Between ‘ghairat’ and strategy

Published: December 13, 2011

Pakistan's Envoys conference being chaired by FM Khar, General Khalid Shameem Wynne, Finance Minister Hafeez Sheikh seen in the picture. PHOTO: INP

An extraordinary event has taken place in Islamabad. Over two dozen Pakistani ambassadors and high commissioners, serving in the key capitals of the world, have asked the government to base its foreign policy on strategy and not on emotion. They were commenting on the post-Salala attack reactive measures against the Isaf-Nato forces in Afghanistan, while seeking to reassess Pakistan’s policy towards the US under the spur of an intense national emotion often called ‘ghairat’ by self-seeking politicians.

The envoys sought ‘to calm down the government over its knee-jerk reaction to last month’s Nato air strikes that killed two dozen troops’ and urged the government ‘to immediately reopen supply routes for Nato forces’. They asserted that policy based on emotionalism was no solution, while Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh warned that “complete disassociation with the US would be a blunder and would certainly have a negative impact on the country’s fragile economy”.

The gathering was also addressed by the ISI chief, General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, and he predictably presented Pakistan’s Afghan policy in a tactical framework: “The November 26 attacks on Pakistani checkposts reflected frustration on the part of the US over its lack of success in Afghanistan. The Americans have yet to reconcile with the ground realities of the region which are that the US would have to work with Pakistan if it wished to achieve a sustainable peace in Afghanistan”.

The Pakistan Army was never mandated to think strategically because of its weak state revisionism against a much stronger status quo India. Strategy would have involved an assessment of Pakistan as a geographic reality with a severely constrained economic base, depending on external military assistance which could only be applied in conflict through a breach of contract with the suppliers.

Today, the reality is that Pakistan remains a poor candidate for filling the Afghan vacuum after the US leaves the region. Its claim that it can influence the Afghan Taliban is spurious, which means that it has no leverage over any envisaged peace talks. It has no control over the Pakistani Taliban either. At most, Pakistan’s military can act as a spoiler with no guarantee that it will be able to secure the country against any future Afghan fallout.

Pakistan’s economic profile is precarious. There is a debt-to-GDP ratio that crossed 60 per cent in 2010; there are painful debt service obligations to its creditors; there is a large fiscal deficit and double-digit inflation resulting in a rapidly depreciating rupee, worsening a trade deficit already under pressure from high global commodity prices.

It is no use listening to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif delivering his latest non-intellectual sermon on ‘kashkol’-breaking. The energy shortage is reaching a critical stage: After Faisalabad, the industrialist heart of the country, Karachi, has declared that it can no longer continue production and meeting its international orders because of lack of electricity. The big cities are gradually succumbing to over three days of CNG stoppage, forcing investors out of billions of rupees on CNG stations and their employees to come out and destroy public property.

People are refusing to pay their electricity bills and have destroyed Wapda offices. Teachers, nurses and railway workers are on the roads and are threatening to jam the cities if they are not given salary increases commensurate with the rate of inflation. The railway workers have vowed to take over the national railway system. The broken down national airline, PIA, is waiting for a big accident to happen. The coming ‘revolution’ in Pakistan promises to be a monumental act of vandalism.

The national consensus, however, is on ghairat drummed up by a ‘guided’ media. It is unfair to the people of Pakistan and it is unfair to the democratic system we are trying to run in Pakistan. Ghairat is a military slogan raised prior to plunging into war and does not suit a civilised nation. We must base our policy on considerations of Pakistan’s economy and not on national honour because there is nothing more dishonourable than being poor.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 14th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (23)

  • Gulmeenay
    Dec 13, 2011 - 11:41PM

    Okay so I was pretty much on board till I got to the last sentence. There “is nothing more dishonourable than being poor” ???? How insensitive … It’s dishonourable of people born into abject poverty, with absolutely no opportunities that they are poor? We may all be dishonourable for perpetuating structures and mechanisms that allow people to be poor, but to say that the poor are dishonourable for being that way is just unbelievably insensitive and elitist.Recommend

  • faraz
    Dec 13, 2011 - 11:44PM

    Of course the diplomats know what it means when a country is labeled as the global hub of terrorism

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  • ayesha
    Dec 13, 2011 - 11:58PM

    Bravo for the sage advice. Now wait for the brickbats for daring to say the truth.

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  • Meekal Ahmed
    Dec 14, 2011 - 12:01AM

    This is an absoluetly first-class Editorial and I congratulate the Editor for speaking the truth with firmness and honesty.

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  • You Said It
    Dec 14, 2011 - 1:29AM

    Great editorial. But the last sentence could have used better editing to avoid confusion between people who are poor due to their circumstances v/s countries that let their people stay poor.

    We must base our policy on considerations of Pakistan’s economy and not on national honour because there is nothing more dishonourable than being poor.

    I think this could have been phrased as: We must base our policy on considerations of Pakistan’s economy because there is nothing more dishonourable than a country that lets it poor stay poor.

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Dec 14, 2011 - 2:25AM

    @faraz
    One step forward then two step back this been going on since 1947 for your pakistan…..

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  • akhtar
    Dec 14, 2011 - 2:32AM

    a country that underestimates the might of united states will only be a looser
    shebaz and nawaz will always be able to fall back on their immense wealth.the price of confrontation will be paid by the poor and not the politicians and talk show hosts

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  • Babloo
    Dec 14, 2011 - 3:11AM

    A latest study shows that people with least ‘ghairat’ , spend the most time talking about it.
    People who have ghairat, dont need to talk about it.

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  • Dec 14, 2011 - 4:18AM

    What rubbish.

    The authors argument essentially boils down to continue ‘pleasing the US’ in order to keep the ‘aid flowing’. All of the economic, development and infrastructure ills outlined by the author are accurate, and need to be resolve, but they are not going to be ‘miraculously resolved’ by ‘opening the NATO supply lines’ any more than they are going to be resolved by speeches calling for the ‘Kashkol to be broken’.

    The actions taken by Pakistan in the aftermath of the US attack on its soldiers are not responsible for the current situation that Pakistan finds itself in on the economic and energy front – these conditions have existed for a while, and have exacerbated during the last few years of PPP rule. ‘Ghairat’ has nothing to do with this, a government incapable of governing and incapable of enacting institutional and economic reforms has everything to do with it.

    The ‘liberal’ media would do all of Pakistan a huge favor by stopping this ‘flogging of a dead horse of the establishment’ and focusing on the necessary institutional and economic reforms that need to be implemented by the government.

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  • Pk_paris
    Dec 14, 2011 - 4:25AM

    Absolutely brilliant piece!!!
    Development process is AAA (3A) I.e. Aware your weakness, Accept them and Act. But we think we have no weakness & we are purest of all. All issues are because of others ABC to U & ZYZ.Recommend

  • Maryam
    Dec 14, 2011 - 4:43AM

    This is excellent write-up. Want to add just one point. The same Ghairat brigade also come to the streets whenever Govt want to impose new taxes like RGST or increase energy prices to remove the short fall in Govt budget. Instead they should come out and scream “TAX US”!!!!

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  • adnan
    Dec 14, 2011 - 11:26AM

    i salute to editor.this editorial beautifully summed up the problems of pakistan.time has come to get rid of contraversies and focus on providing education, providing gas to cook food,electricity to the nation.

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  • Hashmat Ali
    Dec 14, 2011 - 11:54AM

    “We must base our policy on considerations of Pakistan’s economy and not on national honour because there is nothing more dishonourable than being poor.”

    Totally nailed it in the end. This is the true situation of Pakistan. day by day her poverty level is increasing and we don’t take any practical step to stop it or may be the steps taken are not implemented properly.

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  • joy
    Dec 14, 2011 - 2:23PM

    hello all ET readers,
    I am an Indian and just want to share this oft repeated fact with all readers.
    Just over two decades ago, India was about to default on its debt payments an forex reserves were abysmally low. And the IMF, asked us to give Gold as collateral before it would extend any help to us.
    We had no choice then….but then 20 years down the line, IMF is selling gold to India..
    well If we could undergo an economic metamorphosis, I see no reason why Pakistan cant….
    I am no economist, but am sure there must be some in Pakistan giving sage advise..please listen to them,,,,,,because for India a stable and economically strong Pakistan is essential for peace, stability and overall development of the region….

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  • KH
    Dec 14, 2011 - 3:43PM

    Excellent editorial, but I agree that the last line could have been better phrased.

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  • Wah
    Dec 14, 2011 - 5:52PM

    ET rocks again !! Afg war should have been taken as business opportunity instead being part of it by nurturing extremism Writer is right in saying Pak must be self dependent instead be a beggar to China or USRecommend

  • Dec 14, 2011 - 7:17PM

    It is rather disappointing to see how many people actually agree with the patently flawed ‘choice/argument’ made inn this article.

    ‘Ghairat’ and ‘economic prosperity and development’ are not mutually exclusive objectives. In fact, one could argue that a government and leadership that has no ‘ghairat’ when it comes to protecting Pakistan’s interests on the international scene, will also have no ‘ghairat’ when it comes to governing Pakistan properly and enacting the necessary reforms.

    If Pakistan’s leadership is ‘bayghairat’ when it comes to ‘foreigners’, then why would the same leadership have any ‘ghairat’ when it comes to domestic issues in Pakistan?

    Our so called ‘analysts and commentators’ would do well to realize that improvements in domestic governance and domestic reforms have little to nothing to do with Pakistan’s foreign policy.

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  • Realist.
    Dec 14, 2011 - 7:51PM

    REMINDS ME OF :

    At the end of the day, who eats grass when we rise to defend our sovereignty? It’s the wretched of the earth, the poorest of the poor, who eat grass.

    http://www.thefridaytimes.com/beta2/tft/article.php?issue=20111007&page=1Recommend

  • janan
    Dec 14, 2011 - 10:14PM

    We must base our policy on considerations of Pakistan’s economy and not on national honour because there is nothing more dishonourable than being poor.
    Yeah you really nailed it. i would rather stay poor but uphold my dignity and honour rather than stay rich, dishonourable and “baighairat”. I guess it sounds familiar considering our leaders.
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  • Cautious
    Dec 15, 2011 - 12:11AM

    Nice editorial — but to be blunt your foreign policy is dictated by your military and like all military they seem to be focused on short term tactical gains rather than strategic objectives. You need to get the military out of foreign policy decisions before you can make any fundamental progress on foreign policy issues.

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  • Dr Jamil Chaudri
    Dec 15, 2011 - 12:55AM

    How connivingly written – it states the present state without attributing the blame for the present state. How connivingly written, it conjures a picture of Pakistan without Aid, as if there was no alternative to the begging bowl.
    It is the Paki Army & PPP governments that are accountable for the abysmal performance of the Railways, the Airlines, the Steel Mills, the Power blackouts, etc. And yes, BEGGING BOWL is not the only solution. God only helps those that help themselves – even God does not help those that do not believe in themselves. Recommend

  • TightChuddi
    Dec 15, 2011 - 4:22AM

    I dont find anything wrong in the last sentence, There is indeed nothing more dishounurable than veing poor. Sooner Pakistani leaders realise that the better. Having nukes does will not fill up the stomachs of millions of people who go hungry every night.

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  • Cynical
    Dec 15, 2011 - 4:34AM

    Great ED piece. This is the standard I expect from ET.

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