Here’s how the scenario unfolded. India beat Pakistan in the hockey final of the Asian Games. Furious, Pakistan decides that India must pay the penalty, and so the shootout begins, as in the final. The result: the war of words turns into words of war, punctuated by mortar shells. That’s one version but, as always, reality and fantasy merge in the complexity that spells Pakistan, alphabetically speaking. Take a look.
P. Stands for politicians, the PPP, Punjabi aggro, Pathan pride, and Peshawari chappals, a deadly combination. Nawaz Sharif’s hold on power under threat from the oddest couple, a former cricketer and a Canadian cleric. Then there’s the PPP, with Bilawal Bhutto, their very own Rahul Gandhi, promising to take back every inch of Kashmir, a bit like David Cameron pledging to restore the British Empire. P also stands for the poor Press Club of India, after its website was hacked by Pakistani cyber warriors, much to the bewilderment of its members who were wondering why the bar had been raised.
A. Traditionally, the three ‘A’s’ that define Pakistan and its history — Army, America and Allah. As the popular saying goes, most countries have an army, in Pakistan, the army has a country — symbolic of the power it wields. America comes and goes, it has gone off a bit lately, but its annual money handout comes in handy, while Allah is omnipresent, representing the alluring promise of a virgin paradise to jihadis and JCOs alike.
K. The Khan, as in Imran, or ‘Im the Dim’ as a columnist unkindly brands him. As a cricketer, he was a hero, as a politician, a zero. Now starting a more successful second innings, forcing Sharif onto the backfoot but then mysteriously taking himself out of the attack. K, of course, is also for Kashmir, which keeps Indo-Pak relations in a perpetually frayed state, and Pakistan always a step away from being a failed state.
I. The ubiquitous ISI, Pakistan’s spy agency set up with a one-point agenda, to destabilise India. Its operational role is to run training camps for militants, harbour terrorists and criminals like Dawood Ibrahim and the Bhatkals, and making deals with the Taliban, good or bad. Has the distinction of having created a new plausible deniability factor in international diplomacy — non-State actors.
S. Sibling rivalry leading to Skirmishes, Shelling, even Summits, as in Simla, Lahore and Agra, which have set the Indo-Pakistan relationship needle on a dial between hope and hell. Currently pointing toward the latter.
T. Terrorism, as an instrument of State policy, as in the Taliban, as in Tit for Tat as it currently is on the LoC (in India we call it Tu Tu Main Main), also for Twitter where much of the Indo-Pak cyber battle is being fought, and finally for Trigger which, according to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is a befitting way to finger Pakistan.
A. For Adventurism and Affordability, both phrases used by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, while warning Islamabad that the cost of what he described as adventurism would be made non-affordable, reminding us that Diwali is around the corner, and the bombs and rockets that will rain down on us have become very costly.
N. The ‘N’ word, as always, as in nuclear weapons, the only deterrent to adventurism. N is also for Nobel, as in the 2014 Peace Prize, given to an Indian and a Pakistani, a Muslim and a Hindu, hugely symbolic of the world’s desire that the two sides press the pause button rather than the one marked delete.