Thursday Oct 12 2017

Where are we heading?

Everything seems to be going wrong; the path of self-destruction that we took in the 1970s is not letting us avert the doom which now seems imminent. It is a total crisis and everybody is at war with everybody as we become more vulnerable to our suicidal temptations. Is this a revolutionary situation or an impending doom?

New rounds of brinkmanship are setting the shape of things that may further deteriorate the conditions of our survival amid frantic calls to foil ‘foreign security threats’ and ‘internal enemies’. New clouds of uncertainty are emerging as we seem to be trying to play around our fault-lines with the same delusional mindset or tactical manoeuvres. Even though some of the indicators are self-explanatory, we are not inclined to act in a rational and objective manner.

The subsidiary games that we played too long as a client state of the US are now boomeranging on our domineering national security structures in a reversed strategic environ. For too long we saw the Afghan Taliban leadership as an asset – at a very high cost for our own people and our soldiers in the hope of maintaining leverage in the post-war settlement in Afghanistan. This very strategic asset is now being seen by the US and Nato as “agents of chaos” being harboured by Pakistan. The tables were turned against us when India became a strategic partner in the coalition of forces holding seat of authority in Kabul (instead of the Taliban). And the TTP also got sanctuaries on the other side of the Durand Line.

As the strategic environ turns hostile to us, we are again trying to mitigate it by some tactical appeasements. Our security paradigms have largely failed and we are averse to critical retrospection. Our so-called defence analysts are too busy selling phony justifications for our fatal blunders on the pretext of, as Gen Ehsan puts it: ‘that was right at that time, this [the policy today] is right now’. It means that the masters of our security were never wrong and whoever dares to disagree is an ‘enemy agent’. The chips will be down this very month or the next month about where we stand. The only option is ‘with us’ – and strictly on their terms.

On the other hand, the World Bank, which we hate, is rightly cautioning against a brewing financial crisis on the external account that may lead to a state of insolvency by 2018-19. The current account deficit is going to climb up to $17 billion in this fiscal year. It is yet to be seen whether the Abbasi government will go to the IMF or leave it to an interim setup one doesn’t know about. It’s just not a fiscal or financial crisis that the IMF can help postpone. It is in fact a crisis of economic dependency of an unsustainable model of growth of a client state that nurses temptations of defiance while suspecting the whole world and fighting all its neighbours. Not just economics but political economy has pushed us on the path of a warrior state with a fragile economic base and disappropriation of its people. Certain leading economists are not ready to say all this in the face of the establishment – since they have always been a part of it.

The political crisis created with the ouster of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has further deepened the conflict among the country’s institutions, despite a smooth change of government. Even though the Abbasi government is trying to observe the rules of governance, opposite pulls are keeping the kettle boiling. The smear campaign against politicians as a class, the PML-N and the PPP in particular, is now at its zenith with Imran Khan desperately trying to replace an assertive Nawaz Sharif as an establishment candidate. Parallel to the weakening and de-legitimisation of mainstream politicians, we are witnessing the mainstreaming of fringe extremist outfits as a counter-weight to liberal parliamentary forces.

As the ‘deep state’ gets alarmed at the gathering storm of new security challenges, it seems to be worried by civilian disorder. It seems to be increasingly inclined to interfere in various spheres – from the economy to constitutional irritants and information to governance. The way the media has been influenced and the way politicians have been so maligned show how wonderfully the Pasha-Kayani model has worked to overwhelm the civilian setup. As things have not changed the way it was expected they would, despite the ouster of stubborn Nawaz Sharif, old and rotten technocratic recipes are being brought into the public discourse on a tamed and soulless media. In a recent television show, two retired generals and a brigadier were quite vocal in their impatience about the civilian disorder; one of them even shared the ‘good news’ of turning the page on prevalent politics “soon”.

There cannot be a worse recipe than a so-called ‘technocrat government’ in these testing times of international isolation and near-insolvency. We have seen these kinds of shenanigans in the past and we have also seen their horrible consequences. The solution lies not in the overthrow of the representative system but in making the system work and letting the democratic transition move ahead. Unfortunately, politicians from across the opposition are too obsessed with expeditiously benefiting from the plight of former prime minister.

As efforts are afoot to dislodge the former prime minister from Punjab and the PPP from Sindh, Imran Khan is trying to win the space as an alternative of the establishment – what Nawaz Sharif once was against Benazir Bhutto. Before losing his democratic credentials again, Khan must learn from the ouster of a popular prime minister that a popular leader like him cannot fit into the shoes of the establishment. Interestingly, its only Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari who are well aware of the ongoing game, with the latter trying to make his way through the political puzzle. But Zardari is trying to be too clever, and may eventually have to join hands with his adversaries to stop the democratic transition from being derailed again.

This is a very complex and demanding situation. The major players in the power game must know that there are much greater restraints, which if crossed would hurt the country most. Are we actually clear about the extent of the ‘external threats’ and the nature of our ‘internal enemies’? Do we know the art of not increasing enemies while not clinging to those who are our real ‘internal enemies’? If not, then are we moving towards another disaster?

If we go by our history, it may yet be another national catastrophe in making. This is also not a revolutionary situation that could have suited a revolutionary republican party – which is also not there. This is rather the coming of doom. I wish I am proven wrong.