Dr. Haider Shah

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

OVER A COFFEE: A fragile state, The Daily Times, August 22, 2015

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No government can make any meaningful national policy unless it has the final say in the interconnected realms of economics, law and order, and foreign affairs
Nations have faced challenges in difficult times of world history. The Soviet Union suffered a human loss of about 26 million — 15 percent of its total population — in World War II. In comparison, the human loss in our war of survival is, therefore, insignificant. From, mainstream politicians like Benazir Bhutto, Salmaan Taseer, Bashir Bilour and Shuja Khanzada to high-raking army and police officers, faith-inspired militant extremists have struck repeatedly but the state is still unclear about the chemistry of the problem. It naïvely thinks that it can fix everything with the haphazard use of guns alone. As a result, the state, despite brandishing its powerful muscle, is getting more fragile with the passage of time. This fragility can be attributed to two overlapping reasons. First, there is a lack of strategic clarity and poor sense of strategic alignment. Second, there is a lack of institutionalism in running the affairs of the state.
I wrote an analytical piece after the National Action Plan (NAP) was announced by the government to deal with situation after the Army Public School (APS) attack in Peshawar. In order to make some sense of the haphazardly listed 20 points in the plan I suggested a rearrangement of the points. Six aspirational points should have topped the list as strategic objectives with the seventh point of “zero tolerance policy for extremism across Pakistan” (appearing as point number 15 in the plan) should have been the first point, serving as an overarching strategic aim of the plan. I had argued that this point of doctrinal importance should have topped the list as militancy and terrorism are the consequences of an unbridled culture of extremism. The national policy is an organic whole that cannot be developed in disjointed pieces. No government can make any meaningful national policy unless it has the final say in the interconnected realms of economics, law and order, and foreign affairs. If home-grown militancy is to be exterminated then the source of militancy should be first dealt with on an urgent basis. Religious radicalisation is the embryonic stage of any subsequent militant action. Indoctrination in turn can be traced to the syllabi taught in our educational institutions and deeni madrassas (religious seminaries). The state also promotes the cause of faith-propelled extremism by the active projection of groups that use jihadi slogans in the valley of Jammu and Kashmir. While trying to pursue its claim over a disputed land, the Pakistani state has allowed the germs of religious extremism to spread throughout the entire body. Since jihad is the motivational slogan for the Kashmir cause, the state is obliged to entertain clerics and shady characters that have polluted the national narrative with their obscurantist discourse.
Banned outfits were once avenues for recruiting irregulars in our proxy war with our neighbours. Foreign relations managers did not bother too much if outfits used sectarian hate speech to carry out their recruitment. A multifaceted problem that has its tentacles in our foreign policy cannot be resolved with isolated military action. The foreign policy, internal security policy and socio-economic policies must be in strategic alignment, trying to achieve the same aims and objectives. If our India policy is based upon jihadi doctrines while we play anti-jihad tunes for internal policy then there is a mismatch and the policy is bound to remain fruitless in the long run. The half-baked paradigm shift in our Afghan policy is also faltering due to our over reliance on using militants as strategic assets in the regional tug of war game. Using the two-year-old ghost of Mullah Omar for negotiations purposes we apparently have lost the trust of both the Afghan and US governments. While the Afghan government has expressed its misgivings about Pakistan’s continued support for terrorist activities for Afghan militants based in Pakistan, the US has also cast a vote of no confidence by withholding the tranche under the Coalition Support Fund as it refused to certify that Pakistan was doing enough to damage the Haqqani network.
If no paradigm shift has so far been noticed in foreign affairs policy, no significant change has been witnessed in the social policy of the government either. Acting like an extremist itself the government has deprived citizens of access to YouTube, which is just one example. The syllabi of educational institutions are still teeming with the germs of extremist ideas. For leaders of banned outfits it is business as usual.
Another source of fragility is the fast erosion of institutionalism. Khakis are good, civilians are bad, much like the sheep in George Orwell’s Animal Farm; this we get to hear in the scripted national narrative. Supposedly, the 18th Amendment implemented federalism in its true spirit but what we see now is that Islamabad and Rawalpindi are effectively running all provinces. This desperate situation needs desperate remedies. Take any newspaper from the archive and you will find that throughout Pakistan’s history we have always faced a desperate situation. Without an institutional form of government, the state remains under-developed and hence remains fragile. I sincerely hope that those who run the affairs of the state address these two interconnected sources of fragility of the state.

Author: Dr. Haider Shah

Academic, Researcher and Writer

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