What Pakistan should do

Published: September 24, 2011
The writer is a director at the South Asia Free Media Association, Lahore 

The writer is a director at the South Asia Free Media Association, Lahore [email protected]

Pakistan is fast coming apart, existentially and in terms of thinking. The reason is the dwindling of factors that hold life together. The economy cannot be allowed to start growing through cheap money if law and order are not ensured. As people become unemployed through a shrinking of the economy, their inclination to vandalism and crime becomes not only possible but morally justified.

The state is sliding to a halt. It cannot run the facilities it has inherited. It cannot guarantee the survival of those in the private sector. The first and last signature of the state — security of property rights — is fading. The writ of the state is gone in a large part of its territory and going in what is left. If the rupee slides through dollarisation and there is hyper-inflation, the state may have to be labelled as a ‘failed state’.

What is to be done? So far, Pakistan is challenging the US on the basis of a thinking that weighs Pakistan heavier in the strategic scale, retired diplomats and generals saying America needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs America. Is Pakistan simply creating chaos just because America wants to create order?

The economists in Pakistan have finally disengaged themselves from the Pak Army and textbook thinking that India wants to occupy Pakistan and rule Muslims. They think that, while the world is suffering from economic crisis, two neighbours of Pakistan, China and India, are growing at high rates. They see Pakistan surviving only as a part of the South Asian economy.

This doesn’t mean that Pakistan should kowtow to India. It doesn’t mean Pakistan giving up Kashmir. It simply means Pakistan integrating with India and growing in tandem with it, taking in investment and benefiting from low wages at home, allowing India a land route to Central Asia, providing pipeline-fed gas to energy-starved western India and letting people cross the Indian border under a liberal visa regime. After that, Pak Army can turn around and take on the terrorists before they get to our nukes.

There are welcome signs of policy change in Pakistan that cannot be denied. In July 2011, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani went to Mingora, Swat, together with General Kayani and pledged that his government would seek normalisation of relations with India. Before the Mingora overture, the chief of the ISPR had already signalled in his statement that the army ‘won’t mind if Pakistan pursued cooperation and trade with India’, clearly hinting that the ‘conditionality’ of Kashmir was no longer so important.

India’s Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, not so soft-spoken in the post-Mumbai period of 2008, has now refused to bite the bait thrown by a New York Times story that the Pakistani military establishment was keeping in reserve an army of trained Kashmiri militants numbering 14,000 to be unleashed on India at a future date. His reaction was that it was ‘highly exaggerated’. There is no doubt that in saying this he was being statesman-like and ignoring some of the assessments made by RAW that are even more lurid than the one aired by New York Times.

The Mingora statement has been well-received in India. Mr Gilani had said: “Pakistan views India as the most important neighbour and desires sustained, substantive and result-oriented process of dialogue to resolve all outstanding issues, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir. We sincerely hope that the ongoing process of comprehensive engagement will be fruitful. However, India will have to play a more positive and accommodating role and respond to Pakistan’s legitimate security concerns.”

Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2011. 

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Reader Comments (46)

  • Sep 24, 2011 - 10:56PM

    Central Asia offers the opportunity for Pakistan, economically and in terms of social and geographical contiguity

    Pakistanis rejected Bharat in 1947–and continue to reject trade or any sort of integration with Bharat. Forget about it.

    Pakistan’s past is in South Asia. Pakistanis don’t want trade with a country whose per capita is lower than most African states and almost the same as that of Pakistan. Pakistan’s future is in Central Asia, the Dushamebe-4, the SCO and China. Pakistan has an FTA with China and thats where the focus is.

    Editor Rupee NewsRecommend

  • Deb
    Sep 24, 2011 - 11:29PM

    Very balanced, as always.


  • John B
    Sep 25, 2011 - 12:13AM

    Here are the facts:

    The land and rail roads are interconnected with India and from there it can reach throughout the subcontinent including Bangaldesh. -cheap transportation.

    The electric grids are easily connectable – cheap electricity import or export.

    Food habits, clothing, music, art, cultural interests, communicability between the populace, trade practices, literature and historical roots are with subcontinent – ease of exchange of commerce and ideas.

    Growing seasons, monsoon pattern, agrarian output, fruits, flora, animal species disease resistance and susceptiblity are with the subcontinent – common industrial output and market.

    300 million in PAK and 1.2 billion in India + Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and May be Mayanmar all share collectively what everyone has including poverty, prejudice, religion and ideas

    About 700 millions in India alone have surplus cash to spend -entire north American and south American market combined. $1000 trade /person/year of the PAK trade with India at the small scale business puts the money in the pocket of the PAK people directly.

    Industrial trade on cement, energy, and raw materials is unlimited as entire India is under construction for next 50 years- unlimited industrial output potential and market.

    Trade with central Asia and China is an added bonus not a substitute for trade with Indian subcontinent.

    Trade brings prosperity and peace. All agree. But PAK cannot sell what her people naturally produce to anywhere. If PAK continues to alienate the Indian subcontinent market, she does it on her own economic peril.

    PAK can choose to ignore and focus on central Asian market and China. But what portion of PAK populace produce and small scale production ie. Arts, crafts, clothing, etc., naturally appeal to the central Asian and Chinese market?

    Economic revitalization starts from the bottom of the populace.

    Alternatively, PAK can change into a sweat shop for producing the market commodity of central Asian and Chinese market, the commodity the local populace will dislike and ignore, raising the cost of local populace demand goods.

    Simple example: PAK can dump as many mangoes as possible in Indian market and all will be sold in a week. West like their apples more than the mangoes. Import all the cattle you want from india and ship it to afghanistan. Meat price will come down, local populace healthy and more money in their pocket.

    Need I say more? Something is wrong in PAK economic planning. Is it pride or prejudice?


  • No man
    Sep 25, 2011 - 12:47AM

    What is the source of NYT to get news of 14000?????


  • Vineet
    Sep 25, 2011 - 12:47AM

    @Editor Rupee News

    You are bang on target.
    Since Pakistan is ideologically against any South Asian identity and its re-branding for last 40 years (since Yahya Khan) as an integral part of middle east (ever since Bin-Qasim (P.U.B.H) discovered barbarians in Sindh) is not working out, its time for another re-branding as Central Asian Identity.
    Time for new heros from central asia in Pakistani text books. Dig deeper into Quaid-e-Azam’s speeches for how he had planned Pakistan to lead Central Asia to its glory (along with China initially but soon Pakistan will regain its rightful position as global Super Power and perhaps dictate terms to China too)

    Also FTA with China is a very very very intelligent move as now Pakistani industries will gain efficiency by competition with world renowned Chinese Export Industry (which has, by they way improved domestic industries in so many countries worldwide including despicable US of A)

    Also trade with Bharat is sure haram and should be avoided at all costs even if people have to eat grass.
    In long term insahallah these policies will make Pakistan a super power of the world or perhaps even the Universe (after all it is ‘Pak’istan)

    A humble neighbor



  • Babloo
    Sep 25, 2011 - 1:03AM

    Pakistan should declare itself a state of China. That way, all the debts will be transferred to China. Its defense expenditure will be reduced to zero as China now has to protect the new province that has joined the great people of China. Its a win-win situation .


  • Well wisher
    Sep 25, 2011 - 1:24AM

    Where the NYT got news of 14000?????????? may be propaganda news.


  • Arindom
    Sep 25, 2011 - 1:26AM

    India must not open any trade or business with Pakistan , till it closes it’s terrorist camps.


  • Amir Ali
    Sep 25, 2011 - 1:35AM

    This India-Pakistan thing should be sorted straightaway if we want Pakistan and the people to Succeed.


  • Aryabhat
    Sep 25, 2011 - 2:28AM

    Editor of Rupee News has guts to air his view on ET, while he censors every sensible comments (soo unlike ET) in his own portal! Anyone who has read his portal know what kind of garbage he promotes. His portal is anti-thesis or what ET is! In fact he derides ET and Dawn in most of his articles!

    His argument here is completely self-contradictory. If Bharat (his chosen name of India) has per capita income less then some African nations, so has Pakistan. However, countries with less per capita income do not stop trading. Rather through trading they come out of economic trap.

    He ignores the fact that India’s economy will be third biggest by purchasing power parity this year, overtaking Japan and even in USD terms it will be reach no. 8.

    Free trade with China has made Pakistan dumping ground of cheap chinese goods. By allowing transit (as suggested in this article), between Central Asia and India, Pakistan can earn revenue and improve lifestyle of people. However, that is something his close mind can not absorb.

    Thank you ET for this balanced article.


  • AnIndian
    Sep 25, 2011 - 3:34AM

    It is people with views like that of “Editor Rupee News” who have taken Pakistan to it’s Nadir. I hope people will heed to the sanity of people like Khaled Ahmed who are beacons of hope for this country which has an explosive potential to develop.

    @Khaled Ahmed ji: I really wish people like you can mobilize public support for a revamp in Pakistan’s economic structure. Without dismantling the still existing feudal system in rural Pakistan and large economic alliances with neighboring India, China and Iran; there can be no sustained fueling of growth. Regards.


  • Doctor
    Sep 25, 2011 - 4:29AM

    @ Rupee News – what utter nonsense. India’s per capita GDP is well above most African states and is above Pakistan’s. In terms of being a market, India does more trade with Central Asia than does Pakistan. It would be like Canada saying “We will trade with Greenland and Iceland because we don’t want to trade with our big neighbor, the US”.

  • Haha
    Sep 25, 2011 - 5:42AM

    Rupee news. Self delusion, what a beautiful thing. Pakistan is pretty much begging India to allow it ti be part of the economic story, and you think central Asia and china are going to come to the rescue instead?

    Ostrich’s don’t bury their head in the sand as well as you…


  • Ranjit
    Sep 25, 2011 - 6:27AM

    @Editor Rupee News:
    Very well said; Totally agree with you; Pakistan should embrace Central Asia and Middle-East and leave india/South Asia behind


  • Sep 25, 2011 - 7:01AM

    @Editor Rupee News: Do you check the ideology of every one who wants to buy “Rupee News” no you welcome every customer with open arms . You have to have the same attitude as a country sell to who everyone who will buy your products / services . Why is China doing so well they SELL to the world without any thought about religion colour or per capita income .


  • Rahul Singh
    Sep 25, 2011 - 9:44AM

    The Author is one of the most sane voices in present Pakistan.


  • shafiq chughtai
    Sep 25, 2011 - 10:22AM

    @Editor Rupee News:
    totally agree with u


  • Paras Vikmani
    Sep 25, 2011 - 10:44AM

    Sanity prevails!


  • Santosh
    Sep 25, 2011 - 10:48AM

    The state of affairs in Pakistan is so depressing that you’re clutching at straws in the wind, Mr. Ahmed. The Pakistani state is caught in a cycle where it cannot brook any policy change created from within. While there are motions to open up trade with India, the Paki security establishment’s entitlements would become unjustified if that were to truly happen – this they will never let happen. Trade will India will inch up, with Pak adding a few more items to the positive list. There will be no negative list based trade, let alone any free trade.

    The Mingora speech was just that – Kayani and Gilani blowing into the wind. Spare yourself the future disappointment, and don’t chase after it.


  • Rupee New
    Sep 25, 2011 - 10:55AM

    @ Editor Rupee News

    Pakistan’s past is lost…..futurre uncertain and present….groping in the dark yet People who forget their roots are like leaves which float in the air seeking comfor of other trees…arabs, chinese etc etc whoever will support them to forget their roots……so much so for bravado!!!!


  • P.Joe
    Sep 25, 2011 - 11:11AM

    Trade & Commerce between the two hostile countries is full of uncertainties. Trade can develop and prosper when there is no hatred and suspicion and peace prevails. On the one hand Pakistanis’ keep on harping on the settlement of the so called ‘core’ issue and create problems like 26/11 etc. and on the other blame India for all its internal problems. Unless hate India/Hindu campaign is curbed, nothing good will come out of any Trade talk or people to people contacts. When making mockery of Hindu Gods and Godesses is unobjectionable in the society, and Hindu way of life is mocked, how can you talk of Trade.To make things work for the welfare of the people at large, its Govts’/ Civil societys’ duty is to stress towards tolerence of others’ religions and way of life. Fortunately we have learnt it as the only option for peaceful prosperity despite Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, parsies and many others contributings to the welfare of the society.


  • Ram Bhagat
    Sep 25, 2011 - 11:12AM

    @Editor Rupee News, India would like nothing more than Pakistan trading with China. In 2010, China exported over 1000 major items to Pak, while importing about 50. The ratio of Pakistan’s imports-to-exports with China in value terms is 7:1. Pakistan imports manufactured and high-tech goods from China and exports raw materials and commodities. If Pak’s future is to trade only with China, then it should reconcile itself to a future as an economically and technologically backward state. In other words, no different from where it is today. Cheers to that!


  • R. Khan
    Sep 25, 2011 - 12:20PM

    Why we cannot learn from our previous blunders?


  • Feroz
    Sep 25, 2011 - 12:57PM

    @Editor Rupee News:
    All the Central Asian states though having Muslim population are secular and the last thing the despots ruling those states will embrace is Islamic Militancy. Till the Jihadi ideology is dropped Pakistan will not be able to integrate into and contribute to any Group or Forum. Russia does not share this ideology neither does China or India. Chinese are smarter businessmen than Indians. With over a $ 50 Billion trade and economic relations between the two Asian giants growing fast and strong sooner or later the Gordian knot tying it to a dysfunctional Pakistan will be cut. The only ideology driven state that has survived is Saudi Arabia, in spite of ideology because it is floating on Oil.


  • Chacha
    Sep 25, 2011 - 2:51PM

    Pakistan needs India more than India needs Pakistan. Yet Pakistan has nothing to offer other than avoiding not putting a bullet through its own head


  • Bipul Rajput
    Sep 25, 2011 - 2:55PM

    @Editor Rupee News:

    I am a fascist, right wing Hindu, but I completely agree with your views. Pakistanis must be re-educated with regards to their Central Asian connections, origins, genetics, etc. Nothing will please us more than not having to deal with Pakistan. Please build a impregnable Berlin wall between India and Pakistan.


  • Bipul Rajput
    Sep 25, 2011 - 3:00PM

    @Editor Rupee News:

    Pakistanis rejected Bharat in 1947 …..

    We Indians are eternally grateful to M.A.Jinnah for creating Pakistan.


  • RH
    Sep 25, 2011 - 3:06PM

    @Editor Rupee News: what nonsense!


  • Chimera
    Sep 25, 2011 - 3:51PM

    India now is the fourth largest economy in the world and is about to pass Japan for the number three spot by the end of 2011. Pakistan’s economy, propped up by US largesse and remittance from overseas Pakistanis, is a distant 47th.

    You want to align yourself with Central Asia? Go ahead and be left behind in India’s wake.


  • P N Eswaran
    Sep 25, 2011 - 4:29PM

    @Amir Ali:
    Your aspirations are justified. Can a country with 95% burn injuries recover with small doses of analgesic?


  • ashok sai
    Sep 25, 2011 - 4:43PM

    @Editor Rupee News:

    I think you don’t know that trade is two way route, as you mentioned all those in Central Asia may be willing to sell you cheap goods and use you as a dump yard but never ever will invest or buy anything significant to improve Pakistan’s economy.
    India has grown,growing and will grow without trade from Pakistan. So, you try for your options other than India, all the very best for your efforts.

    P.S. If your hate for India is that much, why don’t you ask your fellow country men who were hiding under the label of an Indian in western countries to refrain from doing so ?


  • BruteForce
    Sep 25, 2011 - 4:48PM

    I highly doubt if the Army is willing to let Kashmir not be a core issue. What will be its relevance post-2014, then?

    Maybe for now its occupied with some other stuff but its obsession with Kashmir hasn’t decreased. Recommend

  • P N Eswaran
    Sep 25, 2011 - 4:58PM

    What Pakistan should do? is similar to what should the stable owner do after the horses have bolted?. The author, who is otherwise a writer of high intellectual capacity, has dealt with the subject very casually. This article drawing strength from quoting of Chidambram has injured it’s credibility. Chidambram is considered neither clean nor competent by Indians. Mr. Ahmed takes him seriously to strengthen his argument.

    Pakistan has ‘to do much’ before it can engage with the growth engines in South Asia and China. And it to do much more to win India’s confidence and goodwill.

    ‘What Pakistan Must Do?’ is to first realize that it is not in a position to choose or lay condition on India including the non-issue of Kashmir.


  • The Scholar
    Sep 25, 2011 - 7:17PM

    Pitty on Indian mind set, how much they biased are, their mentality has been exposed in their views.Still they are living in fool’s paradise.
    Hindustanio——Pakistan is a reality—–it will be existing —–you should keep order your house, means India.


  • harkol
    Sep 25, 2011 - 7:29PM


    Pakistan will trade with Central Asia and China??

    Check the trend of world trade over 2000 years. Except for past 200 years, India (as it stands today) has been the largest economy of the world for 1,700 years, even bigger than China (as it stands today). – http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/GDP-History.gif

    India and China have lived with each other peacefully for over thousands of years, except for a small blip in 1960s. They are on their way to reclaiming their share of world Productive capacity.

    Pakistan can choose to be Part of this renaissance or choose to continue its ruinous enmity of India, that’ll only spoil its chances of even being a cohesive nation.


  • observer
    Sep 25, 2011 - 7:29PM

    @Editor Rupee News

    Central Asia offers the opportunity for Pakistan, economically and in terms of social and geographical contiguity

    A. Central Asia is rich in energy resources. Developing these resources will require billions of dollars. Pakistan of course is swimming in a sea of spare cash.

    B. For surface transport railway integration will be needed. Looking at the glorious Pakistan railways we know that the Central Asian states will give their right arm to get such technology from Pakistan.

    C. And Bin Qasim of Course was from Kazakistan.


  • raj
    Sep 25, 2011 - 7:32PM


    Now I understand where you stand in the Pakistan society. Your comments have no takers.
    Your views have no vlaue


  • Babloo
    Sep 25, 2011 - 8:28PM

    The game is over for Pakistan. The point is , when all this ends, what will be left ? Any ideas ?


  • omg!
    Sep 25, 2011 - 9:01PM

    Its just a big joke lame that people use that pakistan is not progressing bcz we hate india. Look at israel that hav 15 neighbors which do not even accept it. pakistan and india since musharraf are sending artists here and there n every thing was going smooth, just one mumbai attack and india disconnect every connection wid pakistan, and now chadam baram thinks mumbai attack should not be blamed on pak. india and pak can never be friends, accept this stupid reality and do progress without making it an “excuse”.. the whole world hates you just because you are not hard working, and not bcz you are terrorist. terrorism came from illiteracy nd corruption. try to solve your problems at your own.. india india india.. cmon, get a life paki’s.. accept it that its not india, its you who made pakistan a failed state


  • Concerned Citizen
    Sep 25, 2011 - 10:05PM

    India is a bigger economic power than Pakistan. I don’t think anyone debates that. Pakistan has serous internal security issues.. Again, that is a no brainer

    But Is India better off per person per capita ? ..
    1. As a Pakistani, I really don’t care if Indians do better or worse. I am more interested in what we as a country can achieve. And I see some progress here.
    2. Abject poverty, that you see in terms of people sleeping on streets, farm suicides and starvation, is almost unheard of in Pakistan, yet a common feature in India. So for a layman, we seem to be doing better at this point in time.

    I only write this as Indian commentators seem to have a condescending point of view. As some who has seen both countries, I suggest you put your effort in eradicating abject poverty in your country and less on tweeting/commenting on Paki forums. We will take care of our own problems…eventually…


  • Rajkumar
    Sep 25, 2011 - 11:07PM

    You think china likes u so much and will accept all your debts? China knows just by issuing few statements u will be at their feat and it can accoumplish everything and can secure its pipelines and trade network.
    What china with you is doing is Pure business .. FTA with china means china will export everything into pak. What u have to export? terrorism?
    Wake up..
    There is a saying for every country there is a millitary, but for pakistan, millitary has a country.


  • Hasan
    Sep 26, 2011 - 12:28PM

    And why would China want Pakistan as a state? I’ve lived in China and they too don’t like us!


  • sk
    Sep 26, 2011 - 3:40PM

    lets get our facts sorted first to the indians who are on this site
    first when pakistan was formed it started with a zero base – all industries and beurocracy was in india
    pakistans per capita income has always been greater than indias for many decades – yes now pakistan is struggling but thats mostly due to the endemic religous lunacy and greed of the few at the top and ofcourse getting into bed with the yanks
    its true that pakistan is in a mess – it needs leaders to give it the foundations it once had during its birth to the 70’s – however it still manages with all its problems (mostly self inflicted) to get to being 47th economy in the world from zero
    what it requires and which each subsequent govt or military rulers have managed to avoid is education education education – this is self inflicted – you can argue due to its rivalry and threats eminating from india – which is also true – but no economy can progress without an educated populace – taiwan in the early 50;’s had the same per capita as pakistan – no comparison now – its a cultural thing too – in pakistan religion is all evading – in islam education is a first must then earning a living/business/homes must be built –

    so that is the problem with pakistan – we need people like edhi who want not for themselves but for others irrespective of their religion, age, sex, or anything else – he is happy to help anyone in need in the manner that islam has always beenRecommend

  • Chacha
    Sep 26, 2011 - 7:29PM

    it is quite amazing but upto 3 years ago the biggest accusation against India was that they have not reconciled themselves to the creation of Pakistan.

    Now it is the reverse – Indian’s thank Providence (and Jinnah !) for the the creation of Pakistan which absorbed all the entropy of the region and became a de-facto buffer state between India and the hordes of medevialists. A number of comments to this column also demonstrate this view.

    The only fear of India is that this entropy would consume Pakistan, however here the Pakistanis continue to reassure India that it is not a failed state and would survive any real or percieved existential crisis.

    India has a vested interest in Pakistan pulling itself together – apart from the buffer state issue, any faluire of the Pakistani state would be viewed as the faluire of the liberal view to co-exist with popular islam (as opposed to real islam – whatever that may mean) and would truly trigger a nonsensical clash of civilizZations in which everbody loses


  • vickram
    Sep 26, 2011 - 9:55PM


    Millions of Indians are happy not only that partition had happened, they are also happy that they have had a narrow escape. Every day we count our blessing !!!

    Now, the biggest worry for Indians these days is the impending balkanization of Pakistan state. What will happen if the country implodes?
    It’s just a matter of time before US imposes sanctions on Pakistan and reduces Pak to a Somalia type of country. When it happens, will there be millions of refugees at the Wagah border? Our Congress leaders have a soft corner for Muslims. So, will our Government allow the refugees from Pak to enter India? Does the GOI has the guts to refuse the admission of muslim refugees from Pakistan, especially when it becomes a humanitarian crisis?Recommend

  • ks
    Sep 27, 2011 - 8:04PM

    we cannot progress without india..


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