Is this the problem?

By Zubeida Mustafa

IN an article titled ‘Is Pakistan’s condition terminal?’ published in Foreign Policy, Robert Hathaway, director of the Asian Programme at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars in Washington, has reprimanded Pakistanis for tolerating “for too long shoddy governance, venal politicians, failing institutions and second-best performance.”

The writer adds: “Pakistan has failed abysmally in cultivating leadership, vision and a national commitment to turn around the fortunes of an ailing state.” He finds astonishing the equanimity with which Pakistanis accept bad governance. Mr Hathaway goes on to pronounce Pakistan to be in terminal decline.

question-markNo one would quarrel with the writer’s analysis, however bitter the truth may be. The fact is that we have failed miserably in producing leadership that can pull the country out of its present morass. This is basically our job.

But will we be left alone to do it? Mr Hathaway’s observation betrays a lack of historical perspective. The fact of the matter is that Pakistanis have not been allowed a free hand in exercising their political choices. We have ourselves to blame for inviting foreign meddling. But that does not absolve the US of its responsibility either in helping us create a mess.

Hathaway aptly describes decay as a “cumulative process”. It is also a long-drawn process. He observes, “America’s influence in Pakistan, for reasons good and bad, is vastly exaggerated. As Pakistan confronts its challenges, foreigners can make a difference only at the margins.”

However, a look at the history of US-Pakistan relations tells us another story. It is replete with instances of how America has used its power to influence Pakistan’s ‘establishment’ to its own advantage. This first became manifest in foreign policy matters. But as has been inevitable such control has penetrated domestic affairs. This trend began in the 1950s and it was not just a coincidence that governments that came into power after their predecessors had failed to toe the American line, proved to be more pliable vis-à-vis Washington.

How we joined the military pacts and became recipients of economic aid which came with strings attached and destroyed Pakistanis’ — both the rulers and the ruled — spirit of self-reliance is a long story. Foreign technology inducted indiscriminately into the national economy destroyed the strength of our indigenous systems. The emphasis was on aid and not trade, as the former helped the aid-givers control those they aided.

The role of the military in our politics is a continuing saga — at times overt and at other times covert — and this has enjoyed America’s blessings. How foreign policy issues seep into the everyday life of a people is best illustrated in the case of the rise of religious extremism and militancy in Pakistan.

No one would deny that elements with a fundamentalist approach have always operated in our society. But they remained on the fringes while the majority displayed more rationality. Afghanistan, especially the ‘jihad’ fought by the Mujahideen with American/Pakistani help, became the turning point in the rise of what we call terrorism today.

How did the Afghan problem assume the shape it ultimately did? Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, spilt the beans when he disclosed in an interview to Le Nouvel Observateur, (Paris, Jan 15-21, 1998), “According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahideen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan on Dec 24, 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise. Indeed, it was July 3, 1979, that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.”

When this really happened, as anticipated by Brzezinsky, he described the secret operation as an “excellent idea”. It was this “excellent idea” that transformed Pakistan’s society with the influx of Afghan refugees, arms and heroin.

Did the people of Pakistan have much of a choice when this secret operation was being planned? Mr Hathaway now says, “The sad reality is that outsiders can do precious little to staunch Pakistan’s slide to disfunctionality unless Pakistanis decide to seize control of their own destiny.” But when he says, “The United States — and the rest of the international community — can be only bit players in this drama”, I do wonder how little he understands Pakistan’s terminal illness.

Today, thanks to Mr Brzezinski’s excellent idea, Pakistan is a weaponised society. Foreigners continue to sponsor the gun-running in the country which they finance brazenly. They have their proxies in Pakistan — which include those in office — to play this terror game. And mind you, these are not “bit players”. If the government’s involvement were not there, deweaponisation — which civil society has been demanding — would not have been beyond our reach.

Whenever Pakistanis summon up the courage to seize their own destiny, there will be even more bloodshed than what we are witnessing today. The paradox is that these “bit players” do not want Pakistan to collapse entirely because, in Hathaway’s words, “the consequences of a wholesale Pakistani collapse — terrorism, poverty, loose nukes, refugees, deteriorating human rights, especially for women and girls, heightened tensions with its neighbours — are too fearful” for the country to “be casually written off”.

Source: Dawn

9 thoughts on “Is this the problem?

  1. Pakistan is beseiged by administrative paralysis, nascent economic growth and voilent social conflict. Extremism is straitegically linked with the state-formation in Pakistan. Since coldwar the Mujahideen emerge as the most vital strategic asset serving Pakistan’s national interest. The crisis of governance can’t be a complimentery with the failling or terminal of state.

  2. I agree completely with Zubeida Mustafa. While we are responsible for a large number of the ills affecting our society and leadership, foreign intervention cannot be absolved. We are trapped in our history and geography. Our geographical location next to Afghanistan, the gateway to Central Asian riches, makes us vulnerable in the chase for oil and gas through military adventures. Our history of being dominated by an imported version of religion imposed on us by a dictator heavily financed and supported by the Reagan Administration has embroiled us in problems of terrorism, extremism and intolerance. I thank Zubeida for breaking the silence on this issue.

  3. That American foreign policy has been a determining fractor in the region needs no belabouring; the question to ask is why this new nation should have so readily placed its fortunes in the imperialist basket even as Nehru in India had the good sense to keep uncle Sam at arms length. In hindsight, can it be argued that this attempt to woo America as some sort of security against the "enemy", India, has been a wise policy?

  4. The words "failed miserably in producing leadership that can pull the country' are absolutely right. I have already posted my comments on Dr Tahirul Qadri related blog that people flocked toward him as they consider him a strong, sincere and strong politicians. Similarly in India people flocked toward ANNA HAZARE with the hope that his leadership would give freedom from present leaders.

    I also have commented somewhere that all donor nations are not actual donors but are DUKAANDAR. Donation or help comes with conditions which ultimately damages our roots.

    Self Reliance and own earned food should be the policy.

    The last war in the region was in 1971 (Kargil is example but not as a war) till then there is no war but huge amounts, at the cost of other social benefits, have been spent on weapons just to get ready for war. The concerned nations can keep weapon seller nations at a distance but who will bell the cat.

    Ms Zubeida congrats as you have open your mind (here it means brain and mind) in a perfect and balanced way. You wish us to CONTINUE READING similarly we wish CONTINUE WRITING…….

  5. It is easy to blame your failings on others. It absolves you from spending energy making the necessary changes.

    The Problem of Pakistan started 1,400 years ago at the demise of our Prophet A.S. when Islam split in two parts. One wanted to continue the helping the poor Islam, the other wanted the glory and conquest. The latter won.

    Today, the conflict in Pakistan is continuation of the same fight, but the outcome will be a different one. The world around it would not allow the same Islam to win again.

    No, Pakistan is not in a permanent decline, but the Civil War will be costly, perhaps a few million dead. The American Civil war cost 10% of military age (=6,000,000 for today’s Pakistan). The European carnage 1914-45 cost 120,000,000 or 1 in 4 (=50,000,000 dead in today’s Pakistan). The problem has just started. The worst is yet to come. Get ready. But as always, stronger people rise out of the ashes.

    1. abaas take your shia rhetoric garbage elsewhere look at DR QAZI answer which is truly applicable to our condition

  6. we never worked to forge a nation.pakistan was left to the more organised civil-military bureaucracy who defined nationhood and national security.This myopic view lead us through a suffocatingly narrow alley into a cul de sac.we wonder now how to get out of the morass.

  7. You have hit the nail on the head. Very few Pakistanis have had the guts to write what you have written. One important point you have missed out and that is Kashmir. The question is “1947 – why Kashmir”. A nation still suffering from birth pangs decides to go on a military offensive using the tribals of the North West Frontier as mercenaries. That I believe was the start of the down fall of Pakistan. Military minds have never established Nations. Nations have been built by the people and established governments that are for the people. But the people of Pakistan were never given a chance to become that part of nation building. They were led to believe that India the very same blood from which they descended was the greatest evil on earth. It appeared that the leaders of Pakistan couldnt find a National agenda for the nation and led the nation into needless conflicts with India. Or was it a crisis of identity, or a hatred to shed the Indian connection that some leaders moved to import a strain of Islam from further west. Americans love to foster dictatorships because they feel dictators are pliable material. Kids with fancy for fancyful weaponry which is bought at the price of a nation and its people. The Americans always thought of Pakistan that way. They dragged Pakistan into Russia’s Vietnam but couldnt draw the curtains and ended up in burning themselves in a self created couldron of fire. The Russians maybe having the last laugh by now as does the military establishment in India. The dog that one trains to bite the neighbour, begins to chew the owner first. Its difficult for Pakistan to pull out of the mess that has been created. It requires a strong resolve on part of the Pakistani establishment to begin a house cleaning exercise in which it has to involve the people of Pakistan. It should forget India, Kashmir and move on to forge its destiny to a better future.

  8. Priorities matter the most when it comes to progress and development. Take an individual's example. Putting head down, working super-hard, not getting involved in any street drama, being humble and respectful means that he or she will get there somewhere better. No I am not saying these rules will make everyone CEO of a bank, no. But the lives based on hard work, humility, forgiveness, love, and tenacity will change for the better.

    Nationally too, the same principles apply. Pakistanis in the 60s worked hard, they were humble contributors in the world. We worked closely with everyone and anyone to setup factories, produced good students, our airline was known for quality and hospitality. Mullahs in the 50s tried to bring Islamo-fascism but failed. We kept on progressing.

    Then due to many circumstances, in the mid-70s we forgot the core principles of hard work, humility, hospitality, and honesty. The result was a terrible decline that still goes on today.

    The point I am trying to make is simple. Our progress and development is solely dependent on us taking advantage of given circumstances, while remaining hardworking, humble, honest, and inviting.

    Thank you

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