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'Pakistan has to stop thinking only about being a nation of warriors'

April 23, 2018 10:30 IST

'If you take pride only in being a nation with nuclear weapons and a strong military, then you think very differently from those nations that take pride in having wonderful universities and academic institutions.'

IMAGE: Pakistan rolls out its long-range ballistic missile Shaheen III at a military parade in Islamabad. Photograph: Kind courtesy @AsimBajwaISPR/Twitter

"Pakistan was created in a hurry in an environment of political sloganeering rather than much forethought," says Husain Haqqani.

Haqqani -- Pakistan's former ambassador to the United States, currently senior fellow and director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute, a Washington, DC think-tank -- was in India for the launch of his new book, Reimagining Pakistan: Transforming a Dysfunctional Nuclear State.

"I don't think it is in Pakistan's interest to allow all these elements that are considered terrorists by the rest of the world to live or operate out of Pakistan openly," Haqqani tells Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf.

 

Your country was formed on the slogan 'em>Pakistan ka matlab kya, La Illaha Illallah' ('What does Pakistan mean? There is no God but God'), so what is there to re-imagine about Pakistan after 70 years?

Ninety-five per cent of Pakistan's current population is born after 1947.

As a nuclear power, Pakistan cannot be 'finished off' overnight.

That is why it is important to try and find a new reason for Pakistan. My book makes that argument.

I say that Pakistan was created in a hurry in an environment of political sloganeering rather than much forethought.

Much of Pakistan's direction has been determined by the circumstances rather than by well-considered policy.

In 1947, Pakistan got 19 per cent of the population from British India, 17 percent of its economic process and more than 1/3rd of its military.

Unlike other countries where you create a military to deal with the threat, Pakistan raised the threat to fulfil the requirement of the military that it inherited (from British India).

It is time to reconsider in totality how Pakistan can be a nation which is at peace with itself and its neighbours.

That is what I mean by saying 'Re-imagining Pakistan'.

After 70 years, can Pakistan put the Islamisation genie back in the bottle?

I think many countries have accomplished a change of direction and there is no reason why countries of the subcontinent cannot change it.

We have seen China being a Communist country under Mao to become a virtually capitalist one under Deng Xiaoping.

We have seen Japan (transforming) after its military defeat in the second World War. It has transformed from being a hyper-military power to focus on economic development without a military.

We have seen many countries in both Europe and Asia change their fundamental orientation.

I am just suggesting either the orientation will change because of circumstances or external pressure, or it can be changed by a well thought out process and perhaps it will be better for us to have a well thought out process.

Does Pakistan have leaders like Deng Xiaoping who can bring about such change or institutions that can bring in transformation and re-imagine Pakistan the way you are talking about?

At the moment Pakistan does not have those kinds of leaders, but that does not mean that we will never have those kinds of leaders.

As a scholar, I have only done my job to lay out the foundation of such change.

I hope the younger generation of Pakistanis will take the situation forward.

Benazir Bhutto once said Pakistan lacked a central figure to guide it like India had Jawaharlal Nehru. Do you feel her assessment was right?

My argument (in the book) is less about people, but also about ideas.

The Congress party had done much homework about what a post-independent India would look like.

The Muslim League had done no homework.

So what Pakistan ended up was a lot of emotion and very little clarity on which direction the country would take.

And that is why all that was done to build an identity on the basis of religion and antipathy towards India.

This was done by a succession of leaders. No individual leader can be blamed for it.

It is just how it ended up being.

We can have all the debate on why Pakistan ended where it has, or we can try to approach to understand how Pakistan has reached where it has reached and how that can be changed.

Pakistan has failed to create any strong institutions. Seven prime ministers came and went in just 11 years after independence. Where did you fail?

Part of it lies in the origins of Pakistan.

At the time of Partition, the geographic area of that is Pakistan today did not have much by way of institutions and many of the people who ended up leading Pakistan in the initial years were people who came from India.

Some of them they were civil servants or they were political leaders like (Pakistan's first prime minister) Liaquat Ali Khan and others.

So the cumulative impact was that Pakistan did not move in a sincere direction.

Instead, it became a nation brought together in the name of religion with antipathy towards India.

Your book says Pakistan ranks at the 153rd position on ease of doing business out of 161 countries. How can you re-imagine Pakistan with such poor rankings?

Pakistan has to stop thinking only about being a nation of warriors and focussing only on building up its military capabilities.

It has to start thinking about all other aspects of life including building human capital, economy and developing the orientation whereby entrepreneurship and economy leadership is valued as much as being a military leader.

When it comes to world-class universities too, Pakistan stands nowhere.
If the government failed, why did private players not come forward to build world-class universities as we have done so in India?

I think at the end of the day it all comes down to what is your priority.

If you take pride only in being a nation with nuclear weapons and a strong military, then you think very differently from those nations that take pride in having wonderful universities and academic institutions.

One positive thing to be gleaned from your book is that Pakistan has been posting 5 per cent GDP growth every year for the past six decades.
How does growth happen given the bad situation the country is in?

Always remember, the countries that have a large consumer base can have growth that is consumer driven.

Pakistan's economic growth is primarily because it is a country with a large consumer base of 200 million population, and that involves huge consumption.

So it is consumption-driven growth primarily.

You also mention about the Mumbai fugitive who is in Karachi (Dawood Ibrahim). Why does Pakistan not deport him to India? What is his use to your country?

I too fail to understand this.

That is the argument I make.

I don't think it is in Pakistan's interest to allow all these elements that are considered terrorists by the rest of the world to live or operate out of Pakistan openly.

Israel and Pakistan are two countries formed on the basis of religion more or less at the same time.
Why has Israel moved forward while Pakistan failed so badly?

Israel was not formed on the basis of religion, but it was formed on an identity the Jews had for centuries.

Israel did not try to build its political system on the basis of religion.

Israel opened up to Jews of every country. Israel's only major conflict was with the Arabs and Palestinians.

Pakistan on the other hand comprised several ethnic groups that had an identity of their own for many years.

Pakistan was invented by students of Cambridge University in 1937.

It did not have the same historic identity that Israel could summon.

There was an Israel several centuries earlier which the Israelis said we were recreating.

There was no Pakistan several centuries ago that Pakistan could say we were recreating.

A new country was created and Pakistan tried to invent history which primarily intertwined with the history of Muslims even though most people of Pakistan had nothing in common, say, for example with the Arabs.

But the spiritual founder of Pakistan, Allama Iqbal, said, 'Yun toh tum Syed bhi ho Mirza bhi ho Afghan bhi ho, tum sabhi kuch ho, batao Musalmaan bhi ho (you are a Syed, Mirza and Afghan. But is anyone of you a Muslim?)' and yet sectarian wars among Muslims take place. Why?

Let us correct on thing.

Allama Iqbal died in 1938 long before the creation of Pakistan.

This is one of the various myths we attribute to a man who died nine years before 1947, when Pakistan was formed.

He had no relation with Pakistan as it did not exist in his lifetime.

As far as sectarianism is concerned, whenever you unleash politics in the name of religion, it will invariably create division and sectarianism.

And unfortunately, that is what happened in Pakistan.

If there is one issue that Pakistan needs to give up, what it would be?

There can be no single silver bullet.

Pakistan will have to engage in a comprehensive process of reconsideration and reform that will involve understanding its origin and understanding that the trick is not to try and recreate an artificial past, but to define your path for the future.

Syed Firdaus Ashraf / Rediff.com