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In Pakistan, denial is easier than heartbreak

Pakistanis have long revered their Army as heroic and pure. Now, they're coming to terms with the fact that it might not be as awesome as they thought. Denial is a natural reaction.

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We had a highly skilled, extremely powerful, and deadly efficient military. We were a nuclear-armed nation that basked in the glory of our military strength – we were the world’s most powerful defenders of Islam. Allahu Akbar.

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With new information, disillusionment

Then the 21st century happened and things started going wrong. Information that was locked up in books that nobody read was suddenly available on TV and in people’s email boxes. Internet articles told us that Pakistan started the 1965 war on Aug. 5 by sending soldiers into Kashmir (and that the Sept. 6 attack from India was a retaliation).

Wikipedia showed us a news item from the Los Angeles Times that referred to our beloved Gen. Tikka Khan (the martial law administrator for East Pakistan) as “The Butcher of Bengal.” Googling “Operation Searchlight” gave gory details of the mass atrocities committed by the Pakistan Army in Bangladesh during 1971, including mass murder and rape.

The previously classified Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report, a post-fact investigation by a Pakistani judicial commission on the causes of the 1971 disaster, was leaked on the Internet for all to read.

Its findings accused the Pakistan Army of arson and excessive use of force. It also recommended courts-martial for much of the top brass for criminal neglect of duty, premature surrender, corruption, incompetence and for being power hungry. We learned that no action was ever taken on the recommendations of the report.

President Pervez Musharraf was blamed in 2001 for hastily jumping into bed with the US after 9/11. Books were written on the multi-billion dollar businesses owned by the Army. Bomb blasts started happening. Was the Army still awesome?

Answers to tough questions? Denial

Fast forward to 2011. The “war on terror” has killed 35,000 Pakistanis. Taliban have shown they can take over small towns. Terrorists have shown they can take over the Army general headquarters and one of Pakistan’s largest naval installations. Mr. bin Laden has been found and killed by a covert US raid, which the Pakistani air force couldn’t detect. Bin Laden’s long-time residency in Abbottabad raises serious questions about Pakistan’s intelligence agency.

The air force has admitted that the airbase in Balochistan is not actually under their control, as it was constructed by the United Arab Emirates. Meanwhile, Wikileaks has proven that our top general secretly asked for drone strikes and lied in public.

Suddenly, 187 million people are forced to come to terms with the possibility that their armed forces might not be as awesome as they thought.

Pakistanis are now asking difficult questions: Is the Army incapable? Is it corrupt? Has it really been the savior of the country for the past 65 years? And the most dangerous question of all: Are sections of the Army supporting the terrorists? In a world where the Army is the only thing in Pakistan that is reliable and true, this is a fundamental shock to the nation’s value system.

Denial is a natural reaction when everything that you believed in is suddenly taken away from you. That’s why I agree with most Pakistanis that it’s all a conspiracy. It’s a plan by the CIA to malign our armed forces and take over our nuclear assets.

Maybe it’s an effort by India’s intelligence agency to hurt our defense capabilities. In fact, it’s probably an evil scheme by the Israeli Mossad to destroy the world’s most powerful Muslim army. The Army isn't corrupt. The Army is still awesome.

Nzaar Ihsan is a Pakistani expatriate currently living in Qatar, where he works in the banking sector.


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