By Yasser Latif Hamdani
14 May, 2012
It is for us to chart a course now that makes the world respect us instead of fearing us for all the wrong reasons
Our right-wingers and religious extremists with their unthinking rhetoric are leading Pakistan to disaster. The politics of NATO supply lines is the pound of flesh they wish to extract from a wretched establishment that has long utilised them for their own agendas. Now the chickens are coming home to roost.
There is a consensus across the board amongst analysts and policy makers that Pakistan’s bilateral ties with the US are extremely important for the country. It is the US that is Pakistan’s largest trading partner — a partner that largely sustains our legitimate economy. Yet the expediencies of politics are driving all major parties in Pakistan to take a hardline approach towards the US that will in the final assessment only hurt Pakistan’s interests home and abroad.
For long we have ignored the sordid reality of post-1977 Pakistan. Not only has continuous war on our western front drained us economically, it has annihilated us socially. What does the world see when it sees us? It sees an economic basket case, which is constitutionally and in practice a theocracy. It sees a state that persecutes people and discriminates against them in the name of religion. It sees a state that tolerates domestic violence and relegates women to a second-class status. In short, we are today exactly the opposite of what we wanted to be in 1947, thus bringing into controversy the very creation of this state. It is time to look into the mirror without any illusions. We are a ghetto of festering intolerance, dysfunctional democracy and a military establishment that seems to have isolated itself from reality by conflating its own interests (defined by a 20th century military mindset entirely out of step with 21st century realities) with those of the state. Add to that a judiciary that the world at least sees as hell bent on destabilising a nascent and troubled democracy by quoting Kahlil Gibran.
Historically, there are two examples that may be relevant. The first one is that of the short-lived Confederate States of America. Able tacticians like Jefferson Davis led it and generals like Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson, yet plunged into a war against the North by the inflexible attitude of the southern elite who were sustained by an agricultural economy dependent on slavery, it could not exist for more than a few years. While the North — led by comparatively mediocre generals — was fuelled by industrialisation and economic growth, the South remained mired in its own traditions and a ghairat (honour) narrative, which ultimately led to a resounding defeat. The other example is that of Ottoman Turkey — the ‘sick man’ of Europe — that was transformed first by young Turks and then Kemal Ataturk’s leadership into a great modern republic within a few decades. It is entirely up to us which course we take.
Depending on the course we take, the coming years will decide the fate of this nation one way or the other. What is certain is that the present state of affairs, the status quo, will be altered forever. It is for us to chart a course now that makes the world respect us instead of fearing us for all the wrong reasons. The process of change in course must start from the strongest. The army should realise — and General Kayani’s recent statements indicate that he has come to that realisation — that an economically stable and prosperous Pakistan will make for a strong army. A strong army does not need enemies as its rationale. Armies are and have always been for projection of power of nation states in peacetime. A Pakistan that is economically strong, at peace with its neighbours, and rivals India in economic growth, development and education will have an army that will help it play a role beyond South Asia. This calls for durable and permanent peace on our eastern front. Peace, friendship and trade with India do not threaten the rationale for Pakistan’s existence, mind you. The founding father of Pakistan repeatedly emphasised a relationship of peace, friendship and open borders with India, which was the case until the1965 war that changed the dynamic in the subcontinent. Jinnah was known to quote an example of two brothers who after the partition of their property became best of friends. In 1947, Jinnah said that Pakistan would guard the borders of the subcontinent and fight jointly with India against any external aggression (clearly, to him bilateral ties were an internal South Asian matter). Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited Pakistan repeatedly and was welcomed as Pakistan’s own. This was despite the Kashmir war and all the geo-political posturing of the two states as partisans of the superpowers. The openness of ties between India and Pakistan can be gauged from the fact that many vendors in Urdu Bazaar, Lahore would often take a bus to Amritsar in the 1950s to buy books that were in demand but were not available. This is unthinkable today.
So imagine a Pakistan, a strong and prosperous Pakistan, whose shipping ports and airports at Gwadar and Karachi are connected to Mumbai, Dubai, Delhi and Shanghai. Imagine a Pakistan that utilises its geo-political location for economic advantage rather than a military one and utilises its friendship with China and the US for economic gain instead of tactical military advantage. Close proximity to India and China and friendship with the US can propel Pakistan to an economic powerhouse in no time. Indeed, if there is any country that can achieve living standards comparable to the west in less than a decade it is Pakistan. To do this, however, we have to make hard unpopular decisions like bidding farewell to proxies, putting Pakistan first and realistically examining our options. Do our politicians and military men have it in them to graduate to statesmen? Only time will tell.
The writer is a practising lawyer. He blogs at http://globallegalorum.blogspot and his twitter handle is therealylh
Source: The Daily Times