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General K, We’re About To Have Some Words

May 1, 2011

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.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. May 1, 2011 2:15 pm

    good job. Agree with every word.

  2. May 1, 2011 2:32 pm

    Bravo! Simply bravo! This is on the dot.

    BTW, I’m not skeptical at all. I know for a fact that General K is robbing us of our dignity. That’s the bitter, hard truth.

  3. May 1, 2011 3:40 pm

    Absolutely fantastic.

  4. Javaid R. Shami permalink
    May 1, 2011 3:42 pm

    No matter how hard I try, I cannot find anything in your post to disagree with.

    Thank you.

  5. Shahid permalink
    May 1, 2011 3:44 pm

    “The army has willingly taken on a mercenary role since” 1954/55. Baghdad Pact, SEATO, CENTO. We even debated sending troops to Korea, but ended up only providing wheat for the war zone.

  6. Subhash permalink
    May 1, 2011 7:19 pm


  7. May 1, 2011 7:55 pm

    You say that this line of argument ‘somehow glorifies poverty’. So true. Even Faiz has said
    “Hum se kehte hain chaman waaley ‘gharibaan-e-chaman
    Tum koi acha sa rakh lo apne weeraney ka naam’

  8. Amir permalink
    May 1, 2011 11:47 pm

    You’ve absolutely nailed it! very well written indeed. This is exactly the kind of reply/analysis that this statement deserved.

  9. May 2, 2011 2:39 am

    Bohat hi aala. I made a far humbler attempt to write a post about the ways the army makes us suffer indignities by not allowing the civilian Cantt resident or city resident to get into public parks. We as civilians cannot become members of their clubs either although one of these clubs is a 2 minute walk from my place. Easy to talk about such BS when you are not suffering any lack of prosperity yourself. Great job, Kawa.

  10. khadijah shah permalink
    May 2, 2011 6:57 am

    i would take prosperity over “delusions of honour” any day. I don’t believe the army is all bad-but it needs to self reflect and check the growing extremist trend within its ranks. It also needs to accept a diminished role in the running of non-military affairs of the country. Religion, ghairat the indian threat, are interchangeably used to dull the senses of this nation.

  11. Umar permalink
    May 2, 2011 9:28 am

    Excellent piece of writing. All true.

  12. Jamil Khan permalink
    May 2, 2011 11:23 am

    Thanks for this writeup

  13. Salman Shah permalink
    May 2, 2011 2:32 pm

    Beautifully penned down..bravo.

  14. Saber S Sabre permalink
    May 2, 2011 4:16 pm

    Pakistan creation was a work of elite class and it has continue to work for those classes. Struggle is between ‘influential politicians’, civil servants and army. They all are allowed favours to each other at the expense of public. They take turns but never take anyone to task for corruption or flouting law. Our society values possessions, power and lives in hope of a favour.

    Politicians, Army and Civil Servants all consider plots and such as their basic right. Now most anchors and journalist have joined the club. It is not about being right it is about being privileged. No one thinks and no one cares.

  15. Omar Khan permalink
    May 2, 2011 4:38 pm

    What do you expect from corrupt and morally bankrupt generals

  16. May 2, 2011 5:25 pm

    Thank you for stating the truth that millions close their eyes to intentionally or deny in their love for ‘One of the world’s best armies’.

  17. Indian permalink
    May 2, 2011 9:28 pm

    Sorry mate… I have to disagree. See – the bullies only do as much as you let them get away with. True – Pakistan has been taken for a ride by the Fauj, but inherently, there isn’t much difference between you guys on that side of the border and us. Our fauj is a bit of a holy cow as well, but it knows it’s place and the occassional “adarsh” episodes also keeps it in check.

    The opposition to Gen M was led by the people. You guys won back democracy. Sure, your leaders leave a lot to be desired for, but look at ours…. not much different.

    Life ain’t easy…. blaming someone certainly is. I reckon it’s time you guys stopped blaming the pollies or the faujis and do what Jinnah did in the 1930s and 1940s…. (re)claim Pakistan.

  18. John permalink
    May 6, 2011 1:45 am

    Excellent post. Just excellent.


  1. How does more honour sound along with prosperity? « In all they do, they prosper

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