General K, We’re About To Have Some Words
General Ashfaq Kayani runs this country. Let’s not waffle about on this issue. The democratic regime is anemic at best and hapless at worst. What he says carries weight. People listen to him.
When General K says that the nation will not sacrifice its honour for prosperity, he’s expecting people to take it at face value. An unquestioning media will accept it as essential, and will let it lie.
Now, there’s no doubt that honour, or ‘ghairat’ is real. Living your life with dignity and honour is the right of the people of Pakistan. Having their decisions actually count is the right of the people of Pakistan. On that front, I have no issue with his comment.
Similarly, General K is not the first (and he’s unlikely to be the last) Pakistani political personality to make this statement. Rhetoric laden with national honour stretches all the way back to the Two Nation Theory and has been employed by all our rulers. As was pointed out to me on Twitter, the greatest example of honour-over-prosperity rhetoric is ZAB’s infamous “Even if we have to eat grass” speech. It’s an essential, and cheap, political trope that excites people.
What is particularly egregious about this line of argument is that it somehow glorifies poverty, turning it into a virtue. Trying to convince the people of the country that toiling in subhuman conditions is a sacrifice they’re making to ensure that the nation remains honourable. It stakes the nation’s dignity at the cost of the individual Pakistani’s.
The fact that such rhetoric emanates from the military is particularly jarring for me. No single institution has sold out the nation’s “honour” for its own prosperity at the rate that the military has. And none has forced individual Pakistanis to live as undignified, fearful lives as it has.
The army has willingly taken on a mercenary role since the Soviet ‘Jihad’. It has willfully indoctrinated young boys to turn themselves into weapons; in the process snatching away sons from families that would have depended upon them to live a life of dignity in their old age.
The military has appropriated a larger and larger chunk of the national budget to buy itself fancy gadgets at the cost of expanding education and healthcare. Snatching from us the right to education and a healthy life.
And while they may talk of dismantling the feudal nizaam, they themselves have emerged as the largest landowner in Pakistan. Some dignity they’re affording us.
They’ve trampled on our vote time and again. They’ve murdered a Prime Minister through a kangaroo court. They have shown time and again that they care naught for the dignity of our vote.
They’ve treated Pakistanis as second class citizens simply due to their narrow definition of what ‘Pakistani’ is. Which for the uninitiated is basically “Love the army and listen to everything we say without fail.” A genocide in Bengal (yeah, let’s not sugarcoat it), and ongoing repression in Balochistan that barely makes it to our news channels.
In the meanwhile, we have our gleaming Defence Housing Authorities, and our vast Fauji Foundation industrial complex. It would appear that while we ensure the nation’s honour, someone is indeed getting prosperous.
So, General Kayani, allow me to be a little skeptical. Just a tiny bit skeptical when you ask me to forego prosperity for honour.