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  • Writer's pictureSaleem Qamar Butt

Politics sans National Interests


With due respect to the erudite readers, let’s take a start with the basics as most of the people acting as politicians in our Land of Pure may not even be able to define it correctly. Politics is the way that people living in groups make decisions. Politics is about making agreements between people so that they can live together in groups such as tribes, cities, or countries. In large groups, such as countries, some people may spend a lot of their time making such agreements. These people are called politicians. Politicians, and sometimes other people, may get together to form a government. A government is a group of people that have the power to rule in a territory, according to the administrative law. This territory may be a country, a state or province within a country, or a region. There are many types of government, such as democratic, parliamentary, presidential, federal or unitary. The study of politics in universities is called political science, public affairs, government, political studies, or public administration.


In everyday life, the term "politics" refers to the way that countries are governed, and to the ways that governments make rules and laws to manage human society properly. Politics can also be seen in other groups, such as in companies, clubs, schools, and places of worship. A constitution is the rule book for a state. It sets out the fundamental principles by which the state is governed. It describes the main institutions of the state, and defines the relationship between these institutions i.e. among the executive, legislature and judiciary. The state and its institutions function hand in glove for achievement of the national interests in the light of the constitution. According to Hans Joachim Morgenthau (February 17, 1904 – July 19, 1980, was a German-American jurist and political scientist who was one of the major 20th-century figures in the study of international relations), “The meaning of national interest is survival—the protection of physical, political and cultural identity against encroachments by other nation-states”. The Brookings Institution defines national interest as, “What a nation feels to be necessary to its security and well-being.… National interest reflects the general and continuing ends for which a nation acts.”


In describing the national interests that nations seek to secure, a two-fold classification is generally made i.e. Vital Components and Variable or Non-vital Components of National Interests. According to Morgenthau, the vital components of the national interests that a foreign policy seeks to secure are survival or identity. He sub-divides identity into three parts: Physical identity. Political identity and Cultural identity. Physical identity includes territorial identity. Political identity means politico- economic system and Cultural identity stands for historical values that are upheld by a nation as part of its cultural heritage. These are called vital components because these are essential for the survival of the nation and can be easily identified and examined. A nation always formulates its foreign policy decisions with a view to secure and strengthen its security. The attempts to secure international peace and security, that nations are currently making, are being made because today the security of each state stands inseparably linked up with international peace and security. Security is, thus, a vital component of national interest. Each nation always tries to secure its vital interests even by means of war.


The non-vital components are those parts of national interest, which are determined either by circumstances or by the necessity of securing the vital components. These are determined by a host of factors—the decision-makers, public opinion, party politics, sectional or group interests and political and moral folkways. “These variable interests are those desires of individual states which they would, no doubt, like to see fulfilled but for which they will not go to war. Whereas the vital interests may be taken as goals, the secondary interests may be termed as objectives of foreign policy.” These objectives as listed by Dyke includes: Prosperity, Peace, Ideology, Justice, Prestige, Aggrandizement and Power. Though each state defines these objectives in a manner which suits its interests in changing circumstances, yet these objectives can be described as common to almost all states. The following are the five popular methods or instruments, which are usually employed by a nation for securing her national interests in international relations i.e. diplomacy, propaganda, economic means, alliances and treaties, and coercive means. Most importantly, intervention, non-intercourse, embargoes, boycotts, reprisals, retaliation, severance of relations and pacific biocides are the popular coercive means, which can be used by a stronger nation to force a weaker nation to accept a particular course of behaviour or to refrain from a course, which is considered harmful by the nation using coercive means. War and Aggression have been declared illegal means, yet these continue to be used by the states in actual course of international relations. Military power is still regarded as a major part of national power and is often used by a nation for securing its desired goals and objectives.


For a layman, the security responsibility of a state means the guaranteed physical security of the state and its people; and for every individual of the governed society, it means safety of life, property, self-respect, honour, freedom of speech. And on the welfare side, it includes provision of food, home, clean air and potable water, good education and health facilities, energy security, good employment and business opportunities and adequate buying power to meet expenses of a healthy family life. Not to miss the state’s responsibility to ensure respect of its passport and safety and reverence of its citizens living abroad. This in a nutshell encapsulates the national interest with regards to “security and well-being of its citizens”.


The tumultuous history of politics and the successes as well as failures of the civil, military and hybrid governments in Pakistan in the last 76 years need to be appraised keeping in view the above stated features and fundamentals of the state governance especially with regards to the achievement of vital and non-vital national interest. For Pakistani politicians and rulers, keeping the people deprived and dependent, always gasping for basic essentials of the life and keeping them embroiled in Thana(police station), Katchehry(lower courts) and patwari(land record office) is the tactic to stay in power. When occupying both houses of the parliament, the lite sticks to passing bills and ordinances to get clean slate on all the crimes committed and further strengthen the unholy rule as a strategy, which has been followed throughout in Pakistani political history. We don’t have to go far to find examples i.e. the bills and ordinances passed by the incumbent PDM Government in the last one year plus says all about it and the past is equally unpleasant. However, for the majority of Pakistani people, it has remained a game of power politics sans national interests. Hardly any government, political / military ruler or any state institution would score passing marks when tested on the touchstone of above stated factors related to the subjects of politics, state governance and achievement of national interests, A comparative graph showing progress on the same elements and in the same period by Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, China and Israel may prove very instructive and might as well act as a mirror to the ever boisterous and conceited ruling elite of Pakistan. Every man on the street as well as on the social/ electronic media has a dozen solutions for every problem the state of Pakistan is facing; however, only the highly paid wizards have a dozen problems for every possible solution. Is it a problem of competence or character that keeps Pakistan always struggling in a vortex? Worthy readers may like to revisit my pieces published in February 2019 titled Leadership: Is Competence or Character More Important? ; And “A Challenged State”,published in April 2021.


You told me once that we shall be judged by our intentions, not by our accomplishments. But we must intend to accomplish—not sit intending on a chair.” ~

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