New Age Islam Edit Bureau
September 8, 2017
fences with Kabul
By Moonis Ahmar
are our modern day visionaries?
By Shaheen Sehbai
By Dr Saulat Nagi
the BRICS declaration
By Syed Mohammad Ali
with our intellectual crisis
By Nadeem Ul Haque
Missile-ready hydrogen bomb
By Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal
horizons of development
By Amir Hussain
by New Age Islam News Bureau
Real Threat To Pakistan
Farrukh Khan Pitafi
At the height of terror attacks in Pakistan the need
was felt for a national consensus against the scourge. It was in those days
that one opinion writer observed that there was consensus in Pakistan on
terrorism – but that it was not against it. This statement was immediately
rejected as another proof of the intellectual class’s cynicism. But, despite
sustaining such a heavy loss at the hands of terrorists, you will notice that
the Pakistani society does not respond as vociferously against terror as any other
existential challenge – say, for instance, against Indian hostility.
I am sure you can name many national heroes who died
fighting India and were awarded the Nishan-e-Haider. But how many names can you
recount of the soldiers who fell fighting terrorism. Do you know there are
thousands of them? Terrorism doesn’t just kill; it leaves behind countless
mutilated, crippled bodies behind. How many have you inquired about or tried to
help? How many charities do you know of that are dedicated to the welfare of civilian
victims of terror? Where do you go when you need to know who and how many have
been victims of terrorism? How many national monuments are built to honour the
sacrifice of these victims of terror and the soldiers who died combating it?
It is clear then that even if there is a consensus in
society, it is not against terrorism. But is it not perplexing to note that no
such consensus exists against this pestilence when it has damaged this society
so deeply? Terrorists have killed our children in APS Peshawar, attacked women
in bazaars, assailed the GHQ and other defence facilities, courts, mosques. Why
this indifference then?
The answer lies in the perceived identity of the state
itself and the wrong assumptions about the faith. To understand the identity
problem of the state just take a look at the country’s history. To establish an
identity independent of India, it was concluded that Pakistan had to be an
Islamic state. It was primarily because of this choice that the founder of the
nation’s August 11, 1947 speech stipulating a secular vision for country’s
future was so blatantly censored by the state machinery. In adopting political
Islam, nobody cared to notice that, since the ideology banks heavily on
pan-nationalistic worldview, it works to undermine the very existence of a
But no heed was paid to the matter. In the constant
confrontation with India, this ideology came handy. And in the charged
environment of the cold war, it proved doubly useful and rarely threatening.
The ensuing state indoctrination was not just tolerated but actively helped by
the West. But this ideology truly got weaponised after the collapse of the
Soviet Union when the West and religious militants started considering each
other as enemies. The Pakistani state, which did not consider the West as an
enemy, did precious little partly because of its fear of encirclement and
partly because of its interest in the then religiously driven Kashmir
When after 9/11 an effort was made to reverse this
tide of indoctrination it was too late and the militants had grown strong
enough to wage a war on Pakistan. Since then, the state has primarily been
occupied with putting out day to day fires and has done little to change the
predominant narrative in society supporting political Islam. Meanwhile, left to
its own devices, the predominantly right-leaning intelligentsia has been coming
up with one conspiracy theory after another. The resulting paranoia has further
diminished the capacity of state functionaries to bring about a paradigm shift.
Now a look at the weaponisation of faith. After the
fall of the Soviet Union, religious militants felt abandoned and often targeted
by the West. So, they had to declare the US and its allies as the enemy. But
how do you declare someone an enemy when he has been your closest ally until
yesterday? The solution was found in Islamic eschatology. Suddenly, literature
started appearing about the end of times in which the West was projected as the
enemy of Islam and a deliberately distorted image of the Western lifestyle was
projected. It was a clever idea because if it was painted as a religiously
ordained last battle between the good and the evil, there was little chance
anybody would dare to contradict it.
This narrative has since permeated into various walks
of life in Pakistan. The introduction of almost fatalist views like
Huntington’s clash of civilisations, and the Gulf war that resulted in the
presence of sizeable contingent of US forces on Saudi soil did not help. This
was all seen as definitive proof that the forces of evil war moving closer to
the Islam’s holiest spaces for the final kill. When such reactionary
interpretations are combined with various conspiracy theories, you get a lethal
Since the decision to join the fight against terrorism
was made during the rule of a dictator and there were no democratic forums to
build a broader consensus, the relatively moderate clergy went into a
reactionary mode. It was already a product of decades-long official
regimentation where political Islam was considered central to national identity
and to their own purpose of existence. Sadly, wrong assumptions have constantly
limited society’s ability to rally against the challenges posed by terrorism.
And the religious elite has been lacking in conviction to declare terrorism
unIslamic. Consider only this. Despite knowing it well that suicide is
definitely and absolutely forbidden in Islam, it took our religious scholars 15
years to come up with a unanimous edict to declare suicide bombings un-Islamic.
These are the fault lines created by a politically
motivated interpretation of Islam within our country and state. This is where
single-minded focus was needed to dismantle reductive and reactionary worldview
popularised by militants and their sympathisers. And gradual work had started
owing to the resumption of the democratic process in the country. The largest
party in the 2013 elections, the PMLN, was not very vocal against terrorism at
that time. However, as it shouldered the burden of governing the country, and
terrorist attacks continued unabated, it started owning the fight against
terrorism. But with the dismissal of its elected leader the fear is that the
focus has shifted away from the existential struggle.
It is at times like these that one is compelled to
remind the country’s elite that the biggest threat to the country is posed by
terrorists and not politicians. In this age there is no room left for non-state
actors that sully the name of faith and are hell-bent on destroying Pakistan and
its relationship with the rest of the world. Unimpeded democratic cycles, by
empowering the citizens, could have convinced them that the use of a
politicised interpretation of faith for national identity would only harm us in
the long run. That opportunity now seems to have been further delayed.
Pakistan must take steps to diminish negative
perceptions prevailing in Afghanistan
In a meeting of National Security Committee (NSC) held
in Islamabad on August 16 it was decided to mend fences with Kabul by
unfreezing diplomatic, political and security ties with Afghanistan and to
address issues which are a cause of fomenting irritants between the two
neighbours. In a major development, the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaking
in a presidential palace in Kabul on September 1 expressed his country’s
readiness to hold talks in order to normalize relations with Pakistan because
according to him, “Afghanistan was ready for comprehensive political talks.
Peace with Pakistan is in our national agenda.” Is breakthrough in Pak-Afghan
ties in offing?
Can the two countries learn lessons from the
unpleasant episodes of the past and move beyond so as to better their present
Mending fences with Afghanistan cannot be a one-way
traffic because since the inception of Pakistan as a new state in August 1947
till today, Kabul sustained its indifferent and hostile policy vis-à-vis its
eastern neighbour by first casting a negative vote in the UN on Pakistan’s
membership; challenging the Durand line; blaming Pakistan of cross border
interference and sponsoring groups involved in terrorist acts. Yet, despite
Trump’s tirade against Pakistan in his major policy speech of August 21 on South
Asia in which he termed the existence of ‘safe heaven’ responsible for
supporting Taliban groups attacking U.S and Afghan forces, recent ostensible
breakthrough in Pak-Afghan relations is a major positive development.
Kabul must understand Pakistan’s concerns which
emanate from its failure to prevent use of its soil to launch terrorist attacks
A joint working group formed by the militaries of
Afghanistan and Pakistan which was agreed upon during talks held between Chief
of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and his Afghan counterpart General
Sharif Yaftali in the sidelines of Quadrilateral Counter-Terrorism Coordination
Mechanism meeting held in Dushanbe in August is meant to jointly work for
formulation of security recommendation for governmental level in order to
address mutual security concerns. No doubt, it is another headway in mending
fences between Kabul and Islamabad at the military level. Earlier, the Chief of
Army Staff had an important meeting with Afghan Ambassador Dr Omar Zakhulwal in
GHQ on August 2 in which efforts to mend fences were discussed.
Furthermore, a visit by an Afghan military delegation
to Islamabad and convening of a meeting of the Pak-Afghan Joint Economic
Commission in August also reflected transformation in the approach and policy
of Pakistan and Afghanistan to unleash the process of normalization in their
age old hostile relations. The recent visit of Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary
Tehmina Janjua to Kabul and her talks with Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister
Hekmat Khalil Karzai is perceived as a qualitative change in Pak-Afghan
Mending fences with Afghanistan is an uphill task and
needs to be examined by taking into account four major requirements from both
sides. First, prudence and sanity demands that Afghanistan and Pakistan instead
of engaging in blame game, allegations and counter allegations see the reality
on the ground and establish a sound mechanism to prevent any future crisis and
conflict. Holding of ill-will, suspicion, mistrust and paranoia which tends to
jeopardise relations between Kabul and Islamabad must be replaced with
constructive engagement for augmenting trade, commercial and meaningful
cooperation in security, political, cultural and educational fields.
After all, people of Afghanistan and Pakistan possess
centuries old historical, cultural and religious ties which needs to be
strengthened. Second, mending fences requires a positive transformation of
conflict in Pak-Afghan relations along with cessation of hostile propaganda
against each other. Unfortunately, the holding of enemy images in some segments
of Afghan society against Pakistan is a reality as anti-Pak sentiments seems to
have gained ground in Afghanistan after 9/11. What Pakistan can do to transform
‘enemy images’ in Afghanistan in a positive direction and what sort of space
Islamabad can have in that conflict ridden country? Can Pakistan address
Kabul’s demand not to erect fence along the Pak-Afghan border and follow a
policy of strict neutrality in its internal affairs?
Realistically speaking, Kabul must understand
Pakistan’s concerns which emanate from Afghanistan’s failure to prevent those
groups who launch terrorist attacks on Pakistan from its soil. Furthermore,
Pakistan also laments that Kabul has failed to restrain India use its territory
for launching subversive activities in Pakistan particularly in the turbulent
province of Balochistan. That the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is
involved in conducting terrorist activities inside Pakistan through its network
in Afghanistan. It is the responsibility of the Kabul regime and the United
States to take appropriate steps against all such groups who are involved
against Pakistan from the Afghan soil.
Third, mending fences in Pak-Afghan relations also
requires political will and determination on the part of both sides to sustain
the process of dialogue. It is a positive sign that both the Afghan and
Pakistani leadership in the recent past agreed to take practical measures for
avoiding further schism in their ties and adopt confidence-building measures
particularly at the military level to mitigate tension along Pak-Afghan
borders. As far as Afghan reservation on fencing the long Pak-Afghan border is
concerned, the two sides can certainly discuss that matter so that it is resolved
amicably. In fact, if the Afghan side takes appropriate measures to prevent TTP
and other hostile groups having foreign support operating in Pakistan, in that
case, there will be no need to erect a fence along the Pak-Afghan border.
Finally, Pakistan must take steps to diminish ‘enemy
images’ and negative perceptions prevailing in Afghanistan. For decades, the
security establishment of Pakistan pursued a flawed policy on Afghanistan by
patronizing some Afghan groups to seize and sustain power. Had Pakistan
remained neutral when the Soviets had militarily intervened in Afghanistan and
in the post-9/11 period after the overthrow of Taliban regime, anti-Pakistan
feelings in Afghanistan would not have deepened. Patronizing Pashtun Mujahideen
groups in the course of Afghan civil war (1992-1996) and Taliban regime
(1996-2001) was another strategic blunder committed by Islamabad with lethal
repercussions. There is still time for Pakistan to take “damage control
measures” so as to create positive image among the Afghans who still consider
Islamabad responsible for the destruction of their country.
A candid, realistic, and fearless narrative had to be
given and the Army chief did just that on Defence Day. But is it enough and
where do we go from here?
Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa as performed his
national duty by speaking out and talking straight on Defence Day. In the absence
of an active, visionary and credible political leadership, somebody has to pick
up the banner and lead.
A candid, realistic, and fearless narrative had to be
given and the Army chief did just that. But is it enough and where do we go
from here? General Bajwa mentioned threats facing the country, internally and
externally. He cited the example of bigger states with greater resources which
had crumbled and imploded under pressure from such threats. He talked of
institutions, saying if they are strong, Pakistan will be strong. Strength of
democratic, constitutional and legal traditions will be the strength for all of
A critical point he made was about the country we will
handover to our future generations. It is their right that we give them a state
and society free from terrorism, corruption and lawlessness – ‘a normal
Pakistan’, as he called it. And in an indirect missive to our current
leadership, he almost wished that young people took control of the country.
Whatever he said to the foreign states was clear and emphatic but what is more
important is our domestic situation.
On terrorism and security fronts, General Bajwa is
meeting the challenges effectively, despite occasional roadblocks. In his
no-nonsense message, he also spoke about corruption, rule of law, constitution
and strength of institutions. These subjects don’t directly fall in his domain
but, he said, he was giving his input as part of his efforts to do whatever he
can to put things back on track. Why he has such a lack of confidence in the
political leadership who is supposed to be the guardian on these fronts and
what is the urgency about handling these issues?
Gen Bajwa would not say so but he knows that on the
economic front we stand very close to the precipice and are almost ready to
fall in the ditch. Economic security is also a top national security concern.
Latest media reports show that the fiscal deficit has
crossed 5.8 percent of the GDP, reaching Rs 1.864 trillion – the highest ever
in the country’s history.
The gross mismanagement of the economy by Finance
Minister Ishaq Dar and his repeated reliance on fudged and fraudulent stats has
brought us here, and we still have him as the country's chief economic manager.
If we do not knock on IMF doors soon and keep depending on China for a bailout,
there will be a heavy price to pay. The Chinese are shrewd businessmen and the
world knows that. I fear it will come down to handing over the multi-billion
dollar Reko Diq gold and copper mines to Beijing – as the latter had shown keen
interest in them after milking the Saindak cooper treasures for years. Once the
CPEC corridor is fully functional, who will stop our gold and copper swished
away overseas through Gwadar in the raw form, something we did not allow the
Canadian company in Reko Diq to do.
For this to stop, corruption has to be tackled. But
what we see is a concerted and collective effort by crony heads of regulatory
and law enforcement institutions to protect the corrupt, despite judicial
General Bajwa can do nothing about these problems, as
he cannot bring about educational, police or legal reforms that he desperately
wants to make anti-terrorism plans effective. He mentioned all of this in his
What is needed is some serious deliberation between
those who matter — generals, judges, some politicians, and thinkers — to make a
national plan for survival
Meanwhile, politicians have gone into the election
mode after Panama Papers verdict or they are fighting their survival battles –
leaving governance to run on autopilot. No one is minding the store while time
is flying and the world is converging on us, one and all, with bigger demands,
tighter sanctions and an un-payable price if we default on the economic front.
While the judiciary is on the right track, the process
and progress is so slow, it ultimately enables the corrupt to beat the system
and win. Examples of this are available by the dozen as we routinely see cases
delayed because evidence gets lost or stolen, witnesses are killed or sent into
exile, and judges recuse themselves from hearing cases.
And the mainstream political leaders and their cronies
are always less than 30 minutes away from taking their private jets to off
shore safe havens.
Who is going to monitor the ticking clock? Every
important national issue gets politicised. Census was done under Army
supervision but no one is ready to accept it. Army secures the elections
generally but instances of rigging are never forgotten.
In this time constrained milieu when nothing is
working and no one is serious about making things work, is it not a nightmarish
The army chief may keep making inspirational
statements and raising the morale of the nation every other day but reality
never disappears with sweet pep talk alone. What is needed is some serious
deliberation between those who matter – generals, judges, some politicians, and
thinkers – to make a national plan for survival.
When business-as-usual starts to threaten the state
and its legitimacy, out of box solutions become imperative. We must not forget
that there are precedents when the military was granted exceptional powers to
deal with the situation at hand, like the early years of General Musharraf’s
rule. Sorry to say the general could not grasp the enormity and scope of that
monumental chance he was given.
We need visionaries for larger than life decisions.
Fascism had started becoming a reality in the US much
before Donald Trump’s arrival in the White House
Certain movies leave an indelible mark on one’s
memory. ‘Come September’ was one of those classics. Even today transcending the
temporal barriers,its soft music continues to vibrate and cherish the viewer’s
memory. What a soothing impact it has. Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida have
eclipsed in the mist of time yet a reflection on their prodigious acting
quickens our mind and the love story they have left behind refuses to slumber
or die.It was 1962.
Fast forward to 2002, human history was introduced to
another epic yet gory repertoire, notorious to the world as 9/11. Unlike the
above-mentioned innocuous artists who through the subtle touch of Eros, were
playing to bring a smile on viewers’ faces, this time the characters were not
altogether benign. The Bush and “Condi” Rice had some lethal plans. The
objective was to translate a tragedy into an opportunity and henceforth into a
The death and destruction, which followed, 9/11 was
unprecedented. The manufactured enemy was invisible hence could be hunted all
around the world. In this process millions of innocent people became victim of
newly devised strategy of “collateral damage” which meant losing life to
operational necessities. A death without having any condolence or an associated
guilt, as if those massacred were not human beings but unintended inanimate
Whereas lot of blood has been drawn and shed, a plenty
of ink is consumed to describe or mystify the mayhem that followed. Many
phrases of “neutrality” are implied to justify this act of violence, yet
nothing has helped to alter its gravity. The vengeance continues to play havoc
on the people – lately a theoretic concept than a concrete reality — of Middle
East, Afghanistan and Ukraine.
The arrival of Bush at the world stage and the tempest
of 2008, which rocked the boat of capitalism, were no coincidences. By that,
time the capitalistic contradiction of overproduction and loss of profit had
actually stormed the shores of the US. The process of mechanization had
enlarged the base of hapless army of unemployed workers. The housing bubble had
reached to its unsustainable limits. The spectre of recession was staring in
the face. The objective conditions for an apocalypse were ripe. For the first
time after the cold war, America had ceased to be great.
The death and destruction which has followed 9/11
attacks is unprecedented. The manufactured enemy remains invisible hence can be
hunted all around the world
Much before Trump’s arrival the gap between the US and
fascism was fast abridging. The elevation of Bush, a man handpicked by the
court to be the president was a leap in this direction. Despite losing the
majority vote, apparently his both terms were guaranteed in advance. Was he
chosen for a mission is anyone’s guess but he went on to accomplish one.
Historically, the party, the army, and the big capital
were the three pillars, which provided the Nazis’ with their superstructure.
The Bolsheviks and freedom, the two lethal enemies of big business were
annihilated much before the Jews and gypsies. A devastated middle class
provided its shoulder to carry forth the hegemonic design of National
Socialism. For a rigorous and uninterrupted production, democracy was an
obstacle hence cast aside. Behind the slogan of blood and soil, the big
business reigned supreme. Fuhrer’s face was a mere mask meant to terrorize the
people into submission.
In the US, the fulcrum of power has long shifted in
favour of military - industrial - complex. The democracy devoid of its social
content has lost its utility. The ever-increasing gulf between individual’s
interest and that of society is vivid. A big chunk of middle class is wallowing
in the quagmire of poverty. In a society like this invention becomes the mother
of necessity hence one’s imagination is stretched to the delusional limits.
Small wonder if people are attracted to the fantasy of making America great
It would be unfair to compare the US of today with the
Nazi Germany of 1930s. Yet in either case, capitalism failing to realise, found
itself in a blind alley. It was in those moments of collusive madness it
declared the gypsies, the Jews and the Red, ‘them’. “The fact is that
monopolistic imperialism validates the racist thesis: it subjects ever more non
-white populations to the brutal power of its bombs, poisons, and moneys; thus
making even the exploited white population in the metropolis partners and
beneficiaries of the global crime” (Marcuse).
The economic uncertainty has cultivated the pathology
of white supremacy in its womb. For unleashing this outrage, the responsibility
rests with the structure of society and not with the human nature. However, as
Horkheimer states, once “the repressed primitive urges of superficially
civilised people” are exhumed the rational persuasion ceases to be effective.
The incidence of Charlottesville provides one example
of “racial distribution of guilt” while Trump’s partiality is the other. He
stood for ‘white’ biases and colourless prejudices, a calculated move, which
paid dividends. A mini 9/11 was erupted, which divided the people on colour
lines turning the latter into a crude expression of political and economic
realities. This brings a new seething question into fore; totalitarianism may
control the external terror but what if the simmering cauldron of internal
threat reaches to a point of explosion? The contradictions of the system are
reaching to a toxic level. The Nietzschean abyss is staring at American state.
For many the authenticity of 9/11 remains a debatable
topic. Did this madness have a method about it? Was it a state inflicted trauma
or a real act of terror? These queries are as unanswerable as they are
irrelevant. As long as the system based on social inequalities exists these
mayhems can scarcely be avoided. Every incidence akin to this continues to
remind the infernal society in which humanity under capitalism is forced to
dwell. It is time to decide if the radicals want to obey or are willing to
command. The latter requires a conscious class struggle, the former, status quo
and unconditional subjugation. The ball remains in people’s court.
Published: September 8, 2017
India and China pulled back from a tense standoff in
Doklam before they met for the five-nation BRICS summit this past week. The
fact that China also agreed to a joint declaration at the end of the summit,
which has named militant groups allegedly based in Pakistan as a regional
security concern, is being viewed as a significant diplomatic victory in India.
While Pakistan may have been caught off-guard by the
above declaration, our Foreign Office was quick to point out that Afghanistan
also faces the problem of banned militant groups operating from within its
borders. While its own record on protecting minorities is hardly impressive,
Pakistan has also expressed concern about the growing intolerance in the
region. It is however hard to deny that the BRICS declaration does illustrate
the increasing international consensus that Pakistan must clamp down harder on
externally-oriented militant groups.
On the other hand, considering China’s endorsement of
the BRICS declaration as a sign of its shifting attitude towards Pakistan would
be an overstretch. It is important not to overestimate the significance of the
BRICS declaration, and what it means for relations between Pakistan, India and
China. The existing relationship between these three countries needs to be viewed
from both a historical, and a broader geostrategic perspective.
Home to two-fifth of the world’s population, both
India and China are indisputably world powers. However, there is lingering
friction between these neighbouring giants, of which the tensions along the
Sino-Bhutan border (Doklam) is but the latest reminder. Himalayan border
disputes have earlier erupted in outright war in 1962, and border skirmishes in
1967 and 1987. Besides their own border disputes, China fears Indian preference
and support for an independent Tibet, although India denies this claim.
Similarly, India suspects Chinese support to insurgents, in the restive state
This longstanding Sino-Indian hostility has served as
an underlying motivation for China to develop close ties with Pakistan.
Although ideologically they are poles apart, Pakistan and China’s have managed
to persevere their ties through the years. Pakistan was careful not to strain
ties with China during the time that it worked closely with the US under Cold War
pacts, and during the proxy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. China
supported Pakistan during its major wars with India and has kept providing it
military support, which continues till today.
Euphemisms of Pakistan and Chinese friendship aside,
Pakistan has needed and actively courted China to guarantee its security
vis-à-vis India, and, a strong Pakistan has helped prevent India from becoming
assertive with China.
In recent years, China has also made significant
inroads via ‘special friendships’ with other South Asian countries, in an
attempt to contain Indian hegemonic aspirations. In countries like Sri Lanka,
Chinese support was instrumental in eliminating the Tamil insurgency. India, on
the other hand, has been moving towards closer ties with the US, Japan and
other ‘China-wary’ Southeast Asian countries.
spat signals last hurrah for BRICS
China’s decision to blame militant groups which may be
present in Pakistan does not mean that this will necessarily improve its ties
with India, nor that this concession will result in strained relations with
Pakistan. Chinese investment in CPEC, and its discomfort with the increasing
US-Indian defence cooperation, remain pressing concerns, the scale of which is
much more ambitious than the current level of cooperation between BRICS
nations. China does not want India to assert its presence in the South China
Sea. India has also raised concern over CPEC, fearing greater Chinese influence
in the Indian Ocean.
While the current power play in our part of the world
is becoming increasingly complex, history still has a funny way of repeating
itself, even if the permutations vary. The US’s strategic shift towards India
reminds one of Nixon’s rapprochment with China to contain the USSR decades
Whether India and China will be able to forge an
independent path of bilateral and regional cooperation, or else, continue to
exploit regional insecurities to undermine each other, while themselves being
subjected to US-led geostrategic powerplays, remains to be seen.
Nadeem Ul Haque
September 8, 2017
Naveed Iftikhar, a young Pakistani scholar who is
emerging as a thought leader, has forcefully lamented our intellectual crisis,
ie, the lack of a serious, informed debate on key challenges in Pakistan.
This is a persistent problem and earlier generations
of intellectuals lamented it as well. Ejaz Haider convened a debate on
something similar when he was among the leadership at the Daily Times. (I have
written similar laments for decades).
Naveed’s thoughtful piece rightly pointed to the
media, government and society’s lacking and demand for thought, research and
ideas. Let me add the key reasons why the space for intellectual growth is so
limited in Pakistan that even the ground rules for a discourse are not yet
n my recent book Looking Back: How Pakistan became an
Asian Tiger in 2050, I note that a debate occurs when several leaders of intellectual
thought participate fully on issues of their choice in a concentrated manner.
They actively confront one another’s ideas, acknowledging contributions with
the sole purpose of advancing knowledge. The audience of the debate gets
increasingly involved and eventually owns the emerging knowledge.
Normally such a debate emanates from universities and
think tanks where well-known public intellectuals are housed. Scholarship leads
debate. Through publishing, holding conferences and seminars they create a
vibrant evidence, analyses and forward looking thought for change.
Unfortunately, universities here have been colonised
by the bureaucracy which controls rules, funding and even recruitment. In turn,
through years of seeking funding, training and research from aid agencies, the
bureaucracy allows no local funding for local research. Instead, policy and
research has been now fully outsourced to donors. This leaves our
researchers/thinkers in the cold with only two choices: play research assistant
to donor consultants or migrate.
The few conferences that are held through donor
funding are ceremonial events to host and honour VIPs. At these no research is
presented, no discourse happens. Speakers — many of whom have no research —
make their favourite speech while donors push agendas to please headquarters.
Why is it that in a country of 207 million people,
which in its early days produced Mahboobul Haq and Abdus Salam produces no
fresh thinking and citations? Yet when you look through donor reports they see
no need to attribute ideas to Pakistani thinkers or even cite their work. All
thought has to come from outside the country.
This is because most researchers in Pakistan survive
on donor contracts. Following funding sources they have to agree there is
little original thought in-country. Besides they have to protect their maket,
they must show an intellectually-barren country.
Sadly without citation there is no knowledge.
Intellectual thought is one long conversation within humanity. Citations are
the best way to acknowledge receipt of messages and replies. Growing number of
citations show growing consensus of thought on hypotheses, theories and
empirical regularities. Eventually citations even lead to public awareness of
key policy ideas and lay the basis for change.
Donors regularly talk of ownership of policy. Yet they
undercut ownership when they refuse to give equality on policy development to
local thinkers. When they refuse citations and attribution of originality to
local thinkers they stunt the development of public thought leaders so
essential to local debate and ownership.
Citation communities as they appear show a body of
evolving knowledge that has broad participation. Audiences learn how the
subject has evolved and how various minds have contributed to it. The knowledge
of such a development process and the teamwork involved develops confidence in
the proposed idea. How can you trust ideas that appear to be coming from only
one individual who claims to have thought it all up in his bathroom?
In official meetings of donors and policymakers
frequently claim “no need for research; all we have to do is copy best
practice.” In my book, I have followed many important thinkers such as
Easterly, Farmer, Page to suggest that human systems and networks don’t really
replicate without cultural adaptation and idiosyncratic innovation. Policy then
becomes “learning globally, solving problems locally.” This requires local
research, thought and debate. Mere copying fails. Perhaps that is why donor
policies have wasted decades.
Even in the environment of intellectual disdain that
we live in, researchers can do small things to lay the foundations of an
intellectual tradition. They could start listening to one another, citing and
reviewing one another’s work, developing a system of no frills/no VIPs seminars
and conferences. They could associate thinkers with policy ideas, hypotheses
and theses and begin to talk about them instead of accepting the notion that
all ideas come from donors.
Can such boldness and community be found among our
My previous article on these pages (‘The paradox of
participation’, Sept 1) generated a polemical debate on social media about the
validity, relevance and effectiveness of participatory approaches of social
There was a series of emails from development
practitioners, academics and researchers that appreciated and criticised my
views. They appreciated my efforts to present a critique and revive the
critical debate of participatory development and criticised me for being a bit
anachronistic. Some critics even termed it my eurocentrism. I think both camps
of readers made some valid observations to take forward a critical debate of
As far as being ‘eurocentric’ is concerned, we must
concede to the fact that all mainstream development discourses, as we know them
today, were primarily evolved from the notion of the civil society in the West.
The received or borrowed notion of participatory development today reminds us
of the intellectual assertion of Edward W Said on how Western scholarship looks
at the non-Western world. In his magnum opus, ‘Orientalism’, Said has provided
a new lens to consider the production of knowledge, culture and anthropology.
To him, all hitherto scholarship of the modern West has been embedded with the
colonial experience and a collective sense of cultural superiority over the
This scholarship in part – though inadvertently –
provided the intellectual rationale for colonialism. Postcolonial societies,
with an unreconstructed relationship of dependence with the West, could not
evolve an independent worldview of development. The non-Western discourses of
culture, development and anthropology remained at the margin of mainstream
discourses. Post-colonial theorists, like the Subaltern Studies Group in India,
could not make major intellectual breakthroughs to counter the so-called
‘hegemonic’ development discourses of the West.
The postcolonial critical theory propounded by the
Subaltern Studies Group needs to be mainstreamed in our development policy
discourse. This is not happening in Pakistan at least and most of the
development practitioners don’t have a clue about this postcolonial critical
theory of development.
Colonialism resulted in an historical rupture in the
evolution of the indigenous civil society in countries like Pakistan. The late
professor Hamza Alavi provided a strong thesis of how the indigenous
development process in the then Indian Subcontinent was impeded due to the
imperialistic exploitation of the resources by the British Empire. These
intellectual expositions are important contributions towards evolving an
indigenous theory of social development in postcolonial developing countries
Nonetheless, we can find a vast amount of critical
research on the essence of participatory development, its effectiveness,
strengths and limitations. This critical research puts forth a range of new
perspectives on development that are more econometric and technical than the
conventional approaches of participatory development. According to the critics,
these approaches are primarily influenced by the neoliberal doctrine of
transforming civil society spaces of collective expression into individualistic
ventures. Arguably, the new perspectives put forth by the critics of
eurocentrism rely on the taxonomy of development knowledge that is produced in
the West rather than formulating a non-Western counter-narrative.
For instance, one of the leading perspectives is that
of social entrepreneurship, which purports to look at development as a process
that facilitates, incubates and inculcates business attitudes through the
social lens. It claims to promote a triple bottom-line of economically
sustainable, socially accountable and environmentally-responsible development.
This perspective also focuses on innovations and the optimal use of technology
to improve access to essential goods and services. It also gives primacy to
technology and cutting-edge entrepreneurial approaches in that a participant is
an actor of value addition rather than a co-planner of local development.
From this perspective, the process of identifying
participatory needs without their articulation into a pragmatic and sustainable
development programme will be a time-consuming and inefficient exercise. When
viewed from this perspective, participatory development is all about demand
articulation and a way of bridging the gap between the supply and demand of
public goods and services.
Like participatory development, this approach does not
seem to address the asymmetry of the worldview, power and knowledge between the
agency and the recipient, which is the most critical aspects of transformative
development. Instead, it tends to formalise the asymmetry and gives birth to
new asymmetries between the self-selected local entrepreneurs and the community
as a whole.
In one of my articles that was published in these
pages (‘Moving beyond the jargon’, May 18), I provided a critical analysis of
social entrepreneurship. In this context, it would suffice to say that social
entrepreneurship requires business acumen, an enabling policy environment,
well-established value chains, mature markets and protected investment venues
for a start-up to flourish into a social enterprise. Social entrepreurship can
be one of the tools of economic empowerment in the absence of monopolistic
capitalism, extractive economic production and a protectionist state.
There is another perspective that is more inclusive
than the social entrepreurship approach, which advocates local engagement as a
process of empowerment rather a nominal participation in a predefined project.
This perspective claims to draw upon past learning and aims to create a
critical mass that think holistically and creatively on how to enhance access
to improved services – both in the immediate and long term. It begins by
encouraging participants to redefine the development needs where men, women and
marginalised groups have the knowledge, skills and capabilities to live a
healthy, balanced and connected life that leads to positive socio-economic
This perspective encourages communities to
realistically map their social development needs with the support of
locally-developed technical experts. This approach strives to ensure that the
demand for services is articulated for all – including women, children, people
with disabilities, people who are transgender and the aged. This approach can
provide a vital breakthrough in development policy and practice if translated
into a framework of social development that goes beyond Euroscepticism.
By being non-prescriptive, this framework tends to
allow the communities to think flexibly about how they can increase and improve
access (supply) in both the short and long terms. This can be done through a
realistic assessment of the larger ecosystem and, more specifically, through
the government, the private sector and self-help initiatives. The framework
encourages communities to crowdsource relevant resources (and technical
organisations) and initiate public-private partnerships. Central to this
framework is the idea of partnership in knowledge, technique, planning and the
execution of transformational development.
Pakistan is at the cusp of rapid changes accentuated
by CPEC and its corollary: extractive economic activity, environmental
degradation and the political repercussions of an emerging new great game. The
participation of citizens in the development process is of utmost importance to
reap the real benefits of CPEC. The government must encourage the engagement of
citizens through an open dialogue on the pros and cons of CPEC, with an
inclusive development policy to accommodate alternative voices.
The civil society must also come forward with
cutting-edge development perspectives to broaden the horizons of public policy
for people-centric development. Within the civil society, we must also promote
a culture of critical self-assessment to learn from failures, improve and build
on the successes. The civil society must learn quickly to adapt to new
political realities and adopt creative strategies to have a larger impact on
Development practitioners must come forward as
knowledge leaders with compassion and empathy to assert that a better world is
possible for the poorer sections of our country. This must ensure the
meaningful and real participation of the poor in identifying, designing and executing
the development. This involves going beyond project-oriented development
approaches, rural development dogmatism and shunning the notions of technical
superiority. If this happens, Pakistan will witness a new era of transformative
Zafar Nawaz Jaspal
THE Korean peninsula’s strategic environment has
become complex, ambiguous and unpredictable. The recent developments in the
North East Asia alarmed about the probability of the escalation of the
conflict. The brinksmanship between Pyongyang and Washington is inching the
region towards nuclear Armageddon. The latter announced that United States
military was ‘locked and loaded’. The former expressed its confidence in its
defensive fence and also demonstrated a capability to inflict unacceptable
damage on both the US and its regional allies. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un
did not take President Trump blunt warning—fire and fury—seriously. He
responded in kind. He demonstrated his deterring capability by continuing
nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missiles tests. On September 3, 2017,
Pyongyang conducted sixth nuclear test on its Punggye-ri testing site. North
Korean claimed it had successfully tested a missile-ready hydrogen bomb.
Importantly, a few American scientists questioned the
competence of North Koreans missile-ready hydrogen bomb skill and arrogantly
declared it a mere propaganda. They are questioning the North Korean
miniaturizing capability i.e. to shrink down nuclear warheads to fit on
long-range ballistic missiles. The claims of the American scientific community,
however, failed to diminish the worries of United States regional allies. The
Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono stated: “The government confirms that North
Korea conducted a nuclear test after examining information from the weather
agency and other information.” According to the South Korean officials and
independent nuclear scientists the yield—the amount of energy released by the
weapon—to be 100 kilotons. The two intercontinental ballistic missiles tests in
July 2017 and recent hydrogen bomb test provided North Korea capability to hit
confidently targets at the mainland of the United States.
Admittedly, the engineering of hydrogen bomb is a
cumbersome task. The sucessful testing of Hydrogen bomb by North Korea
underscores the technological advancement of North Korea. Many analysts opined
that ‘even if Pyongyang is exaggerating its atomic achievements, scientific
evidence showed that it had crossed an important technological threshold. It
conducted a test of a device, which is almost seven times the size of the bomb
that destroyed Hiroshima. Undoubtedly, it is a city-buster. The hydrogen bomb provided
Pyongyang a capability to destroy the major part of a city with even inaccurate
intercontinental ballistic missile.
Washington, certainly, is immensely disturbed. A small
regional actor is questioning the might of United States and also intimidating
its regional allies. President Trump stated North Korea is “very hostile and
dangerous to the United States.” He added, “North Korea is a rogue nation.” The
statements of President Trump indicate about the probability of military action
against North Korea. Is military adventurism against a nuclear weapon state a
wise decision? The military operation against North Korea would be devastating.
The American strategic community needs to act cautiously and rationally. Its
open secret that Surgical strikes against North Korea will unleash nuclear duel
in the region. Russian Federation and China had expressed their reservations
over the hydrogen bomb test by North Korea. Paradoxically, both states
condemned the testing of North Korea, and also stressed on the dialogue process
to resolve the current tension between North Korea and United States.
Conversely, Trump administration considers dialogue process an act of
appeasement. President Trump opined, “appeasement with N-Korea will not work”.
His judgment carries weight. In 1994 Washington had tried to engage Pyongyang.
Both signed Agreed Framework. Intimidating attitude of American ruling elite
frustrated the Authoritarian North Korean regime. Pyongyang quashed the
agreement. And also withdrew from Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003.
Since than, N-Korea’s nuclear weapon programme is on positive trajectory.
The Japanese and South Korean ruling elites seem
confident about their defensive arrangement with the United States. South
Korean President Moon Jae-in stated: “never allow North Korea to continue
advancing its nuclear and missile technology.” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo
Abe said he “would not tolerate.” In reality, Washington, Tokyo and Seoul had
failed to cap and roll back the nuclear weapon program of Pyongyang.
Consequently, the people of Japan and South Korea are feeling vulnerable.
Hence, nationalist political parties have been pressurizing both the
governments to develop their indigenous nuclear capability to check the
blackmailing of North Korea. To conclude, the vulnerable Americans to the North
Korean city busters may not allow their Congress and Administration to strike
North Korea for the security of South Koreans and Japanese. Indeed, alliance is
constituted for maximizing ones advantageous rather than enticing ones decay.
— The writer is Associate
Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam