Dr. Haider Shah

Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance (Plato).

Sovereignty in an age of globalisation -May 19, 2011 Daily Times

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OMMENT: Sovereignty in an age of globalisation —Dr Haider Shah

In the aftermath of Osama’s killing in a posh cantonment and at a stone’s throw from the country’s premier military academy, there are few chances that foreign investors would be willing to queue for Pakistan

National sovereignty and honour have always been some of the most repeatedly used phrases in our national conversation. The Osama thriller has added fuel to the already raging fires. Many politicians and analysts appear fuming over the loss of national sovereignty in the outskirts of Abbottabad. The users of the cliché, however, do not realise that to a varying degree no country in the world enjoys sovereignty in a globalised world. In reality, ‘sovereignty’ is a glamourised ideal and the degree to which it can be achieved depends on the economic muscle of a country.

Economic and political freedoms are interdependent as our socio- political landscape is largely determined by economic realities, argues economist Milton Friedman, a Nobel Laureate. For instance, look at the example of the UK, which has always prided itself on its unique position in European affairs. In constitutional terms, the British parliament is said to enjoy complete sovereignty as it can change any law whenever it wishes to. The reality is now markedly different though, as economic gains have come at a price. After joining the European Union (EU) and adopting the European Convention on Human Rights via the Human Rights Act, 1998, the UK has traded off a big chunk of national sovereignty and has to conform to EU regulations and the European Court of Human Rights. Similarly, even a superpower like the US, when faced with economic ill health, is forced to do business with the healthier China — the human rights record of the latter notwithstanding.

Whether it is a case of rigorous research or analysing an organisational problem, the crucial test of success is always asking the right questions at the right time. The debate on the Osama incident appears to be purposefully hijacked by the right-leaning media analysts. Unfortunately, in the talk shows we have half a dozen analysts with half a dozen clichés which, like the ball bearings of a bomb, are relentlessly bombarded on us. Instead of asking what Osama was doing in Bilal Town, our writers and anchors have made loss of sovereignty the central theme of discussions. Like crackers, the discussions produce more noise than light. On the political side, the PPP leaders appear confused and voiceless. The MQM in recent times has emerged as a ‘friend in need’ for those who call the shots. It had offered its platform to the beleaguered General (retd) Musharraf on May 12, 2007 and once again it has made its services available in May 2011 to muddy the post-Osama conversation. Credit must, therefore, cautiously be given to Nawaz Sharif for setting the right tone for our national conversation by raising very pertinent questions. Better late than never.

In a globalised world, all countries are affected by any international terrorist movement. In the 20th century, the attention was on containing the Marxist movement due to its ‘workers of all lands unite’ appeal. In the 21st century, the world is concerned about the jihadi movement as, unlike the communist system in North Korea or the Tamil Tigers movement in Sri Lanka or Naxalism in India, the expanse of the jihadi movement is spread across all international borders and its appeal is not restricted to a single country. The Osama hunt was therefore not only a US mission but the whole international community was backing it up. The open declaration of Russia’s public support to the US action in Abbottabad should wake up all those who are shedding tears over our inability to stop the US action. Advocates of a megalomaniac stance should cast a glance over our national kitty first.

In the aftermath of Osama’s killing in a posh cantonment and at a stone’s throw from the country’s premier military academy, there are few chances that foreign investors would be willing to queue for Pakistan. Pakistan was ditched by its so-called eternal friends after signs of deteriorating economic health became evident in 2007 and was forced to approach the IMF for a bailout package of $ 11.3 billion to avert a balance of payments crisis. It appears that the donor agencies and other international actors have become wary of Pakistan’s use of the war on terror as an excuse for demanding external aid. David Bosco, an international affairs analyst, writes on his blog that an IMF official confirmed to him that a senior Fund mission would visit Pakistan in May to oversee the 2011-2012 budget as the upcoming budget was crucial for putting Pakistan’s economy back on track. Since the IMF has set its eyes on the budget, the economic realities pushed the PPP government to forge a new political alliance.

Jingoistic calls for sovereignty are a source of entertainment for many. An excited and agitated mind releases adrenalin into our bloodstream and is the source of our joyful exuberance. We are all entitled to keep ourselves happy. But there are far less risky ways of getting adrenalin pumped into our blood. A roller coaster ride or watching a horror movie would do the same. All hawks are advised to consider these simple alternatives to keep themselves entertained. Their jingoistic calls of severing ties with the international community by preserving mythical sovereignty are too dangerous and would prove a recipe for total self-destruction. Germany and Japan learnt their lessons in 1945. Hope we learn the lesson without undergoing same level of catastrophe. If we are genuinely concerned about sovereignty, we should start thinking about putting some flesh on our impoverished economy. Political and economic freedoms are interdependent. Friedman’s teaching should never be forgotten.

Author: Dr. Haider Shah

Academic, Researcher and Writer

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