Time to make difficult decisions
June 10, 2011
Pakistan is going to spend one-third of its total revenue on its defenses. A heavy cost of survival, indeed. A country sunk deep in debt is always looking around for assistance. So far, it has been America to extend its helping hand in exchange of its willingness to play the role of frontline state, first against communism and later against the Al-Qaeda and its associates. The time has probably come when it has to make difficult choices.
While keeping in mind the exact remarks of Dr. Hafeez Shaikh that he can’t resolve the problems of sixty years and that the same has to be resolved by democracy, the security doctrine has to be reviewed and reevaluated on priority basis if the country has to ensure its dignified existence in the global age, marked with cutthroat competition among states vis-à-vis trade and investment. No wonder, no country can hope prosperity without developing its own market; high standards of life, which simply means enhanced purchasing power of the people, should be the main point of its politics.
The fact of the matter is that no consideration was given to the ethno-cultural realities when the state was carved out of the British India. International boundaries cut across the ethnic groups living in Pakistan. All the prominent racial groups — Baloch, Jat, Rajput and Pathan — stand divided while they make part of Pakistan. The state is too much economically paralyzed to achieve appropriate strength to remove the stigma it has inherited since its birth. All the rivers flowing down to the country’s planes have origins in the neighboring country.
The way sovereignty was conceived by All India Muslim League, the political party that founded Pakistan, laid the foundation of Pakistan being a client state. The political leadership of the formative era knew it well that it will interest the West which was worried about the ever expanding influence of the anti-Capitalist power, the USSR, across the world. The new state nearly touching the borders of the socialist world (other country being China), the subcontinent could be really lost to what President Regan later termed as the ‘evil empire’. A religious state, which Pakistan declared itself through Objectives Resolution, with a resolve to align with the monarchies of Middle East and West Asia, duly attracted the US decision-makers with a view to effectively containing Soviet Union.
Not a single penny could be spared for the socio-economic development of the new state as the decision-makers waited for its large-sized army’s role in international politics. America hesitated initially to take Pakistan on board for the reason that the two countries were poles apart in ideological terms. America had waged a war against the USSR to save capitalism and democracy. Pakistan stood as an authoritarian state, where capitalism had not taken any solid ground — thanks to British India’s policy to develop it as garrison state. It remained so till the fall of Soviet Union and subsiding of threat to the Capitalist World.
In the post-Soviet era, the US has got on itself the duty to clear off the mess which it had created in the so-called Muslim World, whereby it had patronized monarchies and dictatorships. Parochial ideologies had flourished there to sustain the anti-people governance structures. When authoritarianism has been declared as a threat to international peace and stability, change is just inevitable. The War on Terror is the strategy to clear the way of democracy. Afghanistan and Iraq are going to serve as the model for the countries around.
As for Pakistan, the legacies of authoritarianism are too strong. But when Pakistan has to stay democratic, the foundation on which authoritarian structure stands on has to be demolished. Otherwise the country has to live with anarchy which will lead the country nowhere but to disintegration. “It is the people of Pakistan, not America, who have to decide which direction they want their country to take to,” said Ms. Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, recently while she was in Islamabad. She made it clear that America will only standby Islamabad if it was ready to take difficult decisions.
Pakistan has to assume a new direction, anyhow. The vision of the Quaid, which he spelled during his address to the first Constituent Assembly, has to be fulfilled. He wanted the legislators to frame a constitution which shouldn’t discriminate people on the basis of their color and creed. He wanted to transform Pakistan into a modern state where religion and state should be strictly separated. He duly termed provincialism and sectarianism dangerous to the survival of the country.
Coming back to the budget, it promises nothing but security from the threat posed by the forces that have been patronized by dictators in the past. In global age, only armies can’t make a country secure and safe. Political parties have to play a crucial role in this regard, for democracy is not just a political system but a mechanism to resolve conflicts as well.
If FATA has become inaccessible for political parties, why Balochistan is on the brink? Why Karachi has been pushed to the edge? Why the poor and downtrodden are being forced to pay taxes through their noses? If defense budget can’t be slashed due to unusual circumstances, why the well offs don’t come ahead to pay their due share to national kitty? What is difficulty in doubling the tax-to-GDP ratio? How can a country attract investors amidst falling purchasing power, double-digit interest rates and growing incidents of violence?
High cost of defense has a symbolic value for the state. It simply means majority living under poverty line. It simply represents the attitude of the political elite to sustain inequalities and containing the resulting violence through equipping the security personnel with more sophisticated weapons. The tall claims aside, the fact of the matter is that handful families are in conflict with the majority and using the state to push the people to the condition of servitude.
Whatever is the case, the western borders have to be secured effectively and no-go-areas abolished. The federation, after laying off many burdens it had unnecessary assumed in the past, has to seriously think about the reorganization of the tribal regions. While military is going to play its due role, the civilian government should raise their status as provinces. It will not only put politics on the course of stability but also stop draining away the resources of the country through smuggling and narco-trade — remember it is the major source of funding for the militants operating on western borders.
For the budget to be not security specific and to spare more for education, health and environment, Pakistan really has to take difficult decisions. How long does it takes to do so, the answer has to be provided by none other, but the political parties, the real stakeholders of a country in democratic age.