STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

I was quite young when Ayub Khan’s martial law was imposed. However, some memories get etched in your mind. In Abbottabad we had to walk to school through a bazaar famous for its food shops. Chappal Kebab, tea stalls with pakoras, meat, bakery shops and others. All of them were dirty and perfect breeding grounds for flies and insects. Within days of the new regime miraculously floors were spotlessly clean, walls whitewashed, and nettings installed. It was soul cleansing.
What brought the change? It was the fear of getting caught and being punished. Unfortunately our national psyche has become directionless; a herd seeking short term gains governed poorly. This trend has gotten worse over time. With population doubling, mostly uneducated, weak law and order, no clear national direction and a sharp decline in civic sense we are a horde, not a nation.
Will that ever change? Each passing day the prospects get dimmer. It is in this environment that we had the announcement of the National Security Policy. Having reviewed the document made public, I find it a bold move to recognize the real issues. A reality check of where we stand and where we need to go. However we tend to get bogged when it comes to implementation. That is my concern.
The main building block of this Policy is stepping away from Geo Political Security to Geo Economic Security. It is a quantum jump and a paradigm shift. Since independence we have been lumbered by an antagonistic neighbor, many times our size. That laid basis of a sense of insecurity and fear. To overcome it we sought alliances that would give us protection.
We entered SEATO and CENTO in early 50’s where USA underwrote our security. We joined “Camp Politics”. We became a frontline State for the Western Alliance against USSR during the Cold War. The powerful don’t offer protection without extracting their pound of flesh. As an unequal partner at some points in history, we were treated like doormats. To maintain our viability they started to dole out aid and loans for sustenance of Pakistan coupled with making us reliant on their military hardware.
The offshoot of this form of “Camp Politics” transformed our psyche into an insecure nation, dependent on largesse of our benefactors. USA’s penetration of our power structure kept increasing over time. The elite’s awe and love for all things Western further enhanced this influence.
Any ruler who attempted to buck their chokehold was removed. Ayub Khan’s “Friends not Masters” paved the way for his exit. Unfortunately, we always have abundance of “Mir Jaffers” amongst us. Bhutto, a prodigy of Ayub Khan, spearheaded the move against him. Later he himself become their victim when he did not back off from our nuclear program, and attempted to become a front runner in Islamic and Third World alliances.
The process continued. We all witnessed the ascent of General Zia and his unceremonious exit. The two political contenders, Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto/ Zardari learnt their lessons early. Their gateway to political power in Pakistan was GHQ and Washington. They pledged their allegiance and stayed subservient.
I delved into the past to highlight the importance of this new policy shift. Geo Economic Security is a step to break away from the past. An assessment has been made of our strengths and weaknesses. It is an effort to quantify the impact of various factors at play in determining our way forward. The facts are that we are amongst the ten most indebted nations in the world. The population growth is explosive. Unemployment is reaching new heights. 40% of our population is teetering on the poverty line. The resource pie is far smaller than our needs, and we do not have the luxury of time.
Based on the above facts, our choices are severely limited. We have to come to terms with the reality. Unless we think outside the box, the country will continue on a downward trajectory. The essence is to overcome our fears and insecurity. We need to find our feet, believe in ourselves and take pride in being Pakistani. That will not be easy after spending over half a century in a wheel chair! The day of reckoning is here.
PM IK, at great peril to himself, with the co-operation of the defense establishment has chosen an arduous path. If they can pull it off, it will serve us and the future generations to exist as a self respecting nation. This Policy’s emphasis is on economic independence using our strategic location and the connectivity we offer. I will write about the salient features in Part 2 of this series.
How is this Policy statement being received? The warring media segment, blinded by self interest, continues to serve their paymasters. They are calling it all kind of names. They claim it is a sellout to defense establishment; an effort to appease India; an announcement without consulting the opposition, and so on. The Policy document shows differently.
The opposition while trying to find faults, are hung on their message like a broken record: PM is going; PM has failed; PM is incompetent; Nawaz is coming. It is tragic that constructive criticism, a norm in democracies, is entirely missing. Completely understandable in their case. Their priority is to safeguard their looted wealth and grab power by hook or by crook; people be damned.

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