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Hawks and Doves

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Hafizur Rahman

They say that public men and women, particularly those managing affairs of state, are roughly divided into two types: hawks and doves. Unlike the hawks, the doves don’t go boasting about themselves, because somehow it is considered infra dig to be known as a dove.

Not so long ago the expressions were widely used, but then after the end of the cold war, nobody was keen to be known as either. Now however, the policies of President Bush have revived the two terms and the hawks there are having a whale of a time.

Those who claim to know the vagaries of Pakistan’s power politics, say that it was the hawks in the camps of the previous Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Chief Of the Army Staff who did not let accommodation and mutual trust take the place of suspicion, animosity and confrontation between the two. [Ed. The disagreement was over the attempt by General Jehangir Karamat to give the Army a formal role in Pakistani politics, and is regarded by many as the real motive for the coup that brought Musharraf to power.] Hence the resulting situation. Since I can’t ask either of them to confirm or deny, we’ll let it go at that.

Last week I read in a Gulf newspaper that, in one of the cities there, a hunting hawk flew away with a cheque for a thousand dollars. While it was clearly stated in the report that the hawk was a bird, it was not clarified whether the bird was a hawk in the political sense also.

This happened when an Arab sheikh was in the act of buying the hawk and wrote out a cheque for the amount asked for it. Before the two items could change hands - the hawk going to the sheikh and the cheque going to he birdman - the hawk adopted the “unilateral declaration of independence” and caught the cheque in its talons and fled from the scene.

Not being a bird-fancier I am unable to say what prompted the hawk to decamp with the cheque. Maybe it was a Pakistani politician in disguise and had a grouse that it was not paid its due price in the course of horse trading.

Or maybe, like most Pakistanis in the Gulf, it was a collector of foreign exchange and thought it fit to add the cheque to its collection. In that case it may surface one of these days in Islamabad, using the cheque to pay the biana for an overpriced corner plot.

There are hawks galore in the political world. Our late Prime Minister ZAB [Zulfikar Ali Bhutto - imprisoned in 1977, and later hanged, during the dictatorship of General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq], was considered a hawk by a superpower claiming to be interested in our welfare. For our sake it wanted him to become an obliging dove.

One of ZAB’s military countrymen thought that a dead hawk was as good as a harmless dove, and acted accordingly. Had this dead hawk been clever enough to fly away with a cheque in dollars, he might not be dead today.

Hawks strut about, preening their feathers and wearing an intimidating look. They are not confined to politics alone. They are seen in business and industry, in law and education, among labour and women, and (nowadays) even as jihadi leaders. We have hawks in our senior bureaucracy too where, if they are not able to wangle an extension, they overnight get converted into doves on retirement from service.

The vital difference between hawks and doves is not so much a question of looks and a permanent aggressive attitude as, respectively, of using their reputation to advantage or being handicapped by it. A dove must reason to get its point of view accepted.

The hawk has merely to show its eyes and bluster to get its own way. For example, it is very difficult for Mr Abdus Sattar Edhi (founder of Pakistan’s leading private humanitarian aid group) to make people agree with him, while Qazi Husain Ahmed (Amir of Jamaat-e-Islami) has no such problem.

The hawks in the armed forces are a class by themselves. By rights every soldier must be a hawk, otherwise what should he be doing in uniform? But most of the senior members of the defence forces in Pakistan now argue like doves, as was witnessed in the recent military regime and its present remnants.

Strangely enough, once they doff their uniform some of them become super hawks, and like General Hamid Gul, want the army to attack India and invade the United States. Not literally of course, but you know what I mean.

Sometimes a hawkish stance comes from the most unlikely quarter. For instance, some 20 years ago, we had almost written off Siachen (glacial region disputed by India and Pakistan) as a place where “not a blade of grass grows.”

We were then ruled by a military regime which brooked no nonsense - from its unarmed opposition in the country. But it was left to a democratic administration (of a so-called nonentity from Sindhri) to put up a determined resistance to Indian incursion in Siachen. I am no hawk myself, but as a citizen I feel safer with a government that is not overawed by an excessively militant neighbour.

Businessmen in Pakistan have made a pretty packet by exporting hawks to the Gulf. The sheikhs there are very fond of them - of the hawks I mean, not the businessmen. But have you noticed that no doves are every exported? In fact I am told that not a single dove has left the shores of this blessed land to earn foreign exchange anywhere in the world. They are singularly house-bound and have no desire to see the world and make money out of the opportunities it offers for making a quick buck.

On the other hand, the unceasing emigration of hawks is sure to have an adverse effect on the military personality of Pakistan and the much-vaunted martial image of its people. Once it becomes known that there are no hawks left in the country we might become easy prey to the predatory hawks across the border. An attractive target.

Come to think of it, what is the point made by being known as either a hawk or a dove? Rational and enlightened nations are expected to resolve their differences with others in a spirit of mutual goodwill and conciliation.

The same goes for dissension within the country and among individuals. As far as I am concerned we may all be doves where it is seriously intended to resolve national or international disputes.

It is far better to employ the methods based on universally recognized principles of decent behaviour, developed over centuries upon centuries of human development, than to strut about militarily, dressed in armour, and advertising yourself as a pincer-beaked hawk that is more ready to bite than to talk. Therefore, give me a dove any time, if a choice must be made between the two birds. At least the dove will not fly away with my cheque.

Published Wednesday, October 6th, 2004 - 06:49pm GMT
Article courtesy of Dawn
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