When the Pakistani PM cites public opinion

…it is only to defend the establishment’s dogma

Thanks to India’s military mobilisation after its Indian parliament was attacked by Pakistani-sponsored terrorists in December 2001, a ‘trust deficit’ has arisen in the minds of the Pakistani public. Although Pakistan’s nuclear deterrant helped prevent the outbreak of war, the Pakistani public simply cannot forget India’s threat and is preventing the government from allowing greater trade and investment with India. That, according to Pakistan’s prime minister, is why its economy remains open to everybody, save Indians.

Shaukat Aziz said this in reply to a question why Pakistan and India could not follow the Taiwan-China model, where trade and investment proceed largely independent of the political winds. If he sought to debunk the Taiwan-China analogy, he got it quite wrong. China has had several missiles and military formations pointed at Taiwan for decades, and is not above lobbing a few of them (missiles, that is) across the straits during ‘military exercises’. China’s military buildup hardly prevented Taiwanese businessmen from investing on the mainland or from importing ‘Made in China’ manufactured goods. If there is one thing Taiwanese businessmen (and their mainland counterparts) proved, it was that trade and investment reduce the trust deficit rather quickly. Similarly, it was trade and investment that helped China and India reduce their mutual trust deficits.

Shaukat Aziz’s explanation belies a serious problem: as long as Pakistan remains under military rule, no matter how enlightened or how moderate, that one real confidence-building measure — economics — will always remain a distant possibility. Pakistan will consider opening its economy to Indian trade and investment after cricket, Bollywood stars and exchange of zoo animals have helped the Pakistani public lower its guard. So while the Pakistani nation is often ‘taken into confidence’, usually by means of a televised address by its uniformed president, after major policy decisions have been taken, it is on matters involving the defence of its establishment’s dogma that the public’s approval becomes a prerequisite.

If the best hope for the subcontinent is for Pakistan to take its rivalry with India onto the economic plane and jolt India’s reluctant politicians into action, the Musharraf-Shaukat Aziz dispensation is not the one to deliver it.

4 thoughts on “When the Pakistani PM cites public opinion”

  1. Pingback: Simon World
  2. Shaukat Aziz is the star of a Paki real-life political drama called “Kashmir Ke Baad”, given his tendency to link the K-word to all and sundry – he did it with the pipeline, with trade links and now with Indian investments in Paki companies.

  3. On the Spot, Nitin! Shaukat is worse than our own Puppet PM. He is the “decent face” of the dictator, who as you said, makes television speeches in Uniform. Mushy can afford not to heed the defence establishment: they both form self-fulfilling prophecies. So there. Forget the China–Taiwan model; there’s not a single soul in Pak who can speak good things about India and get away with it. Only Mahesh Bhatts from here will do so.

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