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Looking Behind The Veil: A Glimpse Into Pakistan

Christophe Jaffrelot (L) and Kumar Ketkar in Mumbai on September 23, 2014. (Asia Society India Centre)
by Maneka Chotirmall
25 September 2014

MUMBAI, 23 September 2014 — The Asia Society India Centre welcomed Dr. Christophe Jaffrelot, Research Director at the CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) and Kumar Ketkar, Chief Editor of Dainik Divya Marathi for an engaging and enlightening conversation on the domestic situation in Pakistan. Dr. Jafferlot, having travelled widely within Pakistan, saw a lacuna in the reportage of their domestic crisis outside the country and particularly in India.

The crux of Pakistan’s political situation lies in their “instability and resilience”. The crisis peaked in recent months when thousands of protestors marched from Islamabad to Lahore in two groups — the followers of Sufi scholar Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, protesting against the corruption of the Sharif dynasty and the followers of Imran Khan, who after numerous petitions led protests against the alleged rigging of elections. The army was largely responsible for both the protests that they claim go against national interest. The most overlooked but prominent sign of the army’s interference is that thousands of protestors could not have been allowed to hold a nation to ransom without the army allowing them to do so.

Kumar Ketkar began the discussion by highlighting the different paths India and Pakistan have taken since 1947. In response, Jafferlot commented that even under the British, Punjab and the North West Frontier Province were not as democratic as other British provinces. At the time of partition, India also benefited from stability in two ways — the capital remained the same and the ruling party, the Congress, was a well-established mass party where as the Muslim league was not, thus Pakistan was naturally tilted away from democracy.

At the time of independence, Jinnah wished for Pakistan to be a community of Muslims not an Islamic state, however, constitutionally it refers to itself as the Islamic Republic and till date there has been no concept of a secular Islamic state leading to further centration of power. Ketkar pointed out that multiple attempts at seizing governmental power were made in India as well, yet today all is forgotten and democracy continues to thrive in the country; Jafferlot countered that a deep insecurity about power exists in Pakistan which is why deeply centralised governments thrive with little distribution of power and instability continues to prevail. In India while a military coup is not possible, a revolution by the masses fighting for economic parity cannot be ruled out he said.

India and Pakistan according to Ketkar are “so close and yet so far” and hostility among the two nations is the primary cause for widening the gap between the countries. To bridge this gap, it is essential for leaders to build peace even in times of extreme tension instead of resorting to war. The evening ended with many critical questions from an engaged audience probing into the plethora of themes discussed during the evening.

Reported by Antaraa Vasudev, Programme Assistant, Asia Society India Centre

Watch the complete programme (1 hr., 31 min.)

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