At the start, I should like to inform you that the gist of this lecture has been made at various Pakistani forums already. Indeed, the part relating to Pakistan was published almost word for word in my newspaper as an editorial some months ago. So it should not come as a surprise to my Pakistani compatriots here and at home. I do not practise double-standards, as will be evident in due course. I am deeply and passionately concerned about what is going on in my country and I am not afraid of speaking the truth at any forum in my quest for posing the problem.
Pakistan’s socio-political environment is in the throes of a severe multi-dimensional crisis. I refer to six major crises which confront Pakistan on the eve of the new millennium:
1) the crisis of identity and ideology
2) the crisis of law, constitution and political system
3) the crisis of economy
4) the crisis of foreign policy
5) the crisis of civil society
6) the crisis of national security
These crises haven’t suddenly emerged out of the blue. I have been talking and writing about the inexorable germination and development of these crises for many years. Now they are all upon Pakistan simultaneously, with greater or lesser intensity.
The crisis of identity and ideology refers to the fact that after 50 years, Pakistanis are still unable to collectively agree upon who we are as a nation, where we belong, what we believe in and where we want to go. In terms of our identity and our demands, are we Pakistanis first and then Punjabis, Sindhis, Baloch, Pathan or Mohajirs or vice versa? Do we belong —in the sense of our future bearings and anchors do we belong to South Asia or do we belong to the Middle East? In terms of ideology, are we Muslims in a moderate Muslim state or Muslims in an orthodox Islamic state? In other words, are we supposed to be like Saudi Arabia or Iran —which are orthodox Islamic states — or are we supposed to be like Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Algeria, etc, which are supposed to be liberal Muslim states? And if none of these fit the bill, what then? Whose version and vision of Islam do we follow? The Qur’an and Sunnah, say some people. Well, if the Quaid-e-Azam and Allama Iqbal both had their own interpretations of how the Qur’an and Sunnah were to be applied in the real life of a modern state like Pakistan, the problem has been compounded by the myriad interpretations of their interpretations of an Islamic state. And the problem doesn’t end there.
The Jamaat-i-Islami, the Sipah-i-Sahaba, the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam and countless other Islamic parties and Islamic sects all have their so-called exclusive Islamic axes to grind. So there is no agreement, no consensus on this issue. Indeed there is so much tension, violence and confusion associated with this issue that it has begun to hurt Pakistan considerably. It has assumed the form of an identity and ideological crisis.
The crisis of law, constitution and political system refers to the fact that:
a) there is not one set of laws in Pakistan but two —the Anglo-Saxon tradition which we inherited from the past and the Islamic tradition which we have foisted in recent times Most Pakistanis are trained and experienced in the former but some Pakistanis hanker for the latter. The two traditions co-exist in an environment of fear, corruption and hypocrisy. Increasingly, they seem to be at serious odds with each other, as for example on the question of how to treat interest rates in a modern capitalist economy, what status to grant to universal human and fundamental rights, how to treat women and minorities, etc.
b) The crisis is also reflected in the nature and extent to which the constitution has been mangled by democrats and dictators, lawyers and judges, all alike. The refeence here is to several highly controversial constitutional amend-ment, past and pending; but it is also to highly contentious, even suspect decisions by the courts acting as handmaidens to the executive; and to the motivations and actions of certain judges in pursuit of personal ambition, pecuniary gains or political advancement. Indeed, many lawmakers do not obey the law and some of our judges are perceived in contemptuous terms by the public.
c) The crisis is manifest, above all, in the rapid public disenchantment with the political system of so-called democracy. Democracy is supposed to be about the supremacy of the law and constitution, about the necessity of checks and balances between the different organs of the state, about the on-going accountability of public office holders, and so on. But it has degenerated into a system based exclusively on elections which return deaf and dumb public representatives to rubber stamp parliaments. So we have the form of democracy but not its essence or content. We have the rituals of democracy but not its soul. I don’t know what this system is, but it is certainly not democracy.
The crisis of economy refers to the fact that:
a) Pakistan is well and truly bankrupt —indeed if the international community had not bailed out Pakistan recently, the country would have succumbed to financial default.
b) Worse, we appear to have no means left by which to lift ourselves up by our own bootstraps without a massive convulsion in state and society. This is manifest in our total dependence on foreign assistance. Indeed, the crisis of economy is so severe that it has begun to impinge on our sovereignty as an independent state and is eroding our traditional construction of national security. The economic crisis is reflected in a crisis of growth, a crisis of distribution, a crisis of production and a crisis of finance. It is threatening massive and violent dislocations in state and society.
The crisis of foreign policy is now coming home to roost. We are not only friendless in the region in which we live, we are being blackballed and blackmailed by the international community to which we are indebted up to our ears. If foreign policy is supposed to be rooted in and geared to domestic objectives and concerns, we have reversed the order of things. Our foreign policy seems to have a life of its own. It dictates our domestic policies rather than the other way round. This is why there is no longterm consistency or strength in it. One day, we say that Kashmir is the “core issue without whose prior settlement none of the other contentious issues with India can be resolved”. The next day, we say that progress on the other issues can be made without a settlement of the Kashmir issue. One day we say that Kashmir is a multilateral issue, the next day we emphasise the urgency of bilateral dialogue with India. One day, we are quick to recognise the Taliban government in Kabul and exhort the other nations of the world to follow suit; the next day we give our blessings to the idea of a broad-based, multi-ethnic, multi-religious “consensus” government in Kabul. One day Iran is our historic and strategic friend, the next day we stand accused by Iran of unmentionable actions. One day, Central Asia is billed as the promised land. The next day, it is arrayed against us in hostile terms. One day, the United States is our godfather. The next day it is the ugly American. The worst has now come to pass. For 50 years we worried about the threat on our eastern borders with India. Today we are anxious about our western front with Iran and Afghanistan.
The crisis of civil society is demonstrated in many ways. In increasingly low turnouts for elections. In continuing deterioration of law and order. In rising sectarianism, ethnicity and regionalism. In the breakdown of civil utilities and amenities. In the erosion of the administrative system. In violence and armed conflict. In mass criminalisation and alienation of the people. In a rising graph of disorders, suicides, drug abuse, rape, kidnappings and outright terrorism. The rise of criminal and religious mafias, kabza groups, extra-judicial killings, etc, testify to the breakdown of social connections and civil compacts between the Pakistani state and the Pakistani people.
These crises have all culminated into a severe crisis of national security. Pakistan’s political system, its political leadership, its structure of law and constitution, its administrative framework, its economic stagnation, its ideological hypocrisy and its friendless foreign policy are no longer tenable. They have all contributed to a comprehensive erosion of National Security. If the tide is not reversed quickly, it will engulf Pakistan in its wake. Indeed, the argument that Pakistan is a ” failing state” made by some people is based on perceptions of this multi-dimensional crisis.
Getting out of hell
So, if Pakistanis know what the hell is going on, and if Pakistanis know where the hell they are going, the question remains: how the hell do Pakistanis get out of this hell?
This question has two parts. First, what sort of agendas are required to be implemented to get out of this hell? Second, who will implement such agendas?
The answer to the first question is simple enough. Or at least it is simple enough for me. I ask my fellow Pakistanis to look at each of the crises referred to above and then I demand that the factors which have led to the crisis should be swiftly addressed. Let us take each of the crises and remark on how to resolve the crisis.
Crisis of ideology: In my view, there is only one modern-day ideology over whose application there can be no bitter or divisive controversy and which will be acceptable to all Pakistanis, irrespective of caste, creed, gender, region, ethnicity, sect, etc. And that is the ideology of economic growth, the ideology of full employment, the ideology of distributive justice and social welfare. I say Pakistan should make this ideology the ideology of the state and thereby bury all false consciousness and false ideologies. Crisis of law, constitution and political system: I say Pakistan must revamp the political system and revise the constitution so that the political system and the constitution are made to serve the people below instead of the corrupt elites above.
Crisis of economy: I say that the Pakistani state should honour its international contracts; enforce its domestic loan repayments; tax the rich; dispossess the corrupt; live within its means; vitalise its human resources; export the value of its scientific talents; establish and enforce a genuine private-public partnership in which the private sector produces efficiently and the public sector regulates effectively.
Crisis of civil society: I say enforce the rule of law; disarm society; disband militias; decentralise decision-making and power; establish accountability; protect minorities and women; create social nets for the disadvantaged, poor and destitute; provide decentralised and quick justice.
Crisis of foreign policy: I say make friends, not masters or enemies; bury cold-war hatchets; renounce post-cold-war jehads; negotiate terms of trade, not territorial ambitions; redefine strategic depth to mean emphasis on internal will rather than external space.
Crisis of national security: I say redefine security to mean not only military defence but also economic vitality, social cohesion and international respect; and I say Pakistan should determine its minimal optimal defence deterrent but shun an arms race.
The answer to the second question —namely, who will pursue and implement this agenda —is difficult only for one reason: I cannot see even one leader or institution in Pakistan who or which personifies National Power and has the three virtues or elements which are required to get Pakistan out of this mess. These are: vision, courage and integrity. The vision to chart a particular course; the courage to implement it ruthlessly; and the integrity to ensure that it doesn’t get derailed. My hope, of course, is that someone or some institution will throw up such leadership in time to come. My fear is that if this doesn’t happen soon enough, it may be too late later.
I would now like to turn briefly to one factor that impinges greatly on Pakistan’s past, present and future, one which should concern all of you who are assembled here today. That is Pakistan’s relationship with India. In one crucial sense, India remains a determining factor vis-a-vis Pakistan. The Pakistani state has come to be fashioned largely in response to perceived and propagated, real and imagined threats to its national security from India. The mentality and outlook of the Pakistani state is therefore that of a historically besieged state. That is why conceptions of national security, defined in conventional military terms, dominate the Pakistani state’s thinking on many issues. Indeed, that is why state outlook dominates government policies. That is why Pakistan’s foreign policy runs its domestic policy rather than the other way round. That is why Pakistan’s economy is hostage to Pakistan’s cold war conceptions of “national security” rather than being an integral part of it. That is why Pakistan is more a state-nation rather than a nation-state.
This has had far-reaching implications for the lack of develop-ment of a sustainable and stable demo-cratic political culture in Pakistan. Indeed, and more critically, it has directly spawned extra-state institutions espousing Islamic fundamentalism and jehad. And it is these forces which are undermining the compact between the state and people of Pakistan, thereby adversely impacting on political discourse in the country.
Pakistan’s obsession with India hurts Pakistan deeply. But the roots of this obsession cannot be shrugged away by India. Indeed, India may be said to be the root cause of Pakistan’s insecurity. Apart from pre-Partition history, there is the fact of a great injustice done to Pakistan by India over Kashmir and the dismemberment of Pakistan in which India played a critical and leading role. For precisely this reason, one of the fallouts of this obsession is the decade-long low-intensity-conflict in Kashmir. Another is the tit-for-tat nuclear and missile tests by Pakistan and its refusal to sign a no-first-strike agreement with India which in turn means that Pakistan cannot get a no-war pact from India.
In this way, if Pakistan’s past is umbilically linked to that of India, its future cannot but be shaped by India’s future, as well as have an impact on it. If the rise of fundamentalist Islam threatens Pakistan’s body-politic, India cannot expect to escape its negative fallout. If a nuclear arsenal is assembled in Pakistan, India’s security cannot be vouchsafed by all the nuclear weapons at its disposal. If Pakistan fails as a nation-state and becomes a rogue regime marked by social anarchy and upheaval, India’s army will not be able to contain its disruptive and destabilising impact. If Pakistan is drawn into an arms race with India, the logic of the situation will fuel the sources of conflict between the two countries rather than provide security to either country.
Of course, this does not mean that India should constantly look over its shoulder while seeking to determine its own national security policies. But it does mean that India cannot ever be a great power or great nation if its own backyard is seething with resentment and turmoil.
Indeed, as long as India’s quest for great powerdom is based on its strategy of military outreach, it is bound to be thwarted in its ambitions by tit-for-tat Pakistan. Therefore India will be recognised as a great power in the new millennium not on the basis of its numerical military superiority in the region but by the extent to which the countries of South Asia, including Pakistan, are economically interdependent on each other and take their lead independent of the super powers. A pre-requisite for this is that India should make enduring peace with Pakistan on principled and honourable terms and resolve the Kashmir dispute, thereby helping the forces of civil society in Pakistan to fashion a new state which is subservient to the Pakistani nation instead of the other way round.
By way of concluding, I should just like to remind everyone of one lesson of modern history: vibrant and stable democracies are less likely to go to war than authoritarian states which live and survive on the basis or threat of war.
Thank you very much for your patience. I would be happy to take your questions now.
If Pakistan is in such a crisis, why shorn the Kashmiris want to join it?
That is a question which you Indians should ask the Kashmiris. But you know what the; will say, that is why you don’t ask this question of them. At any rate, if 100 million people in Pakistan are in a bad way, over 400 million people in India are worse off. So let us not try to score points over each other. Let us try and address the real issues.
Will Pakistan accept the LoC as an international border?
No, never. It is only in India’s interest to legitimise the status quo. We want to change it because it is illegitimate.
Was the Lahore Summit a historic event?
The Lahore Summit will only go down in history if it is an anti-history event, if it succeeds in burying the history of the last 50 years. But that is the great challenge. …the ball is in India’s court yet again. Unless India makes an enduring and honourable settlement with Pakistan over Kashmir, there will be no peace in the Subcontinent. If this dialogue doesn’t take off, a great opportunity will be lost. No PM other than Nawaz Sharif could have gone so far, so quickly, reaching out to India. Will India reciprocate?
Why doesn’t Pakistan accept a no-first-strike agreement with India ?
Pakistan’s conventional defense capabilities have been greatly reduced since the Americans cut off all assistance to Pakistan in 1990. Its reliance on the nuclear deterrent is therefore all the greater. That is why India should be cautioned about considering “hot-pursuit” into Pakistani territory. Our retaliation would be swift and massive. My question to all of you is: why doesn’t India agree to a no-war pact with Pakistan if its intentions are honourable?
Is Nawaz Sharif trying to Islamise Pakistan via the Shariah Bill?
No. The 15th amendment is a horrendous piece of pending legislation. It has nothing to do with Islam. Its sole purpose is to make Nawaz Sharif an absolute dictator. If that amendment is passed, it will lead to bitter strife and instability which will worsen the crises I have been talking about.