February 26, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 5:19 am

A credible Balance of Terror also implies a balance within the elements of national power

Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a Political Economist

Deterrence is a subject studied feverishly in all academic and policy making forums of South Asia. Yet there remains a visible deficit in comprehension and practice of the concept. Few realise that the only tangible case in which deterrence as a stand alone worked was the Korean War; not against the Chinese or North Koreans, but against the strategic thought of US Military Command, when General Douglas McArthur wanted to bomb Manchurian corridor. It was then that nuclear strategist from both sides of the Atlantic got together and rediscovered Clausewitz and the adage that ‘War is too serious a matter to be left in the hands of Generals’. At the extreme end of coercive diplomacy, it was now possible for civilian statesmen to bypass the entire military instrument. Leaders in South Asia choose to ignore this lesson. Nuclear Absolutism aside, nuclear armed political leaders of South Asia need to realise that solutions to disputes is not in threat or use of violence but rather, in purposeful negotiations. Just like the ultimate objective of any war is peace (Clausewitz), nuclear deterrence averts war and seeks peace (Brodie). If they do not, they could run out of stamina like USSR disintegrating under the weight of its own empire. Having acquired much of our knowledge on nuclear strategy from Western and American writers, both Pakistan and India have nose-dived into the semantics and simplifications. Military commanders particularly ignore the fact that deterrence in practise and reality is a psychological notion to avert and not fight a war of any description. In simplest terms, it remains a balance of terror wherein equalisation of capabilities brings with it the equalisation of vulnerabilities; simply put: Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). If they continue to see them as super bombs, there is always a danger that such notions develop innate tendencies to drift towards a war fighting mindset under a nuclear shadow; a dangerous proposition already put to effect. To support my argument, we have lessons from history. Nuclear Utilisation Theorists (NUTs) from all blocks toyed with the ideas of limited war, proxy wars, peripheral conflicts and political economy. This kept alive the concept of a super bomb through Flexible Response and Graduated Deterrence. However, the entire nuclear jargon failed to even maintain a status quo. USSR and Eastern Europe disintegrated through domestic political economy, least to mention any grand design of the West. In the ultimate analysis, it was the social and emotive dimension triggered by socio-economic conditions that brought an end to the Cold War. The biggest danger in South Asia is that both India and Pakistan have chosen the Cold War Template for nuclear thinking. Each day, we see a clear drift from a Mutual Deterrence to the advent of NUTs. This was predictable even before India went nuclear in 1974 and Pakistan in 1998. Unlike the Cold War Theatre separated by the European and APEC landmasses, South Asia had a live Line of Control with a legitimate ongoing freedom struggle in Kashmir. It was inevitable that both countries would ultimately toy with the ideas of limited conflicts despite being nuclear. Pakistan challenged its own thesis of Nuclear Stability by initiating Kargil despite international isolation. India seems to follow suit through the concepts of Limited War under a Nuclear Shadow and Cold Start Doctrine. However, within the premise of this escalation, the capability of either side to strike, survive and strike again is both progressive and retrogressive. Hypothetically, in nuclear calculus, the adversary with more striking and surviving capability is the ultimate winner. We hear of threshold theories manifesting a willingness to fight a conventional conflict short of a nuclear flash point and hence a constant urge to strike a balance resulting in an expensive conventional and unconventional arms race that hurts Pakistan. India feels assured that it could escalate the conflict to a higher level while international intervention would prevent use of nuclear weapons by Pakistan. India appears to follow this logic by boosting its missile defence and surveillance capability with active assistance from Russia, Israel and USA. Indo-US Nuclear cooperation also provides a Nuclear Umbrella of sorts. India also stands taller on the survivability ladder due to Nuclear Powered Submarines, military bases in Nicobar and Andaman and very high altitude strategic bombers (Russia) beyond the range of Pakistan’s air defence capability. This advantage compensates its limited and suspect capability of employing fusion devices. India is also tempted to challenge the status quo and attempt a rot through covert peripheral conflicts against Pakistan through Afghanistan, manipulation of agriculture water and projection of Pakistan as a discredited failing state. In contrast, the balance between Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence and defence unlike India is primarily indigenous. It maintains the balance of terror more through its striking, rather than its defensive capability. In face of an unequal relationship it is but logical for Pakistan to challenge the status quo through an in extremis conventional/unconventional militarism on the periphery. This explains Indian sensitivity to the attack on Taj Mahal Hotel in Bombay though the trails suggest an international operation planned by individuals residing in USA. Analytically, Pakistan’s nuclear threshold has been driven down not so much by experimentation with low-intensity warfare in Kashmir as by nearly twenty years of starkly unequal arms acquisition trends, and by India’s readiness to exploit its huge build up through Coercive and Compellence Diplomacy in tandem with USA and UK. Pakistan’s asymmetry in surveillance, residual capability and defensive shield has widened. Pakistan is being led into a nuclear and conventional arms race with no choice but a massive first use against any conventional attack. Driven into the corner, Pakistan would have the flair to do just that. However, even this minimum means diversion of major national assets towards security at the cost of national development. Hence a credible Balance of Terror also implies a balance within the elements of national power. Technically, Pakistan’s strike nuclear forces appear more than equal and in some aspects ahead of India. However, Pakistan’s major problems in political instability, poor governance, institutionalised corruption, militancy, bad economic policies and fragmentation of society make it vulnerable to collapsing under its own weight. It is this phenomena rather than India that remains the biggest threat to the stability of nuclear capability in Pakistan. Despite major military successes, Pakistan remains at the loosing end of this war of attrition. Other than the endemic Indian and American media scoops, some Pakistani media persons have also joined to discredit patriotic Pakistani journalists and analysts who see the game through and through. It is in this backdrop that Pakistan will have to conduct its secretary level diplomacy in India and assure the suspect international audience that everything is safe. India is in no mood to negotiate peace. Pakistan’s gradual surrender to compellence imposed by Indo-US pressures reflects a fragile and self centred bunkered national leadership. This alone remains the most serious aspersion on the will and determination needed to handle a credible deterrence regime. It goes to the character of this nation that despite total lack of national leadership, the people brave the odds and hold their heads high.


February 10, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 7:11 am

(A time to rebuild the Nation)

Brigadier (R) Samson Simon Sharaf

Pakistan’s political establishment is back to its old ways of self preservation, aggrandisement and nepotism.  What makes the present malaise different from the 80s and 90s is that all major political parties are in power with stakes in the system. The architects of the elections in 2008 had drawn a crude power sharing formula that supports back scratching and keeps them in denial.

As witnessed in Karachi, the political showdown continues through political statements and unleashing of proxies with complete disregard to the value of life and property.  The coalition heavyweights continue to trample grass whichever way they interact. The time is not far when the political anarchy thus orchestrated will overshadow the rule of law and eclipses the notion of an independent judiciary and good governance. In the endgame the beneficiaries of NRO and loan write offs will go unchecked and the power of Zardari’s people will be vindicated. In this entire drama, if the military breaks precedence, who will take responsiblity to fill the political vacuum and clear this mayhem?

History of Pakistan is replete with examples that this Trojan of a mindset described in my previous essay, has the insatiable capability to permeate and control any movement.  The present crises manifest how a vibrant movement of fundamental rights and justice led by the civil society has been manipulated by political forces for their own ends. The power of black coats has slowly degenerated into a symbol of power that does not respect law. The nascent and aggressive media has assumed the self styled role representing this society and even calls itself an organ of the state; a constitutional aberration. Will the civil society of Pakistan resign itself to the fold of the 60% silent masses to doom the country and its people; or is it time for it to rise once again to fill a vacuum for positive change?

But what is this Civil Society? It appears as a loose term to describe activities outside the ambit of the state machinery. The Pakistani media has confined it to describe the non governmental reaction led by lawyers to the sacking of the Chief Justice of Pakistan while President Zardari refers to it as political jokers.

For philosophers like Georg Hegel and the revolutionary theorist Karl Marx, civil society was an inclusive concept of ‘society minus the state’. The philosophers and political scientists of the enlightenment opine that origins of the concept of civil society lie in key phases of modernity wherein philosophy and political economy began to distinguish systematically between the spheres of state and society. In the twentieth century the development of civil society is seen as a significant criterion of the development of democracy. The fact that no two social scientists agree on a common definition reflects the reality that in each culture, civil society is a reflection of the traditions, conventions and codes of behaviour outside the legal hierarchal structure of the state.

But South Asia in general and Pakistan in particular has followed a different evolutionary route resisting modernity. The fact that the region has witnessed prolonged rules by invaders through loose governance helped characterise hybrid forms and multiple inheritances giving rise to unresolved struggles between the practices and values of pre-capitalist society; and new modes of social life, between authoritarian legacies and democratic aspirations. Pakistan also has more that one historical context related to the evolution of its society, each with its effects in positive and negative.

The many ancient civilisations of Pakistan were highly evolved, globally dominant and civic. Advent of Islam and rich Sufi traditions resulted in a tolerant and progressive society. The role of village panchaits, jirgas, barter, care of widows and orphans, and collective participation in celebrations and mourning are aspects that are still practised.  Colonialism brought modernity and a new concept of governance through divide and rule. A new class that emerged was feudal and opportunist in character and evolved an exclusive fiefdom of its own.

Pakistani society inherited a strong tradition of progressive citizen organisations with their roots in culture, tradition and Islamic philanthropy. All India Muslim League and ‘Idea of Pakistan’ evolved out of the civic movement of Muhammadan Education Conference.  The concept of the modern nation-state introduced by the British crystallised the notion of Pakistan. It is distinct in the sense that the concept of a nation evolved much before the geographical boundaries for Pakistan could be drawn.  As time has passed, the state has gradually usurped the concept of the nation to entrench itself in all facets of civil life.

In a resource starved post 1947 Pakistan, it was mostly the civic organisations that took on the onerous tasks of caring and rehabilitating refugees. Post Qaid-e-Azam, the role of these organisations was marginalised as the mindset and the state machinery took control of almost all spheres. With passage of time, the democratic traditions weakened, and dream of a Pakistan with progressive, egalitarian and tolerant society turned sour. Pakistan rapidly descended from a country evolved by its civil society to one governed by a hyperactive state that left no room for others to function. Occupation of maximum space by the state with no capability to administer and deliver sucked the people into many dark holes within the culture.  Waderaism (fiefdoms), misuse of Madaris for political motivation, tribal justice, drug and land mafias, middleman marketing cartels, private armies and militancy are but to name a few.

This descent to black holes has been chaotic and damaging. Bhutto’s populism deprived civic organisations of maximum space and rather strengthened elites and primordial forces. People reacted by low turnouts in elections, invitation to military interventions and formation of a non committal silent majority. The result has been a critical deficit in social capital particularly towards human resource development and organisational accountability. There has also been a massive exodus reflected in the views of Pakistani Diaspora spread world over.

But there are brave hearts. LUMS, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust Hospital, Orangi Pilot Project, the Edhi Trust, the Al-Shifa Trust, Sahara for Life Trust, Layton-Rahmatulla Benevolent Trust, the Citizens Foundation, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Riphah University, FC College, Christian missionary institutions  and thousands of other smaller, little known philanthropic and public service organizations and NGOs are examples that all Pakistanis are not silent.

Most recently, the reaction of civil society to the 2005 earthquake and translocation of people from Swat was outstanding. The entire country and civic organisations swarmed to the troubled areas with whatever assistance they could bring.  During all suicide bombings and shootouts, volunteers and ambulances of the civil society out number the official recue efforts.

Pakistani civil society is still alive and vibrant. The people of Pakistan need a new social contract that strengthens the rule of law, good governance and Pakistan. The civil society needs to galvanise and throw up new leadership capable of exerting relentless pressure on the government and political parties. The silent majority has to venture out of their homes and vote for honest people and political parties. People need to reassert control over the state and reoccupy space they have ceded. If they do, the coming election results in Punjab and the local bodies will be entirely different. That’s when the next phase of true Nation Building will begin.

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