Existential challenges for Pakistan

21st constitutional amendment is just the beginning of the challenges ahead for Pakistan's existential sustainability

Firdous Ashiq Awan January 13, 2015
The writer is founding-chair of the Pakistan Development Forum and formerly held four federal ministries

The unanimous passing of the 21st Amendment by both chambers of the Parliament in Islamabad redefined many guises of the grotesque curse of ‘terrorism’ in Pakistan, and how and why that multi-faceted anaconda is to be decisively dealt with. At the same time, the amendment has empowered the Pakistan Army to effectively address the issue by expanding the role of the military. It is a legislative attempt whose success is yet to come through implementation and desired results through regular backup support by the people of Pakistan.

The constitutional amendment is just the beginning of the serious challenges ahead for Pakistan's existential sustainability.

The main frontal ordeal is the simultaneous repairing: (a) of what decades of organised terrorism has done to the collective institutional fibre of Pakistan; (b) building the nation through lessons learnt, as a globally accepted economic power; (c) offering vital challenge to the layered veneer of violence hidden within the socio-religious denominations of society; and (d) resolving it through a method of harmonised transitional network of national and international institutions. While the institution of the Armed Forces in Pakistan has accepted the challenge and the responsibility; the genuine civil society elements, compatible to work seamlessly with the international community, are best advised to reactivate themselves and to help the state of Pakistan.

The institutional hate and anger at the top against the army, selectively demonstrated from time to time in the past, must end now for practical reasons and shall not remain limited to the unanimous legislation alone. It is the central question of the depth, truth and reality of civil-military relations in Pakistan after the amendment. The only fact at this time that will play a prime role for the desired results to rebuild Pakistan as a sustainable democracy.

People's representation as a democracy through civil institutions and ensuring Pakistan's national security interests through military institutions must walk side-by-side. There is no adventurous jumping required to fix complexities peculiar to the nuclear-armed Pakistan. The country is braving historically unrecorded tests to its integrity from within. History has seen civil wars and freedom movements with limited agendas but not what Pakistan has been enduring in the form of terrorism today.

The economic challenge: this is the new drastically changing world of the 21st century that we live in. Right now we are into 15th year of the 21st century: in which crude oil is no more the only national or regional source of power. Conventional warfare has almost become redundant by itself as a technological backup. While Pakistan, during the past 14 years of the 21st century, has moved 30 years in reverse — double the backward speed per year — back into the 20th century during this time.

Unhelpful, within this context, are the interlocked conventional power circles within Pakistan — particularly the ‘rural and urban lords’ since independence, need soft — ground-breaking — approach. Fast-track and inbuilt self-corrective measures are required not only for their own political and social effectiveness but for the health and endurance of the state of Pakistan. The country's national security as a survival tool and its institutions as implementers have now been re-defined as a consequence of the constitutional amendment in question. Rather than just becoming a seasonal arena for the winning and losing of elections, the streets of Pakistan must offer more for the stability of the state of Pakistan to perpetuate real democracy from the grass roots to the parliamentary level.

The earlier restrictive logic that was set by the game players in Pakistan, in time before this, must calculatedly haste to adopt nonconformist agenda against all previously usual policy and implementation paradigms that created the dragon of terrorism in Pakistan. The ground underneath the conventional — now failed — stratum has already moved: in fact, it started moving 20 years ago.

The widening of fissures, of regional and global change, gained momentum so huge that nations of China, India, Afghanistan, Turkey and the Middle East region including Iran adapted to the call of the time to preserve their own states and their own national security interests.

For Pakistan, the ground shift is colossal. With all its indicators, the volume of the ground shift beneath due to fault-lines created by the organised culture of terrorism is not helpful to the existential requirements of Pakistan. The call of time of strengthening Pakistan's national security must be well managed in time. The power parameters have been refined in the key global capitals of Washington D C, Beijing, the European Union and the Middle East. Pakistan should not burn itself with the discarded burden of those regionally closer or distant ‘unfriendly-friends’ who put the emotional and theoretical junk of failures on Pakistan's tiny shoulders in the first place. Currently, either those so-called friends have lost that ability to stand by Pakistan or they are under rapid adjustments of their own to suite their own national security interests — county by country and region by region. Pakistan must not stand alone to sustain extra weight that has no remaining counter balance.

The regional and global politics of oil and "single party rule" — to effectively govern — through elected or not elected means has almost ebbed. The new trajectory must be managed effectively by means of the freshly realist-idealist combined order of policy and implementation in Pakistan. This global and regional mass-shift is unstoppable given its timings, volume and speed. Any attempt, otherwise, in Pakistan can only serve personal and limited interest of the previously stay-at-home institutional and individual egos. The past might have offered a ‘most plausible option’ for Pakistan at given time in the past — as what threats were met to the health of the state of Pakistan.

That same engine and its devices in the past were once the powerful shared asset of the key institutions in Pakistan and in the United States to fight the brand of communism of the now defunct Soviet Union. The same machine was used by the United States to marginalise the regional influence of the then India as an unofficial satellite of the former Soviet Union.  Part of the leadership courses in the prime Universities in Pakistan may still be retaining the outdated theorem that was based on imprecise long-term national security logic.

The sum of that past's ill-calculated and limited arrangements between the two allies — though not directly linked — recently landed the state and the nation of Pakistan into a position of an unprecedented utter shock of global proportions. The mutual trust-mistrust between the United States and Pakistan since 9/11 and the disadvantageous designs of bilateral relations since 1979 had gradually morphed into a destructive enterprise, turning itself into a lethal liability for the state of Pakistan. The state of Pakistan now stands affirmed and has chosen for real options for maintaining its strength and endurance, for its people.

The preplanned point blank killings of children, who were surrounded by books of art and science and with their thoughts of a bright future, in a school in Peshawar, has finally turned the "understanding" in Pakistan to a fresher practical level. But this understanding needs the restructuring of institutional approaches, and the retirement redundant theories, particularly after the new constitutional amendment.

Now almost 30 years later, at a critical juncture for Pakistan: representing the United States for another time, the present time: John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, has visited Pakistan in connection with the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue. This event continues to be a matter of routine without any exclusivity for Pakistan in the region. A similar dialogue is in place for US-India affairs. However, this particular session of the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue in Islamabad is of an utmost value for both sides to carve out their future relationship on a deeper, broader and healthier basis.

Therefore, the political leaderships and the military commands on both sides are expected not to forget the regional and global ground shift in the commonalities of mutual national security interests of both the US and Pakistan. It is particularly needed for the economic development, consolidation of democracy and social welfare of the people of Pakistan, and for the better understanding with the people of the United States of America

The Pakistan Development Forum (PDF) is designed to help improve Civil-Military relations and focus on the changed ground realities for the economic boost and for more job opportunities for the youth, women and the jobless. The objectives are most likely to be achieved through mobilising overseas investments, trade, and for making education, health and food availability to the masses with a better model of unified governance to strengthen Pakistan. PDF is a non-profit organisation.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th,  2015.

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Issa Khan | 6 years ago | Reply

Wow.if this is a genuine one then incredibile piece of writing.

Jor El | 6 years ago | Reply

@TightPatloon: "I did nothing that she would have such a calibre after hearing her speak in chaste Punjabi on a TV programming" Y the assumption that a person speaking thhet punjabi can't write in gud english ???

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