Misdiagnosis as cure

Published: March 17, 2012
The writer is Director South Asian Media School, Lahore 

The writer is Director South Asian Media School, Lahore [email protected]

News from Pakistan remains negative. Anything related to the national economy reads like calamity. People agree that this is the toughest period in its history. Anywhere else in the world, the economy would be priority number one, but not in Pakistan. Alas, all the demands of the economy are pragmatic and non-ideological, requiring flexibility of conduct instead of toughness. But Pakistan will not behave like Thailand.

Describing Pakistan’s internal scene is like an exercise in cultivating despair. Is spreading despair the right thing to do? Normally no, but a dose of realism is probably necessary to ignite awareness and remould state behaviour. Calamity should concentrate the mind and recommend pragmatism mixed liberally with flexibility. Since inside Pakistan most remedies have receded from national grasp, suppleness in foreign policy is possible and should be adopted. That’s what Sri Lanka did while facing terrorism and is now growing at a nice clip.

On the contrary, we are getting tough in foreign policy. Our honour dictates challenge rather than pliancy. We should have celebrated the death of Osama bin Laden and thanked the US for killing him, but we got offended instead. We should have taken the ‘memo case’ as an effort on the part of an elected government to throw off the yoke of military dominance; instead, we brought a case of treason against it. Treason in Pakistan is treason against the army. The army is equated with the state.

We should have done the above on the basis of the political consensus reflected in the thinking of the PML-N and the PPP about the misfortunes of a national security state. Instead, the politicians decided to destroy the consensus. Now anger is policy. And anger is outwardly directed, in a kind of externalisation of internal malaise. The al Qaeda and Taliban dominate our ungoverned spaces as well as the governed ones. Worse, they govern our minds. Their strength is in the penetration of their ideology of terror into our military institutions.

The common man must live. We know from history that persuasion and terror are equally balanced as moulders of the mind — with terror weighing a little heavier. When we handed over Swat to the Taliban, we actually showcased the persuasive power of terror. It is not right to say that the Swat template is wrong simply because the army has driven Mullah Fazlullah out. This ‘victory’ has not proved that al Qaeda and Taliban can never take over in Pakistan. On the road that goes from Peshawar to Kohat and then onward to Hangu and Kurram, the takeover is visible in a kind of diarchy with terrorists calling the shots.

Niccolo Machiavelli used the term ‘unarmed prophet’ for Girolamo Savonarola in Renaissance Florence and recommended that for success, the raging anti-fahashi Dominican priest should have armed himself. Savonarola was cut to pieces in the city centre. Isaac Deutscher wrote his famous book The Prophet Armed: Trotsky, 1879-1921 (1954), borrowing Machiavelli’s term. Today, Hafiz Saeed leads the 40-party Defence of Pakistan Council — many banned and semi-banned — and he is the ‘prophet armed’ guaranteed to win in tandem with al Qaeda. Machiavelli would nod vigorously at what is going on.

The al Qaeda did not lose in Swat. If it hadn’t been for the drones, the al Qaeda could have made bigger inroads into the army. By being anti-US — which means internationally isolated — we are making its job easier. You want to win the next election? Push two buttons: anti-US and pro-Taliban. After that, you should know who will really win.

If you want cure, first you must diagnose. But adopting misdiagnosis as a policy will ensure defeat by terrorism.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 18th, 2012.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (15)

  • indian
    Mar 17, 2012 - 10:15PM

    You want to win the next election? Push two buttons: anti-US and pro-Taliban.

    also third one- pro-army.


  • Falcon
    Mar 17, 2012 - 10:42PM

    Agree with the breadth but not the depth of your thesis. If the objective of delivering bad news on daily basis is self-introspection, then what follows should be a thorough and objective analysis of the causes. However, I see this humbling exercise lacking in elitist circles. Questions we should be asking is why the people still trust military more than the politicians? Why radicalization is growing in the country? Why people have grown against US in just few decades? Why people have not stood up to militants? Why do we lack energy, gas, water, and food? How much have all of us contributed to this mess? And answers to these can be found by spending more time under the lamplight learning about our nation and ourselves than talking about the same reductionist themes over and over in drawing rooms.


  • s shah
    Mar 17, 2012 - 11:17PM

    @khaled ahmed: excellent as usual. @falcon: take a look at the military budget and its stranglehold on foreign policy and politicians, for the answer to your questions.


  • kaalchakra
    Mar 18, 2012 - 1:33AM

    Khaled Ahmad Sahib

    Pakistan is not in as bad a place as you portray. You have the surge of new liberals who are going to put Pakistan on the right path soon. Fiction writers are producing history different from the fiction earlier Pakistani historians wrote. That is progress. Liberals are busy promoting open dialog through illiterate censorship. That is progress. From being the proud castle of Islam, Pakistan will be turned into the castle of secularism by making heroes of religious fundamentalists. That is, clearly, progress.

    Your generation may have tried, but the new generation will surely achieve.


  • Babloo
    Mar 18, 2012 - 1:46AM

    The first step to fix the problems facing Pakistan is to restrict the army/ISI to the same role that they are restricted in rest of the civilized world – that is only relate to defense of the borders.
    Once the army/ISI stop doing politics ( euphemism for supporting and financing militant religious parties like LeT, Difa-E-pakistan, missing journalists, dumped bodies ) , the role of the extreme right will diminish in Pakistan and the civilian parties will be able to formulate saner and more rational policies.
    None of that will happen as long as army/isi act as a super-power inside Pakistan.


  • Saima
    Mar 18, 2012 - 2:26AM

    could not get what author portrays….


  • Mar 18, 2012 - 3:19AM

    Trying a misdiagnosis to get a cure is our passion and our rulers have mastered this Art. Starting from Pakistan railways, PIA, WAPDA, Pakistan Steel are good examples of this phenomenon. The same process is being followed in politics. A society where intellectuals, academicians, historians command little respect as compared to pseudo intellectuals, historians etc is doomed to failure. Outcome of this process is that the disease is taken as a cure.Recommend

  • MarkH
    Mar 18, 2012 - 5:34AM

    The most tragic thing about every comment of yours I see is that I know it’s not satire or trolling. The most oblivious always act confident. The informed may also act confident but the difference is the informed are well aware of just how oblivious the oblivious person is and the oblivious person just sits there repeating the same thing, thinking he’s gaining ground when he’s losing it from constant reminders of how oblivious he is. Guess which one you are. Though there really is no need for you to do so. The response is obvious. Another universal trait of the oblivious is their predictability.


  • Feroz
    Mar 18, 2012 - 9:45AM

    When the diet of hate starts very early in life the health of a nation and its people will definitely suffer. Sadly Pakistan does not have a Gandhi or Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan to extricate it from the Political and Religious quicksand it is stuck in. Citizens have been lied to so brazenly – by their family, by their Government, by the Mullah’s and by their Military that TRUTH looks like fiction and FICTION is mistaken for Truth.
    I was surprised by the poll conducted of educated readers by ET on the missing persons case – that over 66% believe that RAW/Mossad have made citizens disappear. When the mind is made incapable of thinking, reasoning or Logic we need not wonder as to what lies ahead for the people and country. Emotions are dead and people can do nothing but feel sad.


  • yousaf
    Mar 18, 2012 - 6:19PM

    @author:– Very well said about Pak economic mindset in the first para “national economy reads like calamity”.The sad aspect of the whole situation is that we have “UPS’ for cricket and “IPS” for industry.Whither Pak economy,the bread earner for 180 million? btw.UPS is (un-interrupted POWER supply) and IPS is (intermittent POWER supply) with prolonged and abrupt shut-downs,


  • Babloo
    Mar 18, 2012 - 6:22PM

    If the role of army/ISI is limited to only security from external forces, then Pakistan can become like India. Now that may not be good enough and far from perfect but it would be a big improvement over the state you have now.
    However, thats easy said than done as the army/ISI is the richest organization in pakistan and carries the gun.


  • Mar 18, 2012 - 7:12PM

    @Falcon: Answers of all your questions is one and the same provided you want to see and accept it. Think hard and you will know yourself. It is written all over the wall. Look a little harder you will know sir.


  • kaalchakra
    Mar 18, 2012 - 7:18PM


    What’s satire to you is nothing but the truth to others. Everything here is predictable, including your objections. You do your thing, let others do theirs


  • kaalchakra
    Mar 18, 2012 - 7:39PM


    It’s not for outsiders to say that there is anything WRONG with Pakistan, which needs to be fixed. That’s for Pakistanis to decide.

    The better question is: how do we explain objective conditions in Pakistan?

    A wildly popular theory assigns all political causation to Pakistani ‘army/ISI. Other one-group theories assign prime responsibility to other favorite groups – the feudals, the bureaucrats, the mullahs, India for not handing over Kashmir to Pakistan, USA for exploiting Pakistan, UN for not implementing parts of its resolutions that were in favor of Pakistan, and so on. More extreme versions take the heroic way out – Bhutto did it, or Zia did it, and so on.

    A far less popular argument is that ultimately every nation makes or unmakes itself. Groups and leaders are a part of the nation, and exercise limited influence, for limited periods of time.


  • elementary
    Mar 18, 2012 - 9:20PM

    Forgive me if I sound foolish, but I did not get what this article said. what is the misdiagnosis and how is it being portrayed as cure,and what is the solution?, again.


More in Opinion