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A Question of Good Intent -Article
 

ACM Kaleem Saadat
 

The anxiety level of the citizens of this country has not been ever higher than it is now. The absence of governance and a sense of collapse all around is the cause for this situation. The people had been hoping for their fortunes to take a turn for the better with the advent of a democratic government but like all past ones, this one because of its leaders, has been insecure. The decision makers are not willing to trust the people and put the right people in the right jobs and tend to rely on incompetent loyalists, with the result that, nothing works, be they institutions or services.

It is a national tragedy, when one considers what could have been and what we are as a nation? For decades, our citizens have sought an escape from the misery that they had to bear to make a life for themselves. They tried to emigrate legally and illegally to achieve this end. The unskilled and the uneducated usually had to resort to the illegal route and consequently suffer hardship en route to their destination and exploitation once there. The green passport became suspect in the eyes of the immigration and law enforcement authorities all over the world. This need not have been the case. Our country has abundant material and human resources but we did not have the fortune to have a leadership that could use these resources to better the life of the citizenry. They all sought, and seek popularity and search for legacies to leave behind without making the effort to understand what will make them get a place for themselves in history.

It is true that military interventions in the politics of the country are largely to be blamed for the dismal socio-economic state of our people but the politicians share the blame equally. The latter suffer from their own insecurities- real or perceived. It does not take long to give people hope and people survive on hope- always. How does one instill hope in people? They do this simply by their sincerity and by walking their talk. How does one appear to be sincere? Plainly by telling people the truth and taking them into confidence about the status quo and the reasons for the same. The public may be illiterate but they have the ability to understand issues and things affecting their lives. If time is required to sort things out they will give time to the rulers to do the same. But as far as their patience to live with false promises is concerned, they have surely reached their limits.

During the past 62 years, all our rulers have demanded from the ruled to be patient and repose their trust in them. All this while, they continued to run the affairs of the state in mysterious and incomprehensible manner. This way of running the government resulted in regular disruption of political functioning, breakup of Pakistan, the Kargil fiasco, the Lal Masjid disaster, the Judicial crisis of 2007-2009 etc. The people will trust a government and be patient with it only when it delivers what they need in terms of basic services and a progressive rise in their standard of living. In practice, the quality of peoplesí live has suffered a continuous downward slide. The military rulers have always insisted that people were not concerned with democracy. Yes, it is only partially true. All the people want is a responsive (to their needs) and an accountable government. Surely, a military government cannot and will not meet this basic criterion. Sadly, our democratic governments have also failed this test. The Chinese political system is not considered fully democratic by puristsí standards, but each successive leader has left their country better in every domain as compared to the state in which he had inherited it. They were responsible for a historical transformation of their society wherein they were able to pull 400 million people out of poverty in less than two decades. Consequently, the people were not only patient but were also willing to sacrifice for the future of there children and grand children.

In our case people never know why a certain thing is being done or for that matter not being done? They also donít know why it is being done in the way it is being done? Consider the case of military operation in Swat or the lack of it earlier on. We also donít know why our Govt has to beg India to talk to us and what do they expect from such an un-equal relationship. The parliament has always existed but has been a silent spectator to the ravages of the rulers. The rules exist but they are rarely, if ever, used for the benefit of the people, community and the country. Mr Sharifuddin Pirzada can come up with any number of legal solutions to protect a dictator and his actions but will not provide the answers to the legal and constitutional questions that bedevil the smooth functioning or political development of the state. Similarly, the accountability set-up of the country is not utilized for deterring corruption or misuse of official authority but it is always used to make people fall in line with the rulersí own wishes or to eliminate political competition. The cases of public interest drag on for years in the courts but when an individual is to be fixed by the state, or its beneficiaries, the decisions are produced even on holidays. SROs, which are in public interest donít see the light of day but those that provide benefit to the rightly-connected people are framed and issued in no time. There is always some type of ban on people seeking normal, merit-based employment, but the friends and family of the people in control of state resources and power can always get cushy jobs. If a slot or a position is required in the interest of better functioning of an organization, there are innumerable reasons put forth why it could not be done but when a near or dear one of the people in authority is about to retire or become superannuated, any number of positions are created to serve the interest of that connected individual. If something is required by the armed forces for their genuine force-goals needs, the process can take years or even decades but when there is money to be made by people connected with decision makers, the process can be expedited and concluded within months, at times forcing organizations to accept what they didnít ask for or need in the first place. There are thousands of crates and shipping containers of computer and other equipment lying unused and rusting as a consequence of such malafide decision-making. The job of ministers is not to deliver to the people what is their due but to support unpopular governments and enjoy the perks and privileges associated with their position in return for the robotic voting services rendered.

Thus, it is evident we have everything, the people, the resources, the statutes and structures but good intent, which is the prerequisite for any achievement, is absent. Uncertainty, lack of justice and absence of faith in the system causes people to attempt to accumulate, power to avoid adverse circumstances, and wealth so that they can feed themselves in bad times. Rulers tend to rely on loyal magicians to bring about positive change, and reward them disproportionately. Unfortunately, in the affairs of the state there is no magic, it is good intent, hard work and competence that would deliver. The loyalists neither possess these traits nor are motivated to do the right things. They have an opportunity, may be the only one, and their objective is to make the most of it. Yaaron- ka-yaar philosophy, a favourite of all our rulers, is a recipe for disaster because it pleases a few but alienates all others. Giving employment to people purely on the basis of party links has the same effect. No wonder that we are a banana republic and nobody yearns for our earlier rulers to return.

Is there a hope for the future? Despite recent positive developments on the judiciary front and some civil society mobilization, the rest of the scene is bleak. The political system shows no signs of reforming itself. The protagonists are all driven by their narrow power-politics interests. The public at large figures in their scheme of things only as voters, befooled and forgotten, every five years. The governments survive not on the basis of their performance but on the sharing, read plundering, of the national wealth. After 18 to 24 months, those that donít have their hands in the national or provincial till become restless and form forward blocks in an attempt to change the status quo and become a part of the new one that they are trying to bring about. Till such time that our elected representatives begin to vote on the side of principle for altruistic reasons, and not on the wishes of personalities, a change for the better cannot be expected. That is not likely to happen seeing the recent cases of MNAs and MPAs having been forced to resign because of their unsavoury behaviour. The accountability of the ballot box remains a myth as the major political actors have been the same over the last two decades notwithstanding their repeated failure to give to the citizens a sustainable, optimistic and dignified existence. Accumulation of power is an obsession just for the sake of it. Power delivers nothing; centralization of all decision making alienates other stakeholders and ultimately leads to paralysis and chaos.

There is, however, hope in the form of a better judiciary, an activist and noisy media and an increasingly discerning, and vocal, urban classes, which collectively have the capacity to hold the rulers to account and making their functioning more transparent. In the end, all we, the citizens want is a responsive and accountable government. Itís a question of good intent!

 

Air Chief Marshal Kaleem Saadat,

Islamabad.

16 May 2010

 

The writer is a former Chief of Air staff, Pakistan Air Force and current Chairman of the 'Thinkers Forum'.
 

 

 

Pakistan's India policy -Article

 

ACM Kaleem Saadat


Like most Pakistani citizens, I am always intrigued by Pakistanís India Policy-if there is an India policy indeed. Pakistani governments are not good at formulating and pursuing policies to their logical conclusions in general and in fact, in most domains, the ministers donít even bother about policy matters. In our scheme of things, elections are all about being able to become a minister and then serving the interest of the party leadership, and their own near and dear ones. The interest of the public at large or the state is limited to public statements and TV talk shows. However, there are some ministries, like Foreign Affairs, Defence and Interior etc that cannot afford to twiddle their thumbs even if they want to because of the sheer momentum of events. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs may not want to schedule events but there are other countries and agencies, with which they deal with, do so the Foreign Office(FO) has to prepare to participate in conferences and forums where they are invited. That is not to say that there is no work being done at the Foreign Office-certainly, people go to their offices, where their superiors ask for reports and briefs on issues they are confronted with but the citizenryís concern is with what results are yielded by the activities that take place at the FO. To be fair to the FO, they have not been allowed to play their due role in using diplomacy as an element of national power. The civilian governments have been guilty of apathy towards them while the military ones have tended to disregard their advice or not felt the need to seek any. Thus, the blame for the lack of effectiveness of our foreign policy lies with political leadership- both civil and military- of Pakistan.

Our foreign friends think that we are obsessed with India and need to Ďnormalizeí relations with them. Till recently we were, in fact, obsessed with external security matters and India has been, and continues to be, the main actor in the region, yet we continued to behave in a reactive manner. Three discernible strands of our policy were to: seek a solution of the Kashmir problem, secure peace with all our neighbours and enhance trade with them for the benefit of our people. Since India dominates the sub-continent with its physical size, population and economic strength, no progress can be achieved without arriving at an arrangement of peaceful and good-neighbourly co-existence. The Indian leadership and public opinion thinks that the settlement of the Kashmir Issue, according to the wishes of the Kashmiri and Pakistani people, is an insurmountable hurdle in the way of Pakistan- India friendship or even absence-of- hostility. The two countries consistently keep accusing each other of interfering in their internal affairs.

As a nation, we are fond of believing that the whole world is against us and that conspiracies are continuously hatched to keep us unstable politically and economically and to deny us what may be rightfully ours. Historians have given a name to such activities and efforts i.e. the Ďgreat game(s)í. They have been a constant of the march of history. Through millennia, nations have considered political and economic gain or influence to be a zero sum game. Oneís own loss is the competitorís gain and vice versa. To get an advantage, requires will, competence, diligence and persistence and unfortunately, our governments have proven that we donít have these qualities in abundance. The other missing link is the absence of nationally-agreed vision and objectives. Thus, without this foundation a superstructure of a nation cannot be built. Policy-making and surviving in a competitive world are, therefore daunting challenges for us.

Returning to the subject, what are the major planks of our policy vis-a-vis India? What is apparent is the policy basket called Ďcomposite dialogueí. The intent of this approach was to avoid fixation with Ďaní issue but to progressively resolve those ones which are less intractable. In reality, it has meant playing at the periphery without ever coming to the core of the problem(s). The process is so cumbersome that while the effort was to solve the Sir Creek and Siachen issues, new problems of Wullar barrage and Kishanganga dam have been added to the list. Then there are additional speed-breakers along the road to reconciliation. There was Kargil, the assault on Indian Parliament, the Samjhota Express deaths, and the Mumbai massacre. Pakistan has now raised, belatedly, the case of Indian support for the militancy and insurgency in Swat and FATA regions of Pakistan. So the quest for peace and settlement of outstanding issues has degenerated into holding talks about what talks can be held, if at all.

It is of course foolish to expect the Indians to yield space or cede ground voluntarily, but what is consternating is the helplessness and desperation shown by our successive governments by begging India, for talks, and the Friends of Pakistan, to intervene on our behalf and coax India to come to the negotiating table. Our policy-makers surely know the realities of power. Will a stronger country yield and give up territory to another country? Is there a hope of getting more of Kashmir than what we already have? Will our public be ready to accept something less than what we have of Kashmir? Is time on our side or that of our adversary? Does Pakistan need more people and territory when it cannot take care of what it already has? Shouldnít we maintain our dignity by not begging for talks? And finally, is the situation hopeless? I am sure that the FO has considered these questions and formulated a policy based on the answers that they may have come up with. Begging India for a composite dialogue is definitely not a good policy or strategy.

For Pakistan to be able to negotiate fruitfully, it has to demonstrate that it is a functioning country with a Govt in control. That does not seem to be the case at the present time, consequently the disdainful attitude adopted by the Indian Govt. Negotiations and dialogues are always successful from a position of strength. Strength, however, does not come from the size and population of a country but by the collective output of these two elements of national power. Our human resource is good but the political, social and the economic system does not enable it to be as productive as it can be. Isolated successes in the nuclear and missile technology domain or the odd success on the cricket field are not the standards by which we should judge our successes. In the case of the former, it has been achieved at an exorbitant cost and in the case of the latter, an occasional and rare professional performance by our team combined with the failure of the competitors, were responsible for the success. On the internet, one receives mails from optimistic individuals about how beautiful and successful Pakistan is but unfortunately, all those photos are either of our scenic northern areas which we neither created, nor developed them to make them a tourist attraction or a money earner, or of colonial- and Mughal-era architecture, which again we inherited. One is almost ashamed of the hoardings that adorn our Constitution and Jinnah Avenues in Islamabad, as they just show some artisan working on his handicraft or his final product and that is supposed to be our window to the world after 62 years of our existence. Yes , in the recent past we have created some good road infrastructure but that was because there was money to be spent(easily by the Govt) and made(easily, again by connected individuals), while a more sensible solution would have been to create and run a dependable public transport system to reduce congestion on urban roads, but the latter solution required painstaking planning, administering and execution, which would have stretched beyond the tenure of office of the incumbent office holders, who would not have gained from the benefits of such decision-making.

The point that is being made is that a government that is not responsive (to the needs of the people) and accountable (to them), will never be effective and would remain weak at any negotiating platform. Thus, we should first sort out our other problems with the right prioritization and then think of solving the Kashmir issue. From a position of weakness, we have been continuously ceding ground and concessions to the Indians while they have not shown a corresponding or proportional flexibility. Whatever we have, we can do a lot with it for the betterment of our people. Once we are able to give to our people a per capita income and a standard of living higher than that of the average Indian, we would have a case for the people of Indian Held Kashmir wanting to unite with Pakistan. That can come about only as result of good governance and by getting good value for budgetary resources expended on development and social servicesí schemes. As long as the largesse of the state is doled out to a few on the basis of political affiliations, we would continue to alienate the large majority of citizens who find themselves on the wrong side of the political divide and without hope. Consequently, we seem to be failing both on the internal and external front.

 

Air Chief Marshal Kaleem Saadat,

Islamabad.

03 May 10

 

The writer is a former Chief of Air staff, Pakistan Air Force and current Chairman of the 'Thinkers Forum'.
 

 

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