Since 9/11 Pakistan has become a land of miracles. There are a few more in store
In the early 1980s, there were only four households with a television set in the working class neighbourhood where I was growing up. Besides the barber shop, there was only one home regularly subscribing to a newspaper in a neigbourhood of about 500 houses.
The ‘age of information’ with all its news-breaking channels and cyber-world had not yet dawned upon us. The main source of credible news was the BBC Urdu service, while the main source of entertainment news was PTV Khabarnama. People were less informed but more knowledgeable.
However, despite an information black-out under the Zia dictatorship, even as kids growing up in a working class neighbourhood in Sargodha, a remote West Punjab town, we knew about the top state secret.
We knew that a legendary scientist who escaped James Bond-style from Holland with nuclear formula, was developing an atom bomb at Kahuta. Many anecdotes were told and re-told, proudly, to glorify the legend. The scientist was Abdul Qadeer Khan.
‘India wants to bump him off at any cost,’ a school teacher once commented, before hurriedly assuring us: ‘But there are at least ten lookalikes deputed at Kahuta to confuse any assassin who dares an attempt on his life.’
Every now and then, the Indian or US press would run a story about Pakistan’s nuclear programme. However, our pious dictator, Gen Zia ul Haq, would remind the world that Pakistan’s nuclear programme had noble and peaceful objectives indeed, and we were not manufacturing any nuclear bullet let alone a whole bomb.
This standard lie was repeated ad nauseum by Zia’s civilian successors, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, until 1998 when India, under its crazy Hindu fundamentalist government, conducted nuclear explosions.
All of a sudden, our peaceful nuclear programme turned out to be pretty bombastic. We conducted seven nuclear blasts to even out India’s five. Amid the nuclear euphoria, nobody gave a damn about the official lie that our governments, khaki as well as civilian, had been telling the world during the preceding 20 years.
Kashmir is Pakistan’s jugular vein! Our founding father Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah said so sixty odd years ago.
Well, we have survived without the jugular vein and the jugular vein has never shown any desperation to join the mother body either. But we keep trying to reclaim our jugular vein.
In 1948, we unleashed tribal mercenaries to recoup the jugular vein. We failed. In 1965, we dispatched paratroopers hoping the moment they land the Valley, oppressed Kashmir would rise up against the Hindu tyranny. No such luck.
From 1988 onwards, we began a more sustained effort. After all, our Mujahideen returning from Afghanistan required a job. Our Mujahideen reduced the Valley to rubble but could not rescue the jugular vein.
To help our Mujahidden, we launched a mass recruitment campaign at public squares. From Jamat-ud-Dawa and Jamaat-e-Islami to Jaish-e-Muhammad, a host of liberators dispatched hundreds, if not thousands, of youth to paradise via Kashmir.
During all these years, our governments told the world that the Kashmir resistance movement was indigenous and denied any infiltration from the Pakistani side.
Such was the level of incompetence that everything our governments would state officially was contradicted by the Jihadi media. Not merely the Jiahdi media, but also the daily Nawa-i-Waqt and the daily Khabrain would regularly run stories of dead bodies arriving from Kashmir.
Nobody, neither in the media nor in parliament, asked why body bags were arriving in Punjabi villages if the movement in Kashmir was indeed purely indigenous.
Well, the jugular vein was still beyond our control. Finally, our brave soldiers decided to engage cowardly Indian troops on the Kargil Hills.
For months our government refused to take any responsibility, even when the Indian government and media were offering evidence upon evidence of Pakistani manouveres at Kargil.
The cowardly Indian troops were very cunning. Instead of fighting our brave soldiers, they trapped our soldiers. Having trapped our boys, they began to ambush our brave soldiers. Finally, our prime minister paid a visit to the White House.
He confessed to having lied. We were caught lying. We were embarrassed for a while, as the whole world looked on. In embarrassment, we dismissed our prime minster and dispatched him to exile for the next ten years.
During the 1980s, the only TV channel in the country, the state-run PTV had a permanent item in 9 0'clock evening news bulletin. We were told by newscaster Azhar Lodhi every evening that Russian aircrafts were violating our airspace even when we were not doing anything beyond the Khyber Pass.
However, hardly had the Soviet troops had crossed the River Amu when biographers like Haroon ur Rashid began to assert that it was actually General Akhtar Abdur Rehman who humiliated the Soviets in Afghanistan. A retired brigadier wrote his own memoir, The Bear Trap.
Unfortunately the Afghan boys we trained did not prove sufficiently competent when the Soviets were driven out by us. We decided to leash them in by dispatching the Taliban.
For five years, the Taliban ruled with our blessing. They even hosted our terrorist camps. Every time India made any noise about our links with the Taliban, we denied ever having any truck with the Taliban.
Come 9/11 and our dear dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf was telling us on television 'Hum nay Taliban kay leay kia nahi kia?’ [What is it we haven’t done for Taliban?]. We severed our relations with the Taliban, and joined hands with the Big Satan to hunt down Osama ben Laden.
Mother of all embarrassments. Even while we were hunting al-Qaeda terrorist all over the country, Sheikh Osama ben Laden was found hiding at a sprawling house on the outskirts of Pakistan Military Academy. A joke is in order here.
A guy returning from Saudi Arabia was caught by customs officials at the Lahore Airport with a bottle of whisky.
When asked for an explanation, the guy replies: “When I left Saudi Arabia, this bottle contained Aab e Zam Zam. When I land here, it turns out to be whisky. What a miracle.”
Since 9/11 Pakistan has become a land of miracles. There are a few more in store.
When in November 2008, LeT commandos attacked Bombay, we accused India itself of enacting that gory drama to blame Pakistan and defame us. Our star anchorperson Talat Hussain spotted a yellow band on the wrist of Ajmal Kasab, who was captured alive and held in Indian custody.
But conspiracy theories did not help cover up the truth. After The Hindu had already revealed it all, our own media began to run stories exposing Ajmal Kasab’s identity.
Recently our dear friend and patron Saudi Arabia handed over to India Abu Jandal, who coordinated the attack on Bombay. First we accused India of having conspired against Pakistan by itself carrying out the Bombay attack. Now we don’t blame India any more, but still want the world to believe that our secret agencies were not involved.
Haqqanis, father and sons, are effectively running an Emirate of Faithful in Waziristan and its suburbs. Until recently, they would hold public court, administer punishments, arbitrate tribal disputes, and receive journalists. Any Peshawar-based journalist covering the Taliban can ring the Taliban spokesperson and get his opinions on any subject.
Then the Taliban lashkar arrives in Kohat from Waziristan, attacks the prison and, in the biggest jailbreak of the country’s history, leave with an inmate accused of plotting to kill General Musharraf. The entire episode is triumphantly filmed by the Taliban, and TV channels air it non-stop.
But we want the world to believe there exists no Haqqani network and that the Taliban are a myth. And when the world does not believe us, we go berserk on Lahore’s Mall Road and burn down the Shehzan restaurant.
Farooq Sulehria is currently pursuing his media studies. Previously, he has worked with Stockholm-based Weekly Internationalen. In Pakistan, he has worked with The Nation, The Frontier Post, The News, and the Pakistan. He has MA in Mass Communication from the University of Punjab, Lahore. He also contributes for Znet and various left publications internationally.