Changing Pakistan’s Fate
Title: Pakistan, Beyond the Crisis State
Edited by: Maleeha Lodhi
Publisher: Oxford University Press, Pakistan (March 2011)
Pages: 320, Hardback
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.