Pakistan’s agony

Our prime minister’s visit to Washington ended with a whimper. If the pathetic stories coming out of Washington are correct then the poor man got what he did not deserve. He is a gentleman. Pakistan for many decades has been a two layered system; those who are shown on the TV every evening performing powerful deeds are actually not the ones with real power  that rests with the military and there cannot be two thoughts about that. Admiral Mike Mullen the chairman of the US joint chief of staff and the deputy director of the CIA, Stephen Kappes visited Pakistan on July 12 before the prime minister’s Washington visit.

They had brought proof of ISI’s complicity with Jalaludin Haqqani a Taliban commander with links to al-Qaeda who ran a militant network in Afghanistan’s Khost province. Pakistan was warned to clean up this mess or face other consequences. It was after receiving this warning that the prime minister before his departure for Washington ordered the issuance of a notification bringing the ISI under the control of the interior ministry. The fa’ade of Pakistan’s democracy was shattered when the prime minister’s notification was rescinded in his absence the next day. The prime minister was asked in his meeting with the council of foreign relations in Washington whether he had control over his military. He confidently said he did!

In 1995 Stratfor a private intelligence forecasting company predicted that the next decade would be a period of increasing fragmentation and tension in the world despite unprecedented prosperity. The world in many ways will resemble the period from 1900-1914. The explanation lay in the co-relationship between prosperity and turbulence in the international system. When prosperity increased in the global system, it led to integration of trade thus creating dependency of developing countries upon the richer nations. Each state tries to influence and control the behavior of other countries. This leads to increased political disturbance in countries which happened to become the point of interest of the richer power. On the other hand the developing states which lacked both resources and skills needed support of richer nations for progress. Secondly the demography of the developing countries usually showed a majority of the population within the youth range. This produced a demand to raise families and to create futures dependent on jobs. This could only be created through economic growth.

                At the same time we should note that the legitimacy of leaders in democratic state is based on elections and an economy which generated jobs and incomes for the large majority of population. If either is missing there is instability. One of the reasons for militancy in tribal areas has been the legitimacy deficit both on the political and economic fronts; for instance the unemployment rate for the age group 15-25 years in Waziristan is above 80%! No wonder it became a breeding ground for militancy which then transformed Waziristan into a safe haven for fighters challenging Pakistan, the Afghan government and allied troops.  

                Many Pakistanis knowing fully the limitation on the country’s freedom to choose policies have wishfully desired unabridged territorial sovereignty. The question is how can Pakistan have sovereignty when it has surrendered it in many areas of governance for obtaining economic benefits? For example Pakistan has recently applied to the US for relief under which wheat will be provided on some unspecified future date so that the country’s security is not affected by riots or loss of legitimacy for being unable to provide food to the population. Won’t the US demand something in return?

                The world order has changed dramatically after the demise of the Soviet Union in 1992. The US is the only super power and a hegemon of large proportion. When Pakistan’s nationalist and religious Rambos climb their high horse of brotherly sentiments and urge the population to fight a war against the US for the freedom of Afghans, they are jeopardizing the well being of their own country. Look at the opposition they face. The US accounts for the production of about 30% of the world’s goods and services. It has an economy of more than $14 trillion and its GDP is larger than the combined GDPs of the next four largest economies in the world – Japan, China, Germany and UK.

                Secondly the US has two main strategic goals, firstly to protect itself from attacks so that its economy flourishes and secondly to control all the five oceans so that any nation can be threatened if it played foul. The US will do anything to maintain these goals. One of the threats it perceived was the possibility of a united front of Islamic countries against it.

                The US has severely crippled Al-Qaeda and by maintaining friendly regimes in the Middle East it has prevented an Islamic grouping to challenge its domination. Its invasion of Iraq was aimed at preventing the creation of any country’s regional hegemony in this part of the Middle East. Its policies in Iraq have been successful because by creating a Sunni-Shia split it ended the possibility of the rise of a monolithic Islamic block planned by al-Qaeda. Iraq is about de-stabilization and not nation building. The message for Pakistan is clear  achieve stability quickly or consider losing control over nuclear weapons because of the increasing terrorist threat which is now crossing to the left bank of the Indus!

                The US military doctrine has undergone a major changes based on a revised threat perception. After 9/11, one of the five US national strategic objectives is to win the Long War. The 2008 US National Defense Strategy defines this as a global struggle against violent extremism ideology that seeks to overturn the international state system. This definition covers, Armed sub-national groups inspired by violent extremism (which) threaten the stability and legitimacy of key states. The US wants to destroy such movements which could threaten the US and its friends. It hopes to implement this objective by involvement of US military in stabilization and reconstruction operations worldwide.           

                It is surprising how soon after an election the present Pakistani government has lost steam and become a sitting duck ready to be unraveled. However, if there is a disruption of the political process now being hinted at by powerful quarters then we will probably enter a phase where the legitimacy of the militants would match that of the fractured state. Under such conditions no stability and reconstruction effort espoused as an antidote to extremism by US military doctrine can succeed. Therefore the situation demands a cool analysis of our policies based on our internal requirements rather than the compulsions of strategic depth. Amongst other matters it calls for intelligence services reform and a clear determination to stamp out militancy from our midst. Let us please read the writing on the wall!

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