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Is this the problem?


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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.

No 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”.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (14) Closed

gazni Mar 27, 2013 03:47am
Pakistan has been double-dealing the USA always. So pakistanis can't blame USA.
a.k.lal Mar 27, 2013 04:20am
you got what you deserved. enjoy it
ashutoshprayag Mar 27, 2013 04:45am
Ma'am, can't you raise an army of volunteers to reach out and teach kids especially underprivileged from ghettos and raise an huge base of enlightened youngsters?? I am afraid Hathaway's prognostications might turn out true if you don't. After all,isn't this the key difference between you as a citizen of Pakistan and them who slog in the slums. It will be a long drawn fight but worth a try. Neither corrupt governments nor the West can assist.Only,the non government and private philanthropists help the mass of these village bred and slum raised Mullah from determining the outcome of this jaddo-jahad between the secular-liberals such as yourself and the obscurantist,unsustainable in contemporary times,so called Muslim radicals. Regards, Ashutosh
umesh bhagwat Mar 27, 2013 06:46am
in my opinion Pakistan has a bright future if it sincerely tries to mend fences with India!
Feroz Mar 27, 2013 07:03am
Pakistan has based its foreign policy not on Independence and pragmatism but on who provided Aid and Arms. The payback period of such a policy is short and the blowback period is long. The boys wanted their toys and the Thekedars wanted the Aid, country be damned. The Media as of course most opportunistic by following a policy of "chalti ghadi pe chad jao". There was not a single Institution or group or individual giving the right advise. When the leaders and followers both claim themselves to be Blind, how will the Light ever be visible ?
Musa Ali Khan Mar 27, 2013 08:35am
Your analysis are bold and up-beating. The choice to get a nuclear bomb ruined the common mass in the country .
khatun Mar 27, 2013 09:35am
How we joined the military pacts and became recipients of economic aid which came with strings attached and destroyed Pakistanis?................ Our only target was hindu India, and in that obsession we had sacrificed our past, present and future. We have allowed a bunch of goons to rule our lives. So this is the result.
Naeem Malik Mar 27, 2013 09:49am
A brilliant and realistic analysis of Pakistan today and why? Of course, it is Pakistan's fault that it is addicted to foreign pressure but the dealer must bear the responsibility for inducing that addiction. Pakistan is nearly terminal and requires major surgery if it is to survive with an acceptable quality of life. The elections are not likely to provide the surgery we need. Already, the addiction dealers are operating. I wonder what transpired between Kerry and Kiyani in Jordan?
RASTOGI Mar 27, 2013 10:55am
Pakistanis are not terminally ill. In 1947, they just wanted to live a normal life and they still want the same. Hathaway may be half right. It is the leaders, who have destroyed Pakistan by creating an illiterate nation fed on opium of Mullah's sermons. Current election process provides a hope and Pakistanis are a resilient people. They will find their way. Best of luck.
Krish Chennai Mar 27, 2013 11:29am
Future would be bright not just for Pakistan, but for India and the other countries in South Asia too. In short, it would be what businessmen call a "win-win" situation for all concerned. But who is going to set the ball rolling ?
Shochi Mar 27, 2013 12:20pm
would you agree with the other side? That india cannot really become great until it learns to live with its neighbors or is that not a consideration?
Cyrus Howell Mar 27, 2013 02:19pm
If Pakistan wanted to be wholly independent it would have completely cut it's political ties with Great Britain. Face it. Pakistan is divided between true believers and Anglophiles.
ashutosh mishra Mar 27, 2013 04:19pm
Just wanted to draw attention to the fact that the current article is focused on Pakistan.India's issues exist but have neither similar origins nor the middle course due to the distinct political trajectory of governance.India's quest for greatness is a challenge surmounting which will to my understanding involve what you have opined and more,if you learn about India better and will be certainly able to advise better paths to its greatness. Thanks for your response though. Ashutosh
Helathcontrol Mar 27, 2013 05:23pm
Folks. No one is an angel. USA has its global goals . Soviets has their. Pak was just in their way was Afghanistan.. This drama will play on for a long time.. Now some how Pak has been out of orbit of their influence to a certain degree.. Iran is trying the same.. USSR paid its price.. USA is paying slowly by economic decrease ..But it will be another 2 to 3 decades ..before it can be forced to stop do.