Ramesh Matham, Pakistan Observer | Empowering Goa

In early 2002, a British journalist called Peter Landesman, while on tour of Pakistan, met retired Brigadier Amanullah, in the Brigadier’s house. Landesman chanced to see a painting on the wall, which showed the Father of the Nation, Mohammad Ali Jinnah pointing an extended arm at a vast plain of a city, where a rocket was just rising from its launch pad. Landesman records the conversation that followed in the March 2002 issue of The Atlantic, as follows:


We both looked up at the painting in silence. “A rocket ship heading to the moon?” I asked.

Aman tipped his head to the side. A smirk tugged at the corners of his mouth. “No,” he said. “A nuclear warhead heading to India.”

I thought he was making a joke. Then I saw he wasn’t. I thought of the shrines to Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons site, prominently displayed in every city. I told Aman that I was disturbed by the ease with which Pakistanis talk of nuclear war with India.

Aman shook his head. “No,” he said matter-of-factly. “This should happen. We should use the bomb.”

“For what purpose?” He didn’t seem to understand my question. “In retaliation?” I asked.

“Why not?”

“Or first strike?”

“Why not?”

I looked for a sign of irony. None was visible. Rocking his head side to side, his expression becoming more and more withdrawn, Aman launched into a monologue that neither of us, I am sure, knew was coming:

“We should fire at them and take out a few of their cities—Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta,” he said. “They should fire back and take Karachi and Lahore. Kill off a hundred or two hundred million people. They should fire at us and it would all be over. They have acted so badly toward us; they have been so mean. We should teach them a lesson. It would teach all of us a lesson. There is no future here, and we need to start over. So many people think this. Have you been to the villages of Pakistan, the interior? There is nothing but dire poverty and pain. The children have no education; there is nothing to look forward to. Go into the villages, see the poverty. There is no drinking water. Small children without shoes walk miles for a drink of water. I go to the villages and I want to cry. My children have no future. None of the children of Pakistan have a future. We are surrounded by nothing but war and suffering. Millions should die away.”

“Pakistan should fire pre-emptively?” I asked.

Aman nodded.

“And you are willing to see your children die?”

“Tens of thousands of people are dying in Kashmir, and the only superpower says nothing,” Aman said. “America has sided with India because it has interests there.” He told me he was willing to see his children be killed. He repeated that they didn’t have any future—his children or any other children.

I asked him if he thought he was alone in his thoughts, and Aman made it clear to me that he was not.

“Believe me,” he went on, “If I were in charge, I would have already done.”

Ironically enough, ‘Aman’ means ‘peace’ in urdu.

Now, back to the question, “What does Pakistan want?”

It just wants to get the better of India.

Why does it want to be better than India?

It has no idea, except perhaps because it hates India.

Why does Pakistan hate India?

It has no idea. Perhaps because it got defeated in wars. (India got clobbered by China in 1962, but we speak about it more jokingly, more self-deprecating manner, but we don’t feel any sting of ‘humiliation’. Apparently, Pakistan is different.)

How does it intend to get better than India?

It has no idea, except perhaps by tugging at the petticoats of China, even if it means selling itself to China.

If the Kashmir issue is solved, will Pakistan be friends with India?

No way. Because it does not know why it hates India and has no idea why. Kashmir is just an issue, a ruse.


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