Nepali Times Asian Paints
CK LAL
State Of The State
Parallel histories


CK LAL


This week, two of our neighbours will be celebrating their 58th independence day. Due to an easy access to Indian media, we know that 15 August is India's independence day. But Pakistan became independent a day earlier on 14 August. Both countries suffered a harrowing partition that saw the biggest transfer of population in human history. Nearly a million died, millions more were rendered homeless. Unresolved issues of partition continue to haunt relations.

Serious efforts at rapprochement between these two nuclear nations have now begun, but given the bad blood it's still fragile.

India has matured as a settled democracy where elections are held periodically and their outcomes respected. Other than a brief dictatorial interlude of an emergency in the seventies, Indian politicos have seldom veered away from the constitution. The Indian military has steadfastly refused to be drawn into politics. Religious bigotry, separatism and leftwing rebellion exist but are not in danger of tearing the country apart. Democracy has a way of self-correcting itself and resolving conflict.

In Pakistan, democracy failed to take root and the country has been under direct or indirect military control for over half a century. The country's history is a record of various coups, the rise of self-declared messiahs and their fall from grace, mostly under unusual circumstances.

Nepal has a lot to learn from India, but we need to learn even more from Pakistan. For some inexplicable reason, the destinies of Islamic Pakistan and Hindu Nepal are mysteriously intertwined. Every time the axe of authoritarianism falls on democratic regimes in Islamabad, Kathmandu is sure to follow.

Gen Ayub Khan declared himself president in 1960. As if on cue, King Mahendra dissolved Nepal's first elected parliament. Gen Yahya Khan took over in 1969 and in Nepal the Panchayat fell into the hands of ultra-conservatives within the Gaun Pharka campaign. In 1977, Gen Zia ul-Haq staged a military coup and executed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. This led to riots in Kathmandu that had to be defused with a referendum.

In August 1988, General Zia, the US ambassador and top Pakistani army officials were killed in a mysterious air crash, marking a return to democracy. In Nepal the discontent soon spilled over in the streets, leading to the 1990 People's Movement and a new constitution. Gen Musharraf staged an airborne coup in his country in October 1999 we had a parallel royal takeover in October 2002 in Nepal.

If what has happened in Pakistan since is anything to go by, the palace also badly needs an electoral exercise to legitimise authoritarian rule. On Tuesday, US Ambassador James Moriarty strongly urged political parties to accept any proposal for elections emanating from the palace. And that is another similarity between Kathmandu and Islamabad: US ambassadors in both places have often been the arbiters of the fate of democracy.

But Pakistani generals are much better at handling America. Pakistan gets more per-capita US aid than any other country in the world except Israel. Islamabad's rulers ignore unsolicited US advice with panache. Here, Sachit Shamsheres and Kuber Sharmas publicly grovel in front of foreign envoys, as they did on Tuesday.

All militarised societies are at the brink of state failure. Pakistan and Nepal stand together at 34th and 35th places from the bottom respectively. But Pakistan's military has a demonstrated capacity of handling emergencies while the Royal Nepali Army has yet to prove it is capable of containing the Maoists. The rout in Kalikot is a grim reminder of uncertainty looming ahead.

'If the war with Maoists continues, Nepal's survival will be doubtful,' cautions the report titled The Second Freedom: South Asian Challenge 2005-2025 published by the thinktank Strategic Foresight Group. But it doesn't seem to sway dictators. The Pakistani military has been a virtual ruling party in Pakistan nearly throughout that country's history. Narayanhiti seems to want to be something similar, but without shouldering the same responsibilities.

The international community, America in particular, needs to get over its obsession with evil communists from the Cold War. Each of the countries in South Asia faces different challenges. Post-colonial states like Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka are struggling for their second freedom- from identity politics, class wars, communal strife and other uprisings of political nature.

Challenges in Bhutan and Nepal are rather primal, we are yet to evolve into political beings. We are still struggling for formal freedom, the fundamental right to be free citizens of not just an independent but a free country. Faiz Ahmad Faiz writes in 'We Shall Witnes&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;': 'Aur raaj karay ge khalaq-e-khuda/ Jo main bhi hoon aur tum bhi ho (So will rule God's people/ Which is also you and also I)'. There is something in the resilience of the people of Pakistan that all of us must salute.



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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