Has PTI done its homework?

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE message that emerged loud and clear from the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf’s massive rally in Karachi on Sunday was that people want a change.

Responding to this palpable public sentiment, Imran Khan made promises that appear to contradict one another. We will not go out with a begging bowl, he said. The country will be a welfare state, he added. Yet his prized acquisition, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, was adamant that the nuclear programme would be protected at any cost.

The PTI leader is cashing in on the despondency of the nation. He focuses on financial corruption to which he attributes all our evils. Correct. But there are other forces also at work that are rarely analysed. Such an exercise would expose the complicity of the political and intellectual elites, which include the PTI’s leadership, in the crime against the nation.

In these difficult times all would do well to study the underlying features of Pakistan’s political economy. In this context, the book to be read is the recently published ‘Balkanisation and Political Economy of Pakistan’ by Yousuf Nazar. The publication bears a stamp of credibility as it carries a preface by Dr Mubashir Hasan, whose credentials on such matters are unquestioned.

Yousuf Nazar, an economist with experience in international finance, paints a stark picture. “Pakistan is actually polarised between corrupt and decadent elites and a disillusioned, apathetic, under-employed and poor population…. There is vertical polarisation between the social classes and horizontal polarisation between the regions and ethnic groups.”

The small opportunist elite class has historically been a willing and useful ally of the US which has used this friendship to control Pakistan to promote its own ambitious scheme of gaining world hegemony. Washington launched its wars on Afghanistan and Iraq to consolidate its hold over these regions, which it eyes for their strategic location and natural resources (mainly oil).

This is a book dedicated to “those 60 per cent-70 per cent Pakistanis who live in poverty and survive on less than two dollars a day” and who have been exploited by the elites — the army, the political establishment and the privileged class that is the beneficiary of the largesse doled out by the rulers.

Where do the rulers get this largesse from? It is what the Americans give as military and economic aid to keep these classes happy. The elites in turn ensure that no harm befalls American interests. Regrettably, the people of Pakistan remain the losers. Foreign aid is procured in their name, but they are not the recipient of even the crumbs that fall from the table of the rich. They are, on the other hand, branded as extremists to project an image of their being at the heart of the problem in Pakistan.

Yousuf Nazar postulates, “Pakistan’s greatest challenge is not extremism. It is whether it can transform itself from a security state that continues to behave with a Cold War mindset…. The army’s most powerful external ally has been the United States, particularly its defence and security establishment. Internally, the religious right-wing parties and big media have been its two principal allies while the military establishment has historically protected the interests of the rural and urban elites to ensure their support.

“Until and unless this axis of trouble, that is the axis of the army, the United States and the right-wing, is broken, neither the reconstruction of the Pakistani state nor the so-called democratisation of Pakistan will alter the fundamental nature of the security state or bring peace or prosperity to Pakistan … [The] elites have little interest in the reconstruction of the state because they have the most to lose if power is truly exercised by the people.”

This would explain the key features of our state and society today: lack of opportunities for good education and healthcare for the masses, undue emphasis on creating and sustaining a highly militarised security state which is intensely weaponised, a stratified society in which the rich enjoy all the privileges and perks while paying few taxes and where the poor have no access to even their basic rights. This also explains why the Americans are willing to pay massive sums as aid and loans that serve as the debt trap in which Pakistan is locked.

It is ironical that the country is now paying more in debt servicing (interest and principal) than what it is receiving as foreign aid. According to Nazar, in 2009-2010 the total official aid flow to Pakistan was $4.1bn. In the same period, the government paid $5.1bn in debt repayment. Thus a huge debt burden has been allowed to build up — mainly to buy arms — and not because we need to borrow for our economic survival. This dependence suits the US since Pakistan remains in its grip.

One could well ask if the dramatic events in Islamabad these days will cause this pattern to change.

Yousuf Nazar’s take on that is interesting. “In the historic context, anyone who becomes powerful in Pakistan and has disagreements with the Americans falls out of favour with them. So Kayani’s case is no different. The issue has become more serious and urgent because the defence establishment (Pentagon and the CIA) have a greater say in the Middle East/AfPak matters today and have often pushed their agenda. But is the Pakistan Army leadership proceeding towards a very independent course of action? I doubt that. Are they playing hard ball? Yes. Is there a lot of posturing for public consumption and then resumption of business as usual scenario? Quite likely.”

Let us wait and see.

28 thoughts on “Has PTI done its homework?

  1. "Shah Mehmood Qureshi, was adamant that the nuclear programme would be protected at any cost." We have a Multani Pir heading Pakistan's government. SMQ is yet another (bigger) Pir from Multan. Should one take seriously Pirs, whose existence relies on the subservience of their Mureeds (followers). Their time has gone and one would have thought that the cricket all-rounder would have known this.

  2. today article shows certain weeknesses which include lack of information.thoughtful opinion and many more. Book references rightly pointed out weeknesses but nothing came up from your side which suggest ‘solutions’. Second contradiction in Imran khan speech again look at the spirit which is rare in corrupt society. There are different rule of interpretation hope that will be helpful to understand the nature of any statement.

  3. Where was Imrtan Khan going with his mention of the Objectives Resolution, why not talk of our most important asset, the 11th August speech?? Why cant he separate religion and state? He is as spineless as the rest.

  4. Balkanisation and Political Economy of Pakistan’ by Yousuf Nazar
    will you please guide me where to get this book i want to purchase this please give me any information which you have publisher, book store or any online purchase link

    my email address is sks140@gmail.com


  5. The rise of PTI is interesting to watch as the possible third option. Imran has the charishma but that alone wont be able to solve the problem of Pakistan. He has certainly draws huge crowd but yet to be clear on the policies like foreign policy, education, women. His announcement to cleanup Pakistan from corruption within 90 days sounds like 90 days of Zia. He has the repution of a clean person and also liberal and has his own vision of dealing with extremism. I was present in Imran's meeting and it was disappointing to see half of the ground empty when Imran came to speak. The positive sign was the presence of all shades of people in the jalsa. As far as Yusuf Nazar's nazar is concerned i know him for the last 40 years. At a very young age he become twice the President of Student Union of Premier College. In his college days was the admirer of ZAB but was disappointed with Benazir. He is a very clear headed man and though i have not read his latest book i understand his views. I will certainly read his second book, which i believe must have something more than the first one.

  6. indeed; i do hope my own znet offering (december, 27, "is pakistan coming full circle?") made some sense.

    badri raina,

  7. Has PTI done its homework?
    What a superb analysis in DAWN dated 28 Dec 11. Mam, you have hit the nail extremely accurately on its monstrous HEAD. More power to your pen. I wonder if you also write in the Urdu press for wider readership? That would be wonderful as more people in Pakistan would be exposed to the doings of the ELITE. God speed.

  8. pak desparately needs accountable democratic structures and processes holding.. politicians to account -also as a role model for troubled ISLAMIC nations and asia afrika ..SO WAR ON TERROR of corrupt politicos and DICTATORS is worldwide and PK must emerge battles hardened . IK is a desparate politico telling lies deceipts abusing using foul languages insulting intelligence of DESPARATE aam awan of PK .. who has funded his millionaire lifestyles for last 30yrs with no visible income to match ?? do u really believe his tall stories about he been given ?£6 millions as a thank you tip by a brit gambler whom IK claims to have advised on betting ??
    where is the truth ??

    BEST WISHES 2012

  9. With all due respect Ms. Mustafa, I think you have mischaracterized Imran Khan's statement about wanting a welfare state in Pakistan as being at odds with his stance against begging for foreign aid. When he talks about welfare state, he is talking about a social welfare state, which is modeled after Canada, Britain and Europe where the average citizen has access to free medical care, legal aid, and education. Striving for a state that looks out for the "welfare" of its people is not at odds with not wanting to beg for foreign aid. For the record, I am not a fan or supporter of Imran Khan, but i did feel it necessary to point out the difference. I agree with the economist you cite though but am a bit confused as to how the beginning of your article about Mr. Khan's assertions dovetail with this gentleman's conclusions. I think they are aligned..Of course, Mr. Khan is an optimist, but so was President Obama when he campaigned on change we can believe in. The real issue is that this particular government is so inept and so corrupt that it has made matters only worse, not better in Pakistan.

    1. The fact is that Imran Khan's promise of a welfare state and not begging for foreign aid are at odd with the concept of a security state which IK clearly upheld. He was concerned about the nuclear program. If you plan paying for defence as you do today and continue to make enemies all round, then forget the welfare state. Foreign aid is a farce, so it can be dispensed with. But defence spending must go down substantailly.

    2. What do you think about PTI's compromise with the regressive political leaders regarding women's voting rights? How can you be part of this party and still claim to be progressive? Are you not a member of PTI?

      Zoya Saeedy

  10. We are used to promise by our leaders. Do they have a blue print how to impliment them? Does any poitical party has a plan for clean water supply. Reduce maternal and infant mortality. constrution of toilets in each and every house in the country that will reduce the health bill by trillion rupees? I belive we should ask direct questions about health and education issues rather than be satified by their promises..

  11. Although I am a member of the core group of PS113 of PTI but I thoroughly like and enjoyed your comment of PTI's home work in DAWN.
    You have summed up our political history in a single article. How true, in fact an opener for many.
    I am an Interior Architect. I would like to invite you to an exhibition of my works spanning the last 40 years.
    A Quest for Art and Design, at the Rangoonwala hall which ends on the 31st of Dec.
    Like you I have also tried to sum up the the cultural and political history in a couple of Installations
    artworks. You comment would be of great value to be.

  12. I thought this article had a lot of substance to it. I believe this article to be of a admirable quality.

  13. Ms. Mustafa
    I'm at a total loss here, the first paragraph of this op-ed is your own opinion, the later 5/6th is a review of Yusaf Nazar's book. Everything that you "quoted" from the book makes perfect sense, but this is supposed to be an op-ed, where reference to a book or books is okay but it's bnot supposed to be a book review, i was born way after you started writing, so I had high expectations.
    Now to the first part of the piece, that constitutes of your opinion. Can you please elaborate how the idea of a walfare state and getting rid of the begging bowl are "contradictory", or how are these two notions contradictory to protecting the country's nuclear programme. Please enlighten me, I totally can not connect the dots here.
    Umer Khan
    Houston, TX

    1. Thanks Umar Khan for your comments. Very insightful. But try an understand that If I agree with Yousuf Nazar's views how else should I get them across to the readers? The only alternative is plagiarise which I am sure you would agree is a crime. My own views were woven into what the book says.

      As for your other question. IK will not accept foreign aid, on which I would support him 200 %. He will set up a welfare state. I agree300%. Then SM Qureshi says (obviously IK agrees with it) they will protect the nuclear programme, fight on Kashmir and bla bla bla. In other words the army will continue to be the spoilt child and will eat up all our resources. Even with foreign aid we can't do much for our people because the army has to be attended to. Without foreign aid matters will be worse unless we stop trying to be a security state!

  14. —" We will not go out with a begging bowl, he said.

    The country will be a welfare state, he added.—"

    Pakistan needs to concentrate on (a) its economy in a globalized world (b) control of corruption (c) a quick change from a feudal to a modern state.
    A welfare state implies a government that can collect taxes and a set of tax-payers who do not specialize in dodging taxes.
    Will Imran Khan give * dole * to the millions of have-nots ? If yes , from which bowl ?

    There are other headaches. However , these (a) , (b) and (c) are formidable enough.

  15. So far Imran khan promises change but has not addressed even one problem, be it woman -centred or revising corruption practices etc etc

  16. The most encouraging signs are that some one is mobilizing the public and it is animating the public in general. It is a good sign without any equivocation. The political programme of the PTI and all the dirty baggage it is gathering does not frighten me in the least so for the mass movement is on the move and vaguely in the positive direction. I do not believe the public platform of Imran Khan need to be closely examined just yet, so far their are no ill liberal stance in it which might hurt the country.
    I remember clearly the emergence and fall of ZAB and of Ayub Khan as well. Auyb Khan in spite of his overtly soft persona was a nasty piece of work and became worse as he went along. These were nasty shocks for the nation. However they taught a lesson or two to the people of the county. .I hope Imran Khan has the courage to take the word "minority" out of the pakistani constitution, that will prove his liberal credentials.
    I have no doubt that if he commands the majority in the counrty he will represent another chapter a bit different than thus far.
    I do not expect much from any new leader so far they have a view of making level playing-ground for all to participate. It should put us on the path to recovery, which had been thwarted by the Mullahs unwelcome empowerment after the ugly dictators.

  17. seasons greeting and happy new year.
    no pti has not done its home work.slogans only
    haroon ahmed

  18. The article coincides with the need of hour in the way PTI/Imran Khan has promised to Pakis. In my comments of article CHAINS NOT NEEDED I have stated that Imran Khan has chained and is chaining Pakistan nationals. The presence in his meetings (Lahore and Karachi) were most so far.

    Has PTI done its homework or not a issue but he has been successful in standing along with Zardari and Nawaz Sharief. Before Lahore rally he was interviewed in India by Karan Thapar and he declared that I will be the boss of Kayani, terrorist and corruption free Pak etc. etc.

    It is too difficult to get out of the grip of USA UK and USSR as their policy and farsightedness is strong and is planned keeping in view the mindset of people. Everyone like to eat owned earned food rather than to wait for begged food – but how to concert the situation that matters most.

    He further says (interviewing to Karan Thapar) that Kashmir issue will be put in 'cold bag' at least for ten years. Good and let us start this if it can do a better.

    Supposing Imran Khan gets majority in next election – would and how he would remain as ALL ROUNDER with Military, Economics, National uplift etc. or would act as a fielder under Military and USA. How to testify his claim.

    Further PPP (Zardari) and Nawaz Sharief are seasoned politicians so would never give up so easily and even can think to join hands. It is said in Politics neither friendship nor enemy exists – but politics exists.

    We like to see a PAKISTAN a STRONG country not in Arms but at all fields. After all a strong and rich neighbor is a good sign.

  19. Maybe you're right. I believe that Imran Khan, the revolutionary, has blundered badly by inducting the chameleon-natured Quershi in his party. He is an unreliable person, who's morally bankrupt, if not financially. But this doesn't suffice;one has to have a moral character, a measure of personal integrity which he's unfortunately devoid of. Yes, commentators are spot on when they say that Imran's team is comprised of Musharraf's cronies who were with him when he was in power. Imran's constant refrain that politics should be free of financial corruption alone doesn't hold water any more; politics should be free from all kinds of corruption, financial or moral. Despite all his contradictions and double speak, Imran should nevertheless be given a chance to rule a country which is beset by all kinds of crises. Good luck to Imran for his future endeavours to get this country out of the troubled waters it finds itself in today.

  20. 5 days ago I posted comments and in the last para I visualized that Nawaz Sharief and PPP may join hands to counter rise of Imran Khan. My this comments were based on many examples.

    Today TIMES OF INDIA, New Delhi/Mumbai carries the news under heading " Nawaz and Zardari mull summit to counter Imran Khan. This can be read at : http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan….

    Now Nawaz and Zardari are friends……..

    PTI has done his homework or not done does not matter. The main force requires is to penetrate into the stream. For Imran Khan it is a hillarious job……

  21. There are an estimated 10,000+ hedge funds in the U.S. today. Hedge Fund are estimated to manage about $1.5 trillion in assets, but because all hedge fund data is self-reported, the exact number is unknown. Estimates of new assets flowing into hedge funds exceed $25 billion on average for the last few years.

    1. @ Mustafa!

      Seems moderation is out of gear. How the Hedge Funds are related to homework of PTI?

  22. Sometime ago, I read a newspaper report which stated that Amina Sayyed, Naushaba Burney and Hasina Moeen had joined PTI. Most people consider these women as "thinking people." I wonder why they can't do the "homework" for PTI! Or does Imran Khan not pay attention to what these intellectuals tell him?
    –Zoya Saeedy

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