When a bless­ing be­comes a curse

Southasia - - CONTENTS - Re­viewed by S.G. Ji­la­nee

Book Ti­tle: The War­rior State Au­thor: T.V. Paul Pub­lisher: Ox­ford Uni­ver­sity Press, USA Pages: 272 ISBN: 9780199322237

Pak­istan has al­ways fas­ci­nated and baf­fled ob­servers. Born with much fan­fare and a lot of prom­ise, it lost half of the coun­try within less than 25 years of its ex­is­tence so an­a­lysts like Tariq Ali, Z.A. Su­leri and Khaled Ah­mad be­gan ques­tion­ing whether it “can” or “will” sur­vive.

Its lo­ca­tion at the mouth of the Ara­bian Sea was a geostrate­gic bless­ing that gave it a piv­otal po­si­tion on the big power chess­board in the Cold War. Yet, to­day, de­spite its well-oiled war ma­chine and its po­si­tion as the “fifth largest nu­clear weapon state”, it is one of the “weak­est states glob­ally.” It was ranked 12th in the Failed States In­dex in 2011 and stood at 124th among 144 in the Global Com­pet­i­tive­ness In­dex in 2013. Why is it in such a mess, mired per­pet­u­ally in a mélange of do­mes­tic con­flicts? And why does it re­main con­stantly on life sup­port from the World Bank, IMF, ADB and other donor agen­cies, par­tic­u­larly the United States?

Schol­ars are try­ing to find an­swers to th­ese ques­tions. Babar Ayaz in his re­cent book, “What is

wrong with Pak­istan” at­tempted to an­swer some of them. Now, Prof. T. V. Paul of the McGill Uni­ver­sity in Canada deals more com­pre­hen­sively with th­ese ques­tions in his new book, The War­rior State.

Paul ar­gues that Pak­istan’s geostrate­gic lo­ca­tion is the prin­ci­pal cul­prit re­spon­si­ble for its eco­nomic deca­dence. Pak­istan’s lead­ers had re­al­ized its po­ten­tial very early. Barely a month af­ter in­de­pen­dence, Jin­nah was self-con­fi­dently boasting be­fore Mar­garet Bourke-White, an Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist, that, “Amer­ica needs Pak­istan more than Pak­istan needs Amer­ica.” In the Cold War con­text this as­sump­tion proved cor­rect. Amer­ica swal­lowed the bait and Pak­istan’s pol­i­cy­mak­ers, in­clud­ing the army, politi­cians and bu­reau­crats, whom the au­thor calls the “elite,” went berserk to cap­i­tal­ize on this ad­van­tage. But the en­su­ing del­uge of dol­lars it ul­ti­mately turned Pak­istan’s geostrate­gic bless­ings into, what the au­thor calls, its “geostrate­gic curse.”

Like coun­tries suf­fer­ing from the re­source blight, whose abil­ity to gen­er­ate rev­enues from the sale of min­er­als such as oil, im­pedes gen­er­at­ing do­mes­tic tax­a­tion, Pak­istan also suf­fered the same prob­lem. Mas­sive for­eign aid made the “elite” in­do­lent. They set­tled for the sta­tus quo and be­came in­dif­fer­ent to­wards long-term devel­op­ment and re­forms, both po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic, that could make the coun­try “more demo­cratic, egal­i­tar­ian and accountable.”

For ex­am­ple, where any men­tion of cre­at­ing a new prov­ince in Pak­istan is heresy, In­dia to­day boasts 29 states and seven Union Ter­ri­to­ries (and more are con­tem­plated) though it started with 14 prov­inces at the time of in­de­pen­dence. Sim­i­larly, In­dia abol­ished zamindari, limited the size of in­di­vid­ual land­hold­ing and levied tax on agri­cul­tural in­come, But Pak­istan re­mains a semi-feu­dal state, where pow­er­ful land­lords own thou­sands of acres of land, en­joy many of the trap­pings of clas­sic feu­dal­ism in their re­la­tions with their “serfs” and yet pay no in­come tax on agri­cul­ture. No won­der “Pak­istan is one of the world’s least ef­fec­tive tax-col­lect­ing states,” where the rich of­ten pay no tax.

From the very start, the “elite” worked them­selves up into para­noia about the threat to the coun­try’s in­de­pen­dence from In­dia and went zeal­ously into the busi­ness of war­mak­ing. This led to the emer­gence of a strong mil­i­tary ap­pa­ra­tus that man­aged to dom­i­nate the state and the na­tional se­cu­rity nar­ra­tive be­sides ex­ploit­ing Is­lam to jus­tify its anti-In­dia pol­icy.

The au­thor blames this kind of war prepa­ra­tions and Pak­istan’s con­tin­u­ous ob­ses­sion on the ex­ter­nal threat for the coun­try’s “present predica­ment.” But, nei­ther war-mak­ing, nor the ap­peal to Is­lam has been able to achieve na­tional unity. On the con­trary, the lat­ter has fu­elled ex­trem­ism, sec­tar­ian con­flict and anti-mi­nor­ity vi­o­lence.

The au­thor re­ca­pit­u­lates the his­tory of Pak­istan from its con­cept and achieve­ment to the 2013 elec­tion, to pur­sue his the­sis and lists some ba­sic fac­tors that have

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