Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Time to redraw our national strategy

A few days ago I read a past in the local English daily lambasting the military strategy of Pakistan after the Abbottabad adventure by the Americans. Suddenly it seems that the defence forces of the country are the most unlikable entities and everyone is out here criticizing the defence forces for the Abbottabad fiasco. The writer of the post vehemently demanded rehashing of our military strategy.

No one in the present times would disagree with the notion as the Abbottabad episode has really lowered the morale of the entire nation and feel that the slogans of impregnability have been torn apart and disgracefully shattered.  Yes this happens in countries where no one is very sure what our overall national strategy is, since military strategy flows from the national strategy. Unless the national strategy is clearly defined and spelt out, a clear cut military strategy cannot be drawn.

Our present military strategy of siding with friendly Taliban and fighting the non-friendly Taliban has been now questioned – a policy that astounds many including the Americans. This confusion has arisen due to the absence of a clearly drawn national policy which should harness any misadventure from the military. Likewise Pakistan’s support to people of Kashmir has provoked for a tit-for-tat reaction by India in supporting the separatist movement in Balochistan. Today, no Punjabi speaking is safe in Balochistan. Even the sanctity of the national flag is at stake and the writ of the GOP in many parts of the province is questionable.

We do not have any friends left in the world. Our continuous tilt towards the USA has given us nothing except “do more” rhetoric, making us take decisions that are extremely dangerous and not at all friendly to our future. All that we have done so far in the name of War on Terror has back fired and we have suffered more than anyone else in the world. Our sacrifices have brought no fruit of respite and the latest US attack deep inside Pakistan exposes our vulnerabilities despite supporting the US for almost a decade on its version of War on Terror. The people in general feel that our policy on this erred war has been flawed all along and is only to please and suit the interests of the US rather than that of our own. The aid that has flown in for the last ten years has been mostly the military equipment that was needed by the US to support it in its war in Afghanistan. The apparent billions of dollars that poured in have had no effect on improvement of the fragile economy of Pakistan, which is dwindling every day that passes. And despite doing much more than enough, we are still questioned for not doing more. When the CIA and the US failed to find the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in Iraq, a pretext on which Iraq was invaded, the US never apologized to anyone or even to people of Iraq whose peaceful country has been destroyed by the US in the process. This has been one of the biggest intelligence failures of the elite intelligence agency of the world. But when Pakistan’s intelligence failed to locate OBL, we are being grilled and questioned for our inefficiency and failures.

On the economic front, we are in an abysmal state. Despite being a nuclear power, the country is plunged into darkness most part of the year due to non availability of electricity. India, on the other hand despite being many times bigger than us both in land mass and populations has no load shedding and has even excess electricity and is willing to give us on much cheaper rates. Our economic chaos is adding up every day. While poor are heavily taxed, the rich, specially the feudal and big land owners take away their income to foreign lands tax free. Tax collection mechanism is also completely inefficient and allows the taxable to go escort free. On the education and health side, our performance is hardly satisfactory. 55% of primary school age girls are not in school; the average Pakistani adult has 3.9 years of schooling; at 1.8% of GDP, Pakistan ranks 127 out of 132 countries worldwide in educational expenditure (spending 4.1% of GDP, India ranks 82nd); there are only 5 years of compulsory education — and many children get less; less than half the total population can meet a minimal literacy test (compared to 59% in India). The corruption at the top has permeated throughout the country. Business often depends on government for licenses or special treatment. Politics and connections affect the ability of NGO groups to raise money and take a toll on the integrity of universities and other institutions.
Why is it so? Well one of the glaring reason is the inability of our politicians to understand the dynamics of shaping the national strategy and the resultant military strategy. The armed forces should not draw a policy or a strategy of their own which does not support the aspirations of the people of the country. Except for a few members of the parliament, a majority is unaware of how to shape our national policy. This is quite evident from the participation in debate on the issue whenever such critical and important issues are discussed in the parliament. 

Even during the post budget discussions, a large majority of the members remain indifferent to the snags in the budget and finally the budget is passed with “over whelming” majority within a couple of days. Such is our economic chaos that is taking the country to disaster every day. And mind you budget is one of the most important parts of the economic well being of the country. 
Now if people in general and members of the upper and lower houses in particular do not understand the dynamics of economic strategies, fiscal policies and military strategy, how can they formulate a well drawn national strategy from which all other strategies take root?

Our misalignment and ill conceived foreign policy is also the result of the same. It seems every department and strategic organization of the country is working out its own course of action due to the vacuum that exists at the national level to come up with a unified approach. The PM’s address on Abbottabad fiasco tells nothing and is full of rhetoric that makes the ordinary citizen wonder at our political wisdom and consciousness of the dangers we are getting into.

We are too fond of saying “time has come to take corrective measures..”, but how many times this time has come in our political history of the country. I also want to say the same, but would it make any difference? Our political leaders are engrossed in their own political rivalries, blaming each other for the collective ills. Let sanity should prevail at least for now when our national integrity has been seriously jolted. If this can happen once, it can happen again. And if does, what answer our political and military leadership will have then? 

And before I finish, I must confess that more than any one else, it is we who have damaged this country because of our vested interests. all successive governments have concentrated on every means to continue to cling to the seat of the government and has adopted all means to do so. This has harmed us more than anything else. The country has been looted and plundered by none other than those who rule this country and showed no love and respect for the aspirations of the people of the country. The real issues that confront the country have been marginalized or side lined to distract the country and the people. 

And like Nero who played the flute while the Rome burnt, members of a political party that had joined the government were taking oath on 2nd of May, adding salt to the wounds of the nation which has had only hours before subjected to a deadly foreign excursion. This is how our leaders and rulers view the Abbottabad episode, which amply proves our apathy towards core national issues and our response.

Instead of wasting time on dead issues like Bhutto’s conviction, let us concentrate on much more important issues like framing of our future course of action before we are hit back once more with much more severe and dangerous consequences, that would hurt all of us more than ever before. We need to draw a long term National Strategy based on the aspirations of the people of Pakistan and the realities of the region we live in, rather than redefining it every other day to suit the wishes and dictates of someone who has never been our friend in real terms. 

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the one's we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.


Who is listening in this din Jalal?

We must keep saying, because silence is death of a nation.

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