The aftershocks of Mumbai continue. The incursion, last week, of Indian jets into Pakistan’s airspace has galvanized the predictably jingoistic public, once again behind the Army. The Pakistan Airforce has started running low-flying sorties over major cities (Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad). Newspapers are reporting that crowds cheer when the planes fly over. The major airports have cancelled flights – at least, for the duration.
Over the last two years, the armed forces of Pakistan – the titular leaders – rapidly became a dirty word. Musharraf, corruption, failure to secure the cities, operations in Baluchistan and NWFP, all contributed towards an emerging discourse of “Army is bad for the country”. We saw the culmination of such sentiments in the February election and the resignation of Musharraf.
I am afraid those advances are now lost. On Pakistani blogs, the machismo of the “Pakistan, Fuck Yeah!” crowd is, once again, dominant. India is, once again, a militant target. Even the nascent student movement, which had taken to the streets during the Lawyers Movement, has donned the green colors of civil defense.
It is all frighteningly familiar. And here I was, hoping for change.