not provided any evidences to support such a claim. He has also not given any proof or evidence for the elements which he considers to be posing a threat to Pakistan nuclear arsenals. The author has also fallaciously ascribed the reason behind immigration of musicians to fear of being tortured by extremists. Yet, most of them have migrated because they are better paid outside the country. Thus, it can be observed that the author casts doubt on his credibility when he fails to provide evidence for the biased assumptions made in the article.

               Moreover, the article seems to be a reflection of American outlook of terrorism associated with Pakistan. Hoodbhoy is not wrong while saying that army has itself nurtured the group of terrorists but he has totally ignored the role of America, Saudi Arab, Iran and other countries in the producing and supporting insurgent forces in Afghanistan. During the Afghan- Soviet war all these countries supported Pakistan economically and militarily to create a group of tribal mujahids to fight against the Russians. The aim of Americans and its allies was to confine Russia. At that time America called the war as jihad and fighters as mujahids. Pakistan allowed its madrassas to produce a group of extremists who could join the Afghan jihad against Soviet Union. America with the help of University of Nebraska printed a number of books to support Afghan jihad (Hussain 80). CIA and ISI collaborated with each other and whatever Pakistan did was a part of the great game. Today America blames Pakistan for instigating terrorism and Hoodbhoy also does the same. However, the terrorist groups were actually the production of all the political actors of the cold war. 

              Hoodbhoy presents only partial truth or more precisely only the American perspective of Pakistani politics. Hoodbhoy suggested a military solution accompanied with the alliance of America for solving the problem. The solution, however, seems impracticable especially in the case of Pakistan. The people of Pakistan are anti-American in their views. The American threats to Pakistan, drone attacks on Pakistani army and their habit of using Pakistan for their vested interests have further provoked hatred among the general public. It is impossible for government to carry out any war against terror without public support. The Swat operation succeeded only because of the public support and cooperation with government and army. Alliance with America would more likely result into civil war instead of war against terrorism because now generally people dislike America more than they dislike the terrorists. And thus the solution to the problem would be counter-productive. Pakistan needs to understand that its distancing from American alliance is almost indispensable for a successful war against terrorism.

              In the final analysis, it can be said that Pervez Hoodbhoy has written a coherent and well organized article. It successfully accomplishes its purpose of informing the wide audience about the tremendous threat that terrorism poses to many nations including Pakistan. He goes on to say that only a terrorism free Pakistan can prosper and serve to the well being of its citizens. Yet, a few of Hoodbhoy’s assumptions and arguments are generalized. They lack sufficient support but still are strong enough to induce the reader into thinking that terrorism needs to be weeded out. Also, Hoodbhoy portrays that face of Pakistani politics that is favorable for only the Americans. After having correctly pointed out the problem, Hoodbhoy gives a reductionist solution to the problem which can hardly be implemented. To conclude, the past three years have shown this article has only partially achieved its purpose. 

Works Cited 

"Aik Din Geo Ke Saath." Interview by Sohail Varaich. Aik Din Geo Ke Saath. Geo TV. Islamabad, Pakistan, 2010. Television. 

Hoodbhoy, Pervez. "Whither Pakistan? A Five-year forecast." Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 3 June 2009. Web. 15 Apr. 2012. <>. 

Hussain, Zahid. Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle with Militant Islam. New York: Columbia UP, 2007. Print. 

UNICEF. "UNICEF Condemns Attacks on Schools in Pakistan." UNICEF. UNICEF, 23 Jan. 2009. Web. 15 Apr. 2012. 


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