It is a moot point which crumbled faster: the twin towers of the World Trade Centre or the imposing ramparts of Pakistani pride? Just a few threatening statements from President Bush and Gen Powell and Pakistan’s military government, usually so tough at home, conceded everything the Americans were asking for. We did not say, as forgivably we might have, that we would look into the US demands. We did not say that we would consult public opinion before formulating our response. To some extraordinary outbursts of arrogance from Washington we succumbed first and only later was a show made of consulting leaders of public opinion. We buckled under pressure. Alas, no other construction fits our swift capitulation. Perhaps, as General Musharraf has been at pains to explain, we had no other choice. But must we have bent that swiftly? Even if only for form’s sake, couldn’t we have paused to take breath before agreeing to every last item on America’s imperious list of demands? And, pray, what precisely were we afraid of? That the US in its blind anger would make an example of us, flattening our airfields, destroying our installations, taking out our ‘nuclear strategic assets’? These wretched assets were supposed to be our ultimate defence. Now they turn out to be our biggest weakness, useless against the crude blackmail to which we have been subjected. Sadly, it’s all in character. After India’s nuclear tests in May 1998, a few threatening statements from that side threw us into a panic and made us carry out our own tests. Restraint would have won us international kudos and put India in a spot. But out of paranoia we frittered away an historic opportunity. It makes one wonder as to the kind of people we are. Listening to our bombast anyone would take us to be Greeks of the Homeric period. Anyone examining closely our national record would be struck by our pusillanimity. And our ability to shoot ourselves in the foot.
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