Pakistan’s drift towards isolation

Published: February 4, 2014
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The writer is a retired lieutenant general of the Pakistan Army and served as chairman of the Pakistan Ordnance Factories Board

The writer is a retired lieutenant general of the Pakistan Army and served as chairman of the Pakistan Ordnance Factories Board

One of the major curses of militancy on Pakistan has been its increasing international isolation. Even more alarming is lack of awareness of its grave consequences on every facet of our national life.

The spectre that Pakistan is the ‘epicentre of terrorism’ scares foreign governments from granting visas to deserving Pakistanis for education, business, work or any other valid purpose, leave aside for leisure. Even those Pakistani workers who are fortunate enough to find employment in the Gulf States experience only limited exposure to the outside world. The authoritarian nature of the Gulf countries limits their interaction and makes them view the world through a narrow prism.

Current lawlessness in the country, from Khyber to Karachi, discourages visitors of every hue. Only those few foreigners are travelling to Pakistan who have compelling reasons for doing so. They, too, remain mostly confined to hotels and attend specific tasks assigned to them. It is indeed unfortunate, as our country has boundless treasures to offer in terms of its natural beauty, hospitable people and rich cultural heritage. It has eight of the world’s 10 highest mountains, including the second-highest breathtaking K-2; beautiful scenic places like Swat and the Northern Areas and is gifted with the unsurpassable relics of Moenjo Daro and Taxila.

The fear of militancy has also seriously affected foreign direct investment. It was a meagre$1.4 billion in 2013, which should be a matter of concern for a country of 180 million people. Just to get the perspective of where we stand globally, foreign investment in China was of the order of $118 billion, India $28 billion and in developing economies, as high as $759 billion. Clearly, slow economic growth, fragility and uncertainty in the overall economic environment also contributed to this decline but the precarious law-and-order situation is a major factor.

Over the years, many international airlines have opted out of Pakistan for better destinations. Inadequate infrastructural facilities and the overall security situation has primarily been the reason for this decline. No doubt, some of the regional airlines like the Emirates and Thai Airways have expanded their business in Pakistan but they are mostly targeting the expatriate community as their captive customers. There is not a single European, American or Russian airline that comes to Pakistan. British Airways is reluctant to resume flights because it considers Pakistan risky.

Pakistan is considered an unsuitable venue for international and regional conferences or exhibitions. In fact, some of the conferences and meetings are organised abroad by the Pakistan government or private institutions to attract and ensure the presence of foreign participants. No international sports event of any significance has taken place in the country for years. Our people are yearning to witness cricket and other sports in the country but international sports organisations are unwilling to take a risk.

Limited physical interaction with the outside world and greatly reduced presence of foreigners in the country is isolating majority of Pakistanis from the international mainstream. The engagement that the US and other Western countries are seeking with Pakistan is essentially to protect their own security and to assist the government in its fight against extremism and terrorism. According to US President Barack Obama, the major reason for the US to maintain residual forces in Afghanistan post-2014 is to remain in proximity of Pakistan and monitor the activities of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal region and be able to respond swiftly in the event that Pakistan’s nuclear assets fall in the hands of militants.

The cumulative impact of this creeping isolation of Pakistan has strengthened reactionary forces and, in turn, promoted a very skewed worldview among majority of the people. Acceptance of militant groups within society has become a norm. The drift has now reached a stage where radical outfits are mainstream political players and are finding easy acceptability both within the political class, society and the media.

Until the Pakistani state is able to neutralise the militants, either through negotiations or by application of military force, it will not be possible for its people to fully relate to the region or internationally — the prospects of which currently appear to be slim.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) announcement of nominating Imran Khan as a member of their committee for talks with the government representatives seems odd and truly, I am at a loss what to make of it. But perhaps, it is part of the great decline and confusion that we are witnessing in the ideological orientation of our leadership. The question arises that is the TTP really serious about negotiations or are they using these nominees to legitimise their organisation? For the government, it will not be easy to negotiate with the group. Of course, the group, too, will have its own litany of grievances. But for the TTP to nominate senior representatives of political parties as their representatives raises doubts about their intentions. Are they using the dialogue to gain time and put the military operation on hold or they are genuinely war-fatigued and seeking a peaceful solution? The composition of the nominees of both the parties suggests that their first task would be to assess the intentions and demands of the other. There is deep mutual distrust and as a first step, both sides should agree to a ceasefire.

Sadly, Pakistan’s heavy reliance of over three decades on non-state actors to advance its fictional strategic interests has come full circle. Pakistan is now caught in a quandary where extremist groups are trying to dictate their ideology and terms of reference for talks.

Pakistan’s future as a nation and part of the global community will largely depend on how successfully its leadership steers to overcome these monumental challenges.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th,  2014.

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Reader Comments (54)

  • Rafi Ka Deewana
    Feb 5, 2014 - 12:27AM

    A very well written article, and to the point. The isolation is seen everywhere – including trivial things like cricket. Someone has to take a deep look at Pakistan’s obsession with anything-not-India as that is what has caused all this.

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  • TKhan
    Feb 5, 2014 - 12:33AM

    It is a very naïve article. You have enumerated a number of factors which are causing Pakistan’s isolation. So, apparently you do understand what is happening to Pakistan and it’s image everywhere in the world. Suddenly you come to Imran Khan and his nomination by the Taliban : “The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) announcement of nominating Imran Khan as a member of their committee for talks with the government representatives seems odd and truly, I am at a loss what to make of it”.
    I am at a loss to understand that you don’t understand why the Taliban nominated him. He has throughout proved to be their sympathizer and has never condemned them nominally. He has never said that he condemns the TTP. Look at all the others nominated by the Taliban. It is as simple as that.

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  • Ali S
    Feb 5, 2014 - 12:40AM

    We’re reaping the inevitable fruits of decades of terrible decisions and twisted logic on behalf of our leaders (both civilian and armed forces), starting from Muhammad Ali Jinnah to Ayub Khan to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to Zia ul Haq, various incompetent democratic setups that followed and (most recently) PTI. Name one other nation on earth, besides Israel, that was founded on the basis that people of one religion can’t coexist with others and deserve a separate nation of their own. It’s clear that we can’t coexist with the rest of the world until we completely purge our national psyche from ‘the Pakistan ideology’ or redefine it.Recommend

  • RD Sultan
    Feb 5, 2014 - 12:40AM

    When their own Muslim brothers and sisters in Afghanistan view Pakistan as a disingenuous and dangerous country, then there is no doubt that Pakistan is drifting towards isolation.

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  • Mohd tarekh
    Feb 5, 2014 - 12:52AM

    I am a Indian Muslim Kasmiri passed out from NIT Srinagar and IIFT MBA Graduate presently working in Deloitte Gurgaon.Since I am an Educated guy and understand what is better for kashmiri i.e. pakistan or India…religion or education…freedom or India….

    Let me get this straight………..how u guys twist the facts..

    It has eight of the world’s 10 highest mountains, including the second-highest breathtaking K-2; and the Northern Areas

    Firstly why double standard..when u consider kashmir as disputed area..how can u consider it as your own..India has intact jammu and kashmir…then why u guys have kept GB and So called azad kashmir seperated……

    and is gifted with the unsurpassable relics of Moenjo Daro and Taxila.

    Thats India’s civilisation and culture and is part of hindu history..what it has to do with pakistan…

    I hope ET publish my facts…….if not..then sorry to all pakistanis for such undemocractic comemnts……….

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  • Gratgy
    Feb 5, 2014 - 12:56AM

    Strategic depth turning out to be Strategic death

    Recommend

  • 3rdRockFromTheSun
    Feb 5, 2014 - 1:02AM

    You are at a precipice, and are slowly moving towards the edge. If you do not halt that movement soon, it will be too late. Hopefully this message resonates with your countryfolk and your govt. Else, you will be competing with Kim’s North Korea to see which nation becomes more irrelevant!

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Feb 5, 2014 - 1:04AM

    So staying in the back yard is for Pakistan n…. asset so the cat is out from the bag….

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  • Mirza
    Feb 5, 2014 - 1:32AM

    I agree with the Op Ed that isolation of Pakistan is bad. However, unfortunately we are almost there. In addition to all the dangers for foreigners now there are Polio and Dengue to name a few. The isolation of Pakistan is really bad for all of us but it has achieved the desired results for TTP and its allies and now we are a fertile ground for their recruitment. We love ancient kings, sultans, sheiks and their stories. We hate everything that is modern from medical advancement to improvements in education, agriculture, and the benefits of living long, healthy and luxurious lives. A country which cannot even use the free medicines and vaccines for its poor children has no future in the new world. The world sees us as “infectious and threat” in every respect.

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  • TightPatloon
    Feb 5, 2014 - 1:42AM

    Awaiting a tsunami of Indian trolls now…

    However, before we get overwhelmed, I do not agree with the author. Pakistan is at a juncture of greatness and standing towards the tide of history. US, India and Israel are against the wrong side of history. This is what Gen Hamid Gul sahab has said and he is never wrongRecommend

  • unbelievable
    Feb 5, 2014 - 1:44AM

    Sadly, Pakistan’s heavy reliance of over three decades on non-state actors to advance its fictional strategic interests has come full circle.
    .
    True – and that history makes it hard for many to have much sympathy for Pakistan’s current plight. You made the bed and now you don’t want to sleep in it?

    Recommend

  • Pulseller.
    Feb 5, 2014 - 2:01AM

    If the author thinks that he is being opaque in not missing the smallest opportunity to fling mud towards India, he has another thing coming. The attempt is quite juvenile and laughable really. For example, The link to BA finding Pakistan Risky is a news article focused on India;’s flight record apparently being downgraded to below pakistan. A simple google search reveals more pertinent links, yet this one is more important to the author.

    If the author complains about how the country is oblivious to the perils of letting extremism run amok, he is then nothing but an apt example as to how this has come to be. Talk about irony!

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  • Imtiaz
    Feb 5, 2014 - 2:43AM

    Well said.

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  • Desi Samachar
    Feb 5, 2014 - 2:50AM

    “Sadly, Pakistan’s heavy reliance of over three decades on non-state actors to advance its fictional strategic interests has come full circle.” …. very few Pakistanis admit this.

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  • Billoo Bhaya
    Feb 5, 2014 - 2:56AM

    Sir, you really have the chutzpah to argue we are becoming isolated. Ever spent time figuring that it all started with your establishment?? Even today it supports reactionary forces that has created this impasse. Pakistan should have joined forces, yes troops with Americans in Afghanistan to wipe them away instead of using them as proxies. After Americans leave these proxies will devour us. There wont be a liberal, democratic state of Jinnah but instead a theocratic one threatening world peace. It will invite the wrath of world powers. Establishment should work on this thesis now. Recommend

  • Noor Nabi
    Feb 5, 2014 - 6:54AM

    Yes, you are right. Pakistan’s isolation on the world stage is growing and, for the present at least, the trend is unlikely to reverse. Pakistan has done a great job of digging itself into a deep and dark hole and only a change in the national mindset will enable it to get out of it.

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  • ikmundapunjabi
    Feb 5, 2014 - 7:36AM

    @Ali Tanoli: whatttttttt???

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  • Gaurav
    Feb 5, 2014 - 7:57AM

    Britain, America,Saudis,Chinese,Iranians all have made use of Pakistan for their own agenda.
    Its time Pakistan should have its own independent policy devoid of anti India and anti Hindu feelings and be a part of South Asian progress. There is good amount of talent in Pakistan in technology and arts being used for wrong purposes.

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  • Virkaul
    Feb 5, 2014 - 8:47AM

    @TKhan: Yes, you are at a loss to understand anything logical. When a person in a large group fails to synchronize with others, he gets into isolation. This is what the author is advocating. An ardent supporter of PTI, will get emotional and not see truth.

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  • Arifq
    Feb 5, 2014 - 8:53AM

    Dear writer, why be so polite, say it as it is, Pakistan is becoming a fascist state!

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  • Feb 5, 2014 - 10:45AM

    @Arifq:

    It was designed to be one. What do you think is the TNT?

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  • Sanjeev
    Feb 5, 2014 - 11:33AM

    “We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them” Einstein.
    Instead of talking about the symptoms talk about the root cause. All the problems of Pakistan including its creation and Kashmir problem is rooted in Islam. If you can do “WHAT-IF” analysis, just take out Islam from all the equations in Pakistan’s problems and see the results. You will realise, as long as Islam is the driving force it will push the society on the downward spiral. It is the case not just with Pakistan but all the Islamic countries. In fact that is one of the lessons of history as illustrated by famous historians Will & Ariel Durant in their famous work “story of Civilisation “.

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  • nrmr44
    Feb 5, 2014 - 2:15PM

    ” … Pakistan’s heavy reliance of over three decades on non-state actors …”
    Neat! Pakistan relies on them but they are still deemed “non-state actors” by the writer! Pakistan inhabits a fantasy world no one can make sense of – that is the reason of its isolation.

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  • jamal
    Feb 5, 2014 - 2:37PM

    General, you say that he fear of militancy has also seriously affected foreign direct investment.

    But when will you stop mincing words and state that the militancy itself is also due to a “foreign” direct investment of a certain kind, from a certain brotherly state, designed to advance its interests at the expense of our people.

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  • jamal
    Feb 5, 2014 - 2:37PM

    General, you say that the fear of militancy has also seriously affected foreign direct investment.

    But when will you stop mincing words and state that the militancy itself is also due to a “foreign” direct investment of a certain kind, from a certain brotherly state, designed to advance its interests at the expense of our people.

    Recommend

  • Feb 5, 2014 - 2:56PM

    @Sanjeev:

    Exactly when most of the Muslim world is affected by Islamist ideology, its not an exception, but a norm.

    There was only one difference between India and Pakistan at the time of independence and that is the only reason why both have taken different trajectories. The twain shall never meet.

    Recommend

  • Feb 5, 2014 - 3:20PM

    Sadly, Pakistan’s heavy reliance of over three decades on non-state actors to advance its fictional strategic interests has come full circle. Pakistan is now caught in a quandary where extremist groups are trying to dictate their ideology and terms of reference for talks………………….

    Recommend

  • K B Kale
    Feb 5, 2014 - 4:04PM

    ET Directors, why suddenly the articles by Prof Bangash and Kamran Shafi have become irregular? I always love to read these two columnists and I find their work appearing fewer times than before. Prof Bangash now writes just once a week while I have not seen Shafisahab’s article on 30th Jan. Hope it appears tomorrow?

    Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Feb 5, 2014 - 4:21PM

    @Mohd tarekh: ral

    ET did publish your commentry not because you are in any way considered as an educated person , but since the Express Tribune management apparently wants to uphold their high standard in the world of Media. They even put out the article written by the General of the Pakistan army which has ruled Pakistan more than two third of its history and was the causual factor of Bangla Desh separation and is actively engaged today in separating KPK and Baluchistan from Pakistan. He is now complaining about Pakistan isolation since for the second time People of Pakistan have opted for a civilian Government and his former chief is on trial for the Treason charge.
    Pakistan is not drifting towards isolation as long as it maintains its democracy of the civilian rule and is prepared to receive the support for its institutions and industry from the European Union.

    Rex Minor

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  • jamal
    Feb 5, 2014 - 4:50PM

    javed,

    In a fascist state, the majority tends to dictate. However, in Pakistan, a tiny Deobandi minority is trying to impose its will on the rest. This is absolutely ridiculous.Recommend

  • Major Iqbal
    Feb 5, 2014 - 5:30PM

    Either you diamantle the Pakistan military or you face the consequences.

    Recommend

  • nrmr44
    Feb 5, 2014 - 6:30PM

    @Sanjeev:
    If you had said ‘Organized Religon’ in place of Islam I would have agreed with you. With the possible exception of Buddhism, every religion has been a moral disaster in organized form. On the other hand, I have rarely met a good person who was not god-fearing, and religious at a personal level. What is wrong with some Pakistanis today is that they are too much engaged with Islam in organized form, and are not religious enough at a personal level. It is a convenient thing to do because then they do not have to discharge their responsibility at a personal level. Muslims elsewhere, and certainly in India, have no such problems. Recommend

  • Hussain Abbas
    Feb 5, 2014 - 6:34PM

    All the isolation rant is fine, however never can you or the other so called liberals understand the root cause behind the isolation. You cant cure cancer with an atomic explosion and likewise you can fight it with Aspirin. The first and foremost responsibility is to try and establish the root cause of the underlying problem. Over 8 years you have used power and force to diminish these militants but have not succeeded. In this passage of time, you have enabled them by virtue of your policies and fascist opinions to recruit more and more.
    Take a break, widen your span of thoughts and please give the true perspective to the nation. We all badly need it. Give peace a chance, let the talks progress and if they fail you always have the option to strike. This process will allow the militants to lose future recruits since you are showing sincerity towards dialogue…..Recommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Feb 5, 2014 - 6:38PM

    Please correct yourself. Out of ten highest peaks, Pakistan has two, not eight. ThanksRecommend

  • Maulana Diesel
    Feb 5, 2014 - 6:50PM

    @TightPatloon:
    I totally agree. Pakistan is passing through the worst. But due you think, with the present set of politicians Pakistan will be able to surpass this litmus test.Recommend

  • unbelievable
    Feb 5, 2014 - 7:58PM

    Author is correct but one can’t help but be depressed after reading this article. It’s the story where the bad guys defeat the good guys – where a country loses it’s moral compass and descends into chaos.Recommend

  • Ratnam
    Feb 5, 2014 - 8:10PM

    I applaud @Mirza’s comment and would like to add to it. There is nothing wrong with embracing modernity and all the benefits that it brings, particularly in the improvement of health and functional lifespan. Any nation that deprives its citizens the right or the access to such advancements is negligent and deficient. It will be rightly termed backward. The most serious cause for concern is the inability of democratically elected governments in Pakistan to eliminate polio. When a government is incapable of acting forcefully, even in the face of armed opposition like the Taliban, then its people have serious cause for concern. Until and unless Pakistan wakes up to its real problems, i.e., the welfare for its citizens over appeasing militants, there is no hope for a better future for its people. Recommend

  • Rafi Ka Deewana
    Feb 5, 2014 - 8:37PM

    @Mohd tarekh: If Kashmiris stop seeing the world through biased (religious) glasses, they will find that India, with all its problems, is not a bad place to be associated with. Recommend

  • Pankaj
    Feb 5, 2014 - 10:36PM

    Soultion to Pakistan problms may be Chinese occupation of the Pak-Afgan region for few decades. Chinese are also gearing up for this eventuality. One Chinese strategic thinker told me that Pakistan will anyway have to collapse sooner and later and then China will easily reach till Aabian Sea. They are not making Gwader port just for fun. Growing power of India has threatened Chinese trade root via Indian ocean in case of armed conflict. Once Pakistani region under their belt this problem will be solved forever.Recommend

  • Sanjeev
    Feb 5, 2014 - 10:58PM

    @Rex Minor:
    Isn’t democracy more than just conducting regular elections ?Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Feb 6, 2014 - 12:27AM

    @Sanjeev:

    Sir, democracy is indeed more than electorates casting their votes for the legislator candidates. It is a device(a process) which ensures that we shall be governed no better than we deserve(George Bernard Shaw). The constitutions in a democratic state is intended to reflect the values that people cherish and respect. The principle of the majority rule emerges in a democracy which is all inclusive and all citizens have equal rights.
    Rex MinorRecommend

  • gp65
    Feb 6, 2014 - 2:18AM

    @nrmr44:
    “On the other hand, I have rarely met a good person who was not god-fearing, and religious at a personal level”

    So let me clarify – have you never met a good atheist or have you never met an atheist at all? BEcause I know many law abiding, good natured, generous and kind people who also happen to be atheists. Their goodness is not rooted in fear of God but love for fellow humans.

    ET please publish – though I am a Hindu and believe in God, the notion that only God fearing people can be good is problematic.Recommend

  • Humza
    Feb 6, 2014 - 6:52AM

    @Mohd tarekh: I guess ET disallowed my last comment.. I just wanted to explain to you that most archeologists date the Indus Valley civilizations to at least 1000 years before the invasion of the Aryans into South Asia. That is to say the Indus Valley civilization including the cities of Harrapa and Mohenjendaro are older than Hindusim. The cities of this civlization are almost exclusively in present Pakistan so you’ll understand the irritation Pakistanis feels when people don’t know this. Check European historical references to confirm that Indus Valley civilization is older than Hinduism. As for Kashmir, if you were to ask my mother and people like her who come from Kashmir, they will tell you that you cannot hold a people against their will infinitely. The people of occupied Kashmir including my mother’s family are closer historically, geographically, racially and religiously to the people of adjacent Pakistan. It matters little if India is or isn’t doing well economically. They never saw themselves as Indians and still don’t. Try to appreciate this dimension in your view.

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  • malik
    Feb 6, 2014 - 10:53AM

    @Sanjeev:
    Yes but we are taught day and night that it was created in the name of Islam. So how can we take out Islam out of equation even if it means isolation or desertion or for even that matter ‘end of the world’.

    Recommend

  • observer
    Feb 6, 2014 - 1:18PM

    @Ali S.
    Your comments were spot on. When will this nation realize, that its very ideology, the basis on which it was founded, does not hold good. The realities is for everyone to see, and us the poor Pakistani’s to suffer and suffer and suffer. Get rid of this mind set of tying Religion to the state. If indeed Pakistan was created for the Muslims of the Sub-continent, and for no other reason at all, than the reason, as realities very clearly show 66 years later, this thought is defunct, it is dead, it does not hold good, it is obsolete, it is no longer valid.

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  • Feb 6, 2014 - 6:02PM

    Hardly a discovery. You have to just look around you to know that any nation that is founded on the ideology of a certain Religion or Faith is a dismal failure. History’s dustbin is full of examples for any one to see,. Pakistanis have to only look at the history of Aurangzeb’s tyrannical rule in India to know where the Mughal Empire landed at the end of his theocratic state. Any country with a state religion has failed and Pakistan is also traveling down the same garden path.Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Feb 6, 2014 - 6:46PM

    @gp65:

    I do not mean to be personal, but are you the only hindu female who was taught as a child Not to lie because it is a sin, and now you state that you believe in God? Are you referring to the God of Ibrahim, which the jews, christians and muslims worship OR one of the many Gods that Hindus in general talk about and also accept atheiests and agnostics as the integtral part of hinduism?

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Justice Miscarried
    Feb 6, 2014 - 7:45PM

    Why are so many writers bashing Pakistan and not writing to bring hope to the people? Write about problems but see also the brighter side and give us hopeful solutions to our people. For writers, it is so easy to critique everything.Recommend

  • Justice Miscarried
    Feb 6, 2014 - 7:48PM

    @Rex Minor:
    Your comments do bring about a balance to one-sided observations at ET.Recommend

  • Rafi Ka Deewana
    Feb 6, 2014 - 9:10PM

    @Humza: ” The people of occupied Kashmir including my mother’s family are closer historically, geographically, racially and religiously to the people of adjacent Pakistan”

    You are completely off. The Kashmiris used to be Hindus once upon a time. So, that way, there is no difference between the Hindu and the Muslim Kashmiris. It’s the religion that is making them biased, not the genetics.

    Recommend

  • Sanjeev
    Feb 7, 2014 - 9:35AM

    @nrmr44:
    Sorry. I replied to your post but my comments were censored. It is a pity that free exchange of thoughts is considered dangerous. Why some people take it upon themselves to decide what is good for people to hear, read, watch and think is beyond my understanding. Censoring any one’s opinion is the greatest sin against civilisation.

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  • observer
    Feb 7, 2014 - 9:49AM

    The basic cause of Pakistan’s isolation is that the world at large does not share its values.

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  • NotSoCommon
    Feb 7, 2014 - 10:02PM

    @observer

    And thank the world for it!

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  • observer
    Feb 11, 2014 - 9:21AM

    @NotSoCommon
    And thank the world for it… a million times over.

    Recommend

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