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Like army, like nation – by Nadeem F. Paracha

Excerpt:

The basic socio-political mindset of the Pakistani society is the outcome of various faith-based experiments conducted by the state and the armed forces.

The party

In 1995, sometime in May, an uncle of mine (an ex-army man), was invited to a party of sorts.

The invitation came from a former top-ranking military officer who had also worked for the Pakistan intelligence agency, the ISI. He was in the army with my uncle (who now resides abroad) during the 1960s.

My uncle, who was visiting Pakistan, asked if I was interested in going with him. I agreed.

The event was at a military officer’s posh bungalow in Karachi’s Clifton area. Most of the guests (if not all) were former military men. All were articulate, spoke fluent English and wore modern, western clothes.

I was not surprised by this but what did surprise me was a rather schizophrenic aura about the surroundings. Though modern-looking and modern-sounding, the gathering turned out to be a segregated affair.

The men’s wives were placed in a separate room, while the men gathered in a wider sitting area.

By now it become clear to me that I wouldn’t be getting served anything stronger than Pepsi on the rocks!

I scratched my head, thinking that even though I was at a ‘party’ in a posh, stylish bungalow in the posh, stylish Clifton area with all these posh stylish military men and their wives and yet, somehow I felt there very little that was ‘modern’ about the situation.

By modern, I also mean the thinking that was reflected by the male guests on politics, society and religion. Most of the men were also clean-shaven and reeking of expensive cologne, but even while talking about cars, horses and their vacations in Europe, they kept using Arabic expressions such as mashallah, alhamdullila, inshallah, etc.

I tried to strike up some political conversations with a few gentlemen but they expected me to agree with them about how civilian politicians were corrupt, how democracy can be a threat to Pakistan, how civilian leaders do not understand India’s nefarious designs, et al. …

The experiment

The Pakistan Army was once a staunchly secular beast. All across the 1950s and 1960s it was steeped in secular (albeit conservative) traditions and so were its sociological aspects.

In fact, until the late 1960s, Pakistani military men were asked to keep religion a private matter and religious exhibitionism was scorned at as well as reprimanded – mostly during Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s dictatorship (1959-69).

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