By Zafar Hilaly
March 15, 2011
Whenever a study, like the one entitled The Future of Pakistan by Stephen Cohen forecasts Armageddon for Pakistan, chiefly because Pakistan is a nuclear weapon state ‘with a bad record for proliferation’, the American provenance of the study becomes obvious. Nothing else captures the attention of an American audience quite so dramatically.
We can be certain that the study will be hyped as a definitive analysis of what the future holds for Pakistan. That’s because propaganda is that branch of the art of lying in which having deceived yourself into believing what you are peddling, though not really, you try and deceive others.
To be effective, propaganda must contain an element of truth so that the lie being peddled is more plausibly concealed and Cohen’s study has a lot of home truths surrounding the nuclear lie.
For example, conventional wisdom suggests that the possession of nuclear weapons fortifies rather than weakens the state against its enemies. America led the way in this regard. Why else acquire, test and deploy thousands of nuclear missiles and, in America’s case, allocate a significant percentage of its spending on defense – 750 billion dollars annually – which is more than the entire defense budget of the rest of the world combined, even as it runs up trillion dollar deficits at home, unless nuclear weapons enhance its security.
While such weapons in the hands of Pakistan may terrify Stephen Cohen and possibly Washington, how does that make Pakistan less secure unless, of course, we assume that the US intends to eliminate the ‘threat’, in which case, it merely reinforces the need for a weapon that could wreak havoc on anyone endeavouring to do so.
In such a scenario, the possession of nuclear weapons becomes even more necessary. Surely, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Frankly, for Pakistan to adopt nuclear disarmament would be akin to behaving like a virgin in a brothel.
Indeed, as Cohen points out, Pakistan’s proliferation record was not good in the past. But that was the past; today it is as good as that of any other country. In fact, it is better considering that the other day an American bomber flew across the US with an unsecured nuclear weapon in its hold undetected by those meant to monitor such weapon movements.
In any case, Washington has on numerous occasions said it was satisfied that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are adequately secured. If Cohen believed his own government he would presumably not list the safety and security of our nuclear weapons among the foremost reasons for his prognosis of Pakistan’s eventual collapse. And if he does not believe Washington, the good news is that others do.
The other factors listed by Cohen for Pakistan’s fast accelerating decay are more plausible, such as the consequences that lie in store lest we fail to address our economic woes and, of course, the demographic ‘time bomb’.
Furthermore, it is entirely possible that a weak and decrepit government, like the present one, which ironically is considered an American creature, does indeed presage a weakening of the federation. However, Cohen’s prediction that the Pakistan military will in due course collapse for assorted reasons including the military’s obsession with India deserves scrutiny.
Our compulsive preoccupation with India of which Kargil will always remain the best example has proved self-defeating. And though we have not lost our reason, we risk losing everything but our reason if we continue to let this obsession with India weaken our resolve, divert our attention and dissipate our resources.
‘The great proof of madness’, said Napoleon, ‘is the disproportion of ones designs to ones means.’ This compulsive preoccupation with India is not shared by the people and has served to distance the army from the populace. Extremism and terrorism pose, by far, the more immediate threat, and refusal to concede that and act accordingly is delusional.
The military in Pakistan is indeed, sadly for an aspiring democracy, the pivot – the central pin – on which the entire mechanism of the federation is balanced. Its influence on all spheres of policy is pervasive and at times suffocating. At the same time, it has to be said that without the military to keep our adversaries at bay, the country would by now have floundered. Yet, the trouble is that the end may still be no different with the military in charge, not unless its role undergoes a conceptual transformation and is embedded in a new culture.
The security of the state and liberty of its citizens are the foremost requirements of any civilised society. Clearly, on this score, the government cannot deliver. While the center has failed miserably in its solemn duty to provide security, at the provincial level anarchy prevails and its police officers are clueless about who is in charge and to make matters worse its ranks have been criminalised to a great extent, compromising its integrity and professional caliber.
In the circumstances, the military’s current posture of keeping aloof and sitting on the fence and, when pushed, dragging itself along it but never getting off, is naive. If it continues to maintain this ambivalent stance, not only will the country suffer, but also its own job will become infinitely more difficult later on. Fresh thinking on the role of the military and the reform and reorganisation of the entire security apparatus including that of the police and intelligence agencies to cope with the unprecedented challenge the country faces must begin with a sense of urgency and be pursued to the hilt or else Cohen’s predictions will come true.
The military cannot function any longer in the same rut. The culture under which it works must change. The compulsory and irreproachable idleness of the traditional military man to which Tolstoy alluded must give way to a military that is not only a better fighting unit but is also politically involved and with a stake and direct role in the present and future policies of the nation. There is no point in shying away from this palpable requirement.
True, the purists who believe in civilian control of the military will be offended but civilian control of the military has never really been the case in Pakistan.
Pakistan has been stumbling from one crisis to another without let up for decades and the underlying tensions between the civilians and the military have brought us to the cumulative mess in which we find ourselves today. There appears to be no end in sight to our uninterrupted decline with the specter of national disaster looming larger with each passing day.
In such a situation we have to think out of the box, the sooner, the better. Only the combined strength of the civilians and the military – for once working in shared partnership with a shared stake rather than at cross-purposes and in mutual distrust – can offer the way out.
Source: The Mail