An indispensable enemy

Fight without pause Fight without pause: Pakistani soldiers preparing for the Defence Day celebrations, in memory of the 1965 war | Reuters


India committed an open aggression against Pakistan to facilitate its expansionist intentions and attacked Pakistan on the night of September 6. Although Pakistan had far less military and economic resources as compared with India, the armed forces of Pakistan, filled with the spirit of jihad, forced an enemy many times bigger than it to face a humiliating defeat….”

This is an excerpt about the 1965 India-Pakistan war, from a textbook approved by the Pakistani government. It is currently used by all government schools and a majority of private schools in the country. It lists four points which led to the war: One, the Hindus saw Pakistan’s progress in the 1960s and were not happy about it. Two, India was not happy with Pakistan’s “moral support” for Kashmir. Three, India had faced defeat in its war with China in 1962 and, therefore, wanted a war against Pakistan to restore its lost dignity. Finally, general elections were being held in India at that time and the Congress wanted to win the elections by conquering Pakistan.

The book goes on and on glorifying Pakistan and its army. While it makes Pakistan look like a victim, the truth is that it is not. Such textbooks have fabricated historical events and are teaching children lies about not just this war, but all wars fought by Pakistan.

The result has been the radicalisation of the Pakistani youth and the widespread belief that Pakistan is under perpetual threat from India. This allows the military to avoid any questions with regard to its mistakes, failures and lies, and allows it to remain relevant in the eyes of the Pakistani public.

But it is not just in textbooks that the Pakistani state lies to its people.

Nine years ago, General Mahmood Ahmed, who was the head of the Inter-Services Intelligence in the early 2000s, wrote a book called The Myth of the 1965 War. There were reports that General Pervez Musharraf, who was in power back then, asked him not to publish some parts of it, which were deemed to be against national interest. Musharraf also asked him to change the title, but Ahmed refused and the book came out.

But today, you cannot find a single copy of this book in the market, as its republishing is banned. All the first edition copies of the book were bought and destroyed, apparently under the orders of Musharraf.

Why was this book an issue? Those who have read it say it points to the strategic mistakes the Pakistani generals made in assessing Indian capabilities and reveals why Operation Gibraltar was an ill-conceived misadventure. It was in reaction to this operation that India decided to attack Pakistani cities, a fact kept hidden from the Pakistani public.

“This is a lie. India attacked us in the night and wanted to destroy Pakistan, and now it spreads lies that Pakistan started the war. It is doing so to fool the international community, but we know better,” says Shahid Mahmood, a resident of the Wagah area near Lahore. In Mahmood's village, Pakistani Rangers, a paramilitary force deployed in the border areas, routinely harasses local people. They have occupied land in the name of security and they put pressure on the locals to give up their livestock and agriculture output to them. Because of such conditions, many people have relocated to other places. But Mahmood remains convinced that the hardships are a necessary compromise.

The state has carefully engineered a narrative whereby India is always at fault. The hypernationalism is on display every year on September 6, which is celebrated as Defence Day. On this day, stories of valiant soldiers defending their motherland are narrated on national media. Schools organise special tributes to the military. Old people recollect how the army saved the country.

“There were individual heroic acts, even though there were strategic mistakes at the higher level,” says a serving military officer. “The army did defend itself once the war came home,” he says, but accepts that the fault was with Pakistan. “When you try to create trouble for another country, they will definitely respond. What else do you expect? Fortunately, we were able to defend Pakistan’s borders,” he says.

However, the celebrations on September 6 are not that grand anymore. Even the holiday on September 6 was cancelled by Musharraf. Although publicly it was portrayed as an austerity measure, insiders say the reason was different. “There was a realisation among some intellectuals within the senior military ranks that the holiday had to be cancelled. They felt that since the truth about the war had come out in several books written by independent historians, it was dishonest to continue celebrating September 6,” says a military official privy to the deliberations that led to the cancellation of the holiday.

Some educationists, too, have been campaigning to rewrite Pakistani history in line with the truth. Yasmin Ashraf, who runs a school in Rawalpindi, is an example. “I have developed my own curriculum and publish my own textbooks,” she says. “The Pakistani mainstream narrative teaches everyone to hate India and this is what I want to change.”

But hers is an uphill task, as the state wants to continue calling India an enemy and lie about its mistakes. And, the biggest proof of that are the Kashmiri jihadis that Pakistan continues to patronise. Militant groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad, which are officially banned in Pakistan, continue to operate under different names and fan hatred.

Already, one such front of the LeT, the Jamat-ud-Dawa, has announced a countrywide movement for protecting and promoting the ideology of Pakistan. “The unilateral efforts by the Pakistan government for friendship and better relations with India have disheartened Kashmiris who are fighting for their freedom,” says Hafiz Saeed, chief of the JuD who is a founding member of the LeT. He was referring to Pakistan’s recent peace overtures under Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who many say wants cordial relations with India. But Sharif seems to be losing this battle of improving relations, and India remains enemy number one in the Pakistani public eye.

This browser settings will not support to add bookmarks programmatically. Please press Ctrl+D or change settings to bookmark this page.

Related Reading

    Show more