Kamran Shafi knocks one for six today in his Dawn column, “It is within us.” I hope that you will take a moment to read the entire column, but it is especially important that we think about Shafi’s main point: we Pakistani’s have to stop looking outside of ourselves for some causes of and fixes to all our problems. The answer is right here in front of us, and if we take up the challenge, we have the strength, the energy, and the expertise to make our nation as great as it can possibly be.
Kamran begins by talking about “strategic depth” and how this acts as a microcosm for the mistaken approach we have taken in more general affairs as well. Consider the idea that we will somehow have Afghanistan as a strategic ally in matters of national security, but still we are debating whether or not we can help the Afghans with their fight against the Haqqani network, not only whether or not the Quetta shura should be touched, but if it even exists! How can we expect the Afghans to consider us an ally?
While the Afghans can heave a sigh of relief that Pakistan will not take over their country to gain strategic depth, how can Afghanistan ever become peaceful, and stable, and friendly towards Pakistan when the likes of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Haqqani father-son team, well known as friends of our very own security establishment, run around that country spreading havoc from Ghazni to Kunar to Paktia?
How can Afghanistan become friendly towards Pakistan when there is continuing ambivalence in wholeheartedly targeting the Taliban leadership, both Afghan and Pakistani, which as we well know are closely allied? How possibly can Afghanistan call Pakistan a friend when senior Pakistani army officers refer to these people, its enemies, as ‘assets’?
On another tack, how can the ultimate leaders of groups that also attack innocent Pakistanis in Peshawar and Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi be the strategic assets of our brass hats?
How can Afghanistan consider Pakistan a friend when the Quetta shura of the Afghan Taliban which has now been outed by no less a personage than the minister of defence, is not even touched let alone degraded to an extent that it will cease being a threat to Afghanistan? When its leaders openly defy government authority and do as they will in Balochistan, extending their murderous tentacles into Iran too?
We want the Afghans to serve as a protective barrier on our Western border, but we do not want to take the responsibility to make the difficult decisions necessary to secure that relationship. Or is it, rather, that we think that allowing for cooperation with the Taliban will make things better for us? This is the Imran Khan school of thought, and is not unpopular among debates. But does it really make any sense?
Unless, of course, it is still the case that our great strategists feel that the Taliban, both the Pakistan and Afghan variety, are the only ones who can ensure a peaceful, stable and friendly Afghanistan. If so, they have very bad memories, for they do not have to look very far back into Afghanistan’s sorry history to see how badly this, for want of a better word, scheme, failed so very miserably the last time around, with the Afghan people facing untold tribulations at the hands of a backward and medieval regime.
How possibly can the Afghans see Pakistan as a friend when they see that their tormentors and the Pakistani security establishment are still friends? No sirs, no, Afghanistan will never consider Pakistan a friend unless those who have made mindless statements about the Taliban being assets retract those statements in totality and without reservation. And far more than that take stringent action against all of the terrorists without exception.
Short memories indeed. I have never understood this affinity for Taliban. When I see the devastation that they cause in my own country, how can I possibly think that they are a “strategic asset?”
But there is more to it than strategic assets. In both of these situations, we are looking for someone outside to help us. This is not to say that we should turn our backs on friends, that we should refuse any help offered. Obviously, we need some assistance from time to time, as does every nation. Even the might nations of Europe have formed the EU as a means to aid each other.
But the EU requires member nations to meet certain standards that show that they are working hard themselves, maximizing the resources – including the human potential of their populations – to make their nation as great as it can be.
Read the words of Kamran Shafi. Read them to your friends, your neighbors, your children. His words are those we need to be saying over and over to each other. They are encouraging, filled with hope of a brighter future – a brighter future made by us. Made by Pakistan.
As to our strategic paradigm(s) being realised by other people, I can only say that whingeing will get us nowhere because no one owes us anything at all. We Pakistanis are the only ones who can, and should, realise what those paradigms are, and how we can best achieve them. We have to understand that the best strategic depth is that which comes from within our own country, from within ourselves. That the best strategic depth is that which comes from within our own people.
All of us have to understand that instead of looking beyond our borders, a literate, healthy and happy populace that lives in peace and tranquillity is the best strategic depth any country can possibly have. This, of course, cannot be, given the state of the country as it is today with completely skewed national imperatives, and a state whose writ is eroding by the day.
For, how can Pakistan educate its children in halfway decent schools; or give its people halfway decent healthcare and housing when only three per cent of the budget goes to the social sector? How can the people feel at peace when the mainstream press carries photographs of private, mark, anti-aircraft guns deployed in a cotton field in Sindh?
Instead of looking towards others it is time we sat up and took notice of the dire situation we are in. And jolly well did something about it.