Chang­ing Pak­istan’s Fate

Southasia - - Contents - S. G. Ji­la­nee is a se­nior po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and former edi­tor of Southa­sia Mag­a­zine.

Ti­tle: Pak­istan, Be­yond the Cri­sis State

Edited by: Maleeha Lodhi

Pub­lisher: Ox­ford Univer­sity Press, Pak­istan (March 2011)

Pages: 320, Hard­back

Price: PKR.895

ISBN: 9780199063222

Only the most ded­i­cated can find hope in de­spair; in dark­ness, light. Six­teen such peo­ple, im­bued with un­shak­able be­lief in a happy fu­ture for Pak­istan, have come for­ward with highly in­sight­ful dis­ser­ta­tions on how to turn the coun­try into an el do­rado, when, to the naked eye Pak­istan presents the pic­ture of a rud­der­less ship adrift in a choppy sea, buf­feted by an­gry waves.

The writ­ers in­clude ex­perts in the fields of eco­nomics, hu­man de­vel­op­ment, se­cu­rity, jour­nal­ism as well as one cel­e­brated his­to­rian. Maleeha Lodhi has col­lected these es­says in the form of a book, adding one chap­ter of her own. In Pak­istan,

Be­yond the Cri­sis State, the writ­ers as­sert that Pak­istan is nei­ther a failed nor even a fail­ing state, that there are rea­sons for hope be­sides con­crete in­di­ca­tors that en­sure progress.

No­body de­nies that Pak­istan is a weak state. It is not ca­pa­ble to grap­ple with nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, law and or­der, tax eva­sion, mas­sive cor­rup­tion and so forth. Among the plethora of crises it faces are ter­ror­ism, re­li­gious mil­i­tancy, in­sur­gency, in­fla­tion, you name it. But what holds the so­ci­ety to­gether is its plu­ral­is­tic, open so­ci­ety and an or­ga­nized mil­i­tary.

The writ­ers are un­der no delu­sion. In fact sev­eral of them have ac­knowl­edged the grim sit­u­a­tion with such re­marks as, “Pak­istan is at the cross­roads of its po­lit­i­cal destiny” (p.45); “Pak­istan is a pris­oner of its ge­og­ra­phy and his­tory.” (p.79); Pak­istan to­day faces a grow­ing threat from vi­o­lent ex­trem­ists and Is­lamic mil­i­tants.” (p.131); “Pak­istan’s en­ergy sec­tor is in cri­sis.”(p.231)

Ayesha Jalal kicks off the de­bate with her th­e­sis that Pak­istan has lost his­tor­i­cal con­scious­ness and the hope of defin­ing any sem­blance of a na­tional iden­tity be­cause it sac­ri­ficed “cred­i­ble his­tory” to pol­i­tics. And it is only a more open-minded his­tory that can re­deem the sit­u­a­tion.

There are es­says on eco­nomics by Meekal Ah­mad and Mo­das­sar Mazhar Ma­lik, on the army and pol­i­tics by Shuja Nawaz, Saeed Shafqat, Feroz Hasan Khan, Ah­mad Rashid, Syed Ah­mad Hus­sein and on civil in­sti­tu­tions by Ishrat Hus­sein, Ziad Alah­dad, Shanza Khan and Moeed Yusuf. Ak­bar S. Ah­mad adds his two bits to re­it­er­ate M.A. Jin­nah’s rel­e­vance to Pak­istan to­day. And Mohsin Hamid, as a typ­i­cal fic­tion writer in­tro­duces an el­e­ment of fan­tasy.

The themes of all the es­says con­verge on the cen­tral agenda that Pak­istan is not about to fail what­ever Con­gress­man Rohrabacher might say. Lodhi’s recipe in, Be­yond the

Cri­sis State, is that po­lit­i­cal par­ties should fo­cus on the mid­dle class, on their need for good gov­er­nance and cast a new agenda of re­forms. The writ­ers, each in their own way of­fer a pos­i­tive ap­proach and prac­ti­cal so­lu­tions.

Yet, the clar­ion call from Ayesha Jalal for a crit­i­cal self-anal­y­sis and ground­ing in his­tor­i­cal com­plex­ity re­mains largely un­heeded. A case in point is Mohsin Hamid’s es­say,

“Why Pak­istan will sur­vive.” As a typ­i­cal fic­tion-writer, he goes lyri­cal about the “vast” size and “large” pop­u­la­tion of Pak­istan. He even fan­ta­sizes about Pak­istan’s “di­ver­sity,” spirit of “co-ex­is­tence” and, of all things, its “tol­er­ance,” but the fre­quent mas­sacre of Shias by Sun­nis flies in the face of his claim.

Hamid an­swers the ques­tion, “What makes a per­son, Pak­istani?” like a for­eign im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cial ex­am­in­ing the pass­port of a Pak­istani. “If you are from Pak­istan,” he says, “then you are a Pak­istani.” He ar­gues that this ide­o­log­i­cal def­i­ni­tion al­lows for great flex­i­bil­ity and “re­lief.” But the state­ment is ut­terly hyp­o­crit­i­cal be­cause Ah­madis, even though they are “from Pak­istan” are not treated by the com­mu­nity and even the con­sti­tu­tion, as Pak­ista­nis, with equal rights as ci­ti­zens.

Hamid’s es­say ig­nores Jalal’s fer­vent plea for an open-minded study of his­tory. To dis­cuss and crit­i­cally ex­am­ine Pak­istan’s prob­lems – cur­rent and fu­ture – and the reme­dies that are avail­able, a pre­lim­i­nary task would be to make a clear-eyed anal­y­sis of the ex­ist­ing re­al­i­ties and an hon­est ap­praisal of the atroc­i­ties in­flicted by the state on its peo­ple and by the peo­ple on one an­other as of rou­tine, in­stead of slid­ing into fan­tasies.

Zahid Hus­sain’s es­say, “Bat­tling Mil­i­tancy” is a down to earth study of the en­tire gamut of the re­li­gious mil­i­tancy in Pak­istan, the as­so­ci­a­tion of re­li­gious groups such as the Ja­maat-e-Is­lami and the JUI as well as the col­lu­sion be­tween Pak­istan’s mil­i­tary with re­li­gious mil­i­tants and their con­se­quences.

Vet­eran diplo­mat Muneer Akram beats the war drum against In­dia. “Ac­cept­ing In­dian dom­i­na­tion,” he force­fully ar­gues, “would ex­tin­guish the rai­son d’etre for the cre­ation of Pak­istan as a sep­a­rate and in­de­pen­dent home­land for the Mus­lims of South Asia. Free from Hindu dom­i­na­tion.” But he for­gets that Pak­istan is any­thing but a “home­land for the Mus­lims of South Asia.” He ar­gues for Pak­istan to pur­sue its per­pet­ual state of de­fi­ance to In­dia and sup­port for the Kash­miri strug­gle for self-de­ter­mi­na­tion. He thinks it would pre­vent In­dia from anti-Pak­istan ac­tiv­i­ties.

Akram fore­sees pre-emp­tive counter force strikes by In­dia to elim­i­nate Pak­istan’s of­fen­sive sys­tems at the out­set of a con­flict. “To de­ter an In­dian pre-emp­tive strike or ma­jor power in­ter­ven­tion,” he pleads for Pak­istan “to put its nu­clear weapon de­liv­ery sys­tem on high alert.” How­ever, he does not ex­plain why there should be an armed con­flict at all, af­ter the bit­ter ex­pe­ri­ence of four such con­fronta­tions.

Ex­pert on Afghanistan, Ah­mad Rashid has dwelt on the Afghanistan co­nun­drum and ex­am­ined the role Pak­istan could play in a post-war Afghanistan. Rif­fat Hus­sain, chron­i­cles all the agree­ments and rounds of com­pos­ite di­a­logue be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan, ex­am­ines In­dia’s sta­tus in diplo­matic and eco­nomic sec­tors and the op­tions avail­able to Pak­istan.

The Con­clud­ing Notes com­press the ex­per­tise dis­played in the writ­ings be­sides of­fer­ing a strange ad­vice: “Pak­istan should also seek to re­vive his­toric and mu­tu­ally sup­port­ive re­la­tion­ship with key Is­lamic na­tions, es­pe­cially, Saudi Ara­bia ….” But there is hardly any need to re­vive some­thing that has never sagged.

Fi­nally, Maleeha Lodhi re­marks in the in­tro­duc­tion that the vol­ume is meant as a set of pol­icy re­sponses, which can guide a “ca­pa­ble leader ship in chart­ing a new course,” raises the ques­tion of the present lead­er­ship’s ca­pa­bil­ity.

Re­viewed by S.G. Ji­la­nee

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