Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory — A Father Prayer by General Douglas MacArthur (May 1952)
It is confession time and the state needs to come clean. Our politicians, intelligentsia and opinion-makers will have to be honest for a change. The fact is that the Pakistani state is in really bad shape and only honesty can save us now.
If truth be told, the squandering and the inefficient use of the state’s productive economic resources during the 10-year-long war on terror has made us a state whose future is as hazy as the interpretation of its history. Leakages have been immense and no attention has been paid to the wealth creation or actual capacity-building for such a venture. Financially, we are sinking below the rock bottom, if such a thing is even possible.
Since our ghairat goes somewhere to sleep when it comes to the responsibilities of a citizen to pay taxes, the Pakistani state remains what Nora Hamilton once called a “rentier state”. And as we are gifted with a finance minister who cannot take a stand on simply anything, our economic outlook is not going to change in the short term. Of course, remittances still keep coming in but compared with the achievements of other countries of the region they are not enough to substantially bolster the elements of state power. Moreover, inefficiency breeds corruption and unfortunately the very word has been haunting us for the last four years.
Thanks to the inefficient use of available resources, a certain lack of imagination on the part of our decision-making generals of the recent past and ultimately the debate over the defence budget, our war-making machinery is rapidly falling into disrepair. Add to it, the tragic cost of fighting two simultaneous insurgencies in more than half of the country’s land mass and you can foresee an unmitigated disaster brewing. If, during General Musharraf’s era we had paid attention to procuring counter-insurgency equipment like SWAT gear and night vision rather than staying obsessed with the F-16s and the P3C Orions, we would have been better placed to flush out the miscreants. But we are not.
Meanwhile, internally, we have lost cohesion and forgotten about the effective use of diplomacy. Within only a decade, we have managed to radicalise the people of Balochistan, lost control in the tribal areas and left the people of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa weak-kneed before the militants. Someone needs to answer for such a quick erosion of the state’s writ. What bigger joke could we have about it than the constant presence of Osama bin Laden on our soil?
And the ill-timed debate over the government’s legitimacy is hurting not only the state but the ruling party as well. It is a shame that the party that once won us back our 90,000 prisoners of war at Simla is now squabbling over political spoils and electoral prospects. Don’t get me wrong. I am all for democracy, but at this stage we cannot afford this crisis of legitimacy. And those who have created this crisis in their single-minded pursuit of the ruling party will also never be forgiven by history.
In short, my dear sirs, things are so bad right now that we need to come out of our stupor right now. It is true that the US can be blamed for our sufferings but time for apportioning blame will come much later. Right now, the policy confusion and all pervasive cluelessness is hurting us beyond anything. Pakistan will have to tell its people why it is important to restore the Nato supply routes and then do it immediately. We cannot afford to be isolated any further.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2012.
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