Pakistan’s darkest hour

Pakistan's darkest hour

The Jakarta Post, Opinion – December 29, 2007

 Anand Krishna, Jakarta


The assassination of Benazir Bhutto should convince us all that the radicals in Pakistan are very much alive and active. And, this is bad news for us, for Indonesia. We must not forget that all our radicals, hardliners and the so called fundamentalists have had Pakistani connection in one way or the other.

We have, in the past, closed our eyes to such connections. Now, we can no longer afford that. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto must be taken as a clear warning to our government, "What happened in Pakistan could happen here too!"

President Musharraf may not be the Ideal Leader for Pakistan, but at least he is doing his job. No president, no Pakistani leader in the past did as much as he is doing to eradicate radicalism. One may argue, "In the past not so many people were killed in terrorist attacks." Of-course not, for in the past, the regime or at least some elements in the regime and the military supported these very radicals.

This is Pakistan's darkest hour, and I hope this hour shall pass, and pass soon… For, otherwise I can only foresee utter darkness for the entire region. And, that includes not only India, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan's immediate next door neighbors — but also us, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Indeed, the entire world.

What are these radicals trying to gain? What are they trying to achieve? Benazir's death may not be their goal at all. Their goal is the disintegration of Pakistan, chaos in the country and the entire region — and finally amidst the turmoil to get hold of Pakistani nukes.

Months before her assassination, Benazir Bhutto argued over a television interview that most of the Pakistanis were moderate, and that the radicals were in minority. Not only in Pakistan, but in any society the radicals have always been a minority. Yet, they can be overwhelming minority. They are like those tiny little viruses which cannot be seen by our naked eyes, yet can kill us.

Our society today is full of such viruses. They are killing our social life. Just the other day I met with a grandchild of one of our founding fathers who complained about the indoctrination in the schools. Our little innocent children, their pure minds are being poisoned with fanaticism. Even the great grandchildren of our founding fathers are exposed to such indoctrination.

What are the moderates doing about this?
Some of them even argue, "What is wrong in being fanatic about one's religion?"

My Lebanese friend, a granddaughter of Syrian Mufti, warns me: "What is happening in your country today happened in our country some 16 years back. At that time, we did not take things too seriously. When we started taking things a bit seriously, it was too late." Indeed, until this date the country is torn apart between the different factions of one and same society.

Coming back to Pakistan, even at this darkest hour, we cab see a tiny ray of hope…. And, that is all the opposition parties with nationalistic agenda in favor of the people of Pakistan marching together in the fight against radicalism. The Pakistani society is in need of a major surgery. Some rotten parts of its social body must be removed. It is hurting, it may even disfigure Pakistan — but the surgery cannot be delayed. Otherwise, the entire body is affected.

At this hour, even to think of elections, fair or otherwise — may not be wise at all. The opposition leaders must understand, and understand it well that any dispute between them shall only benefit the radicals. More than ever, at this hour Pakistan needs a very strong government. This hour calls for a strong united civil front, for there is still another unfinished homework that must be finished — that of cleansing the Pakistani army, Intelligence, perhaps even police, of their radical elements.

It is high time that our politicians learn their lessons from Pakistani experience: Radicalism in any form must not be tolerated. There can be no moderation on this issue. Tolerating the radicals for short term political gain is not only dangerous but can be fatal to national integration.

Another lesson that we must learn from Pakistani experience is that, "Having a superpower as an ally is not enough". At the end of the day, we must clean our own dirt. Nobody else is going to clean it for us. Let us, therefore, not rely on any superpower. Let us go back to the vision of our founding fathers: Total Independence in the fields of politics, economy and national/cultural identity. This, then, is the only vision that can save us!