The ‘Peter Pans’ Of Pakistan – OpEd


Just like JM Barrie’s fictional character Peter Pan, those at the helm of affairs in Pakistan just refuse to grow up. What else explains Prime Minister Imran Khan’s announcement that Pakistan had the support of 58 countries on the Kashmir issue at United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC), when this UN body itself has only 47 member states?

What explains former Director General Inter Services Public Relations (DGISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor first announcing that in addition to Wing Commander Abhinandan, it also had another Indian Air Force pilot in custody who was “injured and has been taken to Combined Military Hospital for treatment,” and then within hours make a ‘U-turn’ and say nothing about whereabouts of the second “captured” pilot who was hospitalised?

Then, what made former Pakistan ambassador to UN Ms Maleeha Lodhi believe that she could pass-off the badly injured face of a Palestinian girl as that of a Kashmiri and even have the gumption to say, “This is the face of Indian democracy”? How could Khan ever believe that just by adding the caption “Indian police’s pogrom against Muslims in UP” he could make the world believe that a video of uniformed policemen belonging to Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) belabouring a youth belonged to the Indian police from Uttar Pradesh?

The list of such incidents that provide a clear insight into the distinct juvenile behaviour exhibited by those in Pakistan holding very high and responsible positions is endless.

But Pakistan’s immature behaviour is not the result of the limitations of human minds or inadvertent faux pas- it’s the manifestation of what former Pakistan ambassador to US, Husain Haqqani has aptly described as “Pakistan security establishment clinging to the notion of parity with India.”

This plainly unachievable obsession is one of the major reasons for Pakistan’s lack of development and fragile economic condition. In fact, Pakistan’s insatiable appetite for parity with India is reflected in Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s famous remark in the 70s that if India developed a nuclear bomb, the “we will eat grass, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own.”

Fifty years down the line, Pakistan is still struggling to achieve the elusive parity with India. It boasts about its “principled stance on Kashmir” and takes the high moral ground by telling the world of its commitment to seek a “peaceful resolution” of this issue “in accordance with UN resolutions.”

Yet, in 1965, Pakistan under Gen Ayub Khan unsuccessfully attempted to unilaterally ‘resolve’ the Kashmir issue by launching ‘Operation Gibraltar’ to annex J&K. By taking this puerile decision, the ‘parity-hungry’ Pakistan army not only suffered a humiliating military defeat, but also ended up making a mockery of Islamabad’s stated position on resolution of the Kashmir issue.

Even today it waxes eloquent on peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue but issues commemorative stamps to honour slain terrorists of proscribed groups and spends millions for sustaining the proxy war in J&K.

While a cash-strapped Pakistan is frantically seeking financial aid from all over just in order to stay afloat, the Pakistan army, in its quest of parity with India seems to have no shortage of funds and is currently the 11th largest importer of armaments in the world. For two decades, it’s spy agency ISI gave millions of dollars of tax payers money to Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai in US to lobby for Pakistan and influence the US government on the Kashmir issue.

The odd thing about this conspiracy is that even after Fai admitted having received funds for lobbying, instead of accepting it, Pakistan Foreign Office, just like a children who believes that he can get out of the mess by outrightly denying his involvement, said it was completely unaware about the whole conspiracy.

Whereas this denial could have been an attempt to save Islamabad from diplomatic embarrassment, but many opine that knowing how the Pakistan army and ISI function, it could well be possible that Islamabad wasn’t really aware of what Rawalpindi was doing.

This viewpoint is endorsed by the press release issued by US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Neil MacBride, which states, “for the last 20 years, Mr. Fai secretly took millions of dollars from Pakistani intelligence and lied about it to the US government. As a paid operative of ISI, he did the bidding of his handlers in Pakistan while he met with US elected officials, funded high-profile conferences, and promoted the Kashmiri cause to decision-makers in Washington.”

Incidentally, after completing his prison term, Pakistan’s lobbyist is back to his old job and there are no prizes for guessing who’s financing his activities.

A few days back, social media was abuzz with a series of tweets apparently sent by members of the royalty from the middle-east blaming as well as admonishing the Indian government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the prevailing “Islamophobia in India.” A tweet from Omani Princess Mona bint Fahd al Said even threatened deportation of the 1 million Indians living in Oman, “if the Indian Govt doesn’t stop the persecution of Muslims.”

This barrage of tweets with anti-Indian content was so intense that many news portals published the details using equally catchy captions like, “Arab netizens fire back as Indians step up anti-Muslim rhetoric on Covid-19” (This Week in Asia), “Hindutva has a cost, Middle-East Elite Remind India” (The Siasat Daily) and “Arab Omani Princess Warns Modi to Expel a million Indian Workers from Oman” (The London Post).

Expectedly, this development brought a lot of cheers in the corridors of power in both Islamabad aa also Rawalpindi, and even senior journalist Hamid Mir tweeted, “Indian PM @narendramodi creating problems for his countrymen working in other countries statement from Princess @SayyidaMona is reflection of growing anger against Modi policies his hatred against Muslims may force friends of India in Middle East to reconsider their policies.”

But alas, while Mir’s prognosis was completely out of tune, Islamabad and Rawalpindi ended up eating the humble pie as it subsequently turned out that the tweets purportedly sent by the Omani Princess (who in one tweet had said “I will definitely take up this issue (persecution of Muslims in India) with the Sultan of Oman,”) turned out to be fake.

News 18 confirmed that “A fact check conducted by IB Times revealed that the account had originally been called “@pak_Fauj”, linking it to the Pakistani army. Searching for @pak_Fauj on Twitter led users to the @SayyidaMona account, proving that both accounts were one and the same. Visiting the account and scrolling down to past tweets (that had not been deleted) that bore the earlier credentials.

This comes just six months after Twitter had suspended about 200 fake twitter accounts that were made in the name of senior Indian army officers but were being used by Pakistani operatives to spread disinformation, Islamabad and Rawalpindi are up to the same antics.

In 2016, news that Israeli Defence Minister had threatened to nuke Pakistan if it sent its troops into Syria went viral on social media. Instead of confirming veracity of this blatantly fake sounding news, Pakistan Defense Minister Khawaja Asif tweeted, “Israeli def min threatens nuclear retaliation presuming Pak role in Syria against Daesh (Islamic State). Israel forgets Pakistan is a Nuclear state too.”

Countries having nuclear capabilities are expected to be mature states that don’t keep talking about nuclear retaliation at the drop of the hat, and certainly not without verifying authenticity of a purported threat.

Tailpiece: While speaking to media ahead of his 2019 UNGA address, Prime Minister Imran Khan had lamented, “To be absolutely frank, I am a bit disappointed by the international community,” and his angst was justified as no one takes Pakistan seriously. Whereas his reasoning that “People look upon India as a market of 1 billion people and sadly that’s what is happening-material comes over the human,” may be one of the reasons, but it certainly isn’t the only one. Khan sahib, how can you ever expect the world to take Pakistan seriously when you all refuse to grow up and start acting in a mature manner befitting a nuclear state?

Nilesh Kunwar

Nilesh Kunwar is a retired Indian Army Officer who has served in Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. He is a ‘Kashmir-Watcher,’ and now after retirement is pursuing his favorite hobby of writing for newspapers, journals and think tanks.

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