A disclaimer

Have you read The Economist?

Contrary to popular belief, the Economist leader and survey of Pakistan in this week’s issue were not authored by me. But how I wish they were!

Here are some excerpts:

The West has invested a huge amount in Pakistan’s General Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in October 1999. This newspaper was prepared to give him a chance on condition that he acted swiftly and firmly to rein in extremism and sort out the economy, and then returned to barracks. He failed to do any of that. After September 11th 2001, however, he was recast as a provider of relative stability in a dangerous neighbourhood, and an essential ally in the “war on terror”. Money was showered upon him; he was feted in Washington, DC, and London. Only gradually has it started to dawn on his admirers that, in the past five years, he has not done very much to make Pakistan a less dangerous place.

…And as for al-Qaeda, none of General Musharraf’s protestations can hide the fact that Osama bin Laden is generally reckoned to be holed up on Pakistani soil. Lesser terrorists such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the planner of the September 11th attacks, have been caught and handed over by the general, but Mr bin Laden goes on evading capture. [The Economist]

But a bigger concern for most Pakistanis is the state of their broken and predatory institutions, which have helped to make Pakistan unstable and prone to extremism. General Musharraf pledged to fix them, and to promote liberal values, or “enlightened moderation”. If he were to make serious progress towards either of those goals, history would smile on his coup.

But this survey will argue that General Musharraf is unlikely to deliver on these crucial promises.

… General Musharraf has been lucky to survive three assassination attempts, and his succession is unclear. He has, moreover, limited time at his disposal to get to grips with an unlimited number of problems. His period in office has been littered with initiatives—a diplomatic proposal to India here, a promise to reduce the army there—that never got off the ground or fizzled to nothing for want of the general’s attention.

And even if he had unlimited time, he has limited understanding. [The Economist]

The Pakistani most responsible for the economy’s brilliant turnaround, it might be argued, was not General Musharraf or his technocratic prime minister, Shaukat Aziz. It was an ethnic Pakistani currently in American custody, Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of the attacks on September 11th 2001. [The Economist]

But excerpts are excerpts. Read the whole thing.

9 thoughts on “A disclaimer”

  1. As a subscriber, I got an electronic preview of the issue yesterday. It is a comprehensive report – fairly damning about Musharaff, but hopeful for Pakistanis as a people. But the timing could have been a bit better, my uncle is scheduled to go to Pakistan for business next month (we live in the Chicago suburbs), and if his wife reads some of the articles, she will not get any sleep. I tried to lighten her concerns with some humor by asking if she would be this worried if he went to Bangladesh, where our family hails from pre-Partition. Her reply, “We never went to war with Bangladesh.”

  2. “We never went to war with Bangladesh.”

    Pakistan never went to war with Bangladesh is correct, but it did go to war with East Pakistan. Nevertheless, I’ve been to Bangladesh many, many times and never had a problem. I don’t think Pakistan is any worse off, unless your father has business in the tribal belt.

  3. Niraj,

    Sorry if I was unclear – what my aunt meant is that as an Indian, she would have no objections to visiting Bangladesh, since India and Bangladesh never went to war against each other, and the family has some roots there. Pakistan is another matter. And considering that the U.S. gov’t still does not allow its diplomatic staff in Pakistan to have their relatives in the country, her fears are not entirely without merit.

  4. Nitin: in complete contrast, the Economist accurately portrayed India as a great people, held down in no small measure by our own venal political class. They conclude that India is going to fulfill it’s promise this time around, after a couple of false starts.

    Regarding the land of the pur(itans) – we’ll have to rehabilitate them in the medium term to prevent their complete implosion.

  5. Libertarian,

    The Economist also argued that India was ‘dragging its feet’ over resolving Kashmir. The basis thesis is that Musharraf is the best chance in a long time to close the issue and India should make haste. I’ll forgive them for that. Although it is difficult to see why his promises on Kashmir will be any more permanent than his other broken promises, that the Economist has so well documented.

  6. Libertarian,
    Kindly educate me how we can rehabilitate them (Pakis) to prevent their complete implosion.
    All that Pakistan want from us is Jammu & Kashmir so the rivers that water Pakistani Punjab are secured. Are you suggesting we give J&K to them on a platter?

  7. Nitin, RS: no. Absolutely not. Status quo in J&K is what we should settle for. My argument for rehab was not about sops. It was truly about preventing human catastrophe – which will inevitably spill over the border. If we stay on our economic track – and they mess up as expected – the Indo-Pak border will resemble the US-Mexico border. Only, our failing neighbor will not just seek an economic bailout, but will likely hold the threat of nuclear weapons to make sure it happens.

    It is in our interest to be proactive on this front. We must overcome them by serving them. The govt of India should back Mittal, Reliance, Bharti, Tata, Infosys, Wipro and others in making deep forays into their business establishments. We should attempt to be their biggest food supplier. We should also introduce the equivalent of an H1-B for SAARC countries (and deplete them of their best and brightest). The idea is not to ever hand out hard cash/near cash to their military. Of course there’s some major blockers: Pak’s reflexively anti-Indian stance; China; maybe even the US doesn’t want something like this to happen.

    This may seem like pie in the sky in 2006 – may not seem so outrageous in 2016. What I’m advocating is taking the bull by the horns and aiming high. We should be driving the agenda in our neighborhood rather than trying to divine what schemes these hornets are hatching against us and only reacting when something happens.

  8. Libertarian, if even if we want to be altruistic, would Pakistanis (elite) want anything from Indian (shall we say, pigs)?

    I actually think India is better off if Pakistan is in the state complete instability. Even better, if it’s broken down into Baloch, NWFP, and eastern provinces – the more, smaller, states out of Pakistan, the better. Some will do better (actually take care of its people); others will be turmoil until jihadis cool off.

    What we don’t want is an economically strong and prosperous Pakistan (unlike what everyone seems to think). If we do, we will be waging wars with a stronger, more powerful, state once every five years.

  9. Chandra: my stance has zero altruism in it – just pragmatism. But if we are to be a world power we must collar Pak. Currently there is no good military or diplomatic option for doing so. So that leaves the fuzzy economic option. As for the Pak elite – I’m sure they understand the language of kickbacks. They’re more loyal than the king till a little something is thrown their way 🙂

    Secession of Baloch is likely to face severe opposition from the Pak army and the Chinese. Remember the Chinese are counting on Gwadar for gas and for access to the Middle East. NWFP might be a better bet – though it’s hard to see the payoff for India ouside of creating another headache for Pak. Sindh is not going to be easily let go because of Karachi – port, commerce center and more. And PoK, Gilgit, Baltistan, Northern Areas are already azad right? 🙂

    Disagree that having them in constant semi-turmoil will benefit us. They’ve shown an uncanny ability to share their misery with all their neighbors. The ideas I’ve argued for will actually weaken the military (hence their state) and make them desperately dependent on us – and not just for water. The whole point is to increase our leverage – which we currently have a severe deficit of.

Comments are closed.