Overcoming the pitfalls of transition



M Ziauddin

National security without economic security is a meaningless proposition. Economic security means ensuring at least water and food security. Countries that have tried to ensure national security by piling up conventional and non-conventional arms and raising highly professional armies to the total neglect of economic security have only ended up like the defunct Soviet Union—wiped out from the face of the Earth.
Also, countries that have tried to equate national security with the vested interests of a particular political party, a particular government, a particular institution or a particular individual to the total neglect of the vital interests of the state and its people too have ended up undermining their own sovereignty and pawning off the future and the fate of their nations to either a regional or a global bully.
And nations that become pawns of such bullies end up creating tiny islands of super prosperity benefitting no more than a minuscule minority of the population while the rest of the teeming millions go shirtless wallowing in a sea of abject poverty.
And these very shirtless millions become easy targets for exploitation by foreign spies aiming to destroy Pakistan from inside and also by the religious fanatics hell-bent on imposing their own distorted version of faith on such unfed, unlettered and largely health-coverless populace.
Only those who have never been touched by the insulting agony of poverty would expect these teeming millions to behave like super patriots safeguarding the interests of the nation and the state, never selling their soul to the interested bidders in the face lucrative temptations.
One only has to look at the rate at which Pakistanis—educated, skilled and unskilled—are trying to abandon their homeland and go out in search of greener pastures, many risking their very lives, to understand the measure of sense of belonging that these millions feel for their country.
Perhaps things would not have been as bad as they seem if only those tiny islands of prosperity instead of stealing the shirts off the back of these millions had shared part of their unearned incomes on feeding these millions two square meals a day and providing them basic minimum education and the basic minimum health cover.
It is only when a nation makes sincere efforts to bring within the reach of every one of its citizen affordable education, affordable health cover, affordable housing, affordable transport and affordable telecom facilities that one can expect these citizens to feel a sense of belonging to the state in which they live and be prepared to die to safeguard the state’s independence and its sovereignty.
A nuclear armed country does not have to fear threats of external aggression. No one, not even a nuclear armed country would dare attack a nuclear armed Pakistan. But both the fundamental religious fanatics and foreign spies can destroy the country from inside if patriotism is tried to be inculcated into the poverty stricken population through fantasy and fiction termed as national history and heritage.
More than the foreign spies Pakistan today is being threatened by a distorted ideology that is being presented to the illiterate masses as the only true version of religion. This ideology was first injected into the national psyche by the Americans when in order to bleed to finish their arch enemy—the Soviet Union—in Afghanistan, Washington introduced to a compliant world of Islam a distorted version of ‘Jihad’ in the early 1980s.
Today Pakistan has become the hub of this kind of ‘Jihad’. Some jihadi groups are fighting the very armed forces of Pakistan which in the days of the first Afghan war were their mentors and trainers. The aim of these jihadi groups is to take over the country itself. Other jihadi groups are waging their jihad from Pakistan to take over parts and even the entire countries in the neighbourhood.
The nation is beholden to our armed forces and is deeply grateful to it for launching Zarb-i-Azb against the group of jihadis which is threatening to take over the country and which have been attacking security installations. But for Zarb-i-Azb Pakistan too would have become a battleground similar to the one that one is witnessing in Iraq and Syria.
The policy of not touching the other groups is understandable. Indeed, why should these groups be subjected to any hostile policy when they are not currently threatening the vital national interests?
But what is the guarantee that after having failed to achieve their foreign agenda which, on the basis of ground realities looks most likely, these groups out of sheer frustration would not turn against the very hands that are feeding them now? The ideology of these Jihadi groups is also based on a distorted version of religion and people consumed by such ideologies feel it their religious duty and for a guaranteed place in Janaat to destroy all those who do not subscribe to their version of religious ideology.
So, it is necessary for the state institutions, both security as well as civil, to sit together at the earliest and draw up a fail-safe policy to get rid of all jihadi groups operating inside the country, no matter for what purpose, to safeguard Pakistan and its ideology as propounded by Quaid- i-Azam, the outline of which he had presented to the Constituent Assembly in very simple words on August 11, 1947.
Here, it would not be out of place to reiterate that Kashmir is a dispute between India and Pakistan and that it was India that had turned it into a dispute of international proportion by going to the UN. Kashmir is therefore, India’s problem. It is not our problem. For us it is a dispute. So we should try our best not to turn it into our bilateral problem with India by reducing its significance as an international dispute needing the world body’s urgent attention to resolve it in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions so as to cool down the heat being generated in a nuclear theatre by a warmongering India.
Kashmir is India’s problem because every now and then due of its step-motherly treatment of state of Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) its people come out agitating against what virtually are 700,000 occupying Indian troops. The current uprising in the IHK too is the result of the current government in New Delhi’s hostile attitude towards the held Kashmiris. It is in order to divert the attention of the world from the crass human rights violation of its occupying army that India has mounted a global campaign wrongly holding Pakistan responsible for the problem of New Delhi’s own making.
In the case of Afghanistan too we must reiterate that while we have the best of wishes for our Muslim neighbour its armed conflict with Afghan Taliban is its own problem. We would be only too glad to help if help is sought but we do not wish to be known as a country harbouring the Afghan Taliban, especially the Haqanis. And we should make it clear to every one of the Afghan Taliban including the Haqanis who have sought sanctuary in Pakistan to go back to their own country and try to settle their dispute with the Kabul government from within and not from the soil of Pakistan.
All those who have been managing our foreign and defence policies all these years, especially our security institutions, led by our armed forces know the adverse international and regional implications of harbouring those who want to reduce the Kashmir dispute from its international status to a bilateral problem and also those that want to create bilateral problems between Pakistan and Afghanistan by using Pakistani soil to settle their score with the Kabul regime.
The people who believe that perhaps a change of command at the GHQ by end November would in any way cause a change in the thinking of the institution and that the new chief would have no interest in continuing the well-thought- out and well-tested foreign and defence polices framed by his predecessors are perhaps misreading the whole situation. While, it is not prudent to speculate on the coming change of command at the GHQ, one would be too naïve to believe that such a change would bring about a qualitative change in the thinking of the institution.
Meanwhile, the process of transition that had started since the 2008 general election and which then went through a peaceful and smooth phase of power transfer following the 2013 general election is likely to gain further momentum by the time we go through the 2018 general elections which would be a record in itself promising that this time the transition phase is more likely to graduate into a permanent system of democratic check and balance with no institution, no political party, no government or individual would be able to reverse by manipulating an accident like the ones we were subjected to in 1958, 1969, 1977 and 1999.