Was our war then, is our war now

Published: September 30, 2013
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The writer is Visiting Professor of Cultural Studies at Beaconhouse National University, Lahore

The writer is Visiting Professor of Cultural Studies at Beaconhouse National University, Lahore

When an Indian warplane bombed Sialkot’s Trunk Bazaar on September 10, 1965, public outrage found voice in a song of defiance: “Sialkot tu zinda rahe ga” (“Sialkot, you’ll live forever”). The song was just one among some 129 patriotic songs Radio Pakistan recorded during the Indo-Pakistan war in September 1965, reflecting as much the spirit of popular defiance in society as the army’s resolve to beat back the enemy.

Such collective commitment to the country’s defence in 1965 stands in sharp contrast to the present government’s meekness in confronting the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the enemy within dismantling Pakistan in the name of religion. Indeed, the 500lbs (227kg) Indian bomb dropped on Sialkot’s bazaar in 1965 seems tame compared with the tonnes of explosives the TTP has used in bombing bazaars and civilians of Peshawar: 700kgs of explosives were used in the bombing of Meena Bazaar that killed 137 civilians in October 2009. Repeated bombings of Khyber Bazaar, Qissa Khawani Bazaar and Soekarno Chowk killed and injured many more. The twin suicide attacks on the All Saints Church in Peshawar on September 22, followed by two more deadly blasts in the city, have killed countless Pakistanis and wounded many more.

In fact, the TTP and their allies have inflicted far greater destruction on Pakistan than the Indians did during the ’65 war. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, while Pakistan lost 3,800 soldiers in the ’65 war, terrorist attacks between 2003 and 2013 have claimed the lives of 5,318 security personnel. The number of civilians killed during this period is over 40,000 compared with some 200 civilians killed by the Indian aerial bombings of the Sialkot bazaar, a hospital and medical school in Kohat and two villages outside Peshawar in September 1965. Indeed, for some observers, these aerial bombings reflected poor training of Indian pilots rather than a deliberate policy of targeting civilians.

The TTP’s slaughter of Pakistani civilians and beheading of security personnel is central to its strategy of terrorising opponents into silence and submission. That such a mindset is repugnant to our religion is reflected in the manner prisoners were treated after the first battle Muslims ever fought, at Badr in 624. Describing this historic moment in his biography of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Tariq Ramadan notes: “They had 70 prisoners and a discussion of their fate took place between the Prophet (peace be upon him), Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) and Hazrat Umar (RA). Hazrat Umar (RA) wanted the prisoners to be killed, while Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) disagreed. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) decided to spare their lives except for two prisoners who had been particularly cruel to the Muslims in Mecca, torturing them to death” (Tariq Ramadan, professor at Oxford University, The Messenger: The meanings of life of Muhammad, p. 106).

Clearly, rather than reflecting the courage and compassion of Muslim pioneers, the TTP are more in sync with some of the fanatical groups in modern history, which believed in creating an ideal society based on racial, religious or ideological purity. People who did not share the ideological vision of these groups became disposable objects and were exterminated in death camps. Such ideological self-righteousness cuts across religion and culture and is exemplified in some of the glaring atrocities of the twentieth century: in the gassing of Jews and other ‘inferior people’ by Nazi Germany to create a pure Aryan race, in the massacre of Palestinians at Dier Yasin to ensure the purity of Israel as a Zionist state, and in the massacres of Cambodian citizens by Khmer Rouge for creating a ‘pure’ classless society. Closer to home, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan exacted a price for its ideological purity by slaughtering Hazara Shias in Bamiyan, even as the TTP and its allies are killing Pakistani Shias and others in order to turn Pakistan into a Sunni state.

In this sense, the TTP and their allies pose as grave a threat to Pakistan today as the Nazi party did to Germany during the 1930s and the Khmer Rouge to Cambodia in the 1970s. Negotiating with the TTP given their antagonism to democracy and Pakistan’s Constitution would be self-defeating. Rather than reflecting a democratic process, such negotiations seem rooted in a mindset drained of the kind of courage and conviction that spurred the nation’s defence in September 1965.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 1st, 2013.

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Reader Comments (36)

  • faqir
    Sep 30, 2013 - 11:16PM

    Comparison is wrong. While india is a foreign country, TTP are local boys who want to establish Shariah, a noble cause.

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  • sh(india)
    Sep 30, 2013 - 11:26PM

    Strategic assets should be protected by pakistan. I hope pakistan doesn’t kill them.

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  • sabi
    Sep 30, 2013 - 11:34PM

    And let me add I respect Ik as much as he respects the blood of innocent Pakistanis being shed on mass level by hidden forces.Recommend

  • observer
    Sep 30, 2013 - 11:48PM

    The song was just one among some 129 patriotic songs Radio Pakistan recorded during the Indo-Pakistan war in September 1965

    129 songs in the 14 days between 6th September and 19th September, 1965?

    And how many, between 2002 and 2013?

    NONE?

    Doesn’t that tell you something?

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  • No..
    Sep 30, 2013 - 11:58PM

    I think TTP is not as bad as Afghani Taliban . They are our people . It is the handiwork of foreign forces.

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  • umar
    Sep 30, 2013 - 11:59PM

    Excellent article. Gives a different perspective. Recently there have been a plethora of articles written on this subject. Most of the articles said the same thing in different words and thus got boring. The analogy drawn in this article make perfect sense. TTP is like Nazis and Khymer Rouge. They want to indulge in social engineering which effectively means elimination of people with different views. I always thought we should have the 1965 war courage to defeat this menace including making songs for the army. The author has definitely spoke my mind.Recommend

  • Arifq
    Oct 1, 2013 - 12:07AM

    Dear Writer, barbarians are not at the gates, they are in your house demanding their pound of flesh.

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  • gp65
    Oct 1, 2013 - 12:16AM

    @sabi: “And let me add I respect Ik as much as he respects the blood of innocent Pakistanis being shed on mass level by hidden forces.”

    I would have agreed with your statement if you had not added the phrase ‘by hidden forces’. The forces that are killing Pakistanis are not hidden – unless you subscribe to the conspiracy theory that it is RAW/Mossad/CIA who are behind TTP and LeJ.Recommend

  • sabi
    Oct 1, 2013 - 1:10AM

    @gp65:
    I would have agreed with your statement if you had not added the phrase ‘by hidden forces’.
    I would define it as Taliban apologists.Recommend

  • Arindom
    Oct 1, 2013 - 1:25AM

    I am sure all my Pakistani friends here will disagree! TTP is “good terrorist”. A strategic asset. Hence can only do good.

    All that talk of 40,000 killed – is a big conspiracy hatched by CIA/RAW/Mossad!!

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  • Babloo
    Oct 1, 2013 - 1:47AM

    Dis the writer mention that the 1965 war too was started by Pakistan ?
    Or did he just forget it. ?

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  • Ajaz Haque
    Oct 1, 2013 - 1:59AM

    Sorry buddy, it was never our war ‘THEN’, but now we have imposed it upon ourselves by making it our war.

    How is it that the Military and ISI are in touch with and negotiating deals with Afghan Taliban and not with Pakistani Taliban? Something stinks here and people within the armed forces are helping Taliban and supplying intelligence information. There is a cancer of militancy in the armed forces and the three armed forces chiefs need to cut out this cancer out first before taking any action against the Taliban.

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  • Fiza Zia
    Oct 1, 2013 - 2:26AM

    In fact, the TTP and their allies have inflicted far greater destruction on Pakistan than the Indians did during the ’65 war.
    still, we are in love with TTP calling them “our people.” SICK!

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  • rajah
    Oct 1, 2013 - 2:57AM

    @faqir:
    Please think ! Do TTP thugs understand Shariah law or Islam

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  • gp65
    Oct 1, 2013 - 3:28AM

    @Author: You say ‘Such collective commitment to the country’s defence in 1965 stands in sharp contrast to the present government’s meekness in confronting the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)’

    I do understand your intent but I hope you are aware that the 1965 war was started by Pakistan not India and hence Pakistan was not really the one who was defending itself. Rather Pakistan the one who was attacking. If you don’t believe me, hopefully you will believe Retired Air Marshal Asghar Khan http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x10u8xbair-marshal-r-asghar-khan-on-1965-war-with-indianewsRecommend

  • Prabhjyot Singh Madan
    Oct 1, 2013 - 3:54AM

    Dear author, india is not your enemy, we faced 3 wars and kargil, lets convert loc into international border. I am a young person, give peace a chance. Let kashmiris mingle under strict observations cross-border. We are reaching middle age now. I am only 31. I want a prosperous pakistan also. Live and let live. Rab rakha

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  • NP
    Oct 1, 2013 - 3:56AM

    “Such collective commitment to the country’s defence in 1965 stands in sharp contrast to the present government’s meekness in confronting the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP),”

    I find it interesting that the author compares fighting TTP with the 1965 war. According to Air Marshal (R) Nur Khan who was chief of Airforce, 1965 was a WRONG WAR started by Pakistan. http://archives.dawn.com/2005/09/06/nat2.htm

    Is it the author’s contention that war with TTP would also be similarly wrong?

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  • Ajaz Haque
    Oct 1, 2013 - 4:06AM

    Who were the IRA, were they not Irish and did they not kill thousands with their bombing campaign? And now they sit in Irish Parliament with the very people they attempted to bomb.

    One does not have to be in love with Taliban to consider them our citizens, they are Pakistanis, only they have gone wrong. They need to brought back into mainstream, first by dialgoue and if they don’t, then by force.

    Meanwhile, Armed Forces need to clean house and cut out the cancer within as some people in their ranks are helping and providing intelligenec to Taliban. This is well known in the cases of Kamra & Karachi Naval base attacks.

    So, let us get our own house in order first, then we can deal with theterrorists with a frim hand.

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  • KHAN
    Oct 1, 2013 - 7:32AM

    False Analogy..

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  • Gp65
    Oct 1, 2013 - 9:23AM

    ET Mods – please allow a fact based rebuttal to @Ajaz Haque and fact based response to @umar

    @Ajaz Haque:
    The IRA can be compared to the BLA in that they were seeking rights for the particular ethnicity they represented. They however were not trying to impose their value system on the English people. Therein lies the difference between IRA and TP and LeJ.

    @umar- Sadly you have been lied to on several accounts.
    1) it was India not Pakistan that defended itself in the 1965 war. Please check the URL I provided earlier because it was Pakistan who stated the war.

    2) 1965 was the wrong war for Pakistan. This isn’t just the opinion of an Indian like me but the opinion of the late Air Marshal Nur Khan who is considered a national hero in Pakistan. Please read the URL provided by @np. Even if you hear the full interview with Air Marshal (R) Asghar Khan that I had provided earlier, he makes it clear that Pakistan started all 4 wars with India and it was foolish to do so.(ahmakana is the Urdu word he uses).

    3) Pakistan did not win in 1965 no matter how many songs may have been sung on the radio. An attacker is considered t have lost the war if they fail o achieve their goals. This is the basis on which US is considered to have lost in Vietnam, USSR in Afghanistan. So apply the same logic o the 1965 war which was started by Pakistan and what conclusion do you reach?Recommend

  • Mujtaba
    Oct 1, 2013 - 10:16AM

    @faqir:
    You gotta be kidding me!!
    They want to enforce Sharia by killing MUSLIMS??
    Somebody kill me.. Please kill me now!
    I can’t bear such stupidity!

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  • Indian Wisdom
    Oct 1, 2013 - 11:11AM

    “Sialkot tu zinda rahe ga” obviously it will, because India never had any intention otherwise…….
    But what about Peshawar or waziristan ?????
    Good luck with them………………………..

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  • XLNC
    Oct 1, 2013 - 12:09PM

    Pakistan is really good at putting a gun on its temple threatning to blow it off til its american friends come to rescue it. When americans asked u to do more, we looked the other way and now the panic has struck as they are planning to leave. You’re right in saying that it was our war, then is our war now. But who exactly are u counting on? I think it takes more courage to accept the reality and the reality is that we have lost the battle on all the fronts. Japanese after ww2 accepted an honarable defeat and bounced back in few years. Unless u really want to live in Denial.

    I see these debates as a desperate attempt to mobilize the people and international interest groups to stay commited with our strategic depth narrative. With bad economic indicators and limited resources, our options are limited. For 12 years, everybody was on board and n0w you are on your own. Think about it.

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  • Powvow...
    Oct 1, 2013 - 1:08PM

    ” Such ideological self-righteousness cuts across religion and culture and is exemplified in some of the glaring atrocities of the twentieth century: “

    Hmm… Drawing false equivalences here…. All other religions/cultures you talk about have made amendments & moved on, discarding the bad baggage… the genocide of the Jews cannot be ascribed to any religion or culture… it was bad ideology and the Germans have apologiese and are trying to make up for the losses to the aggrieved community. Islam is the only religion that has inflicted atrocities on the unbelievers and continues to do till day..

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  • umar
    Oct 1, 2013 - 1:21PM

    @gp65…I think the whole argument as to who started the 1965 war is irrelevant. The point is the emotions and the courage which was present there to fight against the enemy. Even if Pakistan started the flames, the general public and the low level army officers were fighting for the love of the country. The reaction would have been the same if India had atatcked first. The whole point of my comment was to tell the people that we should fight with the same courage and vigour and the general public should support the army.

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  • Sana Akbar
    Oct 1, 2013 - 3:30PM

    @faqir: What a noble way to perform a noble cause. Taliban are butchers , worst people ever walked on earth.

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  • naveed
    Oct 1, 2013 - 4:25PM

    @faqir, what will happen when the “local boys” come into your house?

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  • tahir
    Oct 1, 2013 - 4:31PM

    was not our war then is not our war now

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  • csmann
    Oct 1, 2013 - 4:35PM

    TTP is just buying time till international forces leave. They will have a plain field then.

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  • gp65
    Oct 1, 2013 - 8:06PM

    ETBLOGS1987

    ET Mods – Please allow response to someone who has written to me.

    @umar: “@gp65…I think the whole argument as to who started the 1965 war is irrelevant.”

    I beg to differ. Attacking a neighbour by sending soldiers dressed as locals is not an act of courage. Who started the war is very much relevant to deciding whether Pakistan was defending her land courageously or trying to snatch something from a neighbour with force.

    Though I am an Indian, I do have respect for Pakistani soldiers who sacrifice their lives for the love of the country. They are doing so even today and deserve the nation’s gratitude. It is the Pakistani leadership that is unclear today. If you compare to the earlier leadership – they may have been clear but they were clearly wrong (not my opinion but that of the Late Air Marshal Nur Khan). The war they led the country to was not an act of courage on their part but rather foolish bravado (words of Air MArshal (R) Asghar Khan – not my words).

    To hesitate over a war might seem irritating but I am not sure that starting an unnecessary war (as was the case in 1965) is any better and certainly not an act of courage that you and the author seem to think it was.

    The root cause of this entire build up of terror infrastructure in Pakistan is the unnecessary antagonism to India due to which ‘strategic assets’ were developed. It is this clarity about India as an enemy that harms Pakistan even today and leads to ambiguity about how to deal with TTP. This is because the army just want to kill people who call themselves TTP but hesitates to dismantle the infrastructure that leads to the extremist thinking which in turn leads to widespread support for all forms of jihad including one by TTP.

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  • wajid ali
    Oct 1, 2013 - 8:39PM

    its was and is our war if we want to rise upRecommend

  • wajid ali
    Oct 1, 2013 - 9:18PM

    its was and is our war if we want to rise up

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  • umar
    Oct 1, 2013 - 9:36PM

    @gp65…i agree with your diagnosis of the whole problem Pakistan is facing. However, people in general were not aware of what actually happened on 1965.Recommend

  • Oct 1, 2013 - 10:11PM

    In 1965, India achieved what it wanted – withdrawal of Pakistani forces from Indian soil. It stopped attacking, went back to its defined lines.

    In this case, TTP has not achieved what it wanted – Sharia.

    If Sharia is so perfect and its implementation is pretty much similar – from Malaysia to Saudi Arabia – why not go ahead and implement it in full force?

    Why the hesitation by the Pakistanis? Especially when its so wonderful!

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  • gp65
    Oct 2, 2013 - 2:58AM

    @umar: “However, people in general were not aware of what actually happened on 1965.”

    That is a fair statement which I have no problem agreeing with.Recommend

  • Razi
    Oct 3, 2013 - 4:01AM

    @Powvow

    The fallacy that you are committing is that of creating a strawman using a particular religion. Not that I am surprised if you are an Indian. And if you are not, it still may not be surprising.

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