Vantage point

Saturday, July 19, 2003

The Friday Times is one of my favourite magazines. I like the honest, no-nonsense and relatively unbiased approach it takes towards issues. Among the writers in TFT, my favourite is Khaled Ahmed the Consulting Editor. He writes in an unemotional and clinical manner, not worrying about stepping on anyone's toes. I am sure most of the Pakistanis think of him as an Indian agent, but they probably forget the articles he has written criticising India. Anyway, his recent "Analysis" is a gem. Am posting the entire story here instead of the link because TFT articles go offline after a week. I've made the important points of the article bold, for the sake of people who don't wanna read it all.

Here is a link of an interview of Ahmed conducted at Berkeley in case you want to know more about his views.

The cost of opposing General Musharraf

General Musharraf has become instrumental in highlighting the clash between ideology and pragmatism in Pakistan. The �mission statement� embodied in Pakistani nationalism clearly runs counter to what he has done in the realm of foreign policy since 9/11. The internal �liberal� reforms he has carried out under an �enabling� judgement from the Supreme Court should have been supported by the liberal constituency, but the liberals hate him no less than the Islamists for postponing pure democracy under his LFO. The Islamists don�t like him for giving up the Taliban and banning the mujahideen. The MMA wants to get rid of him so that it can pressure the ideologically soft politicians of Pakistan into letting them create a religious state where only the clergy would rule. The PPP and the PML(N) have both proved unable to stem the tide of Islamic extremism in the country in the past and have seriously discredited themselves in the eyes of the people with their performance in government. By accepting the MMA as a battering ram that will bring down General Musharraf�s three-year-old edifice they are risking their political future even further.

Pragmatism is not the way of life Pakistanis like. They look at the world emotionally and take their state ideology seriously. For Pakistan - a state with restricted resources - sticking to the dictates of nationalism is ever more difficult. Seeking any realistic solution to the Kashmir problem throws the country into disorder. Normalising relations with India, or starting trade with it under the SAARC agreements, pleases no one. The country�s foreign policy has been moulded by its early confrontational posture with India. There are many demons here that emerge at the most unlikely junctures. If the anti-India policy is a pillar, so is the membership of a mythical Muslim umma. There are times when Pakistan judges the world on how the world behaves towards India. There are also times when it applies the yardstick of the Muslim umma. In both cases it sacrifices practicalities to emotion. As a result, Pakistan cannot have a strategy of survival. In a world where no morality exists in international relations, guiding Pakistan along inflexible lines is pure suicide. Much emphasis is laid on how Pakistan looks at the world, but no attention is paid to how the world, including the mythical umma, looks at Pakistan. The latter issue is often dismissed as �image problem� and self-righteousness is relied on to judge the foreign policies of other nations.

Let�s all hate Musharraf: Such are the popular compulsions in Pakistan that General Musharraf emerges as the only figure of enlightenment in society. The emergence of the religious parties in the MMA as the only vent for the offended collective emotion has introduced a new element in politics. Everybody seems to be favouring a clerical takeover of the country. The leftists want to revenge themselves on General Musharraf for once again enslaving the country to the United States and throwing the national economy into the maelstrom of neo-liberal globalisation. The liberals speak in unison with the mullahs when they subject General Musharraf to their purist critique: he promised democracy but he rigged his referendum and pre-rigged the 2002 elections and has forfeited his right to be president of Pakistan while still remaining in uniform. The economist dismisses the economic recovery of the past three years as a one-time windfall that will not last and calls in question the macro-indicators boasted by General Musharraf. Many economists shift to the micro level and join in the layman�s plaint about the common man getting nothing out of the $10 billion accumulated by the State Bank as its foreign exchange reserve. If Afghanistan did not infuriate all of us, the war in Iraq did. General Musharraf as an ally of Washington became despised by all, the detractors equally divided between the mosque and the air-conditioned drawing room. Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussain were given new halos and General Musharraf was anathematised along with George Bush.

Senior Pakistani journalist Irshad Haqqani writing in Jang (4 July 2003) said that it looked likely that General Musharraf had decided to provide support to America�s strategic objectives in the Middle East and Afghanistan. He has announced that Pakistan would send troops to Iraq �after clearing up some issues� of detail. Pakistan could not go along with this decision on a number of counts: Pakistan�s worldview, its ideology, its responsibilities as a part of the Muslim umma, and the directly affected self-interest of the state. Was General Musharraf going the way of General Yahya and General Zia by doing America�s bidding merely to get his military uniform validated? General Zia served the Americans and could have got 25 to 50 billion dollars in return, but he preferred being recognised by America as Pakistan�s military ruler. Now what was General Musharraf asking of the US for sending Pakistani troops to Iraq? He was sacrificing Pakistan�s self-interest which was in collision with the United States policy: its status as nuclear Islamic power, it status as an important member of the Muslim umma, its adherence to a worldview that was opposed to that of the United States.

Getting short-changed by America? If America�s strategic objectives coincide with Pakistan�s, what is Pakistan to do? Change its objectives? General Zia told us that they coincided and went ahead with his great �deniable� jihad. What he did internally was not dictated by America. It is difficult to credit Haqqani�s claim that he could have got up to $50 billion out of the US. He had earlier written in Jang (22 May 2003) that an American website had stated that thousands of air attacks were carried out in Afghanistan from Pakistani bases. The website was later censored. He said that Pakistan had given too much to America in return for very little. The truth of the matter is that have we always overrated our strategic value, but it is this strategic position which has allowed us to manage a country for the running of which we have insufficient talent. This time we have got more than we deserved after being caught red-handed doing terrorism. The record shows that first we get what we demand, then we complain about not getting what we deserved. In his book The White House and Pakistan (OUP), F.S. Aijazuddin quotes a 1966 memorandum to President Johnson on the same theme: �Thus, while we can�t blame the Paks for being unhappy with us, it isn�t because we betrayed them; it is because their own policy of using us against India has failed. They know full well we didn�t give them $800 million in arms to use against India (but they did). Even so we built up Pakistan�s own independent position and sinews � to the tune of almost $5 billion in support. We�ve protected Pakistan against India; we had more to do with stopping the war Ayub had started than anyone else (just in time to save Paks).�

Pakistan took on India and survived by siding with America. Pakistan and the US were incompatible as foreign policy bedfellows but the cold war allowed this inconvenient cohabitation. The beneficiary was Pakistan (Total air superiority in the 1965 war; offensive edge in the 1980s with F16s.), but an unhappy one. The fact that India�s patron-state the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 proved that �Liaquat Ali Khan�s Blunder� was right after all. We were consistently told about �the five contradictions� but we chose to steadily interpret our relations with the US in emotional terms. If there was an option of delinking from America it was never seriously exercised or was overtaken by events. Now, according to Haqqani, Pakistan has a worldview that clashes with the United States� worldview. He mentions Pakistan�s status of an Islamic nuclear power as one factor. This goes against the official version: our nuclear status is completely tied to India and is not �Islamic�. It would be folly to oppose our nuclear status to that of the United States or anyone else. By removing America�s non-proliferation focus from the CTBT, President Bush has actually legitimised Pakistan�s nuclear programme, to say nothing of the other hanky-panky Pakistan has been guilty of in the nuclear field. He thinks sending Pakistani troops to Iraq would be unacceptable to the nation. Pragmatism might dictate that it be tied to a UN, OIC or GCC initiative, as General Musharraf explained. Leveraged with Saudi �advise� (backed with half a billion dollars worth of free oil every year) Pakistan will retain its tradition of going out with the UN troops, next in numbers only to Bangladesh.

The great umma myth: The responsibility of Pakistan as an important member of the Muslim umma is a vague idea. Because it is mythical, it is a strong component of the Pakistani psyche. But even as we mouth umma slogans to beat each other down, we have allowed �popular� policies to offend Iran, the Central Asian States and Turkey to gain our strategic ends. Looked at closely, the idea of the umma is a subversive one. Pakistani writers usually survey the Islamic umma like this: the umma exists but is being ruled all wrong; hence the present order should be overthrown and replaced with an ideal system close to the dictates of Islam. Once we get into the umma mode we say subversive things about our best friends. The Saudi kingship must be overthrown, so must the secular constitution of Turkey; if possible, all the governments of the Islamic umma should be replaced with new regimes. Some of us recommend a khilafat of the umma (Tanzim-e-Islami of Dr Israr Ahmad and Hizb al-Tahrir), which is an intellectually bastardised version of Stalin�s socialism-in-one-country theory. The idea is that there should first be a �central� Islamic state with an ideal system. It should then conquer or bring into its orbit of power by unspecified means all the other Islamic states. Given the ruinous experiments with the ideal Islamic state in Iran, Afghanistan and now (in chrysalis) in the NWFP, one can safely predict that the idea will bring further misfortune to the brainwashed Pakistani nation.

Pakistan cannot have a worldview except in the shape of a strategy of survival. There is risk in talking of a worldview because of our fondness for international isolation. Our disenchantment with America has become a long never-ending collective moan. It is the wages of a superpower with a global vision trying to couple with a state whose vision is restricted to a region. Who has betrayed whom? If General Musharraf�s pragmatism is accepted, then no one. But if an ideological gloss is imposed on the issue, then the US; and Pakistan was right in doing terrorism through its various jihadi clients. By the same token, the US would be right in punishing Pakistan for 9/11. But Musharraf was adroit in positioning Pakistan right, first, to avoid punishment and, second, to benefit from the post-9/11 situation in competition with India. No one likes it. Pakistanis don�t like it. Many Americans don�t like Pakistan being rewarded. If you want to see more (perhaps terminal) pain, get rid of Musharraf and get Qazi Hussain Ahmad to rule Pakistan. Defeat is another name for total isolation. Like Imam Khomeini and Mulla Umar, we all see honour only in isolationism.