Flawed Notions of honour
Nicolas Chauvin a soldier in Napoleon’s army is dead and gone since a long time, but the ‘chauvinistic” attitude named after him, has not just survived the test of time, but has also become a popular pastime for politicians, military men, TV anchors, op-ed writers and religious obscurantists. Not to be left behind, even the supposedly sane scientists have joined the jingo ranks by making statements such as “the government should show no flexibility in the face of India’s allegations. After all, it will take us only 10 minutes to fire the nuclear missiles”. (Dr. Mubarakmand Daily Times Dec.05, 2008)
It may be true that we now have the capability to fire our nuclear missiles in just 10 minutes. Our highest key performance indicator (KPI) for excellence seems to be the speed with which we can annihilate our enemy. Can we also rescue our citizens from a burning building in 10 minutes? Can we come to the rescue of a woman being raped in 10 minutes? Can we recover a child who has fallen in an open gutter in 10 minutes? Can we take a sick person to hospital and give him treatment in 10 minutes? Can we stop the burying alive of helpless women in 10 minutes, or can we even register an FIR in 10 minutes? If we can do none of these, and can only annihilate our perceived enemies in ten minutes, we have a perverted understanding of ‘honour’ and need to revisit and revise our KPIs.
It is unsafe to have nuclear neighbors like India and Pakistan, whose politicians, generals and bureaucrats have an obscurantist mind-set, no better than that of the feudal villagers who keep the family enmity alive because of a conflict over a piece of land, or a murder committed many generations ago. We have not been able to grow out of this ancient tribal concept of honour, ego, ‘neechi naak’ and ‘oonchi pagri’. Our ‘honour’ sleeps peacefully when our Chief Justice gets his daughter’s marks increased illegally. Our ‘honour’ is not ruffled when we appoint ‘jirga’ operators, ‘Vani’ dealers and ‘burying alive’ supporters as our federal ministers. The examples on the other side of the border are no less in intensity or numbers.
The recent attacks in Mumbai were a great opportunity for the two neighbors to come together. What if President Zardari had taken off for New Delhi instead of going all the way to Turkey to join neighbour Hamid Karzai for a dinner. Why was the Joint Anti-Terror Mechanism (JATM), already in place between the two countries, not immediately made to begin its work? Here was a great opportunity for both countries to build mutual trust and clean up their respective backyards. Pakistan has no business to allow any wanted Indian nationals to take refuge on its soil. Such persons need to be put on the first available flight to India. How come those imprisoned in India and later exchanged as a result of an aircraft hijacking demand, roam around as free people in Pakistan? Would Pakistan like India to protect some one who was a prisoner in a Pakistani jail? Such persons should either be sent back or be made to stand trials in their own country. If Pakistan was to come up front on these issues, it would also have a strong reason to ask Indians to stop their covert support to militants in Pakistan.
It is time for Pakistan to act like a responsible state and use some strong detergents to cleanup the infra structure operated by its non-state militants. The world looks at all Pakistanis with suspicion, as if no Pakistani can consume his breakfast unless he has fired a few rounds from a rocket launcher. But this perception is not altogether imaginary. The fact is that there is hardly a day which does not see terrorist attacks killing dozens of innocent people in one or the other city of Pakistan. The people of Pakistan feel unsafe in their own country, and are least interested in seeing their neighbors annihilated. Clearly the same would be the feeling of an average Indian. Sixty years of militarization has made the people of India and Pakistan more unsafe and more vulnerable. If your child is killed, it does not matter if the bullet came from another country or from the barrel of your local terrorist. We have paid a heavy price for our ‘capacity building’ to kill others and doing little to protect our own citizens. The oxymoronic ‘arms for peace’ pursuits have made the people of both countries poorer in every sense of the term.
From ancient Greece to the present day, notions of ‘honour’ have had a critical impact on the causes and conduct of wars. It is dangerous for modern nations to cling to feudal and fake concept of ‘honour’. Ever so often, it pushes us to take refuge in shells of chauvinistic nationalism. We need to revisit and give up this medieval sense of ‘honour’, even if it takes sending our leaders for some serious psychiatric interventions. Our ‘honour’ lies in the wellbeing of our citizens. Our ‘honour’ lies in building peace and security for our own citizens as well as our neighbours. Most of all, our ‘honour’ lies in being honourable people – those who would not tolerate corrupt rulers, PCO judges and militancy in all its forms.
Dawn Dec. 2008