Still Seeking Salvation

Still Seeking Salvation

Pakistan is a relatively new country, but soon after its inception it had already begun to lose its true direction and purpose. It is now commonly misbelieved that the country was conceived because of ideology. In fact, it was conceived to escape ideology. Two factors point in this direction: first, that the majority of Muslims were actually abandoned in India at the altar of the Lahore Resolution of March 24, 1940, in favour of Muslim majority areas. Second, the current status of Muslims in India and the treatment they are receiving in a Hindu-dominant ideology. This can be further questioned in the wake of the Two-Nation Theory and the break-up of East Pakistan. Two conclusions stand out as a fact: Bangladesh never joined India, and Pakistan was not constructed for Islam.

     However, it is this very thinking that dominates our external and internal policies. Resultantly, the country has morphed into something it was never designed to be. Over the years it has refused to become a nation, instead forcing its people to look towards a larger objective — the ‘Islamic Ummah.’ Thus, instead of looking inwards, the country has insisted on looking outwards — for assistance, for resources, for employment, for support and for recognition. This has determined its outlook and profile, and engendered both, an alignment with ideologically compatible elements, and with globally acceptable governance principles. This in turn has led to two different and opposing perceptions in perpetual conflict with one another: a government trying to find its place in the comity of nations as an international entity based on a universally accepted social order, and a public at large held hostage to an extreme position based on ideological thinking — which nothing short of death would do to defend. Somewhere between these two positions lies the State of Pakistan — a country without a nation, in search of an identity.

     In this situation, the backdrop of National Security for Pakistan has to be discussed; the parameters not only need to be defined, but clearly understood. After all, before any collective wisdom leads to commitment whereby red lines are established and limits recognised, let us first examine what it is we want to lay down our lives for, and more importantly, what it is that we wish to live for.

      The State and Government are two different things. The former is permanent and comprises people, land, sovereignty and government. The latter is intangible and temporary; it is a component of State; it may be a democracy, an aristocracy, a dictatorship or even a monarchy. In a democracy the government usually represents the majority of the people, but not all the people, whereas the State includes all the people in it. In the case of Pakistan, the purpose of the State was never documented, but in keeping with the Quaid’s vision, it was amply expressed in his ‘Unity, Faith and Discipline’ statement. Unity was a quest for being one nation, faith was to have confidence in a new and fledgling state and its people, while discipline was a reference to the rule of law and regulation. The future profile of the state was defined by the Quaid’s address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”

     The Objectives Resolution put paid to Jinnah’s vision for Pakistan.  The immediate contradiction between State and Government is blatantly displayed in the constitution by this Resolution. This was first only a preamble to the constitution, later becoming part of it on the orders of a dictator. The very notion of structuring a separate state, unbound by religion or ideology, was challenged by the people who were thrust into the corridors of power — pygmies and men of straw. The mullahs who rejected the Quaid and declared him a ‘kaffir’ and who labelled Pakistan as ‘Kaffiristan’, slowly acquired control of the government. This led to serious social polarisation, damaging the first principle that the Quaid laid out for the State: ‘Unity’.

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Then there is the issue of the Constitution, a document that is a codified law which only deals with the limits of the government’s power. Though the objectives of the constitution are many, first and foremost of these is to define the components of government itself, and even more importantly, it is in fact a set of regulations designed to protect the people from their own government. It embodies laws and regulations that guarantee human rights, equality, freedom of speech and access to information among many other matters. However, in Pakistan’s Constitution it is clearly stated that a non-Muslim cannot be the head of State or the Prime Minister, making some people more equal than others. It also sets the flavour and precedence for selecting people to high office. This is the second contradiction that all governments have with the Founding Principles of the State as defined by the Quaid in his first speech to the Constituent Assembly. This has led to divides that have taken on a violent turn as was the case of the riots that prompted Justice Munir to state: “As the commission noted, no two religious divines could agree on the definition of a Muslim. If the members of the commission tried imposing a definition of their own, the ulema would unanimously declare them to have gone outside the pale of Islam. Adopting the definition of any one religious scholar entailed becoming an infidel in the eyes of all the others.”

     Thus in the years preceding 9/11, Pakistan witnessed two thousand sectarian killings. Religion had now become a part of politics. The sitting government of the time could not find it within itself to say a few words of prayer for the departed soul of their own governor, Salman Taseer, when he was killed by his guard. Governments were forced to review foreign policy as well as administrative policies in keeping with the maulvis’ views. This has resulted in the ridiculous spectacle of a Mullah Aziz of burqa fame to openly challenge the writ of the government in the heart of the capital even today, or the disgusting sight of a crippled Mullah Rizvi, sitting in his wheelchair, abusing everyone in government publicly. There is a comic illustration of the maulvis’ hold on the public that is regularly displayed from some roof when a band of these lame, blind and bearded self-appointed custodians of the faith, try to find the moon through a telescope at every Eid.

      Questions are asked about sovereignty and how it must be defended. Yet how does one view sovereignty?  Is it merely a wish — a distant intangible phenomenon — or does it have real implications in real terms? When a country owes so much to international financial institutions and when it depends upon alliances for its existence, sovereignty can never be total but always proportional to the power potential that a country has. Today, Pakistan is not in a position to formulate an independent foreign policy and has to acquiesce to regional and global demands. More so, Pakistan is not even in a position to construct its own annual budget without IMF approval. Thus sovereignty is relative and Pakistan has very little control over its own matters. In other words, what are those National Objectives that Pakistan needs to promote through a foreign policy? The first and foremost of these would be to convince the world that it is in compliance with international norms and values. Yet, Pakistan is often on the back-foot, defending non-state actors, extremists and known wanted militants. Is this government policy, or is the government coerced into it?  An external threat to Muridke would put Pakistan in a situation where it would have to fight to defend an extremist institution put up by maulvis. So does National Security call for cleaning up these areas or defending them? This ambiguity needs to be addressed and the prevailing confusion must be dispelled. Then there is the account of the drone attacks during the War on Terror which FATA was subjected to; of the 48000 square kilometres, 35000 square kilometres had been cleared of the militants, leaving only 13000 square kilometres that generally included North Waziristan. This was where the drone campaign focused. It was mainly because Pakistan actually had no real control of its own area and its sovereignty was being continually violated by foreign fighters. Was it right for the State to abdicate its responsibility and not remove the foreign fighters thereby subjecting its own citizens to a bombing campaign?  Violation of sovereignty was the first argument that the State offered the world, but refused to take measures to establish that sovereignty even at the cost of its own people. National Security therefore has to take on a more deliberate note and a defined direction.

      National Security must always be seen in the context of ‘threat’ and vulnerabilities. After all, security against what and who? People tend to confuse military conflict with war. War is a term derived from ‘werre’, a Greek term, which means chaos. It is an all-encompassing term and military conflict is the last and smallest component of it. War includes, economy, food security, liberty, infrastructure, communication systems, industry, etc. Thus military conflict has very little role in National Security and usually when it comes to the necessity of a military application, the war has already been lost. East Pakistan is a very good example, where no military action could have kept Pakistan united — the war was already lost. So, first and foremost, the threats to Pakistan and the vulnerabilities it is exposed to must be identified. In this case, where the economy is being devastated by governments themselves, where industry cannot grow, where GDP is negative, to identify the threat is not at all difficult. When the provinces do not see eye to eye and there are provincial issues, when people are divided by ideology and sects, then this polarisation has a serious impact on the very foundation of the State.  Yet when one sees that all governments have remained in conflict with the state, then what can any National Security Plan do for the country? A country disunited, without a nation, living on borrowed resources and borrowed time, looking around to defend itself against a threat when its own governments have been the biggest threat, while the people of this country follow at second place, needs serious and detailed retrospection.   

      If it is National Security that must address these internal and external issues, it must first examine the very ethos of the State and bring back those values that the Quaid had stipulated in his first speech as well as his vison of Unity, Faith and Discipline. No other course would ever serve this country better. For this, the following reforms are recommended, which need to be put in place by the National Security Council.

     Judicial Reforms to provide a homegrown judicial system compatible with international law. To ensure equality for all and a state where no one will be treated as a lesser human being by profession, belief, caste, creed or birthright.

      Another area in dire need of attention is the depoliticisation of the police and making this institution independent of politicians. Ensure good recruitment among the leadership and provide international-level training. This would bring an end to  bullying of society by the politician in the chair. It would also address the VIP syndrome and unnecessary protocol demands.

      There is also the issue of modifying or rewriting the Constitution.  It must be remembered that this is a document provided by the ‘people’ to the legislators to ensure that they understand the limits of their power and remain confined within stipulated parameters. Human rights and individual freedom, liberty and security to life and property must be the basis of the constitution. In Pakistan democracy has become the tyranny of the majority and the constitution must address this matter.

      Also in urgent need of redressal is the matter of ideology. Religion must be separated from State business. It should be an individual choice and not a communal business. Maulvis have to be put out of the business of politics. They should be allowed to function only after being licensed and with a strict code of conduct and stipulated regulations.

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      As for the provinces, Pakistan must either consider the United States of Pakistan with total autonomy to the provinces, or the provinces should be further divided to create about 20 or 25 provinces. Provincial separatist movements that keep threatening national cohesion can be addressed by more provinces.

       Furthermore, the government must reintroduce merit in the bureaucracy. Education must be given very special attention. Only the best must be selected for government. Education must have another field promoting skilled manpower and labour that is affiliated with international guilds. This would establish standards in workmanship and also provide better jobs the world over.

      People that have robbed this country must be held accountable. No plea bargains should be allowed. Closure must be brought to these matters as quickly as possible.

      And as for governance, the government has no business participating in the corporate sector and must divest all its businesses. The government must make policy and not run businesses. The power distribution system is a good illustration, the government cannot control theft, corruption and mismanagement. If handed over to the private sector and competition is encouraged, the matter of power distribution would easily be resolved. On the other hand, the amount of misappropriation and mismanagement that one witnesses on a day-to-day basis negates the need for the government regulation as it stands. A free market economy should decide how businesses develop. Most importantly, development funds must never be placed at the disposal of the legislators; it is unconstitutional, an indirect bribe and a basis of corruption. 

      A country in a conventional democratic order is governed by the three pillars of State:  Legislative, Executive and Judicial; the fourth pillar, ‘Journalism and Reporting’ was added by the United States after the Civil War. It is now commonly recognised as the Media. This was meant to add a process of checks and balances, not one of disputes as we have. However, in Pakistan, in very real terms, the shots are really called by the clergy, who determine what is kosher for foreign policy as well as administrative functioning; without a nod from them, nothing of substance can move forward. The mafias who dabble in crime and thievery are proving to be another force to reckon with and who manipulate judicial decisions and legislation to their own convenience. It would not be out of place to add them to the pillars of the State as viewed in Pakistani democracy. With such contradictions in place and with the common knowledge that the provinces are held together by the military and not through political cohesion or through any constitutional convention, maybe the armed forces too should be given the status of a pillar of the State. Thus as long as ‘Volume 10’ remains secret, the Model Town killings will see no closure, in fact, all inquiries will continue to die without conclusion, mosques will be filled to capacity, but no child will be safe on the streets. But it is not surprising that the army has a role in governance. It has been accorded that by the successive governments of the country who need it to clean drains and desilt canals, collect electricity bills, manage disasters and contain pandemics.

       If National Security has to secure the interests of the country, it must establish the country’s relevance in the world. Here it appears that Pakistan is going down the CPEC route — and that is not a bad thing. The connectivity of the sea to the land and Asia to Europe has huge potential. Pakistan is central to this activity and if it engages in this activity in earnest it will establish itself as a Global Trade Corridor. This allows for many stakeholders and partners the world over to benefit and participate in an economic synergy never seen before. That would bring Pakistan international relevance and with it, clout and a voice at various forums. However, the internal vulnerabilities remain and are huge. To weave this country into a nation, to unify it, to bring faith in its own capacity, to ensure discipline among communities, a  great deal would have to be done. The constitution needs to be revisited, the social contract reexamined. The contradictions between the State and the Government must be removed and political manifestos must define only how they could enhance State objectives, principles and vision, or at the least, how best they could serve them. In this vein, the distortion of history must stop and real issues with a factual record must be encouraged. Culture, tradition and history make a nation — lies do not. The political structure needs to step up to the block and resolve these issues or the army is there to stay for better or for worse. In the paradigm of national security, the enemy always searches for the centre of gravity, that if targeted and dismantled, would bring about an early demise of that particular country. In Pakistan, it is now universally recognised that the Armed Forces are the cohesive factor and must be attacked at every level, i.e. moral and physical. People must be informed that smear campaigns, media onslaughts and unnecessary criticism without understanding either the backdrop or the environment is playing into enemy hands. What needs to be understood is, as has been famously said, you will always have an army, if not your own, then someone else’s.

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Tariq Khan HI(M)

The writer is a retired Lt General of the Pakistan Army. He is noted for his services as the Commander of I Strike Corps at Mangla and Inspector General of the Frontier Corps.
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