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  • Saleem Qamar Butt

Missing Wisdom despite Suffering


The fateful decision by Pakistan’s leadership in 2001 under the threat of ‘you are with us or against us’ to join American war on terrorism (in the backdrop of 9/11 attacks in USA), which was soon followed up by invasion of Afghanistan by US and NATO/ non-NATO allies and further expanded to take down Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria on equally flimsy and fake pretexts, brought miseries and sufferings for the Muslim world beyond expression. All these countries including Pakistan have endured great human, economc, cultural and socio-psycho losses, which have pushed these countries decades behind the time. But have these sufferings brought proverbial wisdom to the affected countries including their rulers and the people? More than two decades later, the response to the above query is not encouraging. However, in this piece I shall focus on Pakistan only, and discuss whether some wisdom came to us in the last 20 years’ sufferings.

The concept of a modern state means “a state in which power is centralised and exercised by sovereign control over a clearly defined territory”. The modern state is a contingent historical development, born in blood--not a permanent or inevitable feature of human society. There are three pillars also called organs of a modern democratic state: the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. The executive runs the affairs of a state, whereas the legislature frames laws in accordance with the established norms of a constitution. The judiciary, however, exercises control over the arbitrary authority of both the executive and the legislature. So, these three pillars of a state perform their functions by operating within their constitutional domains. During the last ten years or so, however, the media – both the print and electronic medium – has strongly emerged as an effective player for providing valuable insight for not only our society, but also for the executive, the legislature and the judiciary in highlighting issues despite falling prey to exploitative and manipulative misuse by the powerful elite. So, let’s briefly examine the functions of all the three organs of the Pakistani state.

First the Legislature. Politically, have we learnt that all consequential national decisions ought to be thoroughly debated in both houses of the parliament by the truly elected public representatives rather than by a few selected, elected or self/ foreign imposed rulers? Has the political leadership groomed itself to withstand international pressure, show some spine and put national interest above self? Have we made any legislation to improve our political and electoral system? Has anything been done to improve upon our political, religious, ethnic and economic and security fault-lines? What legislative efforts have been made to make Pakistan’s economy stand on its own feet rather than begging, borrowing and self-strangulation with rope extended by IMF and other IFIs? Has Pakistan’s successive Governments undertaken long awaited comprehensive reforms to make a desired leap forward for serious improvement in education, human capital, legal system, agriculture, natural resource exploration, science & technology, water, food and energy security? The answer is dismal on almost all the questions.

Second, what role has the Executive played in improving upon the State management and administrative affairs. Sadly it remains unenviable barring rare exceptions, as the majority finds solace in becoming subservient tools in the hands of the narcissistic legislature, for joint plunder and undue progression through connivance in illegal practices. The performance of the third pillar is not much different despite few good examples by the individuals rather than by the whole institution due to a host of reasons. The provision of timely justice in Pakistan remains a far cry and the national/ international image of the judiciary is again under severe criticism without much done to improve it except lip service. Unfortunately, both the legislature and executives seem to prevail upon the judiciary rather than the other way round. The non-provision of timely and free justice to all based on equality is the root cause of most of the mega challenges confronted by the State of Pakistan. Most regrettably, not all but the majority among all the three pillars thriving on public money are engaged in shameless extravagance that will put to shame all their counterparts in the West, who in reality view most of them as purchasable and disposable commodities. Unfortunately, no wisdom seems to have prevailed, and response to all the above challenges has remained one step forward and two steps backward. The Descent into Chaos continues unabated due to self-serving policies, short-sighted approach, disregard to the national interest and nation building, rampant corruption, hypocrisy, domestic intrigues and foreign conspiracies. The national failure to value the most precious freedom achieved with sustained political struggle led by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and maintained with sacred blood of Shaheeds in civvies and uniforms is heartbreaking to say the least. The swarms of young and old slaves around the political elite for petty interests with confused looks is a sad reflection of the missing ‘Khudi’/ self-respect as was envisioned by Dr. Allama Muhammad Iqbal. Can an individual or a nation survive without dignity and self-esteem? The Pakistani political elite mostly remain hereditary and the Executive and a part of Judiciary remain politicized and plagued by nepotism, which continues to multiply incompetence and corruption. The sane and bold voices among all three pillars as well as in the media are silenced through coercion and by nipping them in the bud.


"Unfortunately, we do not gain wisdom, the knowledge that we actually know nothing and that we are powerless, until tragedy, suffering, and loss befalls on us" ~

Finally a few words about the Center of Gravity of Pakistan i.e. the Armed Forces including its Nuclear Deterrence Capability, which is once again under sharp focus of the foes due to the shaped environment. The ominous and well-choreographed redux of terrorism in Pakistan and US' engagement of the incumbent ruling elite and civil/ military bureaucracy in the worst ever politico-economic situation rings alarm bells; are we headed back to square one? As per my assessment, in the big power competition, there is no reason for the US and allies to change their aims and objectives or desires associated with a Nuclear Pakistan. The resurgence of terrorism in Pakistan in the last almost one year is too ominous and precarious to be dealt with alone and needs immediate strategic regional cooperation including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, China, Russia, Central Asian Republics, Azerbaijan and Turkey. Based on personal experience, I can only suggest that at operational and tactical levels, we need to put more focus on counter intelligence, be more aggressive and preemptive instead of reactive, put more reliance on striking the dens and hordes of terrorists at their bases both home and abroad using all means available including armed and surveillance drones, armed helicopters, Air Force and long range heavy weapons. The long tried ‘intelligence based ground operations in built up areas’ are always high risk due to potential collateral losses, faulty or compromised intelligence and mostly prone to accepting more casualties of their own precious lives in uniform. The Army / Armed Forces should be used as a last resort and must be applied as an iron punch in non-urban bordering areas. As for urban areas, it shall remain the responsibility of large Civil Armed Force, which have been provided a lot of training and assistance by the Army; however, other than making copycat of infrastructure (including large academies, colleges, palatial offices, luxury vehicles, lavish residential societies, resorts), over decorated copies of uniforms, pomp and show of ceremonial guards; the operational efficacy remains pathetic. It is disturbing to note that on every drop of a hat, the CAFs and ruling elite and CAF immediately hand over the situation to the Army and spring to the media spotlight as soon as an operation results in a success. Nevertheless, the Armed Forces should remain cognizant of the greater design of the foes and perils of once again getting embroiled in the same rut as was the case for the last two decades…that is what the enemy wants us to do. The real success will be to turn the table on the enemies rather than reacting and firefighting being thin on the unfamiliar grounds. Let each pillar of the State perform its own constitutional role rather than unduly leaning on the Army, which already has its plate full of challenges including restoration of real apolitical role and image that got badly tarnished in the last one year. Pakistan Zindabad.

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