A New Lens On Pakistan
International discourse on Pakistain is wrapped in cliches that hardly reflect the ground realities
For decades, an expressed desire for parity with India and a defence doctrine predicated on "strategic depth to the West" in case of a conflict with India shaped Pak responses to the issues in its neighbourhood. This also put Pakistain on the path of becoming a national security state as defence took over the focus from the welfare of people.
| Remember as you read, dear Reader, that this appeared in The Friday Times, the most sensible, Western trained news outlet in Pakistan.|
Both the notions - parity with India and strategic depth - continue to dominate foreign discourse about Pakistain. Indian and Afghan writers particularly criticize Pakistain by invoking these two concepts, realizing little that the burden of circumstances - a bloody security crisis stretching from the north to the south and a crippling economy - have not only enforced a much-needed departure from the flawed notions, but also brought the GHQ and the parliament (through the Parliamentary Committee on National Security) closer than ever.
Things will certainly not change if the world takes the Pak security paradigm to be static and sees the military establishment as a machine that keeps performing programmed functions regardless of the changing environment.
The Indian narrative in particular is wrapped in cliches that hardly reflect the ground realities of the present day Pakistain - an embattled country, struggling to a) fend off several challenges to its security and b) survive economic adversity arising out of the security crisis spanning the last ten years.
Aparna Pande's Pakistain's Eternal Quest for 'Strategic Balance' is one such example. It seems like Indian analysts draw pleasure from Pakistain's current woes, and invoke all possible scenarios to disparage Islamabad. "Pakistain's eternal search for military parity or 'strategic balance' with a much larger neighbour has drained most of its resources without providing the security Paks crave."
| ...and all of whose problems are homemade.|
Ms Pande cites the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 2011 to assert that Pakistain's nuclear arsenal is now the fourth largest in the world and ahead of countries like the United Kingdom. She says Pakistain has consistently refused to sign the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT). This she does to the total exclusion of India, which itself is shy of NPT and the FMCT.
Ms Pande's arguments also overlook that all states, like human beings, tend to secure their flanks. A country may wrap the idea in its own jargon but the basic philosophy revolves around the desire to have a secure and stable neighbourhood. History offers a plenty of examples of that. The US did that in Cuba in 1962 and forced the Soviet Union to remove nuclear missiles from Cuba. It even supported the jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s and then began a war on terror in 2001. India exhibited similar behavior in 1971 by supporting the Awami League and its orc wings in what was then East Pakistain. It also backed the Nepalese government in dealing with Maoists. Pakistain tried this in Kashmire in the 1980s and 1990s, and in Afghanistan through Pashtun proxies beginning in the mid-1970s through to the 1990s. But Pakistain's policy eventually backfired, bringing enormous existential challenges for Pakistain itself.
Universally, states do seek parity with other states. If that were not the case, why would India jack up its defence budget to over $40 billion - an almost 18 percent increase - in an apparent attempt to catch up with China? Isn't it a quest for parity with China? One also tends to ask as to what led to some 30 armed insurgencies across northeastern India, particularly Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Kashmire? What gave birth to about 68 major groups in India designated as terrorists? Nobody talks about the UNDP report that says around 37 percent of Indian population is living below the poverty line (more or less the same as Pakistain).
Pakistain's security-centric paradigm, on the other hand, remains under the spotlight, primarily because of the decline it has endured on the security and economic front. Its problems are rooted primarily in the cold-war era, when its cunning general Zia ul Haq
| Yes, but where is India's poverty line, and where is Pakistan's? And how many were under it, respectively, a decade ago?|
...the creepy-looking former dictator of Pakistain. Zia was an Islamic nutball who imposed his nutballery on the rest of the country with the enthusiastic assistance of the nation's religious parties, which are populated by other nutballs. He was appointed Chief of Army Staff in 1976 by Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, whom he hanged when he seized power. His time in office was a period of repression, with hundreds of thousands of political rivals, minorities, and journalists executed or tortured, including senior general officers convicted in coup-d'état plots, who would normally be above the law. As part of his alliance with the religious parties, his government helped run the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, providing safe havens, American equipiment, Saudi money, and Pak handlers to selected mujaheddin. Zia died along with several of his top generals and admirals and the then United States Ambassador to Pakistain Arnold Lewis Raphel when he was assassinated in a suspicious air crash near Bahawalpur in 1988...
volunteered to serve as the front-line state for the US-sponsored jihad against the Soviet Union. This earned Zia ul Haq the legitimacy as well as the brazen authority to inject "Islamism" in the constitution, and hence set in motion a process that has culminated in the multiple crises that the country faces today.
The Pak military establishment's approval for a most-favoured-nation status for India indicates a paradigm shift. The army general headquarters had for decades been bent on denying India regional economic linkages via Pakistain.
Senior civilian and military leaders do not stress parity with India or on Pakistain's older strategic depth paradigm any longer. They realize that the tools Pakistain had used for implementing the strategic depth, sich as Hekmatyar or Mullah Omar
... a minor Pashtun commander in the war against the Soviets who made good as leader of the Taliban. As ruler of Afghanistan, he took the title
Leader of the Faithful. The imposition of Pashtunkhwa on the nation institutionalized ignorance and brutality in a country already notable for its own fair share of ignorance and brutality...
, are of little value in taking care of Pakistain's interests in Afghanistan. They realize that the international community is not leaving Afghanistan lock stock and barrel, and even if it did, three Taliban factions cannot be expected to recapture the government in Kabul. At best, these proxies could possibly serve as spoilers in the grinding of the peace processor, but to expect them to sacrifice their lives and compromise their mission for the sake of Pakistain's questionable and outdated doctrine of strategic depth is utterly naive.
No dispute however that "Pakistain's core strategic interests and its long-term salvation lie in political stability, a growing and regionally-linked economy, and policies that centre on its people rather than tools of a security state."
| And what, pray tell, is their mission?|
| Lovely words. And how is there to be gotten to from here?|
Posted by: trailing wife