Dr. Haider Shah

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


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OVER A COFFEE: Exploring the Imran Khan buzz, again Daily Times, 29 Oct,11

OVER A COFFEE: Exploring the Imran Khan buzz, again —Dr Haider Shah

The young zealots of Imran Khan should realise that despite their sincerity, they are being used to preserve the status quo by restraining a political leader who seems to be a bit uncontrollable

I had no intention of writing this continuation of my analysis of last week as many other important international issues competed for attention. But two reasons prompted me to carry on with the same topic. One, many ardent supporters of Mr Imran Khan e-mailed me and offloaded their anguish over my ‘blasphemy’ against the new cult leader and a response was necessitated. Second, the BBC 2 on Wednesday showed part one of a documentary titled ‘Secret Pakistan, Double Cross’ on British television in which serious allegations of double gaming were levelled against the security establishment of Pakistan. While our international image is so badly tarnished, we cannot keep ourselves drowned in internal political issues anymore.

Before we begin analysing what Imran is up to we need to remember that a political environment is an interplay of different forces at a given time. Different political groups or individuals help generate, enhance or diffuse those forces. At the moment the present ruling arrangement is characterised by a diarchy. A coalition of political groups is running the civil side of the administration while important strategic level decision-making has been outsourced to the army. The power structure, despite all its failings, is well entrenched. The MQM, having given a sense of identity to the Urdu-speaking voters in urban Sindh, has insulated Karachi from Pakistani political waves. The more bloodshed Karachi suffers, the more secure ethnic parties like the MQM and the ANP become in retaining their seats. Similarly, in interior Sindh the PPP has the shield of the Bhutto cult and the JUI-F uses religious appeal to cushion against any national current entering its constituencies. It is only in the urban areas of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that the insulations are very thin and a national current affects electoral politics the most.

In the last piece I had proposed a seven questions checklist for appraising any saviour of Pakistan. The two most important questions pertain to good governance at the internal level and repairing Pakistan’s ‘jihadist-friendly’ image at the international level. The BBC documentary makes it abundantly clear what the world thinks about us. In order to address these two questions, a leader is needed who understands the interrelationship of both issues and can deal with them in an effective manner. No doubt Imran has been consistent on the first issue. Perhaps it is this aspect of his discourse that is the source of his popularity with a section of our population. But on the second important measure of repairing Pakistan’s image, Imran fails miserably. It is this aspect that worries me the most, as a ‘revolution’ by Imran would amount to a takeover of jeans-wearing Taliban from the back door.

The supporters of Imran Khan fervently argue that if Imran is not the answer then who else can be? If this is the argument then why not propose Mahmood Khan Achakzai as he is one politician who not only enjoys a clean reputation but has also never shown any closeness to the establishment or militants. The problem with us is that being an impatient nation, we want to see a perfectly functioning democracy overnight. We need to be realistic and pragmatic and tailor our expectations according to the ground realities of electoral politics in Pakistan. We must understand that democracy will only flourish if institutions are allowed to develop. Already we have seen the development of two important institutions — the judiciary and the media — in the last few years. Democracy will gradually develop out of the existing power structures. In Britain, Charles I was beheaded after parliamentary forces defeated the royal army. The result was the military dictatorship of Oliver Cromwell. They did not give up their struggle for a democratic order though. After the French Revolution, both the king and queen were beheaded. But instead of a democratic order taking root, the most prominent leader of the revolution also got guillotined and in the end Napoleon Bonaparte proclaimed himself emperor. We need to learn lessons from history that a democratic order evolves after many setbacks and hiccups. There is no need for despondency and impatience. Instead of a general tirade against all politicians, we need to extend our support to the political party that promises institution building and is capable of asserting civilian rule so that new initiatives aimed at regional peace and rehabilitation of Pakistan’s international image could be undertaken

The supporters of Imran are often very sincere individuals. Both Hitler in Germany and Pol Pot in Cambodia were quite sincere in their political philosophies. What happened to their countries because of their sincerity is also well known and proves that sincerity without sanity is often more lethal. The charged and spirited supporters need to realise that Imran’s movement will only affect the voters in urban Punjab. In these constituencies the PML-N candidates will be pitted against the joint candidates of the PPP and the PML(Q). As Imran’s supporters will attract a few thousand votes in all these constituencies, the beneficiaries will be the candidates of the present coalition government. Consequently, the ultimate result will be a hung parliament where the present coalition arrangement will continue. The external and internal agencies used thousands of our youngsters during the 1980s and 90s to lay down their lives to help the US win its Cold War against the then Soviet Union. The young zealots of Imran Khan should realise that despite their sincerity, they are being used to preserve the status quo by restraining a political leader who seems to be a bit uncontrollable.

Personally I do not support any political party. But after following the discourse of many political leaders keenly, I find Nawaz Sharif very consistent in stressing the need for a break with the old paradigm of Pakistan. He has not missed any opportunity of questioning the undue influence of the military establishment upon policy making in Pakistan. True, during his early ascendency the scriptwriters were behind him. Political leaders should neither be allowed to rest on their past laurels nor should they be permanently vilified over their past conduct. Instead, they should be judged on the basis of their present roles. The Conservative Party cannot be permanently condemned as anti-democratic just because its parent party used to be the King’s party in the distant past. A political leader’s past should however make us extra cautious when assessing his present moves. The restoration of the judiciary demolished one myth: that military dictators can send judges packing for good. Nawaz’s return would also help remedy a wrong done to the democratically elected governments by the army dictators. Once in power, however, I shall join others in critically assessing the extent to which he matches his words with actions in changing the paradigm of Pakistan.

The writer teaches public policy in the UK and is the founding member of Rationalist Society of Pakistan. He can be reached at hashah9@yahoo.com


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OVER A COFFEE: Exploring the Imran Khan buzz 22 Oct,11

OVER A COFFEE: Exploring the Imran Khan buzz —Dr Haider Shah

With no clear policy framework, arguably Imran Khan seems to have been launched this time to target Nawaz Sharif in Punjab

Before I set out exploring the political buzz created by Imran Khan, I must make an honest admission. At one stage I also happened to be one of those who consider Imran Khan to be a credible alternative in the murky waters of Pakistani politics.

Despite my continued liking for the person, I no longer subscribe to that view because the lofty role of a saviour of Pakistan needs a person who has a clear vision and sagacity to deal with the following core questions. One, how will Pakistan repair the serious damage done to its international image because of its entanglement with militant jihadi outfits? Two, and related with the first one is how will Pakistan improve economic growth by increasing its trade with the regional and other major trading nations? Three, how will the rule of law, accountability and transparency be promoted? Four, how will institution building be promoted in place of a personality cult? Five, how will the marginalised sections of society such as religious minorities, women, disabled persons, and economically deprived communities be empowered? Six, how will the demon of radicalisation and intolerance be exorcised? And seven, how will the civil-military relations be rationalised so that the civilian government is able to take full control of domestic and foreign policies?

To a great extent the seven policy level questions are interrelated and no saviour can succeed if even one question is ignored. Any political leader that poses as a saviour must provide a clear answer to all these questions and should be assessed on the basis of this seven-question framework. Now let us appraise Mr Imran Khan on these fundamental questions. Our basis of appraisal is his rhetorical discourse that we hear in the talk shows of the electronic media where the hosts often act as his promoters.

Imran Khan’s discourse revolves around a few rhetorical sentences. The most frequently heard is that all other politicians are corrupt and therefore he deserves to be the leader of Pakistan. Who can disagree with the need for rule of law, accountability and transparency? He is however often thin on details about the specifics of his policy. His oft-repeated magical solution is that politicians should declare their assets. Of course, not only politicians but all asset holders should make correct declarations, not just for greater cleanliness in politics but also for working out correct tax liabilities. However, Imran fails to appreciate the fact that corruption is multifaceted and a simplistic solution obscures the need for a more long term multi-dimensional eradication strategy. Contrary to the conventional generalisation, empirical research in an IMF paper shows that a strong positive correlation between the traditional governance features and economic growth of the developing countries is not established. The analysis reveals that while governance and anti-corruption are good ideals to pursue, there are other capacity and institution building factors that largely define a country’s ability to sustain high economic growth. It is, therefore, important to note that a government of angels alone will not necessarily usher in an era of economic development. How our country interacts with the international community is equally important.

Imran seldom speaks about the contours of trade policy; the most important determinant of economic growth. How will he promote regional trade among SAARC member countries and with other major trading countries of the world? What will be his policy on access to the US market for Pakistani textiles and other export goods? Yes, his supporters can argue that he is not against the promotion of trade and economic growth. His stance on many other issues, however, does suggest that he has not clearly thought through the sensitive link between external trade and perceptions about internal security. By assuming the role of a propagandist for religious extremists and militants in Pakistan, he does not place himself in an admirable position for winning the confidence of the international investors. No business is ever willing to invest in a country where militant groups roam around under official patronage. Imran loves referring to Iran but Pakistan has not got Iranian or Venezuelan oil, so imitating them is not an option.

The second most noticeable strand of the Imranian discourse is his support for the Taliban and their sympathisers in FATA. It is this aspect of his personality that has severely undermined his reputation as a statesman. I do not like branding anyone as an agent of local or external establishments. However, by promoting Pakistan’s deadly embrace with militancy and actively instigating the Pakistani youth by the use of jingoistic phrases he does appear to be speaking the language of the radical elements of the Pakistani establishment. He is not alone in that club. Mr Zaid Hamid and many Jamaat-e-Islami leaders are also doing the same job.

Imran was in the forefront of the campaign in support of ‘qaum ki beti’ (the nation’s daughter) but not a single tear was shed by him in public when the nation’s son Saleem Shahzad was brutally murdered in the line of duty. He opened his guns against the civilian government after Osama bin laden was eliminated by the US commandos in Abbottabad; however, no salvos were fired against the security establishment for the safe housekeeping of OBL in the first place and then not being able to protect the valued asset. Similarly, he never questioned the role of behind-the-scenes operators in the wake of the Raymond Davis affair nor could he mutter a single word over the militants’ attack on the Mehran Base while he was busy in his dharna (sit-in) over drone attacks against those militants.

Bill Gates has spent about $ 25 billion for charity work but he has not used his philanthropist work as a launching pad for a political career. Even in Pakistan, Abdul Sattar Edhi once revealed that he refused to offer his services for political purposes when he was approached by Hamid Gul and Imran Khan. With no clear policy framework, arguably Imran Khan seems to have been launched this time to target Nawaz Sharif in Punjab. Of the entire political leadership, Nawaz Sharif has not been behaving properly as per the required standards of the establishment. If Imran cannot win elections, he can at least prove a spoilsport for Nawaz Sharif. This way the security establishment would ensure that a docile and subservient political set-up will continue in the future as well.

The writer teaches public policy in the UK and is the founding member of Rationalist Society of Pakistan. He can be reached at hashah9@yahoo.com


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OVER A COFFEE: While you were sleeping! Daily Times 15-10-11

OVER A COFFEE: While you were sleeping! —Dr Haider Shah

Intolerance breeds rapidly and soon a society is factionalised into warring groups where each faction imposes its own worldview upon others. Intellectual terrorism and physical violence go hand in hand

It was not an inaccessible rugged ridge of FATA where they staged their strike. The place of occurrence of this vicious assault was not a remote war-torn village situated along the Pak-Afghan border either. Armed with rods and sticks the 70 zealots who attacked a girls’ school a few days ago were operating in the garrison area of Rawalpindi. The scene of their exuberant blitz was just a few miles away from the army headquarters and at a short distance from the capital of the country. Such is the respect for the writ of the state that these holy warriors had no qualms about trespassing on private property in broad daylight, entering a girls’ school without permission, carrying out wilful assault and battery on defenceless students, subjecting female teachers to threats and terror and then making good their escape with no inkling of any fear or remorse.

This attack can be crowned as the mother of all deadliest incidents in the entire history of Pakistan. True that in the recent past many gory incidents have been taking place on a regular basis. Just a few weeks ago, blood-tainted notebooks of primary school kids were seen scattered inside a school bus that was callously fired upon by the Taliban in Peshawar. Also recently in Balochistan, passengers were twice lined up and killed by sectarian fanatics. Not a long time ago a large number of girls’ schools were bombed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa when the militants reigned supreme. In the Rawalpindi girls’ school incident, reportedly no blood was spilled nor did any major destruction of property take place. Still the said incident tops the list of imminent and real dangers, as with such incidents the tolling of the funeral bell for the state can be clearly heard.

When property is destroyed, it can be rebuilt. We have seen mega structures getting reconstructed when they were destroyed by earthquakes. Similarly, loss of millions of lives in the two World Wars could not demolish western countries. However, people suffer irrevocably when the state wobbles and starts collapsing. Drone attacks cannot bring the state down even if collateral damage results in loss of innocent lives. Society can however be rent asunder by attacks on places like Rehman Baba’s mausoleum and Data Darbar shrine. Popular culture evolves over thousands of years and provides cohesiveness, national consciousness and a sense of shared identity to a group of people living together. No doubt culture also needs adjusting to the demands of changing times. But the masked zealots of a religious seminary who attacked a local girls’ school had no such humanist ideals in mind. They only wanted to impose their worldview with threats of violence. Such attacks have a great symbolic importance and serve as message transmitters. Freedom of expression gives way to self-censorship and servility. Intolerance breeds rapidly and soon a society is factionalised into warring groups where each faction imposes its own worldview upon others. Intellectual terrorism and physical violence go hand in hand. In the long run, we leave anarchy and disorder for our future generations.

The constitution of Pakistan guarantees that every citizen shall enjoy the protection of law and that no action detrimental to the life, liberty, body, reputation or property of any person shall be taken except in accordance with the law. The same Article of the constitution guarantees that no person shall be prevented from or be hindered in doing that which is not prohibited by law. A failed state is one that is unable to enforce basic provisions of its constitution as the writ of the state is too weak. Recently, a court, established and working under the law of the land, awarded the death penalty to a murderer who had confessed his crime. Soon we saw some self-styled religious leaders openly challenging the due process of law and demanding that the murderer be released. This was not happening in any militancy-infested tribal area but on the main roads of major urban centres of Pakistan.

About 28 percent of our total internal resources (IR) go towards the military budget and three percent of IR is earmarked for public order and safety affairs. If about one-third of all that we earn as a nation is spent on the security establishment then we have a legitimate right to ask how come the writ of the state is challenged so brazenly by a rising number of urban extremists. What is the use of nukes if at home the state is taken for a ride by a lawless section of society?

When the US choppers landed under the cover of darkness in Abbottabad, you were sleeping. When the Navy SEAL commandos completed their mission of eliminating Osama, you were still sleeping. But if the state sleeps when foreign commandos get rid of undesirable elements, be those Somalian pirates or our religious fanatics, it renders an area cleaner. However, when militant groups roam our streets threatening music shops to burn their CDs or storm a school to tell females how to dress or bomb places of popular culture or denounce the due process of law, we are extremely shocked and rightly alarmed when you continue sleeping. Pastor Martin Niemöller had lamented the inactivity of German intellectuals by stating: “First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

If you continue sleeping, tomorrow they will come for everyone living in Pakistan, including you. So you better wake up and act soon.

The writer teaches public policy in the UK and is the founding member of Rationalist Society of Pakistan. He can be reached at hashah9@yahoo.com


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OVER A COFFEE: A tale of two societies Daily Times 8 October, 2011

OVER A COFFEE: A tale of two societies —Dr Haider Shah

Incidents of cruelty and inhumanity occur all over the world. What is worrying in our case is the lack of social interest in following up such stories and making sure that the perpetrators are brought to book and the victims receive justice

Whilst browsing through the pages of a newspaper recently in a local workshop waiting for my car to be fixed, a story about ‘Anne’ caught my attention. She was in old age but had been subjected to cruel treatment by her carers. Even though suffering from bone ailments, Anne was made to do difficult physical tasks. The newspaper report about the blatant neglect of Anne generated countrywide anguish against her carers. Social and political groups geared into action and even the office of the prime minister got involved. No wonder the media generated frenzy about Anne achieved its purpose in less than a week. The aging Anne, the last elephant in a circus in Britain, was rescued from her owners and now leisurely resides in Longleat Safari Park. The director of the park wanted to keep the media away to give Anne the dignity of privacy. However, so great was the interest of the general public that The Guardian was granted an audience with Anne. The newspaper staff had to deal with a tsunami of phone calls wanting to know how Anne was doing and photographers keen to capture her every roll and rub.

At about the same time, I watched with horror an item on a Pakistani news channel. The news was relayed only once but the story took my peace away and intermittently keeps disturbing my conscience to this day. According to the news item, a newborn baby was left in a local cemetery where wild animals devoured him through the night. All beheadings done by indoctrinated religious extremists or by criminals linked with various political parties already indicate a lack of much needed empathy. However, this incident about a nameless infant was much more shocking and revealed the level of insensitivity that we have grown accustomed to. The news is not a one-off tragedy. More recently a news item appeared about a person apprehended carrying a bag of newborn corpses who then linked the bag to a lady gynaecologist. In all such stories, it is not just the immediate crime of killing newborn babies or letting them die that is gruesome and appalling. More disconcerting is the fact that our social norms and attitudes lead to the commitment and perpetuation of such dastardly crimes. Just as pimples or swellings appearing on a body are symptoms of some underlying disease, crimes also need to be understood as the culmination of a social phenomenon.

“Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man,” says Tagore. What prompts a mother to overcome the instinctive bond of love and let the messenger of hope become a meal for wild animals? The answer is obvious: our society is obsessed with valuing women only in terms of their chastity. Its hypocritical social norms take a lenient view of the complicity of males but impose vicious sanctions against females. So authoritarian and ruthless our norms are that the urge to save loss of face proves stronger than the natural compassion that a mother should have for a newborn. Another incident reported recently in the media relates to a girl gang raped by certain individuals in Shahkot. The shocking aspect of the incident is that the girl involved was a topper in the Matriculation exams. Instead of feeling proud of her great achievement in life, now she is left to nurse the scars of a horrible personal tragedy on the one hand and face the ruthless taunting of society on the other. As is customary, the girl was cold-shouldered by the police and was able to get some attention only after a prominent media channel aired her story.

Incidents of cruelty and inhumanity occur all over the world. What is worrying in our case is the lack of social interest in following up such stories and making sure that the perpetrators are brought to book and the victims receive justice. A concerted effort towards the rehabilitation of the victims of heinous crimes such as rape is often missing and females are left to their own fate.

The animal kingdom is characterised by the ‘survival of the fittest’ rule. However, keen natural life observers find the presence of compassion and social bonding among animals as well. Adam Smith, in his influential Theory of Moral Sentiments, comments that the selfishness of humans is tempered by sympathy and that is why human societies do not break down. I feel very alarmed when sometimes I hear well-off members of our society remark that they do not listen to the news because it is depressing. If turning eyes away could make unpleasant scenes disappear then pigeons would have starved to death all attacking cats.

Why is no protest activity seen in cases of genuine victims of violent crimes? Perhaps we need to rethink our social norms and attitudes. No doubt, some NGOs and a few spirited members of civil society do make some noise. However, the extensive social empathy that characterises humane societies is still missing. Perhaps we remain so immersed in issues relating to the heavens that we forget that we owe some duty to the society that we live in as well. Anne is enjoying a life of leisure, dignity and fame in her new luxurious abode. Why can newborn babies in Pakistan not be rescued from becoming the meals of wild animals or getting dumped into a sewer? Why can females not be saved from licentious men who use rape as a weapon of degradation against helpless women? Those who think that they need not disturb their peace and joy by feeling concerned over such depressing incidents must remember that when a Titanic sinks, the elite in their luxurious rooms also go down with the ship.

The writer teaches public policy in the UK and is the founding member of Rationalist Society of Pakistan. He can be reached at hashah9@yahoo.com


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In the midst of strategic chaos – Daily Times, 1 October, 2011

OVER A COFFEE: In the midst of strategic chaos —Dr Haider Shah

Both India and China are emerging economic giants and regional power comes with economic muscle. Fuming over India’s improved influence and therefore supporting a jihadi network amounts to cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face

Like individuals, societies also suffer from various psychological illnesses. Judging by the hullabaloo the jihadi media has created in Pakistan, one can see the signs of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). In this illness, an individual suffers from impulsiveness, restlessness, hyperactivity and inattentiveness, which often prevent children from learning and socialising well. On Pakistani TV screens, from female commentators to those that wear their divine piousness up their sleeves and from urban liberals with posh accents to sponsored defence analysts, all seem to be harping on about the same song. The US is losing the war in Afghanistan and is therefore blaming Pakistan for its own failure. It is not the statement itself that is boring me to death as I have myself in the recent past analysed the possibility of NATO forces leaving Afghanistan to its own fate not because of the Taliban but because of the economic recession that is menacingly knocking at European doors. What makes me cringe is the glory-filled voice with which these half a dozen analysts mention US failure in Afghanistan. Their Hamid Gulian zest for the defeat of NATO’s forces in Afghanistan becomes too overbearing at times. To be fair, however, a few people remain honourable exceptions among the electronic media anchors while Nawaz Sharif, among the politicians, looked different as they did not ride completely on the wild horse of jingoistic discourse.

Once upon a time, we lived in the blissful era of Ziaul Haq. There was a perfect strategic alignment of everything that existed in Pakistan. We were told that Pakistan was a gift of the Two-Nation Theory and, being a fort of Islam, it was just obvious that leading the then international jihad against communist non-believers was its natural duty. The army, jihadi organisations and the Jamaat-e-Islami all worked in tandem towards one strategic goal. The civilised world also approved of this strategic alignment of state organs as it was determined to defeat the much more potent problem of communism, led by a nuclear superpower. History moves in phases. With the collapse of the Soviet bloc the old priorities became redundant and a new realignment of friends and foes had to take place.

Pakistan has still not been able to redefine its priorities and continues to suffer from an identity crisis, and hence ADHD. In terms of strategic objectives, it is in complete chaos. Let us accept that the Two-Nation Theory is the essence of Pakistan and, consequently, it is the propagation of Islam that defines our strategic objectives. Then, how come India, where Muslims have no problem in pursuing their religion and where a Muslim can become the president, is our foe while China, which does not allow its 20 million Muslims to read the Quran in primary schools, is our closest friend? If pragmatism, and not religion, guides our national interest, then why should we be so happy over the Haqqani network’s influence in Afghanistan? True, Mr Haqqani was the US’s blue-eyed boy during the Afghan jihad days as he was enterprising and outmanoeuvred others in bagging the lion’s share. But we cannot remain frozen in history as time and tide wait for nobody. The Saddams, Hosni Mubaraks, Gaddafis and Haqqanis, when they outlive their utility, become disposable. Statecraft is not built around ‘till death do us part’ romances but on preservation of national interests in an ever changing world. If we are pragmatic then we need to know in what way the Haqqani network will further our interests in the region.

The security establishment seems to be inspired by the legacy of the British ‘great game’ in Afghanistan. One very important feature of the East India Company’s policy is, however, conveniently ignored. It was a private enterprise of London-based merchants whose primary aim was to earn profit for their shareholders. Glory for Britain was an accidental by-product. All its operations were first discussed in terms of profit making opportunity. Long before the march of the army of the Indus towards Kabul in 1838, Alexander Burnes was deputed on a special mission to survey the Indus for commercial navigation and then despatched to Kabul and Central Asia to hold trade related negotiations. Russia was seen as threatening the East India Company’s monopoly over Indo-European trade. British wars had a clear strategic objective — preserving the East India Company’s profiteering in India. What is the strategic objective of Pakistan in Afghanistan, a troubled terrain since Alexander right up to the NATO forces? Why does it want to be a player in Afghanistan? Both India and China are emerging economic giants and regional power comes with economic muscle. Fuming over India’s improved influence and therefore supporting a jihadi network amounts to cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. Even if the Taliban make major gains, anti-Taliban forces will also not vanish and our dream of finding access to central Asian trade through a friendly regime will remain a delusion. The backlash of a pro-Taliban Afghan policy in terms of socio-political catastrophe hardly appears in the cost-benefit analysis of our policy makers.

Sometime back I reviewed a few instances of paradigm shifts. Many nations have faced the difficulty of making a challenging choice. Japan and Germany laid down millions of lives against the allied powers. After their defeat, they, however, chose a different national path. Similarly Russia, once a communist superpower, had to face reality and is now an emerging capitalist power. More recently, Serbia was faced with a difficult choice: either to go for the economic wellbeing of its nationals or continue treading along the violent warpath of jingoistic nationalism. It traded its generals for the economic prosperity of future generations. We also face a similar situation today but we happen to be a martial race: “Sau pusht se hai paisha-e aba sipah gari” (to provide services to armies has been our livelihood for hundred generations). “We prefer throat slitting to earning a few bucks,” comments Mushtaq Ahmed Yusufi. So, unlike the timid Serbians, we have shown no qualms in trading economic prosperity for generals. We perhaps also need to look towards nuclear North Korea and start learning lessons about living in famine and splendid isolation.

The writer teaches public policy in the UK and is the founding member of Rationalist Society of Pakistan. He can be reached at hashah9@yahoo.com