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Above: Monty Python at the Indo-Pak Wagah Border? A double role by John Cleese?


Break Bread, Not Bones



We once again present to you a column from Fakir Aijazauddin. Since he lives and writes his wonderfully insightful columns from Lahore, a city not only dear to Sikhdom but also central to much of the goings-on in the world today, we will present his "Letter from Lahore" on a regular basis.

Fakir Syed Aijazuddin, OBE, FCA, was educated at Aitchison College, Lahore, and at Berkhamsted School, England. He is a Chartered Accountant by qualification and has had a varied career in the textile, automotive, fertilizer, insurance and investment banking sectors in Pakistan, and in the oil and gas industry in the United Arab Emirates.

His previous books include a catalogue of Sikh and Pahari Miniature Paintings in the Lahore Museum Collection (1977), and a biographical study of Sikh Portraits in the Lahore Fort (1979). He is widely respected as a scholar in, inter alia, the area of Sikh art and history.

More recently, he has published an account of Dr. Henry Kissinger's secret visit via Pakistan to Beijing in July 1971, and a compilation of 209 secret declassified documents of Richard Nixon's presidency, titled The White House & Pakistan, Secret Declassified Documents 1969-1974.

Fakir Aijazuddin is also a direct descendant of the esteemed Fakir brothers who adorned Maharajah Ranjit Singh's court as three of his top ministers, advisers and confidants, and who remained loyal to Sikh interests through thick and thin during the tumultuous post-Ranjit Singh period.

Fakir Aijazuddin currently lives, teaches and writes in Lahore. At the end of December 2008, he will take over as Principal of Aitchison College, Lahore.




Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make extremists; those who cannot wait become suicide-bombers.

What is it that motivates young men anywhere to choose death as a career?  It cannot be the prospect of celestial virgins. How can a Muslim martyr be sure that when he does reach the gates of a communal Paradise, he is not rewarded with a pious Roman Catholic nun?

Is the fatal lure religion?  Perhaps, but that presumes that the terrorist is either illiterate about the warnings in his faith against taking human life or selective in his application of them.

Can he be "brainwashed" to such a degree that even when he is beyond the pale of physical control or influence, he remains an unthinking robot, capable of functioning only in a linear sequence of pre-programming?

Whoever has dedicated himself to perverting the minds of others, whoever has arrogated to himself the power of deciding when someone else will die, whoever has taken euthanasia out of the hospital ward and into the streets, has, in a macabre sense, succeeded. By deciding when any one of us could die, he has negated our instinctive right to live.

Had this been only at the individual level, it would have been bad.

For it to be conducted when numbers become meaningless is reprehensible.

When it can impact the foreign policies of nations, it is dangerous beyond contemplation.

The increasing intensity of the rhetoric against Pakistan in India appears to be drowning out saner voices in both countries that whisper caution and mature restraint.

Those with an ear for history will recall a war fought on behalf of a colonial master we later expelled from our homeland and against a distant enemy in Europe - Kaiser Wilhelm II's Germany - whom we never knew.

A.J.P Taylor's moving account of the First World War - the war to end all wars - reminds us of the tsunami that engulfed Europe in 1914. He describes "the paradox that men were passionately engaged in the war and hated it at the same time."

Why, then, did they embark on such an enterprise?

He explains: "Each country fought ostensibly to defend itself, yet sought to conquer and to make great gains. The statesmen were overwhelmed by the magnitude of events. The generals were overwhelmed also. Mass, they believed, was the secret of victory. The mass they evoked was beyond their control. All fumbled more or less helplessly. They were pilots without a chart..."

And what, after four years of carnage and the most appalling wastage of human life, was the outcome?

The disarmament of Imperial Germany, punitive reparations, regional dominance by France ... and Germany's subsequent resurrection as the Third Reich!

Could there be some sunburned Dr. Strangelove holed up in some office in New Delhi's Secretariat, who is considering a definitive attack on Pakistan as a military option, the final solution to the simmering South Asian problem?  Does he have an equally diligent counterpart in Islamabad, plotting retaliatory designs against India?

One hopes not, if only for the reason that, should such an option be exercised by either side, the results would be horrendous. What could be India's objectives? The disarmament of the Pakistan Army?  Yes, but already tried in 1971, without much success.  The neutering of the ISI? Yes, provided one could go deep enough to do a military root canal.

The vivisection of Pakistan into pliant sub-states that would be large enough only for friendly matches against Nepal and Bhutan? A real possibility, but hardly a practical one, for 170 million Muslims in however many pieces would be as ungovernable as when they were one.

And for Pakistan? Could Pakistan's lances do anything more than create the smallest dent in Indian's armour? Could it establish a naval blockade of India with nearly the same success that India could manage on Pakistan's vulnerable southern coastline? Could it exercise the nuclear option and prevent any fallout on its own territory and on its own population?

After the First World War, the old and the young discovered that an entire generation in-between had been decimated, wiped out.

Do we need to break each other's arms before we can shake hands?


January 8, 2009

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