Brexit and what it teaches us
THE referendum in UK about its staying in the EU or leav ing it was the result of years of bickering between Great Britain and the EU and of David Cameron’s promise during his election campaign two years ago to have the referendum and to step down if and when there would be a majority for the Brexit. Now this has happened and Cameron has announced that he will step down in October. The news about the majority of people voting for the Brexit has shaken not only UK but Europe as well. In case of Europe this is understandable: though for many years there has been formidable critique about the format of the European Union the bigwigs in Brussels never took those seriously and despite the need for reforms, none was coming forward. The recent refugee crisis has just sharpened the dissent within the EU countries. Especially the newcomers from Eastern Europe with a communist tradition have no sympathy for refugees and refuse to cooperate in the distribution and acceptance of refugees especially Muslims.
Nobody is bothered to fix responsibility on those responsible for this genocide and refugees leaving their hearth and homes in complete desperation because of foreign intervention and trampling of sovereignty of Muslim countries, starting from 9/11 drama alleging Taliban and Mullah Omar responsible for 9/11 plot to justify their attacks on Afghanistan using daisy cutters and carpet bombing making 5 to 6 million homeless forced to cross into Pakistan and Iran as refugees, then attack Iraq on false pretext of recovering WMD having failed in both wars they plotted Arab Spring and Syrian misadventure that forced refugees exodus from Mediterranean to European that created a false fear among nationalists against global regional free movement of people witnessed in EU. British out vote decision, now demands a case registered against world leaders responsible for this genocide and war mongering under pre-emptive attacking.
Another problem is the huge difference in economic strength and development between the European countries and the fact that for too long Europe has led an economic life based on fiscal deficits living above its actual financial means. The hiding of deficits in manipulated economic statistics has been tolerated which led to practical default of Greece and the serious financial problems of Italy, Spain and Portugal. Reforms have been delayed for too long and while not all demands of Great Britain for change in the EU setup were admissible, some had a point and the matter should not have been pushed under the proverbial carpet.
The good thing about the Brexit is that it can act as a wake-up call for Europe and initiate the long-needed and long-neglected change. Given the measure of globalization that the world has reached by now, there is no alternative for European countries including UK to uniting economically and politically given their limited population and decreasing economic strength in the global theatre. Nationalism – a product of European enlightenment and once a sign of strength and assertiveness has become an obstacle in the necessary process of uniting Europe.
There is an important lesson to be learnt from the Brexit and the woes of the European Union for Pakistan and South Asia. In a globalized world single countries are losing strength and impact and the new need of the hour is to build strong regional unions. This is true for South Asia as well despite the difference that South Asian countries are much more populous than the European ones. A globalized world every one thrives on inter-connectivity which crosses national borders and makes them increasingly meaningless and porous. That might sound crazy for Pakistan that is right now in the process of fencing and strengthening its border with Afghanistan but we have to understand this process as temporary.
The menace of terrorism has to be stopped but once done the plans for economic interconnectivity like CASA and TAPI are already in the pipeline. Though this will take another decade; at least this time is needed to overcome the political and ideological hurdles that divide and even embattle the people of our region. Nationalism – a project that never really fruited in Pakistan because it demanded from the people to discard their ethnic identity and culture and accept a uniform religious and cultural one that did not match their self-image, is fast becoming a hurdle in our region as well. The fight between India and Pakistan about who was right and who was wrong in 1947 is damaging the cause of a prosperous subcontinent and makes SAARC a dead body right from its beginning.
When I had some role in SAARC Chamber of Commerce, I even tried to convey to its financiers to curtail the dominance of a shark in the SAARC if we were sincere in growth of a true and meaningful Regional Cooperation, because I had personally seen the failure of RCD pact in spite of strong commitment of the three governments then. The Kashmir conflict another fight about territory and the rightness or wrongness of partition in 1947 is promoting the militarization of the subcontinent and diverting substantial financial means for social development into military expenditure. The fight of India against CPEC and the rivalry between Gwadar and Chahbahar are grotesque when viewed from the angle of the need for cooperation and interconnectivity that appears to be promoted under global agenda.
Globalization has changed the world not only outwardly but it has changed the strategies that have to be applied in order to reach a prosperous interconnected world but in reality WTO is supporting capitalism and as a result poverty is increasing manifold. So far competition has ruled roost; the new world requires cooperation. The time of super powers is over as vanishing impact and vision of US is demonstrating. The new economic ‘super power’ China is ready to cooperate in many regards within the Shanghai Cooperation, with its vision one belt one road. The future is with regional and global unions that are based on cooperation rather than hostile competition. It is time to recognize this for Pakistan and South Asia. There is no doubt that this will take time and needs support from within the region: one can’t clap with one hand only.
But it is important to recognize writing on the wall and start process of change at our own doorstep. So far our leadership in government as well as in opposition has failed us badly. That means we need new leaders that are ready to overcome hurdles of selfishness, greed and narrow nationalism and are ready for the sacrifices that real ‘change ‘ will demand from each of us. Come, let us then to task of Empowerment of society for a better and prosperous future and throw yoke of poverty once for all. God bless Pakistan and humanity. —The writer is a senior columnist based in Karachi.