Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Saving Pakistan

Eight hundred yards from the house where Mr.Osama was shot, stands Pakistan's version of West Point. This is in Abbottabad, which teems with serving and retired army personnel, security checks and ID checks for residents. It is impossible to believe that the Pakistanis did not know.

But what possible motive could Pakistan's Intelligence Agency, the ISI, have to shelter Mr.Osama? The answer may be partly a very earthly one, money. As long as Mr.Osama was free, the US would continue to spend freely to find him and to fight terrorism. Much of that funding would find it's way to Pakistan.

He had become a feared symbol in the United States; killing him every American President's, and for that matter, most Americans, fantasy. For the Pakistani Army, he may have been a cash cow. If so, they had to keep him alive, and they had to keep him hidden. Where better, than in the ultra-safe city of Abbotabad. Meanwhile, keep feeding the Americans red herrings, and have them searching Afghan caves. Of course, there was the danger that he would keep ordering up bombings and killings all over the world. But perhaps, they just sipped their teas, shook their heads, and dismissed it as the nature of the beast.

The Americans, despite their success in eliminating Mr.Osama, look terribly foolish now, for having generously funded Pakistan. They will not be easily mollified or appeased. And they are in possesion of information that they collected at Mr.Osama's hideout.

It would be best for Pakistan and it's army now, to move away from those they may have supported in the past, for whatever reasons. Terrorism is a doubled-edged sword, as likely to hurt it's wielders as it's targets. And terrorists, are not amenable to being managed. Cross them, and they will surely turn on their backers, whoever they may be.

The complicated game that Pakistan's army and the ISI seem to play, of attempting to play off the US against China, the US against Terrorism, India against China, and of seeking to control Afghanistan through queit support of the Taliban, may be wholly unnecessary. It is also fraught with contradictions, which results in contradictory policies, and general confusion.

Pakistan is not a safe place for anybody to visit now, and if the authorities don't institute radical changes, there is never going to be a Visit Pakistan Year. It is a pity, because it is a beautiful country and is blessed with the stunning Pakistani Himalayas, rarely visited now by climbers, trekkers or tourists.

Pakistan will also have to be safe, before it can save it's economy. It's people are intelligent and industrious, but unemployed and made desperate by poverty. Foreign investment in the economy is hard to come by, and will be even harder now. A few more years in this seemingly insolvable imbroglio, and Pakistan will surely become, like Somalia already has, a failed state.

Pakistan is worried constantly by it's giant neighbour India, but they will have to let this unhealthy obsession go, if they are to progress. They are the same people, after all, and speak the same languages. There is a Punjab in India and there is a Punjab in Pakistan. In both cases, it is populated by Punjabis. They are separated only by religion. Pakistan has the 2nd largest Muslim population in the world, and India is 3rd, with 160 million Muslims. But India progresses and is on it's way to becoming an economic superpower, while Pakistan, sadly, regresses. It may be time now, to look past old quarrels. Money spent on guns, could be spent on infrastructure and development.

The army will have to renounce politics in any form, and stay away from business. It must occupy itself with defense, and extending it's fiat over what are now lawless regions, and only that. Politicians and their parties will have to become mature and more responsible, but this cannot happen if the army keeps toppling them. Corruption will have to be totally eradicated, and for this they will have to look to Hong Kong for example. For economic policies, they will have to look to Singapore, or Malaysia, or even, sometimes, to India.

But it is not challenges of policies that Pakistan really faces, it is the challenge of changing deeply-ingrained mindsets. And it is the challenge of leaving behind a siege mentality that is no longer relevant.

When Mr.Jinnah fought for an independent Pakistan, he cannot have imagined the chaos that it is descended into now. Nor would he have envisioned it becoming a failed state.

If Pakistan is to be saved, it is now.

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