• Saleem Qamar Butt

Damned if you do, damned if you don't!


The title of this piece sprang to my mind instinctively while pondering over Pakistan’s current politico-economic as well as foreign policy and security challenges. The incumbent government in Pakistan is discernibly under a lot of pressure for delivering on tall promises made to the people of Pakistan during the election campaign especially with regards to provision of easy and cheap justice, recovery of plundered national wealth through mega corruption, education reforms, controlling unbridled inflation, provision of employment to educated youth and skilled labour; and last but not the least, ridding country of IMF and other foreign loans. Quite obviously, the government is way short of achieving any of the stated objectives with one and half year left for the next general election. The hurdles faced by the government notwithstanding (not insurmountable for a bold leadership though), the current opposition consisting of two main political parties, which had ruled the country for decades have remained busy in either getting rid of the Prime Minister through in-house change or toppling the government through mini-marches without much traction though due inherent intra-party as well as inter-parties divergent interests. Understandably, the main motive of the opposition seems to get rid of the mega corruption cases through some backdoor deals rather than picking up the shackles of mammoth issues faced by the present government, and prolong the political turmoil till forthcoming elections, discredit the government for non-delivery on the promises made and get back to power. It can also be safely conjectured that foreign hands unhappy with the PTI government and hosting run-away goons and their stashed money must also be playing due role in fomenting the political polarisation besides fueling external and internal security challenges. So a Catch-22 for both the sides; for the government for political survival and for the opposition political as well as luxurious physical survival through dynastic politics to rule forever.


On the foreign policy front, the dilemma faced by the incumbent government is validated by the reported almost simultaneous visit by Prime Minister Imran Khan to Russia after a successful visit to China; and COAS’ prospective visit to the USA. The economic plight of Pakistan with IMF noose ever getting tighter around her neck; and surge in terrorists’ activities in Pakistan with focus on targeting Pakistan Armed Forces in Balochistan and KPK threatening CPEC, timing it with PM khan’s visit to China, sophistication of execution with high-tech weapons and equipment and arrests of few terror sponsoring networks in Pakistan that keep Pakistan on the anvil for Hybrid war does not leave much to hide. When Pakistan is being invaded by all elements of 5th generation warfare from East, West and South; the only solace comes from the North. Under such circumstances, the pure academic imported phrases like ‘refrain from camp politics’ sounds as hollow as replacement of ‘geo-strategy’ with ‘geo-economics’.


While everyone in Pakistan wants a quick fix to all the internal and external problems confronted by Pakistan; only a very few care to contribute individually or collectively by shedding away the hypocrisy (munafaqat) afflicting our society as a number one nuisance. To show how Pakistan is viewed by the Western World, let me quote former US defense secretary General Jim Mattis , who says in his new book "Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead'', "Pakistan was a country born with no affection for itself, and there was an active self-destructive streak in its political culture ”__“Of all the countries I've dealt with, I consider Pakistan to be the most dangerous, because of the radicalisation of its society and the availability of nuclear weapons”,__“The tragedy for the Pakistani people is that they don't have leaders who care about their future”. Without agreeing with most of the views expressed in Mattis’ book, the above quoted few sentences may serve as a mirror for introspection, nevertheless. The prevalent greed, hypocrisy, radicalisation of masses by bigots frequently demonstrated by mobs indulging in lynching, destroying public and private properties, killing law enforcers and getting away scot free is an undeniable stark reality eroding Pakistan from within.


While it is thankfully acknowledged that PM Imran Khan is making headlong efforts to rid the country of its economic woes and Armed Forces, national intelligence and other law enforcement agencies are striving hard with sacred blood of Shaheeds to defeat unrelenting hybrid war unleashed against Pakistan; however, the former ruling elite and public in general need to undertake navel-gazing as regards their contribution in helping Pakistan to get out of the eye of the storm. It doesn’t need any genius to figure out that taking more loans cannot be a viable strategy to rid the country of foreign loans but bringing imports to minimum and pushing production and exports to maximum can give the desired results. In our budding relations with China and Russia, the focus has to be on mutually beneficial investments and exports rather than loan based projects. Our tacit delivery to US and allies on IIOJ&K and to some extent on Afghanistan need retrospective analysis vis-à-vis Grand National Interests. Any current and future interaction with US and allies at any level must ensure that there is zero capitulation on our national survival kit i.e. strategic Nuclear Capability. Besides, resolution of IIOJ&K as per UN Resolutions and aspirations of Kashmiris must remain a prerequisite for normalization of relations with India rather than blindly walking the trap of regional economic connectivity first as propounded by some thoughtless thin tanks. A regional economic and security framework including China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, CARs and Turkey is an absolute strategic necessity without any more delay. However, in order to be taken seriously, Pakistan’s internal political, security and economic facade has to be meaningfully improved by all and sundry. We have been damned for not doing so for a long time; let’s be damned by doing it now.


Published in Daily 'The Nation' as op-ed " Catch-22" on 16 February 2022.


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