A worthy enemy

Published: June 11, 2011

What if in the end we have to conclude that we no longer need an enemy?

Is America really our Enemy No 1? I am not the one to raise the question. It’s the headline on a political analysis by Raza Rumi. But you know how sometimes a single line in a long poem says all that the poem is meant to say? I thought this was just the kind of headline and have therefore borrowed it.

Rumi says that at a gathering of Pakistanis in the United States, our ambassador to that country asked the audience who they thought posed the greatest danger to Pakistan. Was it India, he asked, the US or Pakistanis themselves?

There must have been some at the meeting who do not believe in naming a new enemy every now and then and would have named India on principle – it has had pride of place for so long. But according to the report the greatest number raised their hands in favour of naming the US. The ambassador is said to have sighed and said, “Then we are doomed.”

If you are wondering about what may have caused the pessimism let me share an anecdote with you.

An impulsive youth arrived home bruised and battered and told his mother he had fought a lion. The mother anxiously asked, “So what did you do son?” “What was there for me to do?” the youth answered, “Whatever was done, was done by the lion.”

I say we have long had a reasonably worthy enemy in India. In fact the very choice had helped us discover China as our main ally and friend, which, Allah be praised, it remains to this day. And what about the United States? In Iqbal’s idiom, it has been the patron whose continued indulgence has sustained us by always making things tolerable.

We have been doing fine with this trinity of relationships so what was it that caused us to raise the question?

What has India done to so annoy us that we should want to deprive a neighbour of the status and crown a new Enemy No 1?

Are we just bored or does India no longer measure up to our ambitions?

Well, if we have chosen a bigger enemy for ourselves, let us at least follow the norms. The way I remember it after the wars in 1965 and 1971 fingers were pointed at whoever happened to visit India.

With America, however, the situation is different. The queue in front of its visa office has shown no sign of getting smaller. In fact there are frequent complaints of humiliating discrimination against Pakistanis at US airports and yet our much mentioned self respect has not prompted us to refuse to visit the US.

There is also a class of people who tended to support the US on everything but are now its avowed opponents. But – going by the Urdu dictum – not to be so consumed by hostility as to make reconciliation impossible, they still encourage their children to visit America and treat it as a family friend.

And what prompted us to move from comparing America and India to joining the race for Enemy No 1 ourselves?

What if in the end we have to conclude that we no longer need an enemy?

*Translated from Urdu

Published in The Express Tribune.

Intezar Hussain

Intezaar Hussain

An eminent Urdu fiction writer who writes short stories and novels, and also columns for newspapers in English.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • G. Din

    “What if in the end we have to conclude that we no longer need an enemy?”
    That is the day Pakistan would have matured and really deserved to be a nation in its own right. But, is it really necessary for it to reach “the end”? Wouldn’t that be counterproductive.? After all if you have to “end” to become mature, what good can come out of it for Pakistan?
    Pakistanis should take a collective deep breath and put some duct tape on their mouths and not to remove it until that maturity has arrived! A kind of “Maun Vrat” (vow of silence) as Mahatma Gandhi used to observe from time to time to find his centre of gravity!Recommend

  • Billu

    I think Hussain Haqqani was addressing the Army officers doing the War Course in NDU, not the Pakistani diaspora in USA.Recommend

  • Billu

    I think Hussain Haqqani was addressing Army officers doing the War Course in NDU, not the Pakistani diaspora in USA.Recommend

  • http://na deep

    loved the piece – the man has a wicked sense of humour. Recommend

  • Phatty

    “Bura jo dekhan main challeya,
    Bura na mileya koi,
    Jo mann ko khoja apne,
    To mujhsay Bura na koi”.

    Our greatest enemy is the one residing within us. If our soul was stronger, united and rational then no other enemy would’ve mattered as much.Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    India has proven a lot to be our enemy no 1 hasn’t it and still maintains a hostile foreign policy towards us. No doubt so do we, as realistically speaking we have faught more than 3 conventional wars, and still involve in proxy wars we arming Kashmirs they doing the same by supporting BLA and separatists.
    Nobody in their right mind need enemies but they sprout out of the path one takes. Who is our enemy no 1? Id put the label on India as it is a worthy enemy. Recommend

  • http://mrszkhan.blogspot.com Mrs Z Khan

    Our biggest enemies are ignorance, our wretched feudal class and our own delusions of grandeur – all within our own borders and within our power to change and rectify. However, to do something about any or all of them, we need to open our eyes and our minds and to think for ourselves for a change.

    Instead, it is far easier to play the victim, be paranoid, spread conspiracy theories and blame an external source – in this case India, America and Zionism. This is also a convenient smokescreen for the real menace: the mullahs, the feudal class and the defence ‘industry’, all of whom exploit the situation for all its worth by feeding us delusions about religion, aristocracy and what important players we are in the region.

    But what if instead of meddling in other countries we sorted out our own problems? Instead of listening to mullahs who want to take us back to the 7th century, we actually read, studied and thought for ourselves? And instead of kowtowing to a hypocritical feudal class who show off their Oxbridge and Ivy League degrees but still want to be treated as if we were in medieval times, we gave them a kick on their backside? What a thought !Recommend

  • http://www.usmanbashir.co.uk Usman Bashir

    As much as i was keen to read the article by reading the author’s name, it turns out to be a regular hoopzilla which is being published all around. Being such a scholar i would have expected some deep insight (or may be my eyes are stop looking at the depth of words). I would like to see some facts being made and some points to the right direction rather than just mere a collection of words, which suites to a blog may be but not an articles in a national paper?Recommend

  • Kabirdas

    Pothi padh padh muan,
    Pandit bhayaa na koey.
    Dhai aakhar prem kaa,
    Padhey, so pandit hoey.

    By reading and endless deliberation,
    One doesn’t become wise and expert.
    Those who learn to read the word, ‘peace’,
    They alone, become worthy of praise and respect. Recommend

  • ani

    India is being displaced and replaced as the crown champion of being enemy number 1 by USA. That is no comfort to either country and shound not be to thinking Pakistanis also. Pakistan seems to have lost its sense of values and hard nose for geo-political realities.

    The fight now is with the most powerful military nation in the world whose arms, dollars and aid are demanded (not requested) by Pakistan to sustain it. One that is helping the most is hated the most! When the earthquake and flood ravaged the country, it was the American serviceman putting himself on the line to lift people to safety. There were no Chinese or Saudis around. But hatred is a selective and corrosive thing. It suffocates all decent human values and stops all rational thinking.

    Just about every country in the world is building friendly relations with both US and China. But Pakistan, depsite great relations with both and the natural advantage of geography, is openly deciding to side with China. No country of reason has made a choice of either China or US. But Pakistan is. With one deft move, now it has Afghanistan, India, Russia, USA and even Iran alarmed! Bestowing the crown of hatred on the new champion does have a price.Recommend

  • Hanif-al Lecter

    And the Chinese, aren’t interested in biting the anti-US bait from Pakistan’s fishing rod.
    They are shrewd. Pakistan, can keep even a behemoth like China on tenterhooks.
    It only has to sign a free trade agreement with India, and get India invested in a bilateral trade relationship that the Chinese would eye uncomfortably. This would allow Pakistan to yank both China’s and India’s chain at the same time. A very enviable position to be in. Something that would obviously send the alarm bells ring in far flung capitals on the other side of the world. But, don’t expect the Pakistani ‘strategic’ establishment to think on those lines … they are very near-sighted. And a good optician is nowhere to be found! Recommend

  • Amit

    @Fahad Raza:
    Well done ….. Seems… you are the only one who has rightly understood the contents in this blog. Recommend

  • Z. Akbar

    I only long for the day when the only enemy Pakistan will have is illiteracy and intolerance. There is no point in making enemies, especially with India.

    I am not the most religious person, but from my primitive knowledge Islam clearly specifies the rights of neighbors. I think that right extends beyond national borders.

    As an economics student, If Pakistan sorts out its economy and ensures a better foreign policy with India, we could benefit in the long run.

    Despite this, even India has to make the effort. We share so many things in common, yet we hate each other. Partition has made us bitter, but let us unite in thought and heart. Maybe just Maybe we could have peace. Recommend

  • Nawab Awadhi

    @Z. Akbar:
    The obstacles to India and Pakistan co-operating on anything, ranked:
    1. ISI
    2. Army
    3. Pakistani politician
    4. JKLF (Geelani)
    5. Pakistani elite (The Ghairat Brigade)
    6. Hindutva Brigade (excluding the BJP and moderates in the RSS)
    7. The communalist Indian extra constitutionals viz. Shiv Sena / Bajrang Dal
    8. Overseas Indians and Pakistanis (Only those who bankroll the above.)
    Here is the deal.
    We have started at the bottom, and begun to neutralise them one by one.
    It is hardly a spectacular success, but a long arduous one.
    You in Pakistan need to start at the top, and then we can become
    each other’s friend number one. Recommend

  • Ummar

    i don’t think its truce when you are only begging for mercy … its no friendship ….no one likes poor and weak friends ….that later on would only become a liability just as we are to our friends…
    and i think its extremely pathetic to believe we have just a list of 8 to differ from India … if its so we might as well cling back to India and restore the glorious sub continent … stop making fools of men who die on daily basis in siachin ….not by enemy bullets but by cold … anyways i consider it to be defying the same reason we parted from India… if all we have is this list to distinguish then we might as well get back to em and trust me this way the prosperity is going to be sooner ….

    we are not businessmen … we are supposed to be a nation … an entity that is supposed to keep its wounds fresh and not forget who all had been friends or foes and at what times … i know its emotional…but isnt it important to be emotional too… and if somebody thinks we cant get out of our present chaos without india … that somebody should very well leave us at our chaotic state for good ….Recommend

  • G. Din

    @Nawab Awadhi: to Z. Akbar
    “We have started at the bottom, and begun to neutralise them one by one.”
    By implication you are an Indian but you still have to leave hollow Islamic bravado and braggadocio behind. Pray, tell us who precisely do you think you have neutralized after having “started at the bottom”? Can you prove your answer to that?
    I do however agree with you on your prescription:“You in Pakistan need to start at the top”
    It might be a tad difficult, if not impossible. Pakistan is committed to Islamic methods and, trust me, those would not do under the circumstances. There is nothing in the manual they have that would rectify the situation even a little bit. And, they are loathe to admit that/ borrow from other manuals!Recommend

  • Nawab Awadhi

    What? Are you seriously saying what you are saying?
    You want Pakistan and Pakistanis to keep on worrying and mulling suicide attacks,
    terrorist attacks, strategic depth and inept administrations, with foreign mercenaries and military and economic aid from external powers … for eternity?
    That too at the expense of making peace with India?
    It sounds to me that your plan for national rejuvenation is the same as
    ‘winning the lottery’ to beat unemployment. Wow! Recommend

  • rk singh

    Pakistanis in USA feel that US is No-1 enemy? As an Indian I feel slighted and also curious? Really? Pakistanis enjoying good life in US and counting it as their worst enemy? Sometimes I am forced to believe the worst things I hear about pakistanis, based on this. There is a saying in Hindi, “making a hole in your host’s plate”.

    Pakistanis seem to be getting good at that.Recommend

  • gt

    @Nawab Awadhi,

    I do not know if you are an Indian living abroad or your religious affiliation, but may I respectfully suggest that your grasp of the inner workings of the BJP, the RSS, and the other Sangh Parivar [e.g. Vajrang Dal, VHP] and their relationships to their grass roots workers AND to so-called core constituencies is not very strong. Not a problem at all, since to have such you almost need to be born into a particular framework and thereafter remain interested in the complicated goings-on all your life.

    Just as a non-Muslim would have no real inkling of the many, many different cross-currents & interests playing out their roles at the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, the AMU & Jamia Millia issues, and the Deoband/Madani/Nadvi struggles.

    The VHP & Bajrang Dal leadership have been rejected by their workers & constituencies all over the northern heartland. Not their goals, per se,but the leadership. So these two have self-combusted, just as the BJP & RSS appear to be doing. No one has trimmed their sails. Their chief draw lies in the deep sense of humiliation and anger that conservative Sanatanis feel at having certain core places of worship remain “desecrated”. These were deliberately destroyed, e.g. by Aurangzeb, and his own diaries & court firmans bear ample proof. There are other irrefutable proof. The total number of these sites equal a mere 3. If Indian Muslims, especially Sunnis, had been sensitive enough, they would today have become the most honored & cherished citizens of India. And Pakistan, by extension, would be bordered by a firm friend. China is not a friend. It wants to use Pakistan, exactly like America does. It only has contempt for Pakistanis, Indians etc. as human beings.

    No amount of affirmative action can make a group be loved or be accepted. See the case of the blacks in the USA. They are largely EXCLUDED from the mainstream. The same will remain the case with Muslims in India until they begin to behave not like aggrieved conquerors but as sensitive citizens. Pakistan happened precisely because a group of upper class Muslims felt it would be too humiliating to remain as equals with Hindus in a new dispensation. Never mind that both groups were happy licking British boots!! They abandoned the poorest & most underprivileged Muslims in India, whom they considered impure ajlaf animals anyway, and went off on their own tryst with destiny with other nice, golden Ashrafis! [pun intended].

    The Shiv Sena, that looms so large in the Pakistani imagination, is a joke outside Mumbai, and scattered pockets in Maharashtra. It will die a natural death with the worthless Thakre family, already divided into quarreling septs. Moreover, they have killed Hindus, e.g. Biharis, for no reason whatsoever other than linguistic chauvinism. Thus, they have transgressed the most unpardonable of red lines. North Indian Brahmans such as I have zero political affiliations but we will not ever pardon such crimes.

    Nor do we pardon the inaction by the religious leaders of Gujarat & the South IMMEDIATELY after the 59 kar sevaks were burnt in the train by a mob. Those leaders were duty-bound to be present at once at the scene. They were responsible for ensuring that no one other than the miscreants were punished. Their words are binding for common people as well as officials, who would not dare to do anything egregious in their presence. It is the primary function of the Seat Holder of the Dwarka Pitha to ensure that Moral Order is preserved in the western region. He failed, as did so many others.

    [I have noted point by point every aspect of canonical injunctions that are binding on these people in such cases, how they failed, & the penalties involved and sent them on. There is no room for disagreement.]

    At the same time, they should have ensured that every single person present in the mob was captured and tried by them, NOT the courts. So we shall have our reckoning with the heads of the various monasteries and other institutions, that much is certain. I am trying to clarify certain aspects of our Dharma codes which we take very seriously and which has kept India unshaken all these millenia amidst ruthless invaders. The flip side of this code is that those who wrote to the LET & Lashkar Jhangvi etc. pre-Mumbai, will also be identified and face judgment.Recommend

  • Awais Khan

    Our mindset should change. The enemy is within us, in the form of extremism, blaming the U.S. will not improve anything.Recommend

  • Kabirdas

    Why seek an enemy when friends are rare?
    Takes two to tango.
    Two can play a game.
    Misery loves company.
    Birds of a feather, flock together.
    One is known by the company one keeps.
    All of the above maxims apply equally
    to each individual and all nations.
    Pakistan can choose self discipline,
    or stultifying diffidence.
    The choice is always yours.
    It’s not a secret. Recommend

  • Ali


    Love the humor and that too from an Urdu column! So true that why do we even need an enemy, we should make firends with all and do trade. Free trade agreement with India is a good idea as it will also keep China in check, they are taking advantage of the fact taht we don’t get on with India… keeping both China and India as friends and trade partners is in our benefit, every other country in the world will then think twice before trying to take advantage of Pakistan!Recommend

  • Ummar

    and just btw i would hate a maturity that brings me any closer to India …Recommend

  • Kabirdas

    We in India would gladly buy Pakistani products, if made to good quality and priced right, rather than from China ( The quality is shoddy and that is not right at any price. ) Pakistan’s manufacturing is roiling under the disastrous no holds barred dumping of cheap Chinese products. The cost of transportations, a commonality of culture ( hopefully not corruption! ) and the range of prices for products and services, gives us both a huge comparative advantage over our individual and collective reliance on providing China with raw commodities to fuel it’s industrial machine in the vain hope of keeping our trade deficit under control. Let’s change this. Fast. And then we will have fast chance. Consider too the advantage of the overland transit of Pakistani goods to Bangladesh and vice versa. Recommend

  • Reddy

    Oh man, dont!!!. Please oh please dont remove us from the No 1 position !!!!!!!!!!
    This is going to be disaster for us.
    You see,we,( India ) has done so fabulously well because we left the enemy ranking game to you, while we concentrated on our own backyards.
    Now please dont change the equation.
    You continue with this game while we will happily march on.
    What ever you do please please dont remove us from our perch.Recommend

  • Dr,A.K.Tewari

    I am very much clear in my perception that if the present termoil in the region do not resuled the transformation of Islamic Republic of Pakistan into a secular state India will remain a enemy No 1 for Pakitan Islamic Pakistan will be not acceptable to the rest of the world which will ultimatly have its impact on Indo – pak relation .Recommend

  • Nirvan

    Both India and Pakistan, baptized by death, destruction, continues sixty years later with ignorance and intolerance. India and Pakistan need each other, rather than be polarized to ChiPak and IndUS as pet hounds. Nobody wins. Is it not obvious we need to ‘chart our own course and setiny’and not that of the ‘super’ powers. We will keep squabbling, fighting, arming while keeping the sponsor countries armament industries humming, create orphans and widows and remain impoverished.
    let us wake up. The Chinese, with their unemotional facial expression and oriental inscrutability mean the Pakistanis NO GOOD. Be warned.
    India, Pakistan and even Bangladesh are like estranged cousins…more in common than what seperates us. That may be the reason why there is friction. Recommend