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For Pakistan to change, army must change

– by Ayaz Amir

Decades of misadventure have distorted and even corrupted the Pakistani mind. We do not live in the real world. Our foreign policy notions, our list of assets and threats, have but a remote relation to reality. We must look to first causes. How did we create these bonfires for ourselves? How did we become prisoners of our misconceptions? Liberating the Pakistani mind from the shackles of these self-imposed errors must be the first of our tasks if, with luck, we are to become a normal nation.

The army and its strategic adventures have brought Pakistan to its present pass. The footprints of the terrorism now haunting the country go back to the first Afghan ‘jihad’, the one army-inspired event which pushed Pakistan to the frontiers of insanity. The phoenix won’t rise from its ashes, and there will be no return to sanity, unless the army can bring itself to change its outlook and reinvent some of its mental apparatus.

Civilians have been poor administrators, in no position to escape their share of the blame for the mess the Fortress of Islam is in. But in the driving seat of Pakistan’s steady march to the brink have been our holy guardians. There is little room for quibbling on this point.

Even so, despite the mounting evidence of disorder, the army refuses to change, still obsessed with the threat from the east, still caught up with the quixotic notion of exercising influence in Afghanistan. God in heaven, why should it matter to us if a president of Afghanistan is a Tajik, an Uzbek or a Pathan? Can’t we keep our eyes focused on our own problems? The threat we face lies squarely within but our strategic grandmasters insist on being foreign policy specialists.

If a Stalin were around, although fat chance of that occurring, he would lay his hands first not on militants and assorted terrorists but on the foreign policy experts who infest our television studios.

Is Mossad pulling the strings of terrorism in Karachi? Was the CIA behind the attack on Shia pilgrims in Mastung? Was RAW behind the attempt on the life of the Karachi special investigator, Chaudhry Aslam?

By any reasonable computation we have enough of a nuclear arsenal. By any yardstick of common sense, a commodity often in short supply in the conference rooms of national security, we have as much of a deterrent as we need to counter the real or imagined threat from India. This being the case, we should be directing what energies we have to the threat from within: that posed by militancy marching under the banner of Islam.

As part of this undertaking, we need to advertise for a Hakim Luqman who could cure our general staff and the ISI of their preoccupation with the future of Afghanistan. We have been burnt by Afghanistan. We don’t need any further burning. For the sake of Pakistan’s future we need to distance ourselves from Afghanistan’s problems, dire as they are.

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