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Pakistan : A State At The Crossroads

What’s Up?
Pakistan has been mired in endless conflicts from within and outside. The most serious of it all being it’s failing economy and a deteriorating internal security situation. Both of it are negatively pushing the other factor further down.

In almost all globally accepted development parameters Pakistan fares at the lower half of the index if not among the bottom few. This makes it comparable to countries like Bolivia and Kyrgyzstan with Nuclear Weapons. A situation of complete paradox.

The Seat of Power.

Pakistan is a very unique model of controlled state. It’s an experiment of democracy with dictatorship. Who controls Pakistan is a million dollar question, but definitely not the democratically elected dispensation. There is undisclosed understanding of power sharing between civilian government and military establishment. Pakistan’s foreign, defence, economic and cultural policies runs from Rawalpindi. While the mundane works of day to day governance is left to civilian government. Thus, who is the PM and which is the rulling party makes No difference to major policy matrix. Therefore, continuity or change of policies has nothing to do with wider political consensus, but it’s due to assessment carried out during Corps Commanders conference. By far the most powerful decision making body in Pakistan akin to Cabinet Committee on Security in India.

This power sharing model has tacit understanding of all political parties and the country’s media, with it’s military establishment. So all discussions on authority of PM and government, independence of judiciary and media must not cross a highly sacred line with the establishment.

A Sharply Divided Political Class.

Pakistan’s name sake democracy is none the less an achievement for a country which has spent half it’s existence under military rule. Over the period Pakistani Army realised that holding direct power has more challenges than the benefits. So smarter way was found to have control of the state without any accountability and thus the governance space was outsourced to political parties.

Pakistan’s political parties unfortunately held the myopic approach and became bait for military masters. ISI, the spin machine to election remained the tool with GHQ Rawalpindi. Each political party which aspired to hold the national power needs to have the blessings of GHQ. This most awkward power sharing model later proved to be the biggest undoing for the country. Authority without responsibility is a recipe for disaster, tha’s what Pakistan is experiencing now.

Misplaced Priorities.

Pakistan suffers a deep security paronia of being attacked by India. It regards India to be it’s existential threat. This to some extent can be attributed to history and the fact that Pakistan already lost half the country as Bangladesh. This paronia has immensely contributed towards misleading entire nation in a notion of permanent war with India.

So all logic and reasonings rests with cutting down any relationship with India, howsoever advantages it would have been for the common people. Pakistan thus is prepared to afford high costs of consumer products leading to further higher inflation but would not agree for trade with India. Strange as it may sound and appear  illogical but these are enforced by military establishment on to civilian government which has to answer the people. So the brunt of popular discontent is not borne by the Army but by the  civilian government which appears totally incapable and insensitive. This deminishes the political class among common population and retains the acceptability of Army as an alternative ruling elite.

Internal Challenges and Threats.

Pakistan faces serious internal challenges from security to commodity prices, from sinking economy to FATF grey list, from management of pandemic to corruption and from radicalisation to quality education. List is long but the sheer problem is they are interlinked with issues related to foreign, defence, economic and cultural policies which are directly being managed from Rawalpindi and are non touchable by civilian government. The results can never be satisfactory with halfhearted approach.

The more serious threat is the economic failure of the country. Post repeated IMF bailouts such is the state today that Pakistan government cannot take loan from it’s own national bank. Fact is Pakistan as a country with 220 million population is being run without any accountability. This is dangerous both for Pakistan and it’s neighborhood.

Course Corrections : A Five Point Formula.

Pakistan needs some serious course corrections if it wants to overcome current challenges and emerge as a strong regional and economic power with sustainable growth in future.

Firstly, the military and civilian leaders must come together to identify key domain essential for nation building. Important to remember that in a setup like Pakistan either of them cannot survive alone. Coming together offers a long term win-win situation for both military and civilian leaders.

Secondly, geo-economics should preceed geo-political considerations. If trade with a country proves more beneficial to Pakistan, it must be carried out. Politics and posturing should be kept out of national economy.

Thirdly, Pakistan must identify it’s domestic strength and work towards energizing them. Low labour cost, food security, fossil reserves, surplus electricity are some of the strong capabilities. Nascent industrial base, vibrant IT and services sector are some of the  highly promising sectors which if groomed will pay rich dividends.

Fourthly, keeping internal security situation to manageable levels. Pakistan needs a pause button on number of self made distractions. It atleast should identify a period of moratorium on issues of radical Islam, considering itself father figure for Afghanistan and Kashmir obsession. It must continue limited posturing on all key issues but desist from investing political and diplomatic capital on it as it will prove counter productive. The national effort must be directed towards nation building and that demands all organs to work in synchronised manner with singular aim.

Fifthly, conduct of a rational foreign policy wherein the matter pertaining to international relations, diplomatic requirements and continuity of approach must be given professional handling. Unwarranted comments by multiple ministers doesn’t help and there are instances galore. Unfortunately for Pakistan there’s a large grouping which shoots it’s mouth on diplomatic issues which should be clear domain of foreign office. You have, Pakistan NSA, ISI Chief, Army Chief, Interior Minister, Information Minister besides Foreign Minister and PM who would make public statements on matters of foreign policy. Naturally it never gels and sheer lethargy costs poor relations with major world powers. Economy and diplomacy are most interlinked issue in today’s world they don’t exist in isolation. It’s very elemantry, if investments are the need of the hour one can not be tweeting abuses to the other head of state.

For Pakistani military establishment and political leaders it’s high time to spare a thought for their nation which they claim to have earned with blood and sacrifices and not received as a grant from Britain.

Ravi Srivastava

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