Rising Pakistan: A new narrative by Brig (r) Samson Sharaf
Originally Published in The Nation:
By Samson Simon Sharaf | Published: May 23, 2011
The Kakul news buster is relegated to distant memories of many. Some see nothing positive coming through a corrupt and conceited dispensation; some are happy for the knock it gave to the maligned Ghairat Brigade, a term used for anyone who argues against unilateral US intervention in Pakistan’s affairs. Much that I wrote, in my article titled Pakistan’s Long War has begun a fortnight ago, has proven correct as also vindicated by the latest spate of WikiLeaks. Unfortunately, the priority of the media was to debate sensationalism, rather than conduct an informed and sane discourse on the events and how Pakistan should brace itself for the future.
In reality, nothing has gone unnoticed by the affected parties. The media would soon relish an opportunity of sensationalism never witnessed before, while the USA, equipped with a trove of information, will become a bigger bully. The Presidency will smile away, while the ISI and military are pushed back. Meanwhile, the non-state actors have begun to strike with vengeance. If true, the appointment of Saif al-Adel as the new Al-Qaeda leader will rekindle Saudi-Iranian rivalry on Pakistan’s battlefields. All this will come to pass in an environment where the state is not in control.
In the dirty and cantankerous war game of the intelligence agencies, deceitful, verbal demarches revealed by WikiLeaks prove that the government and military general staff have run out of ideas and lack vision to seize the initiative crucial to a conflict. To add salt to injury, they also lack ideas in totality. Pakistan, as in the past, appears best prepared to oversee its own attrition.
The much hyped joint session of Parliament proved to be one of the many jokes played with the nation through a media continuosly breaking news devoid of intellectualism. The quick Kerry visit ensured in the interim that the nation does not galvanise over national security, and rather sow suspicions and doubts. His sprint to the army house even before he had seen the President and Prime Minister ensured that he projected sufficient compliancy to make high politics smoother. On return, according to a renowned Pakistani journalist, he announced that he had managed to cajole Pakistan’s military and intelligence leadership into commitments for concise, accurate and verifiable military actions. It meant that the joint resolution was a stillbirth designed to deflect all domestic ire towards the military and ISI to the fulfilment of US objectives. As written by me in US War of Attrition in April 2009: “In the background and away from the eyes of observers, the dirty game of intelligence and counter-intelligence operations will continue with ferocity and mutual betrayal.” And politicians, ready to do anything for personal gain, “will be engaged and mutual erosion of the state of Pakistan will continue.”
Even though the nation has been continuously fed lies, the unending façade has made everything readable and transparent. Had the policy planners war-gamed the entire scenario since 2001, Pakistan could well have been on the road to prosperity and a valued commodity on the international scene. The way the country and its affairs have been run ever since are conspicuous by the absence of aspirations of the people for development and progress. With such negativity and plummeting socio-economic conditions, conflict is inevitable. However, common man well aware of the conceit continues to hold back in the hope of a just universal franchise to bring a change.
So, what is the way forward?
The myth of tied trade and aid: I belong to the same school as Dr Ishrat, Dr Ashfaq and Yusaf Nazar, which considers US aid to Pakistan as dispensable. Blessed with skilled labour, efficient white collar force and abundance of resources, Pakistan’s economy is capable of bouncing back within a year, particularly when the agriculture sector and overseas workforce are capable of giving that jump start for the first two years. Pakistan’s economists and social scientists must prepare a detailed and comprehensive study to analyse the effects if the US and IMF aid and loans are cut off? In 1998, Pakistan absorbed the shock and despite all mismanagement, the signs of growth were positive by 2000. Remember, in the past Pakistan lived through 13 years of sanctions with inflation and consumer price index in check.
A constitutional gap - national security through elements of national power:
As I wrote in Challenges to Pakistan’s Nuclear Stability in rom, the limbo lacks the political credibility to handle a nuclear deterrence regime. Private armies, illegal immigrant terrorists, and the US and NATO all violate Pakistan’s territorial integrity with impunity. There is undeniably a constitutional gap in its security management. The military oversees the strategic aspects, while social and economic security aspects are relegated to the babus. There is no infusion of the public aspirations in the security paradigm of the state. Much that Pakistan tries to safeguard on the strategic front is lost tamely just because the elements within the paradigm of national power are not synchronised. Pakistan’s policy planners and researchers must sit together and formulate a new National Security Policy that truly reflects and implements the aspirations for a progressive, self-reliant, credible and peaceful Pakistan.
Role of Parliament, media and researchers: Oblivious of the larger canvas, Parliament and the media of Pakistan are talking tactical matters. Let aside identify, they have not dilated on the irritants and concords in the Pak-US relations. There is no debate on how to handle relations with the US in future or what should be Pakistan’s role and contribution to this conflict; most importantly, the diverse strains of militancy and Al-Qaeda. The parliamentarians, establishment, media and opinion makers of Pakistan have to find snap and correct answers to these questions within days.
Handling US contractor recruitments: Of late hundreds of soldiers and officers, particularly from the Special Services Group, have joined private US contractors. The Ministry of Defence must recall all these individuals, scrutinise their activities and formulate a policy subject to military law that ensures that these retired personnel do not work against the interests of Pakistan.
Handling of remittances from abroad: From 2000-2006, Pakistan’s banking system was deluged with remittances that the central bank failed to handle, something I analysed in my series of articles, Pakistan’s Economic Hitmen. This resulted in a windfall of trillions of rupees that added to inflation, consumerism, defaults and bubbles. Pakistan’s economic revival plans must ensure sound policies to tap this huge national resource of expatriates for national development, that is productive, sustainable and growth oriented.
Regulation of NATO-ISAF and Afghanistan traffic: Like the contractors of India in World War II, a class of dirty rich suppliers and contractors is growing in Pakistan; courtesy supply chains for NATO-ISAF. Most of this traffic is unregulated, dubious and highly corruptive. Over 22,000 containers have disappeared purportedly hundreds with sizable military arsenals that can be both used by militants and US agents to pre-position hardware for Cold Start type operations. The government should immediately call a national security conference over this issue and adopt a policy duly ratified by Parliament on the following lines: -
1 All container traffic should be shifted to Pakistan Railways. The cost of fencing and security of the railway system should be met by NATO-ISAF. This will also save the road network from further deterioration.
2 Custom clearance at the ports of entry should be detailed, intrusive and all containers must be scanned by thermal imagers.
3 The railway should operate this container traffic with a high speed battery system, while the Ministry of Interior should ensure all safety measures.
4 Pakistan Customs must verify containers at the port of exit.
5 All containers must be tagged with GPS and satellite tracking to ensure they reach their destinations. This tagging should be a joint and shared activity of the Ministry of Interior, Railways, Customs, NATO-ISAF and Afghanistan.
A new social contract: As reflected by the Election Commission itself and the complexities of the NRO, the present political dispensation is a farce lacking representative credibility. Following the Supreme Court orders on the revision of electoral rolls, the country must immediately proceed towards snap elections that are free, fair and efficiently managed.
Last but not least, instability in Pakistan is an important plank of shaping the environment in the region by the US. Notwithstanding veracity, the timed release of the WikiLeaks has to be viewed with circumspection. Another rumour calls on the ISI Chief to resign under US pressure. Why must USA be interested in his removal if he is compliant with their policies? Or are we witnessing a last battle at an individual level by a patriotic Pakistani?
The writer is PTI's spokesperson for Defence Production, retired Brigadier and a political economist.
Brig (r) Samson Sharaf