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Crime and Punishment– Lt Gen (R) Asad Durrani

Dostoevsky’s epic novel was about the crime of a lone killer. Iqbal, our founding philosopher, however, believes that there could be circumstances under which culpable acts by individuals might be mitigated – but there was no way the Almighty would forgive the sins of a society.

Makes sense, of course; because their effects were more devastating. And then, though some huge disasters were triggered by a small number at the helm, the consequences had to be borne almost exclusively by the common man who wasn’t even guilty by association.

Overtime, one did understand that when dispensing mass retribution, it might not be possible to take out only the culprits. More importantly, if the masses did not struggle against the wrongs of the rulers, they too were partners in the crime. And therefore, while the hereafter would pick its own course and time, it’s up to us to have these public enemies hanged from the tallest tree. It may not have always worked out that way but the crimes against humanity did find their comeuppance mostly in this very world.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was the brain child of Brezhnev and a coterie of his comrades, who ignored the caveats from the Military and the KGB. He himself may have died of natural causes but his act contributed in no small measure to the demise of an
empire.

And just in case one was to blame the nature of the regime in Moscow that tolerated no dissent, the world’s oldest democracy did no better. American invasion of Afghanistan post 9/11 might have had broad-based support both within and without, there were a good number of sane voices that advised caution. It still took the sole superpower over two decades to abandon a project that had failed the day it was launched – and served only the interests of Big Money. And since the architects of this monumental calamity were not even charged – leave aside punished – they will continue to wreck ever
more havouc.

In the aftermath of the crisis in Ukraine, it’s Europe’s turn to pay-up for the decades of
peace and prosperity it enjoyed by riding over the coattails of the Big Brother – and for playing second fiddle when the US went bulldozing the children of lesser gods. At home, we did worse.

The small gang of four that hatched the Kargil misadventure without consulting even the crucial stakeholders, who eventually had to be dragged in the conflict, went on to rise in ranks. If they would be taken to task by history or in the other world would be of no consolation for the immense loss of life and to the Cause we hold so dear. And on that front, like Sisyphus, India has been condemned for eternity. The rocks in Kashmir will keep rolling down because of Delhi’s inhuman policies.

All the same, there is retribution here and now for the perpetrators of felonies committed out of stupidity or selfish interest. The rights and wrongs of the regime change in Pakistan earlier this year have been debated to death. But what happened soon thereafter must have caught most of our political pundits sleeping on the wheel.

The surprise support for Imran Khan was later explained as the compulsion of a people to choose between three evils. Indeed, it sounded plausible because of our history – and then it’s an individual’s sovereign choice that need not always be rationalised. How those, traditionally conservative and mostly critical of the four years of IK’s Regime blew their top in the aftermath, left many scratching their own heads.

They reasonably concluded that Imran’s posturing as anti-establishment and as a voice against American imperialism went down well with the rebels (not to be confused with the revolutionaries, for heaven’s sake). It therefore would have made political sense for the new dispensation in Islamabad – confronted with huge challenges as it were – to play in tune with the public sentiment.

Sharif Government on the other hand naively believed that it might serve its physical, though not spiritual health, if it could be seen to be more loyal to the Army and America than IK – who had in the meantime positioned himself as the champion of the other two A’s: Allah and Awam (people).

Anyone with any horse sense would have known that it was possible, even important, to empathise with the people, while still taking care of the worldly powers by other means. In fact, Shahbaz Sharif would have been well advised to recall the one speech that had catapulted his elder brother to the status of an Awami Leader. It was delivered on the 17th of April 1993, and “I will not take any dictation” became Nawaz Sharif’s leitmotif that may have brought him many a discomfiture, but stood him in good stead in the long run. Strategic Depth and Strategic Defiance – perfectly sound conceptions in geopolitics – acquired pejorative dimensions since they got associated with unpopular personalities and policies.

Otherwise, their practitioners had always reaped rich dividends for their countries and for themselves. Germany did not become an economic powerhouse because of the Marshal Plan; but because Erhard, its first minister of finance after the Second World War, ignored the guidelines given by the three (occupying) powers. And Pakistan would not have become a nuclear power if our civil & military leadership, led by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan during a crucial period, had not defied the world.

Shahbaz Sharif’s cardinal sin however was that he failed to grasp the great defining moment that arrived with the Ides of March. People had had enough of the overbearing establishment and had broken out of their tribal mindset. To believe that like in the past they would blindly stamp their approval for the new chief’s son as Punjab’s head honcho was not only foolish but hopelessly out of sync with the Zeitgeist.

All the same there is good news in these bad times. Leaders of all hues! beware of the Tide in the Affairs of Men. It’s an Awami Tsunami and unless addressed, it will flood the corridors of power to sweep you out and restore the people to their rightful place. And since you – suffering from hubris like another power you’re trying to suck up to – are unlikely to pay any heed to such warnings, the next tidal wave is just around the corner.

Lt Gen (R) Asad Durrani

Lt Gen (R) Asad Durrani is the former Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

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