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Old Tuesday, August 08, 2017
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Post Articles by Sir Mudassir Saeed

In our foreign affairs, as in our domestic life, truth hurts

Though most of the people won’t have come across a chance to see a chameleon, they would, surely, have some idea of it. It’s a great species in that it upskills humans to make them learn some basic instincts of survival. According to biologists, the key behind chameleon’s survival rests in its amazing ability to fade into background and disappear. To motivational speakers, it has always been common to talk of chameleonic visual wonder so as to familiarize their audiences how simple it is to outwit their opponents: just fade into the background and disappear. The strategy suits to some firms or companies at some point of their growth as it’s not just about survivability but also about adaptability, contingent upon the surrounding realities.

Needless to say, the purpose of the analogy is not to assert that countries, too, adopt this discourse, simply because they are the chief actors of the international system and more importantly, connected to states’ primacy in the system, it isn’t in their interest to fade away when the immediate paradigms require them to be proactive. That being the case, stating in a straightforward manner, it is catastrophic for countries to even think of it, especially in the postwar period.

But it’s the international system; full of absurdities and anomalies and wherein shocks are always in store. Though it may seem strange, it is not hard to find the kind of examples in the history of foreign affairs.

In the scenario that emerged after 1979 Iranian revolution, Iran nearly faded itself when it massively transformed its political system, started to antagonize its neighbours by promoting and sponsoring its religious ideology and taking hostage the US diplomats and citizens. The radical changes brought about in the country’s policies drive intra-regional cooperation to a bare minimum, as was apparent from the Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD) which was dissolved in 1979, and also the havoc played with the Iranian economy. The point is, with each passing day, Iran became less important and relevant in the international affairs.

For a considerable time, the Arab coalition that fought 1973 War against Israel also suffered from this degeneracy after their lopsided rout in the war. The Arab nations have been telling their people of their formidable strength and inability of Israel to defend itself by its own strength. The strategic folly of not taking the overall factors seriously and luring the people into a war they couldn’t win led the Arab nations into an abysmal scenario, from which, claim many scholars, the Arab world has still not been able to recover. The Soviet Union, which boasted world’s largest standing military and second largest army by the 1990, also faded and disappeared from the world’s horizon by disintegrating into many republics. The USSR ventured relentlessly to maintain its superpower status in the world, but its deteriorating conditions at home and worsening economy failed to support its military and economic endeavours.

When countries increasingly fail to fulfil the needs of their peoples, and institute a system that works only for the benefit of the few, no matter whatever attempt a country makes to establish a sense of stability and legitimacy, it is always fake and temporary. Tunisia, a country with comparatively better defined cultural identities and a sense of continuity than its regional counterparts, crumbled under the storms of discontent; the deteriorating socioeconomic conditions instigated brutal armed opposition in Algeria which virtually stumbled to the brink of collapse; and in Venezuela, once Latin America’s richest country, the ongoing violence has plunged the country into Hobbesian state: life has become ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’ for its citizens.

Nothing of the kind threatens Pakistan, yet it is undeniable that a large chunk of the country’s population today faces a level of economic and social insecurity that their predecessors did not experience. The government is making tall claims of reforming and reinvigorating the economy. As some positive signs indicate, the economy of Pakistan has, no doubt, gradually grown to be stable and is heading to a fairly positive direction; however, there comes the scourge of rising income and wealth inequalities. As indicated by a UNDP report (Development Advocate Pakistan: Volume 3, Issue 2) ‘the problem of 22 families controlling 66pc of Pakistan’s industrial assets, as identified by Dr Mahbubul Haq in 1968, remains relevant today due to rising inequality in the country where the richest 20pc consume seven times more than the poorest 20pc.’ “Persistent inequality hampers economic growth,” warns the report, “impedes poverty reduction, fuels crime, squanders talent and human potential, and stifles social mobility. An unequal society is not only unfair, it is less prosperous and stable.”

Not just economic, but political institution too are benefitting the few and burdening the many. Parliament has become a club of the rich as the cost of contesting an election has become so high that it systematically excludes the poor. Having no say in the political decision-making, the average citizen in the country is increasingly being marginalized. They are becoming hapless victims of an economic and political system which is rigged against them and over which they have little influence.

It is one thing to make tall claims in air-conditioned rooms and conference halls, but dealing with the real people is quite another. One report says that half the country’s children are deprived of basic education, and a third of the population have no access to primary medical facility. According to a recent estimate by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), nearly 37.5 million people in Pakistan are not receiving proper nourishment. In simple terms, it means that there are millions of children who bodily and mentally will never develop fully because they were malnourished as infants.

Especially in the contemporary world when multilateralism and globalization are the main themes and when the international system is heavily impressed by political volatility and fluidity, the writing on the wall is scrupulously unreserved that every country has to make the best of whatever it can count in its possession. However, one doesn’t need to be an expert to infer from above statistics that somewhere within the polemics of politicians and the pointless plans of policymakers there is something inherently rotten in the country and that the value of life of an average citizen has lost.

A country’s role in foreign affairs is primarily the function of its strength and capabilities. Without national well-being and defined national policies, no country can play an active role in the region and beyond.

Though Pakistan stands in a highly strategic geographical position astride on the greatest arteries of world trade, yet it commands only a marginal respect from its partners in terms of its bilateral and multilateral relations. Pakistan is an important part of China’s OBOR initiative since an exclusive corridor, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, passes through it. However, corresponding to the country’s profiles maintained by Hong Kong Trade Development Council, Pakistan will not even be among the top 5 largest trading countries among the BRI members. There has also been much hullabaloo over Pakistan’s so-called ‘indispensable’ role in affairs of the Muslim world, and with these consideration in mind, our PM participated in the Arab Islamic American summit. What followed after the summit was an uproar in the media that the PM has not even been given a chance to address the summit.

In our foreign affairs, as in our domestic life, truth hurts. But, then, the sooner we realize the true extent of our problems, the better for aspirations of our people that in the course of their embodiment will make our country great and prosperous. It’s the only we have got.

Our leaders must provide real solutions to the problems that are pushing a large number of the citizens toward an unending cycle of poverty and deprivation. The country urgently needs to take concrete steps toward reducing unemployment, eliminating corruption, promoting economic growth, addressing disastrous demographics and helping entrepreneurs to lead their ways.

In short, there is a need to reinvent and reinvigorate the ethos of the people and defend human rights, freedoms and dignity, while making the country more fair and equitable.

If those at the helm of affairs do not focus on pressing priorities, the problems will continue to cripple our ability to protect our interests and project our influence. We must remember that no country intends to faint but the point is some still go down the path, simply because they fail to realize it.
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Default Redefining National Security in the Contemporary World

Redefining National Security in the Contemporary World

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”, said Martin Luther King Jr. The assertion goes parallel to the emerging global momentum on protecting and promoting human rights the world over. Greater emphasis on values and ideas based on justice, freedom and wider choices and opportunities available to people, hold key to the dynamics of contemporary global political and security environment. Where, in the contemporary globalised world, local and global processes and events have inescapable reciprocal influences, disorder and social unrest in one geographic locality of the world is increasingly being recognised as a threat to global peace and security.

The end of the Cold War era witnessed unparalleled activism by the United Nations, especially in and after the Gulf War; with the Security Council sanctioning collective security measures against the state’s aggression against Iraq thus signalling the arrival of the New World Order. The broadening spheres of the UN activism effected a redefining of the parameters of international peace and security to include development-centred agenda of human security where peoples, not their states, are the primary referent of security and where military-based focus of security dilutes in favour of a greater emphasis on people’s progress and prosperity.

Redefining traditional boundaries of a state’s relationship to its people has been expressed by Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, in the following words:

“States are now widely understood to be instruments at the service of their people, and not vice versa … When we read the UN Charter today, we are more than ever conscious that its aim is to protect individual human beings, not to protect those who abuse them.”

In simple terms, the recognition means that it does matter in contemporary global politics whether the social and environmental security underlines state’s priorities and that whether the state has the will and the capacity to ensure equal access toward individuals’ human rights.

Traditional realist view of security, however, privileges state by defining national security in terms of ‘freedom from fear’ of armed aggression by other states or non-state actors. As armed aggression confines the paramount security threat over all other security concerns, realists call for building greater military might as well as alliances. The realist assertion that states can prevent war only by preparing for war makes protection of individuals’ rights subservient to the state’s interests.

The realist approach toward security has widely been criticised and challenged and substituted by human security agenda which gives primacy to individuals’ ‘freedom from want’ issues such as poverty, malnourishment, social injustice, etc. Inspired from liberal worldview, the Human Security Centre in 2006 conceptualized the meanings and extent of human security agenda, stating, “Secure states do not automatically mean secure peoples. Protecting citizens from foreign attack may be a necessary condition for the security of individuals, but it is not a sufficient one. Indeed, during the last one hundred years far more people have been killed by their own governments than by foreign armie. … All proponents of human security agree that its primary goal is protection of individuals. However, consensus breaks down over what threats individuals should be protected from … The UN’s Commission on Human Security argues that the threat agenda should be broadened to include hunger, disease and natural disasters because these kill far more people than war, genocide and terrorism combines.”

However, contemplating Pakistan’s geopolitical environment both in the short and the long run, we find the sources of contention too. Unlike many other states, Pakistan is inherently a security-conscious state with a permanent presence of hostile neighbour at its eastern border, and irredentist claims over its territory from the western side. Additionally, the country has faced massive destruction and losses in form of huge human and economic tolls within its borders from violent non-state actors. Moreover, presence of two nuclear armed states along its borders, volatile political and security environment of Afghanistan, rich-resourced status of landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asian region with Pakistan as a gateway, and last but not least, increasing importance of Indian Ocean make geopolitical location of Pakistan such that it attracts convergence of diverging interests of major powers. Therefore, in such an uneasy configuration where largest part of the country’s territorial borders is mired in inherent insecurities and non-state actors continue to pose severe security threats, completely departing away from realist assumptions apparently is not a prudent strategy.

Throughout world history, amidst an atmosphere of escalating threats and growing debates over managing peace and security, states usually seek realist guidance which former US President Richard M. Nixon, justifies as, “The adversaries of the world are not in conflict because they are armed. They are armed because they are in conflict and have not yet learned peaceful ways to resolve their conflicting interests.”

Rising multipolarity, too, apparently is casting its dark shadows over world’s political environment. States manoeuvring for greater power and position may increase, and converging and diverging notions of interests and reliance on ‘self help’ approach toward anarchical international system can become basis for major powers to forge or severe partnerships, build greater military arsenals and construct their strategies and diplomacies revolving around employing kinetic forces and coercive means. As the threats of military entanglement for states persist, realist worldview of advocating greater pursuit of power through acquiring greater relative military capabilities holds currency and is reflected in the burgeoning global military expenditure that according to a survey by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) amounted to $1.7 trillion in 2012.

On the other hand, contrary to the foregoing assumptions, and given the ‘global process of increasing economic, cultural and political interdependence and integration’ and growing role envisaged by transnational actors especially intergovernmental organisations (IGOs) like the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO; multinational corporations (MNCs); and global civil society, it can be dangerous to privilege realism in policymaking and thus, arranging relative capabilities driven by its worldview. There is a deepening sense that as the global distribution of power is undergoing tremendous transformation so are the centres of power and privilege shifting away from military-dominated conception of security towards domains fixed around economic supremacy and hence cooperation not confrontation will determine the dominant pattern of interactions among states.

Noah Feldman, a Harvard law professor, maintains, “The world’s major power and its leading challenger are economically interdependent to an unprecedented degree. China needs the United States to continue buying its products. The United States needs China to continue lending it money. Their economic fates are, for the foreseeable future, tied together.”

Therefore, for states to benefit most in the contemporary economic-necessities-driven global system, there are growing recommendations from scholars, strategists and practitioners for increasing focus on trade and economic competencies. ‘The current era of globalization has entered a world based on education and human capital; one where creative ideas, product design, financing and marketing have increasingly become major sources of wealth and power.’

Exploring most accurate conception of security for Pakistan with special regard to its complex geopolitical context is, predictably, a highly complex and difficult task, however, it can be maintained that Pakistan needs to move away from traditional statist- and military-based associations of security. Nonetheless, departing from traditional realist approach, here, doesn’t mean ignoring the continued significance of military capabilities rather capping opportunity costs in favour of human development needs and making protection of individuals’ interests superior. By carefully arranging security strategies around primacy of human security approach with continued importance of military power in responding to emerging trends in global political and security environment, both of these conceptions, in fact, together can complement and reinforce each other.

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Default Caught in Perpetual Fighting

Caught in Perpetual Fighting

There are many reasons to believe that the people of Pakistan are undergoing their most wonderful age. They are convinced and they are confused, both at the same time. They can think of their country as heading toward ‘secure’ state – sort of – where peace prevails, where the monstrous scale of terrorism ultimately goes down and where we all are safe. But there are reasons to fear: we have an adversary on our borders with massive conventional military buildup and with nuclear weapons at her disposal. But the irony is that the enemy on the border is not the most threatening one: it lives among us and is faceless, borderless and appears not an enemy as (in the words of Marcus Cicero) ‘he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments’.

Envisioning perpetual peace, on February 22 , Pakistan Army launched ‘Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad’ across the country to effectively combat the threat of terrorism and consolidate the gains of Operation Zarb-e-Azb. But, why an operation to be always followed by another operation? Here is the logic we got:

The recent wave of terrorist incidents and consequent human toll shows that latent strains of terrorism pose the gravest challenge. Though troops and intelligence agencies were already undertaking efforts to eliminate terrorists’ sleeping cells, yet complete knocking on the head remained missing as such random efforts cannot be deemed as an antidote to the surmounting monster. What needs to be seen is a well-directed, coordinated and sustained effort to consolidate, enforce and augment security and build upon the successes of Zarb-e-Azb.

The rationale holds ground. Shadowy elements are no more sleeping: they are resurfacing and reinvigorating. Surely, they will rebuild their networks and seek new recruitments and forge new alliances. The rallying cry for their warfare is still there. Given a moment of indifference and complacency, splinter cells of terrorists will reunite to emerge as a formidable force and will compel us to face mounting costs. The centripetal nature of their narratives and the powerful appeal that they wield faithfully confirm this.

Deaths are again visible and losses surmounting. The recent spate of violence in Lahore, Quetta, Sehwan and other parts of the country shows that the terrorists possess capability to exploit our ‘vulnerabilities’ and attack on targets that we value most. Lacking themselves obvious vulnerabilities and things of value, terrorists seem determined to continue this long, drawn-out fight.

Believe it or not, the greatest problem with the world in combating terrorism is not linked to terrorists’ capabilities; it’s linked to our policies and to our approach: the world has hardly entered into anti-terrorism fight to end terrorism.

The war on terror, which started in Afghanistan, soon fell victim to states’ interests and devastated many countries across Central Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The order that it sought to establish lay in ruins. The buildup of anti-terrorism momentum, for some countries, was an opportunity to suppress struggle for legitimate freedom. Some other countries – the repressive ones – manipulated the language of counterterrorism to enact severe restrictions on their peoples’ freedoms and rights, only to strengthen their control.

The enemy that is borderless and faceless needs a combating strategy that transcends borders but here we are, building walls and fences and becoming more and more opaque. While terrorism thrives in a state of lawlessness and chaos, the countries around the world are providing that space by firing countless bullets and mobilizing thousands of troops.

The 1980s warfare utilized violent non-state actors under the label of ‘proxies’ as defence and foreign policy tools to counter strategic threats. The trend shifted with 9/11 when the momentum was built to eliminate these violent non-state actors. Whether it’s 1980s or the post-9/11 globe, for states, their interests always remain supreme.

The problem with states’ interests is that they do not always coincide with their peoples’ interests. Though all states pledge to protect their individuals; however, individual security does not constitute the core of states’ efforts toward managing security. For individuals, security means ‘freedom from want'; from issues like poverty, unemployment, social justice, etc. which are very often undermined by ‘freedom of fear’ approach commonly followed by states to managing security against fears of armed aggression by other states or non-state actors.

In our case, we are responding to the threat of terrorism by military operations which cannot be an alternate to a grand strategy involving inter-agency decision-making.

Our parameters of peace and security are military-based and our ‘preparing for war to end war’ strategy is compromising protection of individual’s rights, an area in which, otherwise, we need to excel. Military operations may succeed, but only partially, in capping terrorists’ physical infrastructure but the lack of development-centred agenda will continue to perpetuate the causes of terrorism and violence.

It is not to suggest that Pakistan should ignore continued importance of military capabilities, rather the emphasis is to avoid putting military in lead on so many complex political and public issues. Our failures to develop an effective civilian law enforcement setup, and our tendency to continue employing military on so many fronts will result in militarized solutions for our borders, polity and society.


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Default The Elusive Dream of Pursuing Peace through Strength

The Elusive Dream of Pursuing Peace through Strength

“To pursue peace through strength, it shall be the policy of the United States to rebuild the U.S. Armed Forces.”--- President Donald J. Trump

Given his view of pursuing peace through strength, the US President, Donald Trump, is not alone, not even first, in viewing the world as a dangerous political jungle filled with untamable predators. Pursuing peace through strength was the policy prescription of the Ronald Reagan’s administration – in fact; President Reagan would fondly say that. President George W. Bush outlined similar defence and foreign policies during his January 2001 inauguration address. He said, “We will build our defenses beyond challenge, lest weakness invite challenge.’ In this sense, this thinking is hardly a product of modern era, and dates back to ancient times. “the possession of power,” reasoned Kautilya, minister to India’s first Maurya emperor,” in a greater degree makes a king superior to another; in a lesser degree, inferior; and in an equal degree, equal. Hence a king shall always endeavour to augment his own power.”

The prescription draws its force from the realist school of thought and advocates an unparalleled and unlimited accumulation of power. For realists, states are loyal only to their national interests and there is no overarching world power to check their excesses and regulate their behavior. In this anarchic world, power, therefore, becomes the most important tool to influence others and ti deter and, if need be, to devastate potential enemies. Thomas Hobbes contented about world politics as ‘a war of all against all’; hence, for states to keep pace in arms buildup is the only means to keep peace in the international system.

States not only want to amass power, they are quite fond of employing it too. Chances of employment are even greater where states perceive potential for successful use of force. This is the reason why power almost always triumphs principles, and also explains why states tend to lock themselves into Darwinian country-eat-country struggle, marked by intense hostilities. Some 22 centuries ago, Rome and Carthage, the two superpowers of that time, fought 118-year-long Punic Wars that culminated into the fall, and then, complete destruction of Carthage.

According to a historian:
“…[T]he Romans stormed the town and the army went from house to house, slaughtering the inhabitants … the Carthaginians who weren’t killed were sold into slavery. The harbor and the city were demolished, and all the surrounding countryside was sown with salt in order to render it uninhabitable.”

Today, when so many countries are so heavily armed, the world is dangerous more than it has been eer before. Realpolitik, in fact, uncompromisingly defends traditional state system and unduly stresses on balance of power as its regulator. According to realpolitik, creating balance of power – the presence of countervailing strength against another power – leaves no single state strong enough to dominate all others. On this premise, Europe’s political orientation in the eighteenth marks the ‘Golden Age’ of balance of power. Earlier European scholars favoured the idea as they believed that the balance of power preserved Europe from stagnation and degeneracy, and gave birth to a healthy competition. Edward Gibbon, a famous historian and philosopher, in his ‘History of Decline and Fall of Roman Empire’ hailed the European balance of power system these words:

“The abuses of tyranny are restrained by the mutual influence of fear and shame; republics have acquired order and stability; monarchies have imbibed the principles of freedom, or, at least, of moderation; and some sense of honor and justice is introduced into the most defective constitutions by the general manners of the times. In peace, the progress of knowledge and industry is accelerated by the emulation off so many rivals; in war, the European forces are exercised by temperate and undecisive contests.”

But, would Gibbon and his contemporaries be of the same opinion had they witnessed he emergence of fervent nationalism, the horrors of the two World Wars, and the prospects of nuclear annihilation? Their age might have been of competitions with reasonable limits and wars with ‘temperate and undecisive contests’; however, the power politics, in the twentieth century alone, brought a carnage of more than 111 million people during two World Wars and innumerable other conflicts. In an unending cycle of wars that power politics espouses, peace remains elusive and security, at best, temporary.

Deteriorating conditions home and abroad make electorate chose extremist leaders who, through their decisive and far-right tendencies, continue to cultivate and channelize people’s anxieties into their strength.

But the worst may lie ahead – a nuclear war hat, as President Kennedy said, will put an end to mankind”. One formidable obstacle for power politics to become a relic of the mankind’s barbaric past is that power helps a state to prevail in situation of conflict and enables her to coerce another state into doing or not doing something. And, this power forms the very base that makes states keep treading on the path of power politics. The problem with arms is that weapons, instead of kindling a hope for peace, ignite in others the feelings of fear and insecurity, create tensions and invite mean imitations, and ventures to buildup and proliferate arms; thus, ending up into a dilemma of heightened insecurity for all. Therefore, it would be too dangerous to ignore the political and security implications of the sublime connection that exists between arms buildup, their proliferation and the resultant spiral of insecurity- in short, the age-old ‘security dilemma’.

But the heightened insecurity is one bane, the worst come next. It creates an environment for the rise of the leaders of the most diminutive stature for they are disposed fervently to cp on the talents that are depressed, and sentiments that are debased. Deteriorating conditions home and abroad make electorate choose extremist leaders who, through their divisive far-right tendencies, continue to cultivate and channelize people’s anxieties into their strength. In the contemporary world, the scope has become far greater and easier for such leaders to preach and construct extreme version of realpolitik. It is important not to cast aside what the senior Nazi Hermann Goering said during the Nuremberg Trials after WWII:

“Of course the people don’t want war … it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship… [A]ll you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.”

Possessing military and economic strength does not equate with having peace and security and, in the same token, absence of war does not necessarily mean a conflict-free world. Conflicts are rampant and are, in fact, more enduring feature of international life. In such a scenario, with proportion to increases in military might increases the temptation to employ it, sometimes even in areas of peripheral importance and on goals of questionable utility. What else could be a better spectacle of the dreadful carnage other than Iraq War, to be explained neither by the theory of a just war nor on the premises of pre-emptory norms, but only by the barbaric temptation that rides freely on an ever-amassing levels of arms and artilleries. “We thought, because we had power, we had wisdom”, laments Stephen Vincent Benet, as if he wanted to point out toward the irony that the possession of power increases a state’s reliance over arms and weapons and inadvertently narrows down its options in conduct of its diplomatic relations with other states.

Ensuring lasting peace is the major challenge of international system. Greater economic interdependence, increasing role of global institutions and norms over military power, prevalence of principles over power, and guaranteeing human rights can contribute to peace and progress. Increasing interactions and interdependence among states have already pushed states to redefine their national interests and for military power, it is hardly useful. Instead of relying on simple power politics and putting economic and human rights discourses subservient to state’s power, states must invest their resources on education, health and wealth and welfare of their people. Let us not forget what ‘The Spectator’ observed at the zenith of British Empire that not arms, but arts and industry is the true source of power. As it is not in the heights of flying jets or in godlike power of nuclear rock, when the human mind is depressed by rising income inequalities and modern forms of slavery, that we should seek for the pride, honour and freedoms of our nations.

Published in JWT – June 2017
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Default Normalcy in Pakistan’s Internal and External Affairs

In July 1946, All India Muslim League found itself in hot water of political environment of the Subcontinent: the Congress was adamant in rejection of League’s demand for independent Pakistan and the Britishers were also reluctant to acknowledge this demand. Left with no choice, the Muslim League called upon Muslims to peacefully observe the Direct Action Day on August 16, 1946. “Whereas Muslim India”, bemoaned the resolution of the Muslim League Council “has exhausted, without success, all efforts to find a peaceful solution of the Indian problem by compromise and constitutional means … now the time has come for the Muslim nation to resort to Direct Action, to achieve Pakistan…” By sanctioning the Direct Action, the Muslim League went down on a path of showing its strength and making it abundantly clear that it was willing to abandon constitutionalism to gain freedom. That decision marked a clear difference in the history of the subcontinent and made the partition of India inevitable.

More importantly, it reflects that the founders of our country were increasingly realizing that freedom, though an inherent right of every person, was to be enjoyed only by strong ones.

And then came the day the AIML had been struggling for – the 14th August 1947, the day of independence. But with independence, changed everything. The newfound freedom was not without challenges. The greatest challenge, of course, came from the ideological proposition of Akhand Bharat (Undivided India) that totally opposed – and does negate still today – the idea of independent Pakistan. Soon, in 1948, the nascent states of India and Pakistan fought a limited war over Kashmir that, on the part of Pakistan’s policymakers, enforced fears of an aggressive and belligerent India hostile to the very creation of Pakistan.

Amidst such scenario, with challenges and insecurity for the country on the one hand, and inexperienced and incompetent leadership on the other, our politicians and policymakers conceived that the ultimate show of strength in post-independence period lay in keeping the country going. They defined the country’s national interest and ideology against existential threats from India and, viewing from this lens, put country’s survival and security at the top.

The collapse of civilian leadership and continued hostility with India allowed greater space for military to venture into the country’s affairs. Further, in religion as well as in hostile geopolitical environment, political and cultural elites of the country found convenient narratives to perpetuate the status quo and monopolize power.

Although there remained a persistent criticism on narrowly-defined anti-India foreign policy, a majority of the people proved firmly willing to go to great lengths in defending the country against threats – both real and perceived – from India. One way or another, the international scenario also supported this strategic predisposition as international system was characterized by intense Cold War rivalries between the USSR and the USA, and both India and Pakistan were aligned to opposing power blocs.

However, the end of the Cold War and subsequent massive reformations in China and India challenged the utility of conventional wisdom of strategic and political elites of the country.

In the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, where the US emerged as a dominant economic and military power in the world, China began rising as centre of global industrial growth; India started transforming itself to gain greater political and economic clout in the world; and Europe went ahead to become a massively-integrated economic power. In fact, the year 1991 was a defining time in terms that economics emerged as the primary focus of states’ activities and policies.

Though Pakistan had instrumentalized the defeat of the USSR, yet at the end of the Cold War, it didn’t appear victorious. Quite contrarily, it was carrying a burden of strategic blunders and betrayals. To confront expansionist USSR on Afghan soil, Pakistan employed militant narratives in order to radicalize and train proxies. In the course of these ventures, it eroded its cultural power with its own hands. Moreover, as the politics in the country remained subjected to repeated military incursions, the democracy and political culture failed to flourish. Consequently, Pakistan lost the strength of its political power too. Moving further, the economy was also not presenting a spectacle of success and strength; rather it was at large shabby and deteriorating. It is needless to point out, therefore, that the country possessed nothing of the sort that could give it a sense of an economic power. It is apparent from many aspects and faces that the country’s costly military endeavours were built on its economic and political decline.

So, under its increasing obsession with external threats, Pakistan was actually being destroyed from threats that lay inside its borders. In short, the post-Cold War scenario made it vividly clear that the greatest threats to the country were internal, not external.

However, the realization didn’t run deep as nearly after a decade from the abrupt end of Zia’s military rule, the country was witnessing another decade of military era. Though the country aligned itself with the US after the 9/11 attacks and continued to amass its military power, yet its overall power and influence couldn’t increase as a result of its weakening political, economic and cultural standings. As it turned out, it had always been a grave mistake on the part of strategic thinkers and policymakers to heavily rely on military prowess while shrugging off other dimensions of power.

Pakistan’s place in Asia is not meant to be what Suriname’s is in America or that of Cyprus in Europe. Rather, it possesses immense potential to be one of the pivotal states in the world’s economic and political activities. Pakistan is the second largest country of South Asia with great geopolitical significance in the world. The country has deep historical and cultural affiliations with many countries in the world. In terms of population, it is the world’s sixth largest country and in terms of nuclear power, it is the only state in the Muslim world having nuclear weapons. Therefore, it is imperative for the country to place its focus on building its political and economic clout in the world.

Currently, Europe is fragmented and gradually returning to its historical condition of multiple competing states, with resurgent Russia posing greater threats. The US, on the other hand, is undergoing another period of indifference toward global affairs. Amidst several challenges, China is heavily investing in transforming its export-based economy to a consumer-driven one. For Pakistan, these defining characteristics of the era, along with some other related developments, translate into a brief period of opportunity to address its internal challenges and build an advanced and diversified economic and political infrastructure. This time, of all times, demands Pakistan to gain its respectful place in the world and that Pakistan must not waste the opportunity, as it has been at most of the times, just because being chained to the obsession with what it fears.

Highlights

1. The Muslim League called upon Muslims to peacefully observe the Direct Action Day on August 16, 1946.

2. By sanctioning the Direct Action, the Muslim League went down on a path of showing its strength.

3. International system was characterized by intense Cold War rivalries between the USSR and the USA, and both India and Pakistan were aligned to opposing power blocs.

4. The year 1991 was a defining time in terms that economics emerged as the primary focus of states’ activities and policies.

5. As the politics in the country remained subjected to repeated military incursions, the democracy and political culture failed to flourish.

6. It is imperative for the country to place its focus on building its political and economic clout in the world.

7. Currently, Europe is fragmented and gradually returning to its historical condition of multiple competing states.

8. The US is undergoing another period of indifference toward global affairs.
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Default For Pakistan, Democracy Has Never Been A Luxury

Recently, a former military dictator Pervez Musharraf made headlines. In an interview with BBC, he lauded the rules of former military dictators, saying, “Dictators set the country right … [and] military rule always brought progress to Pakistan.”

Of course, he lied. But there is another trumped-up story, far terrible, told also by a former and the first military dictator, Ayub Khan. Implying in a way as if he was a true statesman, Ayub Khan once discredited the institution of democracy in Pakistan. Before his impaired judgement, democracy was a luxury that Pakistan could hardly afford. Of course, he too lied. Democracy has never been a luxury for Pakistan: given the country’s socio-political and economic dynamics and its geopolitical sitting in a zone largely dotted with diverging and confrontational wires of global power politics, democracy has always been imperative and dispensable for Pakistan.

Pakistan is a multilingual, multiethnic and multicultural country. The interplay of all these forces makes it culturally rich and diverse. With the exception of some religious minorities, population of the country is linked to their religion – Islam. Apart from a common religion, the links that are associated with common history and language are very weak – or even missing – among the Pakistanis. The culture of ethnic groups in Pakistan has been greatly influenced by many of its neighbours; being part of the Indian subcontinent, many aspects of its culture, from foods to dresses and from artefacts to handicrafts and cuisines, present a striking resemblance to those on the other side of the Radcliffe Line. On the one hand, the Pashtun culture is immensely linked, historically and emotionally, to their ethnic counterparts in Afghanistan. Similarly, the Shiites, which form a large part of Pakistani society, and the Baloch have many cultural linkages with the people of Iran.

Language is the basis of ethnicity in Pakistan. The languages claimed as mother tongue include Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi, Seraiki, Kashmiri, Brahui, Hindko and Pothwari. Each of the country’s principal languages has a strong regional focus. The linguistic divide is so strong that even the provinces are named after the major languages and/or ethnic groups.

From here emerges a great challenge for Pakistan: preserving this cultural diversity and turning it into a factor for national unity. However, so far, all the cultural differences and variations generated systemic fault lines and, on time and occasions, have been instrumental in impeding the process of formation of a single distinct cultural entity. Here, it seems needless to mention that the loyalty of our successive military dictators to their own pockets and power, and their insensitiveness to ethnic fault lines played a leading role in fragmentation of society and creating cultural particularism.

Outwardly, Pakistan is a giant state. Counting on its geopolitical and strategic terms, Pakistan can be regarded as one of the most pivotal states of the world. The country holds an impressive geography; so impressive that even its significance in the region and beyond is counted mostly not because of what it has achieved but because where it is located. Its area stretches from the Arabian Sea in the south to Greater Himalayas in the northeast where its borders meet the Middle Kingdom. To its west, lies Afghanistan – the graveyard of empires – and Iran, and in the east, is India. In the centre of the country are great plain areas of Punjab which extend south into Sindh.

This distinct geographical feature serves as a great pull factor for peoples, goods and money. The plain is irrigated by a massive system of canal water originating from Indus Basin that is consisted of the mighty Indus River and its several tributaries. The plain breaks in the south in Sindh at Thar Desert. The south reach of the country is made up of an extended coastline on the Arabian Sea, one of the world’s busiest waterways. The coastline, with its deep, hot water ports, marks another area of geographic distinctions that push together trade, economic and industrial activities – resultantly, Karachi is the most populous city of Pakistan.

Given Pakistan’s history of partition from India, and its location along great arteries of regional conquest and commerce, the heart of Pakistan’s problem has always been the same: insecurity. Along with sprawling deserts of Cholistan and Thar and a rugged topography marked with high mountains at some places, the country also shares a large plain area with India. Its major centres of population, communication and irrigation are present within close range of Indian army’s watch. Its borders with other neighbours are protected, seemingly, by natural barriers, but, historically, the mountainous passes have always served as great highways for military invasions and commercial inroads. Moreover, there is another important factor that adds insecurity to the country: its shape, which is truncated. Pakistan thus lacks strategic depth.

Being part of South Asia, sharing a reasonably long border with China and being located at the junction of Central Asia and the Middle East, expose Pakistan to several vulnerabilities, thus leaving it with no other choice but to remain extremely active and vigilant. In simple and plain terms, it means that the only choice that Pakistan has got is to remain intensely watchful and hyper-efficient. In a little elaborate manner, it also means that Pakistan has to compete (economically) with everyone, at every time.

However, historically, Pakistan neither remained completely watchful nor efficient. Moreover, as Pakistan continues to grow old in years, what endures with time is an unceasing perpetuation of a severe disconnect between its economic and military developments.

Hence, the questions: Why did Pakistan fail to boost efficiency so critical to its survival? Why there is an alarming level of disconnect between its military and economic might? What were the factors that made Pakistan deviate? And, so on.

For trade, communication and technological developments, Pakistan is a perfect place – and from these activities, thus, the generation and accumulation of wealth. However, reverse is apparent in Pakistan. But it isn’t as much of a surprise. Mix features that serve as bedrocks for development and prosperity with a history of violent political disruptions, and Pakistan becomes what it is today: barely surviving and that too with a marked degree of violence and intolerance.

As pointed out earlier, democracy has never been a luxury for Pakistan. It has always been the country’s political, economic and strategic imperative. Pakistan needs a class of vigorous, free commoners, and only democracy can ensure it. Democracy extends political liberty toward civilians that, in turn, leads to expansion of personal freedoms. Here is the necessity and inevitability of the institutional apparatus of democracy. Without this formal and mature machinery of democratic statecraft, personal freedoms to individuals can never be guaranteed.

The major issue for Pakistan is not about what threats it faces or whether majority of its people are poor and unemployed, but whether its people have the required institutional guarantees toward freedom and dignity. If yes, the society of Pakistan will become the most prolific and useful.
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Default Faizabad Dharna: Another Reminder that Pakistan Needs to Beef Up State Competence

Faizabad Dharna: Another Reminder that Pakistan Needs to Beef Up State Competence

The good news is that Pakistan has successfully moved up from the state when it struggled to establish writ across the country; the bad news is that we are now in a state where we face a more complex and challenging task: establishing the state’s competence.

There is only one alternative to state’s competence: prayer. And when a government happens to be incompetent, people’s belief in prayers grows proportionally. A state’s competence is to governance as oxygen is to breathing. And Pakistan has a list, a long list, of governance failures.

If Faizabad Dharna was anything, it was about the lack of our government’s competence to establish trust, coordinate with the people and different agencies, restore law and order and diffuse the situation, not to mention the carelessness showed to the public’s rights and beliefs. The government that is already struggling with the accountability problem proved utterly incapable of resolving the conflict and solving the challenges it faced.

It is not the first time (for example, the government’s failures to implement NAP, reform economy, improve foreign relations) and, unfortunately, won’t be the last one that the government has failed to rise to its task. In fact, whenever there happens to be a failure, the government blithely takes refuge in plausible deniability. Among many areas where the government’s failure to deliver frustrated popular expectations, there is especially one important realm where the government came to achieve nothing worth-mentioning: revitalizing the national economy.

The levels of Pakistan’s savings and investment are dolefully low. The export sector of Pakistan instead of serving as an engine of growth is continuously declining. As for the development of human capital, the government seems to be least concerned about its persistent negligence to focus on raising highly educated and skilled manpower, crucial to rapid economic growth.

Resultantly, at the national level, the economy is increasingly lagging in generating jobs required for its large young population and on the other hand at the international fronts Pakistan’s share in global manufacturing exports is declining.

In order to address the lack of our state’s competence and sweeping governance crises, Pakistan should reinforce democratic institutions; strengthen social policies; promote decentralization; promote an efficient public administration; build the capacity of its public sector to support the creation and application of knowledge, innovation, and technology for sustainable growth.

And to minimize the chances of risk in the future and cope with the pace and depth of growing challenges, the government must work to create common agenda and raise social capital. Finally, the government (quite contrarily to its unwise practice of restricting media coverage during Faizabad Operation) must acknowledge and pledge to honor the freedom and independence of news media. It needs not be reminded that in the absence of a free and independent media, good governance and transparency cannot take hold.

For enhancing and building our state’s competence, Pakistan must learn from the Chinese and Japanese experiences. Learning from China becomes especially more important because Pakistan needs to strengthen its national economic health. Surely there are some aspects of governance to be learned from the West. But as the West is rotting (especially because of its arrogance; military-centric policies; and polarizing national ethos), so it is better to be careful.

As for the people, it is their duty to struggle to make the government more inclusive, functional and accountable. People must remain active and vigilant and remember the warning The Spectator quoted more than two centuries ago that the “sloth has ruined more nations than the sword”.


By: Sir Mudassir Saeed Laghari
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Default Tearing Down Misplaced Perceptions about China’s Rise

Tearing Down Misplaced Perceptions about China’s Rise

This July witnessed an intense level of escalated tensions, what came to be known as Doklam standoff, between China and India, which erupted after India, posturing quite belligerently, sent its troops to interrupt the construction of a road by the Chinese military. As the dispute lingered on, it increasingly drew both countries and their masses into an intensely-contested war of words leading to prospects of military warfare. However, diplomacy prevailed in the end and both countries agreed to ‘expeditiously disengage’ from the face-off in Doklam.

Shortly after settling the dispute, the leaders of China and India agreed, in their meeting on the sidelines of the BRICS summit on Sept. 05, to maintain a ‘forward-looking’ approach in their bilateral relations and to continue to ensure peace and tranquility on the borders.

Among many other things, this dispute arguably offers a critical strategic insight into the way China wants to conduct its foreign affairs. Despite being relatively a greater military and economic power than India, possessing complete legitimacy to defend its sovereign rights and pitted on a morally-superior position, China refrained from showing a nuclear response, threatening with military strikes or intimidating with economic sanctions. Though China did maintain a prudent military posture, it put great energy and faith into diplomatic channels to de-escalate tensions and end the dispute and also to make sure that such episodes of hostility do not occur again.

By all accounts, China adopted a more rational and magnanimous path. Not just it restored peace and stability in the region, but also increased confidence in China’s global leadership.





The end of the Cold War culminated into the rise of the United States as the sole hegemon of the world. Since then, all leaders of the US have committed to maintain American primacy in the world. As the Russian power had receded into fragmentation and China was in its initial stages of economic reformation and development, there was no power in the world potent enough to contest the unilateral momentum of the US.

But, at the turn of the century, things started to change. The ‘sleeping giant’ was no more sleeping. China began to gain considerable economic and military clout in the world.

The knocking caused by the shift in global distribution of power, consequential mainly upon the rise of China, made many politicians, policymakers and strategists to ponder over what might be the possible pattern of future interactions between China and the United States.

Some reasonable worries spring to mind. Rising multipolarity and the order it presses the world into, potentially cast dark shadows over the stability of world’s political and strategic environment. States’ manoeuvring for greater power and position may increase, and converging and diverging notions of interests and reliance on ‘self-help’ approach toward anarchical international system may become basis for major powers to forge or severe partnerships, build greater military arsenals and construct their strategies and diplomacies on employing kinetic forces and coercive means.

Agreed that there is a deepening sense that as the global distribution of power is undergoing tremendous transformation, so are the centres of power and privilege. The ‘global process of increasing economic, cultural and political integration’ and growing role envisaged by transnational actors especially IGOs like the United Nations (UN), International Monetary Fund (IMF); the World Bank; the World Trade Organization (WTO); multinational corporations; and global civil society, it is emphasized that cooperation and increasing interdependence will guide the dominant pattern of interactions among states.

However, beyond doubt is the reality that the international system at best is anarchic; that all great powers, from US to Russia and China, inherently possess some offensive military capabilities; that states cannot be certain of each other’s intentions; and that the primary motive of their actions is to survive.

Therefore, as the threats of military entanglement for states persist, realpolitik dictates of advocating greater pursuit of power through acquiring greater relative military capabilities hold currency and are reflected in the burgeoning global military expenditure that, according to a survey by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), amounted to $1.7 trillion in 2016.

But, based on dark and debatably misplaced notions of China as a revisionist power, some thinkers, especially the US-based ones, advocate a confrontational policy for containing China. While laying the fundamentals of such policy, they trace its essential blueprints from the historical events particularly characterized by circumstances of major power confrontation.

However, here, it is important to recognize that the rise of China as a direct military and economic threat to the US is exaggerated, to say the least. Where on the one hand, China itself faces enormous economic and social challenges, on the other, its economy is strongly tied to the Western countries. Noah Feldman, a Harvard law professor, while asserting the importance of the Sino-US relationship, maintains: “The world’s major power and its leading challenger are economically interdependent to an unprecedented degree. China needs the United States to continue buying its products. The United States needs China to continue lending it money. Their economic fates are, for the foreseeable future, tied together.”

We should also be willing to embrace another major reality about changing global economic and political dynamics: China is not rising in isolation, rather we are witnessing, what Fareed Zakaria, a realist political journalist, characterized as the ‘Rise of the Rest’, an unprecedented level of economic growth in countries around the world which amounts to perpetuate transformative shifts. “The rise of the rest” puts Fareed Zakaria, “is at heart an economic phenomenon, but the transition we are witnessing is not just a matter of dollars and cents. It has political, military and cultural consequences. As countries become stronger and richer, and as the United States struggles to earn back the world’s faith, we’re likely to see more challenges and greater assertiveness from rising nations.”

Moreover, the truth is if Americans actually face a proximate threat, it comes only from its class of cunning leaders, consumed by hubris and personal ambitions. Therefore, it comes to no one’s surprise that relative degeneration of American power began after the 9/11 when its leaders, in order to chase inflated threats, proved willing even to glorify brute force. Observing the erosion of prudence among the US policymakers, John Glaser, Director Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, comments: “When Washington chooses to become entangled in unnecessary foreign wars, it imposes serious human and financial costs. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have killed hundreds of thousands, including almost 7,000 US soldiers, and along with other post-9/11 expenses, has cost more than $5 trillion. What we’ve gained in terms of increased safety is less clear.”

At the turn of the century, China was largely rated as a communist country juggling an open economy with a closed, totalitarian political system. On the contrary, today’s China boasts one of the world’s most vibrant, diverse and participatory political culture. Moreover, as the current US administration seems uninterested in preserving the prevailing postwar global political order, China is increasingly manifesting its willingness to ensure the continuity of global order based on mutual obligations.

Some maintain that as China grows in size and capability, it will come with a version of its own Monroe Doctrine in the Asia Pacific. But such assumptions fundamentally disregard many geopolitical realities in China’s neighbourhood. Not all states in China’s neighbourhood resemble to Nicaragua, Colombia and Panama; rather, the Asia Pacific region counts some powerful states in it, like Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, not to mention Russia. Surely, it’s not a favourable constellation to be subjected to Monroe Doctrine. It’s one thing to excel in economic and military terms, it is quite another to project imperialism.

As for China’s foreign policy, it exhibits impressively benign foreign interactions with countries throughout the globe. China is engaged closely with many countries to enhance the prospect of economic development and has been a key factor in stabilizing economies around the world. Furthermore, according to a recently published study by the College of William and Mary’s AidData research lab, China closely follows the US, and could even be poised to overtake it, in terms of the amount of foreign aid spent around the globe. The study claims that financial aid from China is positively contributing toward economic growth in recipient countries.

Of course, we have no way of knowing what the future holds; however, it is important for policymakers to learn from previous mistakes and avoid repeating them. It is crucial for both China and the US to work toward a global system where power and responsibility are widely shared. They must unite to construct a concert through collective approaches. Instead of letting the world descend into chaos and confrontation, the era should become an epitome of great power efforts to pursue the path to peace and stability.

By: Sir Mudassir Saeed Laghari
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