Columnists

Pakistan: Deceit from the beginning

As the story of Osama bin Laden unwinds, the bigger story is about Pakistan and what it says about the idiocy of the great western powers since 1945.

States have no morality, and the game they play is layered with duplicity and deceit. The fine art in this ancient game is not to be unduly embarrassed or caught.

The Pakistani ruling elite has been engaged in deceit and duplicity with the connivance of first Britain, and then the United States, since its sordid creation in 1947.

Britain is responsible for two partitions – British India and the Palestine Mandate – and their results ever since have held the region in the grip of intractable conflicts with potential to spin out of control, turn nuclear, and have devastating consequences for the rest of the world.

Britain’s decision to partition India was born from the worst of motives. There was exhaustion following the Second World War, an overstretched empire that strained the resources and could not be held together indefinitely and, worse, the opportunism to play the last hand of an imperial divide-and-rule stratagem by accepting the claims of those Indian Muslims – among Britain’s most loyal clients – that Muslims in India deserved a state of their own.

The Pakistani ruling elite is unexceptional among postcolonial elites of the Arab- Muslim world. It is cynical, deceitful, contemptuous of its own people, and devoted to its narrow interest of holding power as are all ruling elites in Dar-ul (the House of) Islam.

The two exceptions are India and Israel, and both democracies grate upon the thinking and practice of their neighbouring ruling elites. Their success by every standard of measure is a rebuke to the failed and rogue states, mostly Muslim countries, which surround them.

There was no common and shared basis of language or culture among Indian Muslims for the demand of Pakistan. Islam by itself could not over-ride the differences.

And yet, Britain, knowing full well how questionable and unsustainable was the case for Pakistan, went ahead against the views of thoughtful Muslims who warned of the perils in dividing India on the basis of religion.

Margaret Bourke-White, an American photographer-journalist for Life magazine, was located in India during the crucial months before and after the partition.

In 1949 she published a remarkable book, Halfway to Freedom, detailing, as a witness, what transpired.

Bourke-White was one of the few with access to the inner circle of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. She spoke with his sister, Fatima Jinnah, who confided: “We never expected to get it (Pakistan) so soon.”

Bourke-White asked Mohammed Ali Jinnah of his plans for the country, and his expectations of receiving assistance from America.

Jinnah replied: “America needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs America. Pakistan is the pivot of the world, as we are placed — the frontier on which the future position of the world revolves.” And then, he noted: “Russia is not so very far away.”

For Pakistani ruling elite times changed, but not geography. In frontier lands deceit is the currency of profit and betrayal, and Americans obliged, turning Pakistan into a strategic asset in the game that states play.

Osama bin Laden was merely another duplicitous transaction in this game.

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Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen

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