Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pakistan the first sixty years

Pakistan the first sixty years

Sixty years ago nobody could have foretold that Afghanistan would become the center of the world as far as influencing world events. Two earth shaking events both involving Afghanistan have shaped the identity of Pakistan.

The "Global War on Terror" has been uncritically accepted by most in this country. But terrorism is a tactic, not an enemy. You cannot declare war on a tactic. The way to combat terrorism is by identifying and targeting its root causes, including poverty, lack of education, and foreign occupation

Pakistan was born out of the policy of the British to divide and rule. It was also born out of the tussle of two men to do things their own way.

Undivided India today would boast half the Muslim population of the world. Nehru was mindful of this and wanted Pakistan as a separate state as much as Jinnah did. He just did not want to give up Kashmir. Nehru did not want to share power with the Muslims as much as Jinnah did not want to share power with the Hindus.

Pakistan was not economically viable nor Geographically compatible. It suited the Americans to develop a client state as a look out for Soviet intention in the region. They may not have helped in Pakistan’s creation but they soon latched on to Pakistan. They found a needy and admiring country.

The Pakistan Army built up by the US to fight the Soviets and by the Pakistanis to fight India has ruled the country for 50 of it’s 60 years. First General Ayub and then Gen Yahya took them into two humiliating wars with India.

As a military state more intent on arming itself and less on nation building Pakistan has emerged as a state which is still economically unsound. It relies on renting it’s army or selling Nuclear blue prints for its survival, if the US stops supporting it. It is equally desirous of becoming free of dependence on the US. Like India, it would like to meet the US as an equal but that has not been possible. Ayub, the first dictator that Pakistan had wrote a book titled “Friends not Masters”.

Twenty five years ago, Bhutto, Benazir’s father decided that Pakistan needed a Nuclear bomb to protect itself from almost certain annexure by India. When AQ Khan, a metallurgist working in Holland approached him, Bhutto jumped at the opportunity and set in motion a plan to secretly develop Nuclear capability.

Almost certainly the facility could have been taken out by the Israelis or the Indians but for US protection. Twice the countries destinies were altered as a result of events, not of it’s making. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan forced it into a position of being a front line state.

The US decided to look the other way in return for it’s cooperation. Regan repeatedly certified to Congress that Pakistan did not have nor possessed the capability for it’s own Nuclear bomb when the CIA knew differently.

The second time this happened was when Pakistan had already tested the bomb and had become an outcast state. September 11 changed all that and Pakistan once again became an indispensable ally of the US in it’s war on terror.

Effectively Pakistan has been a US colony from Day 1 . On both sides there has been a pretence that this is not so. The Army has been addicted to the military toys it got and have always dreamed of capturing Kashmir by a combination of subterfuge and force. The US has known for some time that Pakistan had the ability not only to build the bomb but to sell it on the open market , including to Osama. However other priorities have kept the US from dealing with this as a priority. Iraq has been central to US policy and not Afghanistan. It is often said that the US attacked the wrong country but how can you justify attacking your own colony. For the last 8 years it is the US who decides who rules Pakistan. Unfortunately their chosen successor Benazir was assassinated.

It is well known that the money that should have been spent on Education, Health Care, poverty alleviation, infrastructure went in to the Defense Budget. Today Pakistan is as in the past on the brink of economic disaster. The political leadership never had a chance. They spent a lot of time avoiding coups and only helped precipitate them. First Bhutto selected a simpleton( Zia) who would yes sir him , only to be toppled by him, then Nawaz fired Musharraf, only to be toppled by him.

Pakistan has a unique position in the world today. A country of 150 million people, with a huge standing army and armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons listed as a failed country. It cannot be allowed to go bankrupt. The people of Pakistan and many of its politicians and Generals have long come to the conclusion that America does not have its best interests at heart. They are desperate to stand up on their own feet and like its neighbour next door desperate to join in getting the benefit from the Asian resurgence but America will not let go. America has chosen to fight wars against faceless enemies, which America cannot win. The question is whether it will take Pakistan down with it.

Pakistan has very little experience of democracy. It’s politicians appear to be authoritarian by nature and the Army by training sees things in black and white. The Judiciary has consistently treated military coups as fait accompli and legitimized the army rule. The one instance where the Judiciary stood up to a dictator, it was summarily and unconstitutionally dismissed and the Chief Justice and his family put under house arrest. To his credit, Musharraf did hold elections and has tolerated a free press. The public resoundingly voted against the king’s party mostly because of the way Musharraf treated the Judiciary.

The people want Musharraf to go, they want the Judiciary of Iftekhar Chaudhry restored and they want the US to stop interfering in it’s affairs. None of this is happening. The decision of the future of Pakistan seems to rest in the hands of people who have not been elected and are basically unelectable. Asif Ali Zardari, Nawaz Sharif, Altaf Hussein, Pervez Musharraf and the US are today the main players and none of them have a seat in Parliament. The people taking the decisions are all godfather types who will stop at nothing including murder to have their way. All of them have in fact been responsible for killing or disappearing their opponents. The Army and the ISI have a mind of their own and will not listen to any one. They and the Bureaucracy represent an anti India stance which in today’s world is no better than a piece of fiction.

Like in many other countries where the US sabotages Democracy because it may not bring about the desired results, Pakistan’s hopes of ever becoming a democracy are very limited. This in spite of the fact that the Islamic parties who are not favored by the US have never done well in elections in Pakistan. This has nothing to do with the desire of the people to move towards a more Islamic country. They just do not trust the clergy.
The current situation is one where inflation is running at 25% and likely to go higher. The stock market has come down at least 40% YTD, there is load shedding in the major cities of 8 hours and above. Businesses are closing down for lack of electricity. A water shortage problem is looming ahead. Politics is at a stalemate over the restoration of judges and whether Musharraf should go. Inflation alone can cause serious day to day problems, with jobs not available. These are ideal grounds for recruitment by the Taliban. In the mosques and streets democracy is getting a bad name and each infraction by Americans of Pakistani territory is causing rising anger and increased anti Americanism.

As an agricultural Country Pakistan can be self sufficient as it produces enough wheat rice, cotton, sugar cane and milk. Cattle and Poultry are also available. Fruit and vegetable are plentiful. Mismanagement, however can even cause the country to import food. Trade with India could be a plus for Pakistan and China and the Middle East are friendly markets. US aid is a curse for Pakistan because it comes with so many strings attached. If you visit Pakistan, there is the facade of progress. Poverty is not on display as it is in India but the cities and cantonements that cater to the elite are just oasis in a desert and more mirages than reality. A nation where literacy is only 30-40% has lots of room to grow but is not allowed to.

“There are three interrelated power blocs in Pakistan . Of these the US lobby is the most influential, the most public and the most hated. It is currently running the country. The Saudis, who use a combination of wealth and religion to get their way, are second in the pecking order and less unpopular. The Chinese lobby is virtually invisible, never interferes in internal politics and for that reason is immensely respected, especially within the army; but it is also the least powerful outside military circles.In Cold War times, the interests of the three lobbies coincided. Not now.The War on Terror has changed all that..."

Pakistan has yet to produce a leader that can stand up to America. This is so critical for Pakistan that there is always the danger of the Military producing that leader but as America’s grip on the world weakens, Pakistan’s prospect of becoming a proud nation increase.

Sixty years is a short time in the life of a young nation. That nation is still striving to define it’s identity sandwiched between India and the USA. It has played it’s India card, it’s Nuclear card and is right now playing it’s Taliban card. It has survived against all odds by being in the right place at the right time. There is only one card left to play after this is over and that is the Muslim card. A secular leaning country in the grip of fundamentalist Islam will either convert itself into a battle field ala Afghanistan or convert it’s fundamentalists to become less rigid.

As a country twice the size of Iran, which is already Nuclear, the US has everything to gain by keeping it on it’s side. Pakistan has learnt to survive against big odds. It is the US which is in deep trouble.

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