Rescuing Pakistan

WASHINGTON DIARY: Rescuing Pakistan
Dr Manzur Ejaz
February 24th, 2009
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The writer can be reached at
Only fortune-tellers can forecast the supply of electricity and water; there are serious risks to public health, especially Hepatitis B and C; the education system is in ruins; and the rural unemployment rate – Ajmal Kasab, the only surviving jihadi in Mumbai, came from such an area – is well over fifty percent.

It is clear from the statements made by Barack Obama during the election campaign and after he moved into the White House that the Pakistan-Afghanistan-India issues is the most difficult problem that his administration and the world will be facing in the coming years. Obama’s appointment of Richard Holbrooke as a special representative to the region backs up these statements.

That Britain, France and Germany have followed the United States’ lead in appointing special envoys to the region indicates that Europe shares America’s apprehensions. Japan, China and Russia, despite their concerns about US policies, are also on board in the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

But many, including this writer, are concerned whether the Obama administration and its allies have a complete apprehension of the Pak-Afghan issue.

Leaving aside how, during the 1980s, the US, Pakistan’s military government and Arab monarchies created the jihadi monster, we have to deal with the issue at hand – the rising tide of Islamic extremism and the Taliban-Al Qaeda insurgency. Two aspects have to be clearly understood: how to deal with the areas where insurgents and other jihadi groups have established control; and how to secure the regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan that are considered safe from Talibanisation. Many consider these so-called safe regions to be more important as they are the bases from which the war against insurgency is going to be fought.

The real danger is that these areas are not as safe as perceived by the Obama administration and the rest of the world. For starters, almost all the jihadis involved in the Mumbai attacks of November 2008 belonged to ‘safe’ Punjab. Many comfort themselves with the thought that this shows jihadis to be a random phenomenon. But it may also mean that large jihadi sleeper cells are all over Punjab as well as Sindh, especially Karachi. Those with their eyes on Lahore have already seen the Laskhar-e Tayba’s organised force display its strength during the protests against the Dutch cartoonists. And LeT is just one of many such groups in Punjab and other ‘non-Talibanised’ areas.

We cannot say much about the non-Taliban areas of Afghanistan, but we know that the so-called Pakistani safe zones, particularly Punjab and Sindh, are facing an ever-deepening economic crisis and political instability. Only fortune-tellers can forecast the supply of electricity and water; there are serious risks to public health, especially Hepatitis B and C; the education system is in ruins; and the rural unemployment rate – Ajmal Kasab, the only surviving jihadi in Mumbai, came from such an area – is well over fifty percent. The gap between the rich and the poor is one of the worst in the world; the largest service sector is that of domestic servants.

The fudged numbers of the federal government and international agencies greatly understate these problems, but the reality is closer to what has been described above. Such circumstances further aid the proliferation of the jihadi phenomenon.

At the political level, the feudal aristocracy from Sindh and southern Punjab dominates the central government. Incidentally, the people of Sindh are either oppressed by centuries-old feudalism, or face ethnic divisions in urban centres like Hyderabad and Karachi. The ethnic issue along can lead to a civil war-like situation any time. Sindh, the home province of the president, the national assembly speaker and the senate chairman, thus faces all the ills afflicting Punjab, and then some.

The ruling elite – which includes feudal lords that justify the burying alive of women and are allegedly involved in cases of vani – have no concept of the supremacy of the state and its relationship with society. For them, as they consider themselves over and above the state and its institutions, personal power is far more important than the public good.

Henry Kissinger, in one of his columns after the elections in February last year, highlighted this aspect of Pakistani politics and advised the Bush administration to avoid micro-managing the country’s politics.

No one would like any outside force to intervene in the internal issues of a country, but we must take stock of what we are dealing with. Incidentally, the most successful, though very costly, US interventions were in Japan, Germany and South Korea, where it enforced economic and political reforms, including massive land reforms in Japan and South Korea.

Many agree with President Asif Zardari that Pakistan needs a programme like the Marshall Plan to save the country from being thrown back to the dark ages. Some think tanks estimate that Pakistan needs $5 billion to sustain itself.

However, if the president and his associates are convinced that Pakistan should get an ‘Obama Plan’, they should also be ready to accept massive political and economic reforms, including land reforms. I am sure that if the Obama administration offers a plan with such conditions, the ruling elite will reject it straight away. Yet this is what we need. Otherwise, Pakistan’s decline is inevitable.
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2 thoughts on “Rescuing Pakistan”

  1. pakistan is illegitimate child of india that insisted on islamic state
    ok so now let them taste real islam
    pakistan will die soon and the whole region and world will be better off

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