Anatol Lieven is a professor in the War Studies department of King’s College, London, and author of the book Pakistan: A Hard Country, among many other reputable holdings. His views on counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency feats are highly recognized; his journalistic exposure in Western and Central Asia makes him a credible commentator of the geographical volatility touching base there. However, Mr Lieven’s recent proclamations justifying, and somewhat defending, Pakistan’s appalling state of affairs bruises his tenacity and veracity as an analyst. (Anatol Lieven’s latest column & speech) Most of the attention paid to Pakistan in the past few weeks had to do with the obvious: powerful elements in the Pakistani national security establishment protecting bin Laden and helping him evade the colossal U.S. hunt for him. There are only few questions left in the open: was this protection campaign conducted with the knowledge and approval of all the political, military, and intelligence leaders, or of only some of them? Is Pakistan’s ineptitude a debatable element or should we ignore that factor completely? While Mr. Lieven has allotted his arguments augmenting the gullibility and incompetence of the Pakistani state, we will learn the answer to these questions in time, rebutting his thesis of inculpable radicalism and a suggestive alliance with the same.
To begin with, keeping the 2007 margin, Pakistan has seen twenty-three governments in the past sixty years, including: fourteen elected or appointed prime ministers, five interim governments and thirty-three years of military rule under four different leaders.23 Excluding the military and interim governments, the average life span of a politically elected government has been less than two years. If the five-year period of Bhutto is excluded, then the average span falls to 1.6 years. The tour d’horizon of the past sixty years of Pakistan’s economic history lends credence to the argument that interruptions to the orderly political process whereby elected governments were dismissed, forced to resign or overthrown accentuated the tendency of economic discretion. Without the clause of accountability, the Pakistani leadership deepened its already unfathomable grooves of socio-economic infrastructure – often attributed to the lack of a democratic set up and the continuous existence of politico-military regiments.
However, it would be wrong to say that Pakistan is financially bankrupt. As Stephen Cohen points out, the country’s vaults are graced by high levels of aid from the United States, military grants from China and subsidies from Saudi Arabia. But then, sensible utilization and governance is not Pakistan’s forte. For instance, when the supposed ‘arch enemy’ India, bid for nuclear capability – Pakistan couldn’t wait to but answer in the same coin. This objective was inevitably achieved by sacrificing domestic investment and social development, garnered by military arrogance and bilateral supremacy with the US and China.
The United States has given Pakistan billions and billions of dollars in military aid over the years. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, that aid was increased sharply, and depending on what we count in, has reached more than $10 billion over the past decade. There were two points of contention between the United States and Pakistan regarding this massive military aid. The United States wanted Pakistan to invest this money in augmenting its anti-terror capabilities: more and better equipped ground troops; more emphasis on small commando-type units; better gear for domestic surveillance; and more. The Pakistanis, on the other hand, wanted to use the money to augment their military capabilities against India. To do that, the they wanted to use the money to buy fighter planes, radar installations, missiles, ships, and submarines. The second point of contention: Pakistan cheated the United States in two ways. First, as is the practice in the country, much of that military aid ended up in the personal bank accounts of the country’s top political and military leaders. Second, using false accounting and forged reports, the Pakistani military, while telling the United States it was using (what was left of) the money to buy counter-terrorism related gear, was in fact using the money to acquire equipment more suitable for an India-Pakistan conflict.
Time to ponder – what if instead of American forces looking only for bin Laden, we would have had an Indian commando group entering the country to decapitate the Pakistani political and military leadership as a prelude to an all-out Indian attack on Pakistan? Pakistan would be doomed before the game even began.
In the light of the same, advice to U.S. policymakers: It is time to reconsider the massive aid to Pakistan. Recall former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir’s comment regarding an especially egregious corruption scandal in Israel: “Just see how much public money could have been wasted yet — had it not been stolen.” With regard to Pakistan – ditto. Another advice: Strength is relative, not absolute. It is not enough to be strong. Better to be smart in what kinds of strength we accumulate, and what kinds of strength we deny our potential adversaries. Reference – China.
To pinpoint and postulate, Lieven says that the core Western policy with regard to Pakistan should revolve around protecting the state from an Islamist revolution – recognising the country’s resilience and employing it accordingly. The statement is made in vain and where his point falters can be reasoned with the very pulp the statehood of Pakistan came into being. The partition of the pan Indian empire didn’t materialise because Lord Mountbatten was fanciful of the idea of a separate Islamic state. The current geographical borders are primarily results of a full-fledged ‘Islamic Revolution’, the demand of a non-secular terra firma fathered by the machismo of identity egotism.
American journalist Nicholas Schmidle was in Karachi in May 2007, when the pro-Musharraf Muttahida Quami Movement staged a rally on the same day Chaudhry was to address a gathering of lawyers in the city. He witnessed riots that quickly spiraled into ethnic strife—the gathering was a microcosm of a nation plagued by ethnic tensions among its Baluchis, Pashtuns, Punjabis and Sindhis. Schmidle posits that the failure of the state security apparatus to quell the violence in Karachi was a deliberate attempt by Musharraf’s regime to further destabilize an ethnically-divided nation, thereby rebuffing any viable opposition. After being deported from Pakistan in January 2008, Schmidle returned seven months later on the eve of Musharraf’s resignation and the assumption of the presidency by Asif Ali Zardari, Benazir Bhutto’s widower. Shortly after his return to Pakistan, Schmidle was tailed by Pakistan’s various intelligence agencies. Pakistan’s clandestine agencies remain a formidable force domestically and regionally, in both intelligence-gathering and intimidation of potential adversaries and unwelcome Westerners. These agencies are ultimately subsumed under an army that remains the dominant player in Pakistan’s political life. For fear of his personal safety, Schmidle quickly left Pakistan again—a harrowing experience that signifies the Pakistani military’s resolve in preserving its powerful role within the state, illustrating that civilian-led governments have been of ephemeral importance during much of Pakistan’s sixty-three-year history.
That said, this definition of Pakistan will never make way to its history books a few decades from now – authenticating the very fact that its geopolitical smugness is proportionally relative to its adamant fallacies, flowered by a testament that scripts everything barring raison d’État.
Written for IBNLive