INSIGHT AND FORESIGHT

January 24, 2010

WELCOME TO STONE AGE

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 4:01 am

Why bother: We will do it ourselves

Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf

Did Richard Armitage make an understatement when he threatened to pulp Pakistan to Stone Age? And in reaction, had Pakistani policy makers averted a conflict through unstinted support and secure ultimate national interests?  As I have repeatedly asserted, the public through media is merely exposed to a very small fraction of the reality eclipsed with subtle propaganda. The unknown is of grave concern. Eight years hence, after all that has happened, Pakistan’s security perspectives have only deepened.

The ‘shock and awe’ phase of the invasion of Afghanistan witnessed the worse use of violence for global domination. In deciding the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and now Pakistan (AF-PAK), the Capitol Hill strategists chose to ignore a basic lesson of the American Civil War in which the North despite a rag tag army defeated the more sophisticated South; any use of violence related to hate and revenge will ultimately fail. ISAF, USA and the Afghan Combine, unlike Pakistan have ceded more and more ground to the Afghan resistance.  The third surge seems to be leading nowhere and prospects of an imminent US withdrawal look dimmer by the day. The question arises, then why Afghanistan?

In a conflict not of our choosing, but in many ways of our own making, landmarks crucial to a winning national strategy are elusive. Following military operations, Pakistan holds more ground in troubled areas. However, in a counter insurgency operation, ground is not always the most vital. In a conflict lacking manoeuvres and firepower, the insurgent has the option to melt away and float in the milieu like fish in water.  The method, time and target to strike are always flexible, invariably punctuated with surprise. In contrast, the security mechanism remains stretched to limits, predictable and static. Devoid of any noteworthy economic and moral support, for how long will the country be able to sustain an ongoing asymmetrical conflict that is now costing more than all the wars in the past combined?

The effects of the Afghan conflict on Pakistan are damaging on all counts.  The malaise is like a squamous with tentacles spread to every sinew of our society. The military to some extent may succeed in dominating the geographical and cyber space, but what of the individuals whose mind cannot be reached and tamed and who have the capacity to proliferate? They inevitably matter in a society fractured by poor economic conditions, sectarianism, crime and population explosion. Seen in the context of the ongoing political controversies, economic recession and fault lines within the society, it will take a very long and herculean efforts to restore normalcy. Given the obtaining environments, conditions are most likely to worsen before we could hope for a turn for the positive. What happens during the interim and how, we as a nation contend is the concern of every Pakistani. Tragically, a national policy to win hearts and minds in general and at the grassroots in particular is conspicuously missing. For how long can we play the flute while Pakistan burns?

Barring military operations daringly led by young officers, all other indicators of a national well being have gradually plummeted. Unplanned urbanisation in mega cities is rapidly morphing into bigger pockets of poverty providing breeding grounds for minimalist agendas. Wheat, sugar, rice, cotton, fertilizer, pesticide, cement and communication cartels are on an unchecked loose. Value added exports are being manipulated to dwindle in face of raw exports, pricing issues, time delays, energy shortages, transportation costs and high interest rates. Agricultural products like cane, cotton, wheat and paddy have virtually suffocated through pricing mechanisms, water shortages and energy in puts. Two years of bumper crops are now hampered by lack of winter monsoons and extremely low water particularly in the river systems. The GDP other than the incidental 1.1 is virtually at a halt. Barring the import bill, Pakistan’s economic downturn does not appear to be effected by the global recession. The question arises that despite positive home grown indicators, why Pakistan’s economy is being allowed to slide into shortages, hyperinflation and dependency?

Just like the insurgents need a cause and outside support to sustain themselves, counties fighting them also need a powerhouse to defeat them. Even the best military plans are doomed to fail in the absence of an all encompassing national strategy. So far the entire might of ISAF and USA with full international support and massive resources has only resulted in ceding more areas to Taliban.  In contrast, Pakistan despite economic constraints, manipulative political economy and practically non existent international assistance/support has cleared area after area. In terms of success ratios to economics, the results have been at a fraction of what ISAF and USA spend in Afghanistan. Yet the unending chants of ‘do more’ grows vociferous and threatening by the day. India has been showered far more praises in this WOT than Pakistan that has done the donkey’s work and remains a donkey.

Gratitude to Pakistan in this disowned conflict usually makes head lines in form of leaks by the American and British media reflecting an uneasiness with Pakistan’s nuclear capability and complicity with terrorism. This propaganda is followed by statements of US and UK officials synchronised with threatening statements and posturing from India and their military establishment. With the   Baghliar Dam in operation and numerous ‘run of the river’ power generating units on rivers leading to Pakistan in place, India manipulates water flow at will.

What has the government done to formulate a cohesive national policy? Rather than venture on an all encompassing national austerity program, boost domestic growth particularly in the agrarian sector, facilitate value addition of exports and initiate rehabilitation plans for young men exposed to militancy, the government seems to adopt and pursue policies to the contrary. International Financial Institutions with their unfriendly conditions are back. Price structuring is grossly manipulative and exports discouraged. At the same time the government is involved in serious political differences with its allies, military establishment and the judiciary. Rather than channelize all efforts into the conflict and nation building, resources are being wasted on issues not of immediate significance. It appears that Pakistan’s policy makers have willingly chosen to recluse the nation to backwardness. President’s recent tirades are unequivocal in that ‘if we go, everything goes with us’.  This is indeed a very poor reflection of a country and its leadership at war.

Least metaphorically, lanterns and candles are back but expensive. Earthen oil lamps have replaced energy savers and petromax. Raw brown sugar is now a household substitute. In rural areas, donkey carts and bullocks are becoming the preferred mode of transport. A generation bred on consumerism and leasing is rushing to cycle shops.

Being loyal that we are, we will do it ourselves and save USA the bother. Welcome to the Stone Age!

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January 10, 2010

THE MINDSET OF 1935: PAKISTAN’S ACHILLES HEEL

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 4:22 pm

Brigadier (R) Samson Simon Sharaf

Political stability has evaded Pakistan since 1947. Bureaucratic intrigues, repeated military interventions and exclusion of popular governments have fortified the role of elites. They have directly and indirectly toppled governments to ensure that Pakistan’s political clock clocks what they want.  These elites exploited the many gaps in political structure of Pakistan for entrenchment, wherein even apparently popular governments once in opposition adopted a similar approach.  According to Rafay Alam, “there has been no revolutionary exertion of rights in this part of the world; it is not difficult to conclude that the Pakistani state did not acquire a fresh personality at its birth and that instead, it inherited the worst possible mindset for running a country”. Dr. Mubashir Hassan has often made slanted references to this invisible force capable of paralysing political governments.

If there was one phrase to describe it, I would say, ‘the mindset of 1935 haunts Pakistan like a ghost with many lives’. This mindset is singularly responsible for Pakistan’s political, geographical, and constitutional crises. Many a times, the politic body has been placed on a dissecting table for surgical procedures by butchers. It is perhaps the only notion in Pakistan’s political history to have acquired permanence.

In the 1930s Great Britain opted to gradually develop self- governing institutions in India, with the aim to progressively evolve responsible self governance as an integral part of the British Empire. A significant group in British polity was convinced that sufficient imperial safeguards were needed to control and guide the institutional evolution of the dominion of United India. They believed that the native were just not up to it.  The Legislative Act of 1935 enacted by a country with an un written constitution was extremely detailed with punctuated ‘safeguards’ designed to allow the colonial mindset to  intervene whenever it deemed fit in its own interests.

Both India and Pakistan adopted the 1935 Act as a provisional constitution. It would make an interesting case study why India and Pakistan arising out of the same colonialism followed different routes to political and constitutional development and why one defied imperial logic whilst the other complied.

India managed to break away from this colonial legacy, produced an enduring constitution and put policy above all state institutions.

Pakistan repeatedly failed its constitutional tests to vindicate the thesis of native inefficiency. There never was any supreme policy whilst interventions, coups and constitutional crises continued; legitimised by the generic term of national interests ironically akin to imperial interests of 1935. At every step, constitutionalism became a convenient casualty to the notion of necessity. Consequently, personal and institutional auras eclipsed the rule of law. Rather than public humility and service, authority and prestige became the currencies of power.

The vision of Quaid e Azam was forsaken by the time the Objective Resolution was adopted. It brought to fore an element of religious primacy propagated by forces that had never struggled for Pakistan.  It also coincided with the growing communist threat in which Pakistan was to be used for containment of a godless Soviet Union. As military diplomacy between Pakistan and USA grew, so did the disdain of national institutions in the minds of ruling military elites. A linkage by no coincidence, the notion has often legitimised itself on behalf of the interests of USA and yet dared to pursue policies to the contrary.

In post 1947 era, amid the tattered and non existent system where much had to be evolved from the scratch, the military emerged as the most organised institution. Kashmir war of 1948 brought the military to the centre stage of defence and foreign policy. Original authors of the Kashmir Liberation became traitors. Heavy reliance on the army for projects of national development led to further intrusions. The constitutional crises of the 50s strengthened bureaucracy and its power to bend fragile political leadership. It also evolved a culture of intrigue. Mirza’s elevation to the President and that of General Ayub to the Minister of Defence completed the triad that continues to patrol Pakistan’s political institutions and acts as a check and safeguard on national interests.  Ever since, this group of opportunists, corporate interests, military men and religious zealots have teamed to overawe elected regimes in the name of national interests. Politicians have been convenient fodder.

This thinking has also affected the political parties of Pakistan. If 1973 has to be taken as a constitutional landmark, then the rigging of 1977 elections by Bhutto was the worst self defeating exercise. In utter contempt to the aspirations of the people, Bhutto felt he needed more time for his policies and therefore, win he must. Much before these elections, he had dismissed legitimate governments in the provinces, harassed opponents and ordered punitive measures. Though there are many other reasons for his removal, one glaring reason was his sense of indispensability and political ambition to over regulate. By the time, he was eliminated; most of his stalwarts and revolutionaries had abandoned him.

Nawaz Sharif, himself a creation of this notion, ended in exile for pursuing policies contrary to what he had been groomed for. Yet twice in the past, he had as opposition leader, helped the same forces destabilise the government of Benazir Bhutto. Right now though the temptation is great, he is caught between his attributes of confrontation and innate sense of political survival.

This destabilising dynamic has also consumed dictators. Bhutto used the anti India bogey to telling effect to remove Ayub Khan in 1969. Again in 1971, his famous words, ‘Pakistan has been saved’ were meant to isolate Mujib ur Rehman, but ended up in breaking Pakistan. Perhaps Musharraf’s out of box solutions for Kashmir marked by back channel diplomacy never augured well. He was gradually pushed into an incalculable matrix of indispensability versus vulnerability, forcing him into a spate of blunders that cost him his uniform and Presidency.

The notion has also spread squamously into the constitution in form of checks and balances between the President and the Prime Minister. Effectively, it is the President who keeps all the checks. It is believed that Musharraf had sought assurances that Asif Ali Zardari would not become the President. He was made to believe that he would not and yet he did. Thus his parting words, ‘Pakistan ka Khuda Hi Hafiz’.

Could this be the mindset that President Zardari keeps referring to? He would know better being an accidental product of political gratification and NRO.


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