Yearly Archives: 2010

What the Future Holds for Flood-Affected Pakistanis: Will Zuhra Go to School Again?

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: The WIP

Zuhra is four and she has recently learned her Sindhi alphabet – 52 letters in all. She wants the world to know about her achievement. When I met Zuhra at the Indus Resource Centre’s (IRC) tent city for the flood affected in Dadu – a small town in Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh – she tugged at my sleeve and insisted I listen to her recitation.

Data collected from IRC tent cities in Khairpur, Dadu, and Sehwan in Sindh provides an idea of how women fared the ravaging floods in July through September. Of the 8,089 people housed in these camps, 49 percent were females and 47 percent were children, indicating the prevalence of large family sizes and its implications for women.
Continue reading What the Future Holds for Flood-Affected Pakistanis: Will Zuhra Go to School Again?

Will Zuhra Go To School Again?

The floods of 2010 have been forgotten. Do we remember the plight of those who suffered. This article was written when the displaced people were returning home. They were happy to be going back to their villages. But their feelings were also marked with trepidation What did the future hold for them?

Today we know that the flood victims have been pushed back into their suffering. It is time we remembered the flood victims. The government is so caught up in crises of its own making, that nothing is being done to rehabilitate the victims. This article has been put up here as a reminder that the miseries of the flood victims are not yet over.

Click here to read the full article.

What next for flood victims?

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

THE narratives of Pakistan’s flood experience are drawing to a close. According to the National Disaster Management Authority’s latest data (Oct 30), 1,984 people lost their lives in the deluge that swept across large tracts of the country.

Nearly 1.7 million houses were damaged and 20.1 million people affected. Gradually, the displaced persons are returning to what were once their homes. If the long queues of wretched flood victims sitting by the roadside awaiting relief are gone and TV talk shows have reverted to the stuff that passes for politics in Pakistan, it doesn’t mean that life is back to normal. Some flood victims still remain in tent cities. Their presence is a powerful reminder of the inept ways of a government trying to cut corners.

Those left behind comprise mainly victims whose homes and lands are still flooded, as in Dadu district. A network of roads built thoughtlessly at an elevated level have facilitated communication no doubt but at what cost? They have trapped the water in the plains and now people simply have to wait for the water to evaporate.

Even those who have managed to return do not have much of a future to look forward too — at least right now. A lot of scepticism is being expressed. In a natural calamity the immediate need is to organise rescue operations and provide relief to the victims to ensure their survival. That phase has passed. What next?

The NGOs and community-based organisations that did a lot in the first phase do not have the financial resources and manpower for the rehabilitation stage. There is also the trust deficit vis-à-vis the government that marks the public’s perception of how the emergency was managed. Thus the truth may never be known about the breaches that were made in the embankments of rivers ostensibly to save the barrages. Besides, there is a widespread impression that the government is not performing.

Isn’t it time for the government to draw up reconstruction plans and start putting its act together? It is important that transparency is observed at every step. Every government department now has its website. A ‘flood rehabilitation’ section must be created where the goals and timeframe for rehabilitation activities are posted. Information about the implementation of the plan should be given on a daily basis so that interested parties can monitor the official performance. The need is to make the government accountable to the public.

This approach may cause less discord and it would certainly reduce the blame game in the provinces if Islamabad distributes the resources for flood rehabilitation among them, allowing them the autonomy of decision-making on issues of local concern. The criteria to determine each province’s share of flood relief funds should be the extent of damage caused and the number of people affected.

In other words this means that the precise extent of the damage should be posted on the website even before aid disbursement begins. What form should this take? The idea of doling out money is simply repugnant. It is not good for the self-esteem of people to make beggars out of them. The complaints against the Watan cards demonstrate that a strategy of distributing funds for reconstruction is inherently flawed in a country where corruption is rife.

As an emergency response it is understandable to initially help people by providing them cash. But thereafter it is important to provide them the means to help themselves. From Nadra’s account it seems a million cards will be processed. Even if we assume that they will go to deserving cases it works out to one card for 20 people — will Rs1,000 per head suffice?

If we do not want starvation to be the next crisis it is time the government thought about the food shortage that is inevitable. The tillers of land should be encouraged to grow vegetables on small plots. Some have received seeds from NGOs. Others should also be provided seeds.

Since most small farmers do not own the land they cultivate, it is important that they be allowed to grow their food on the fringes of the land where the cultivation of wheat, sugarcane, rice or other cash crops takes place.

It is time the big landowners allow this facility to their haris — it is their moral duty to do so. No landowner is known to have assumed total responsibility for the relief and rehabilitation of his farmers. It is time the landlords were asked to do so.

Most important of all, the reconstruction of the infrastructure that is undertaken should be guided by some basic principles. First, no contractor should be hired. Second, all labour should be indigenous. Third, jobs should be created and the flood-affected people hired on a cash-for-work basis.

The floods have opened a window of opportunity for change. The tent cities set up by well-established organisations that collected data have come out with some horrifying information. Literacy rates and school enrollment ratios are much lower than what the government claims. The fertility rate in these areas is very high. The status of women is shockingly dismal.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that accessibility to schools and health facilities is virtually non-existent in many areas. Either these institutions are non-existent or if they do exist they are dysfunctional for various reasons.

A number of flood-affected children have tasted the joys of schooling and adults have experienced the comforts of healthcare in the tent cities where they were housed. It will not be easy to push them back into the Stone Ages and expect them to submit to the indignities of a subhuman existence again. Discontent will rise and its target will be the oppressors of the suffering haris.

If good sense prevails, it is time the cataclysmic flood prompted our rulers to do some long-term thinking on the unfair tenancy laws, the inequitable land ownership pattern and the unequal taxation principles that hurt the poor and benefit the rich. Will those who have suffered put up with this injustice indefinitely?

On the point of change?

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

THE tent cities for the flood-affected in Khairpur are now being dismantled. According to the EDO of the district only five remained last Friday.

As I watched the occupants of the Indus Resource Centre’s (IRC) camp prepare for their return journey, I wondered if this watershed event in their lives would also prove to be the turning point. For two months the trauma of the flood’s ravages became a distant nightmare as they lived in a new caring environment they had never known before.

The question is whether this experience will move them to change their lives radically. The two tent cities organised by the NGO in Dadu and Khairpur, where I spent several hours with the flood victims, provide a textbook example of what development is all about.

Sadiqa Salahuddin, the executive director of IRC, who is far from being a desk-bound activist, summed up the choices before the displaced people in her farewell speech. “Your children [there were 685 among the 1,221 victims] were so happy here and we hope you will also keep them happy. Be gentle with them as well as with their mothers. You were also happy here. Take back these memories to give a new direction to your lives,” she exhorted them.

From August to October, it was not just their basic necessities — mainly food, water, shelter and healthcare — that were attended to; their children received schooling, their women got guidance in handicraft and lessons in reproductive healthcare and the men learnt the virtues of living in harmony.

This was done by setting up schools in the two camps I visited, organising health and sanitation education classes, workshops for handicrafts and setting up a conciliation council comprising leaders of different clans to take collective decisions and resolve disputes.

Here was participatory governance at its best. Some teachers and camp managers had to be hired from outside (but from the local population) as expertise was not available among the affected. But assistants — teachers and managers — and manual labour for any project undertaken came from the inmates of the tent cities who received due emoluments in cash.

According to the executive director, it was a record of sorts that no violence occurred in the camps, notwithstanding the diverse backgrounds of the people thrown together by the doings of nature. It was amusing to see a police guard deployed per routine trying to make his presence felt by unnecessarily throwing his weight around.

This participatory form of governance must continue if lives have to change. Sadiqa Salahuddin’s advice to flood survivors carried weight. They could empower themselves if they lived peacefully and did not allow their enemies to hurt them by dividing their communities. haris

Of course it will be a challenge for the flood victims to replicate their camp life in their impoverished home environment. Lacking political empowerment they have to struggle against socio-economic odds that are daunting. Land owners can be tyrannical when it comes to exploiting their to extract undue privileges for themselves. Denied the benefits of good education and the basic facilities of healthcare, family planning, sanitation and nutrition, the farm workers are unaware of the rights they are entitled to.

Nevertheless, the parting message was, ‘Help yourself and we will help you’. The emphasis was on self-reliance and dignity. To show the way, gifts were handed out — tools (shovels, spades, saws, etc for the men), kitchen utensils for women and schoolbags for children (courtesy Unicef). Families were given dry rations for a fortnight and seeds to grow vegetables. Earlier they had received beddings and were allowed to take their tents with them.

Most of them live on land that they have no title to. They were leaving with mixed feelings. They were satisfied and grateful but also pensive. The good times were drawing to a close (evenings had been occasions for folk music and women had been spared the violence that was their fate earlier on). Above all, they were stepping into an uncertain future.

But at least, the first stirrings had been created in a people who had previously shown little interest in sending their children to school. The young ones had became absorbed in their lessons — there were three- and four-year-olds who tugged at my sleeve demanding that I listen to them recite rhymes and alphabets. Will this interest blossom into something more? wadera bara

Many villages have no schools. There are others where the uses the school building as a for his cattle. Others have schools but no schooling. The people lack the means and organisation to pressure the government to safeguard their rights. Two months were not enough for them, the weaker party, to acquire the skills to neutralise the levers that are traditionally used against them.

But there is hope. Seeds of awareness have been sown, new relationships forged and new friendships struck. Ingenious uses of the ubiquitous mobile phone are being discovered. Above all, they have been promised continued support to keep alight the flame that has been lighted. wai

Ali Madad, an IRC project officer who helped with the Khairpur camp, captured the message poignantly when he recited Shaikh Ayaz in -style: When the red roses burst into bloom/We will meet again.

Much now depends on the government. Last week it appeared to be nudging the NGOs out of this space some of them have created for themselves in the life of flood-affected communities. It declared that henceforth the government will manage the $3bn additional aid it was seeking.

Will it be used to dole out meagre charity to individuals to hurt their dignity? Or will this aid be used to stimulate economic activity in the flood-ravaged regions to rebuild the infrastructure on a cash-for-work basis — albeit keeping contractors out and employing only indigenous people?

A Beacon of Hope From Within

They are “ordinary people” with no claim to fame. But in their own way they are making a useful contribution to society and rebuilding their own lives. This is the story of Parvin who attended primary school for only three years before she was married at the age of twelve. Denied her rights to education, healthcare and a decent life, Parvin was doomed to be one of the oppressed class who could not hope to live with dignity. But she is a woman of courage and decided to act. She went back to schooling herself and also opened a home school where she teaches children from her neighbourhood.

Please click here to read the full article.

A Beacon of Hope from within Pakistan: A Home-school in Karachi

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: The WIP

Floods in 2010. Earthquake in 2005. Pakistan has been severely battered by the elements. Thousands have died and millions have become internally displaced. But even without Nature’s unkind revenge, life in Pakistan is not easy for the teeming masses who toil hard to feed themselves and their families. Poverty is their biggest adversary, and according to one estimate over 40 percent of the country’s 180 million live below the poverty line.

Yet in this gloom there are beacons of hope – many of them women – showing the way to people who are on the verge of despair. Parveen Lateef, age 40, is one of them. Her story reads like fiction. But fortunately, it is a true account of a woman’s struggle to change her life and that of her children.
Continue reading A Beacon of Hope from within Pakistan: A Home-school in Karachi

Language in education

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

A CLUTCH of letters has appeared recently in Dawn debating the language issue in education. A very sensible one by Fazal Muhammad Khan from Lahore published last week reads, “There is no denying the fact that students find it very hard to understand subjects when they are taught in English or Urdu, the languages not spoken in their homes and society.”

Mr Khan adds that by making the mother tongue compulsory as the teaching language for primary-level students we can ensure the students would not only remain in touch with their culture, we would also be taking a reformative step towards the betterment of the educational system in Pakistan.

Under the heading, ‘Little sign of English in China’ Mr Umar Mohamad Sajid, an engineering instructor, writes from his five-year experience, “English is one of the biggest stumbling blocks in our progress.”

He says he has “had students who memorised large sections of books and excelled in examinations but they did not understand what they have memorised.”

The issue could not have been summed up more succinctly. These and other letters confirm what language experts — Dr Tariq Rahman of the Quaid-i-Azam university at once comes to mind — have been saying for decades. Dr Rahman has been pleading the case of the mother tongue as the language of teaching at the primary level.

Whether it is Zakia Sarwar who has been striving since 1984 to improve the standard of English language teachers in Pakistan through SPELT, or Farida Akbar, the director of the Montessori Teachers Training Centre who is best qualified to understand the process of language acquisition in a young child, the consensus is, “Use the mother tongue as the language of teaching at least at the primary level.”

The arguments put forward are logical and convincing. Beginning with the physiological aspect, a child learns best in his mother tongue or the language of his environment. English which has been over-emphasised is not the language our children are exposed to in the early years of their childhood (I am not talking about the elite classes but the vast majority).

A very large number of children enrolled in schools are first-generation school-goers in their families and their parents are either illiterate or can read, write and speak only Urdu or their mother tongue but definitely not English. Which means it is left to the teachers to teach them as best as they can.

Most teachers are also new recruits to the English brigade and, as Zakia Sarwar would testify, they are not the very best in English. They also have many other failings but requiring them to teach in the English language when they do not even understand and speak correct English is equally unfair to them as to the children they teach.

True, many teachers are not brilliant in Urdu or their mother tongue either as they have had no training in pedagogy and their knowledge of the subject is poor. But if provisions have to be made to train them in a crash programme it would be easier to teach them their own language rather than English.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not against English or the teaching of the language. English is now accepted as the international language of communication in an increasingly globalised world. It offers distinct advantages to those dealing with the outside world whether in higher education, trade or diplomacy.

English is also the language of science and aviation. Hence the language cannot be ignored. If it is taught as a second language to all children to give them basic knowledge of the subject it will be possible for those who need it in later professional life to build on the initial introduction they have already had.

That hardly requires us to adopt English wholesale as the medium of instruction and entail all the disadvantages listed by Mr Khan and Mr Sajid above. But it does mean that English must be taught correctly and well as a second language. It also means that a core group of teachers must be trained to teach English as a second language.

This calls for shedding the social prejudices we have nursed against non-English speakers and carefully cultivated in our society. I do not find this prejudice against non-English speakers even in countries where English is the language of the people.

The greater use of English to the exclusion of indigenous languages in our society creates a false status for the language which benefits a privileged class by virtue of its command over English. That helps it perpetuate its power and privilege by grabbing the best education facilities and thereby the best jobs. This is a vicious cycle that is difficult to break. Since 9/11 English has become a prop for Pakistan to project itself as a state trying to modernise itself and emerge as a moderate society.

In this context I found an article written by Sir Michael Barber, the British educational expert, who heads the task force on education along with Shehnaz Wazir Ali, intriguing. He speaks of many factors that determine the success or failure of educational reforms in Pakistan. Most of them have been identified ad nauseam by educationists here. It is good that an expert from Britain has been familiarised with the challenges we face.

But the language issue, which I think is at the root of our failure to teach our children effectively, has not been given the importance it merits. Sir Michael Barber writes, “Drawing from the global literature on education reform, the task force’s account combines accountability with capacity-building or, in simpler terms, pressure and support. The pressure for change will come from three sources. First, there should be clear standards for all students in Urdu or the mother tongue, in English, and in maths and science.”

There is a need to address the language issue squarely. Fudging it or being diplomatic about it serves no purpose. Sir Michael Barber would understand that better. It is time we understood it too.

Contribution of expatriates

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

IT was President John F. Kennedy who exhorted Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you…..but what you can do for your country”. This ‘do for your country’ spirit is very much in evidence in Pakistan today, especially among the generation that got the best from it in its youth. It is heart-warming to see that many Pakistanis are now willing to repay the debt they feel they owe their people. And they are doing it abundantly.

Recently, I received an email from Saquib Hameed, the honorary vice chairman and CEO of the Layton Rahmatullah Benevolent Trust (LRBT) that runs its eye hospitals all over the country and is rendering excellent and free service to those suffering from eye diseases. Saquib was my contemporary at the University of Karachi. He described his own service at the LRBT as a “payback” after retirement.

There are others who have not yet retired but are giving back to the country what they feel they owe to their motherland. Dr Azhar Salahuddin, an ophthalmologist working in the US, has been visiting Karachi for a week or so every year since 2006 to perform eye surgeries at the LRBT hospital in Korangi. He partners with a group called SEE International in the US which gives him enough supplies for 100 cataract surgeries which he brings with him.

Apart from performing a few cataract surgeries and cornea transplants, he also teaches new techniques to the local doctors. The supplies that are not used up are donated to LRBT. Dr Salahuddin is in the process of setting up an eye bank in Pakistan. His services are pro bono.

During the August floods, the financial contributions from Pakistani expatriates were phenomenal. No figures are available and it is unlikely they ever will be. Most of these donations came through private channels and were given to trusted NGOs and some charities set up spontaneously and informally to help provide relief to flood victims.

A Rotarian who sent out an appeal for funds for flood relief managed to raise a big sum of which 63 per cent came from abroad. In Toronto a Pakistani raised $420,000 from one fund-raiser. The migrants have been selflessly generous and do not expect any rewards in return as a few high-profile Pakistanis have in the past. The latter became ministers — returning home to make hay while the sun shone.

Another response to the floods came from a friend Azhar Fasih in Oaksville, Ontario (Canada) who is an engineer (having graduated from the NED in 1967 and completing a Masters in engineering from Cornell). He works for a Canadian company and has been posted in Argentina, Poland and China. Azhar was very concerned about Pakistan, as I have found most expatriates to be. He wanted to know what he and his friends could do to help the country. They had all donated hefty sums for flood relief.Azhar, along with his fellow NEDians, would like to offer his expertise as his namesake, the ophthalmologist, is doing.

I asked him what kind of services he envisaged to help Pakistan in these trying times when a large area of the country lies in ruins with 20 million people affected. Being an engineer his focus is understandably on reconstruction. But he wants to go beyond the simple act of rebuilding all the structures which he believes may face the fury of the floods in a few years again.

As pointed out by the World Meteorological Organisation, Pakistan’s floods fit international scientists’ projections of more frequent and more intense extreme weather events due to global warming.

The ecological damage has been so severe, especially deforestation, that even unusually heavy rainfall can lead to flooding. There are few trees and plantations left in the mountainous areas to bind the soil and serve as a barrier to the torrential flow of rainwater.

Azhar describes the 2010 floods as a disaster as well as a “wake-up call” for future calamities. He emphasises the important of undertaking forestation on a large and concerted scale to pre-empt the devastation wrought by floods in future,

Azhar speaks of using the expertise of engineers for designing projects such as reservoirs, bridges, roads and houses designed to withstand the pressure of floodwater and also solar panels for heating water and homes in winter as a form of conserving electricity. barani

These are very feasible and affordable propositions. Millions of cusecs of water flowed into the Arabian Sea through the Indus River system during the floods. But with the dry season there is talk of water shortage given the absence of storage capacity.Azhar speaks of rain-filled reservoirs that have been built in some areas with “engineered earth” with an impermeable liner, mainly clay, to prevent seepage. I wonder if such reservoirs can’t be built to store the excess water in the rivers during rainy season. They would expand the irrigation network and boost agriculture. Why not plan these reservoirs in the reconstruction phase?

He is bubbling with ideas as he has seen many such projects in China where he lived for five years. I find it intriguing that the government in Islamabad should be eager to buy nuclear plants from China but not acquire something simpler for the power sector such as solar panels, which would help conserve trees that are used up as firewood for heating.

Similarly the bridges that have been washed away by the floods, Azhar points out, were too low and close to the riverbed. Their spans were not wide enough. They must be redesigned keeping the floods in view. Pakistani bridge engineers in North America could provide this expertise.

The need is to tap into this huge reserve of goodwill that Pakistani expatriates have for the country. Some coordination and organisation is needed. It would be so satisfying to see Pakistanis help out their less fortunate brethren in the reconstruction task on a self-help basis rather than our leaders going round the globe with a begging bowl in hand.

Richness of diversity

Reviewed By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

PROF James Ron of Carleton University, Ottawa, complains that mainstream students in Canada are oblivious to the role of religion in contemporary life. He says that they achieve competence in secular politics but have no interest in learning the basics of different religions, even their own.

This is an interesting observation on Canada. But it holds true only partially for most young people in our society. Given the religious environment and our religion-centric syllabi, students pick up quite a bit of knowledge of their own faith. But unfortunately they learn little about other religions — even those of the minorities living in their midst.
Continue reading Richness of diversity

Arms lead the way to collapse

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

SO the ‘inevitable’ has come to pass. The government has announced that the defence budget will be increased by Rs109.8bn in the current fiscal year — from Rs442.2bn to Rs552bn. And from where will the funds come? The public-sector development programme is to face the axe.

For decades, defence and security were treated as holy cows not to be questioned. Defence spending figured as a one-line entry in the federal budget that allowed the armed forces the privilege of being above accountability. Thus they were shielded from the prying eyes of the public even though they were the main beneficiaries of the taxpayers’ money.

Security would be jeopardised if confidentiality were not observed. Besides what did we ordinary mortals know about such highly technical issues that figured in the jargon-filled statements of defence experts who were after all trying to protect us from the enemy? Things have changed but not radically. We still cannot debate what weapon system is actually needed by our men in uniform and which strategies are good and which are not so good.

Is it then surprising that Patrice Legace writing in La Presse (Montreal) asks bluntly, “If Pakistan had $1.4bn to acquire fighter planes (F-16) from Lockheed very recently, why doesn’t Pakistan have $460m to help its own ‘drenched’ citizens?”

True there is slightly more transparency in the defence budget today than before. But not enough and misappropriations are regularly reported by the auditor general. On Friday, parliament was told that Rs2.5bn was lost in 2009-10 due to “commonly occurring irregularities” in various departments of the armed forces and the defence ministry.

Moreover defence continues to be a subject one cannot freely debate. But more openness in reporting has opened the door to more questions being raised and criticism being voiced. Thus no sooner had the media reported the increase in the defence budget than the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives expressed its concern at the reordering of budget priorities at “a time when educational, healthcare, rehabilitation and other social needs of people have multiplied due to high inflation and the recent floods”.

Greater anger was expressed at the failure of the authorities to reduce “non-productive expenditures through better management and efficiency” and generate more revenues.

The country paper, presented by the government to the International Monetary Fund, also indicated plans to reduce the overall expenditure by Rs68.4bn and increase revenues by Rs197bn. Now all this will have an adverse effect on public policy especially national security. What can be expected is more indirect taxation, as indicated by the finance minister, that will further boost the spiralling inflation and burden the poor even more.

Cuts can be expected in the health and education budgets, though the finance minister has been denying it. Is he to be believed? Already cuts have been announced in the development budget.

Why is this bad defence planning? We first have to identify our enemy. To me it seems that the greatest threat we face is from the Taliban. Even the prime minister is on record as saying that the greatest danger to the country’s security comes from the “internal threat” the country faces. But we seem to be strengthening ourselves vis-à-vis external enemies — and who are they but the Indians?

Will the 36 F-16s priced at $3bn and being purchased currently be used in the war on terror to destroy Taliban strongholds? Apart from the fact that aerial bombing produces more collateral damage — civilians become innocent victims — this siphoning off social-sector funds will affect our social capital which in turn will weaken our societal fabric.

Can we afford this?

The problem lies basically in our failure to recognise the changing nature of warfare in the modern world. There is the additional failure to understand that when extra-regional powers like the United States extend us a helping hand they do so to promote their own selfish interests in the region where we are located. We try to act smart and exploit American strategic imperatives. With the US now poised to withdraw from Afghanistan, has Pakistan planned its own post-US exit strategy? In 1989 when the US disengaged from the region after helping the Mujahideen (via Pakistan) to drive out the Russians, we were left at the mercy of the squabbling Afghans — a situation that gave birth to the Taliban phenomenon which continues to be our nemesis.

We have played the foot soldier to Washington in the region as we continued to fight a war on two fronts — hostility towards India hardly ever abated. As a result, our economic priority has always been massive defence spending. It is here that our failure to understand the changing nature of warfare has proved detrimental to our national security. In an age when wars are total and the defences too have to be total, Pakistan has concentrated on buying arsenals, recruiting soldiers and building bombs, including of the nuclear variety.

All along the country’s domestic policies have created the social, cultural, economic and political conditions that have nurtured prejudices, ignorance and social insecurity that now pose a grave threat to the country’s stability and cohesion. Greater liability was created by the armed forces by their alleged training and arming of militants such as the Lashkar-i-Taiba to fight their proxy wars in Kashmir and Afghanistan. Concurrently they spawned obscurantist thinking and bigotry by whipping up irrational religiosity that became a deadly mixture in an environment of poverty, ignorance and despair.

In this climate the advantage goes to the enemy within, with which we are locked in a total war. A strategic policy that ignores this adversary to seek arms to be used in future battles against an external foe does not make sense. We need to remember that in the post-1945 years more than military defeats economic implosions have destroyed nations. These states have invariably failed to realise that an arms build-up only hastens this process.