From the outside, Pakistan appears to be a crisis-ridden country. From inside, it’s a nation hostage to the bigotry of a few thousand civilian and military elite. Externally, this elite projects the country to be the victim of a war that it says others imposed on it. It uses this ruse to keep begging for handouts in crunch times. Internally, ironically though, this ruling elite refuses to reform itself; the princely style of governance is one indicator and the arbitrary abuse of powers is another.
On the one hand, the rulers claim, the recent round of the strategic dialogue with the US was a major achievement and on the other, the security apparatus believes that America is out to disintegrate Pakistan.
At one level, the ruling elite pretends to be self-respecting and unflinching on Pakistan’s national interests, but at another, they sit meekly while the US president announces two billion dollars of additional military aid and the US and the Indian media hypes up this meager and still uncertain 400 million dollars per year as “a US reward for a double-gaming Pakistan.”
In essence, Pakistan is currently buckling under the insensitivity and insanity of a military and civilian ruling elite that suffers from megalomania, bigotry, lacks clear vision, refuses to read the clear writing on the wall and has a continued ambivalence about the national security paradigm. And thus, both the military and civilians revere groups that qualify as Pakistani al Qaeda auxiliaries.
Since the early 1990s, Pakistan’s skewed national security paradigm stunted economic growth. Pakistan’s elite seemed more interested in promoting, protecting and exporting jihad, rather than cutting this industry down. Geostrategic location was the mantra used to justify all adventures. But, circumstances suggest, the costs of this location outweigh the benefits. The country is reeling under distortions that sprang directly from the expedience of the “cold war”; military dictatorships and a rent-seeking selfish ruling elite.
While others may now be more sympathetic to our security concerns, this is no guarantee for survival. That is why one would hope that the military complex indulges in deep introspection to weigh the costs and benefits of policies it has pursued for long.
We need a clear rejection of, and opposition to, all sorts of private militias. The state must declare divorce on these groups. Pakistan will keep going down if its elite remain in a state of denial and refuse to reform. This attitude has not only bled this country but also blotted its image beyond repair.
Economically, Pakistan is no match to India. Politically, the world wants to engage with it for all the wrong reasons. So what Pakistan needs is a drastic review of how it looks at various issues. This would probably make it focus more on the economy than its geostrategic location. Exploitation can be good as a short-term tactic but never entails enduring strategic benefits.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 6th, 2010.