When I was a boy, my friend Hasan LOVED jalebis. I don’t know many people who don’t love jalebis, but Hasan really went nuts for them. I distinctly remember one day daadi grabbing my friend Hasan by the ear and telling him that he was going to be fat and get diabetes if he did not stop eating so many sweetmeats. He cried home to his mother who came around wanting to know who daadi thought she was yelling at her son and telling him how to live. My grandmother looked at her with crossed arms and said, “Look here, I have known you since you were born and I have known your son also. Our families have always been close and I call Hasan my own son. Do you think I would scold him if I did not love him also?”
This is what my mother always referred to as ‘tough love’. She had no patience for mothers who lied to themselves while their sons were getting into mischief. “Angels are in heaven”, she used to say, “on Earth I have to deal with regular boys.” Today, too many of our analysts and commentators are like the mothers who lied to themselves about what was going on under their very roofs. And, like Hasan’s mother, they are quick to take offense when someone points out the unpleasant truths.
I was reminded of my mother talking about ‘tough love’ when I read Christine Fair’s column in Daily Times, “Choosing sovereignty over servitude”.
There are a few popular talking points used by the Ghairat Brigade. The most common of these is ‘SOVEREIGNTY’. This was the repeated phrase during the debate about Kerry-Lugar bill. It is the phrase repeated whenever there is discussion of drone strikes. Now it is again coming up as some American Congressmen have threatened to cut aid due to the standoff over Raymond Davis. This has created the expected howls of unfair “American pressure” from the same circles.
And then in walks an American, Christine Fair, and says, “If you won’t stop eating jalebis, don’t complain that you’re getting sick.”
What does it mean for a state to be sovereign? Apart from exercising monopoly of force and writ of law, more or less homogenously over the state territory, one of the most important elements of state sovereignty is the ability to pay its own bills. While Pakistan is making strides in the former, it has made no progress in the latter.
To free it of international meddling, Pakistan’s political leaders need only to subject themselves and their patronage networks to an agricultural and industrial tax, a move which Pakistan’s leadership has steadfastly avoided throughout the state’s entire history. Of course, it must improve income tax compliance too.
Now, accusing elites of not paying taxes is another favourite pastime of the Ghairat Brigade, but they don’t really mean it. The same reason you hear so many of these guys wishing for another military government even though they always turn out horribly is also why they’re constantly talking about kicking out the Americans and relying on China and Saudi Arabia. They hate feeling like servants of America, but they still have a servant mentality.
The Ghairat Brigades are like the mothers who lie to themselves that their demon son is actually an angel. Christine Fair is having none of it.
What has China done for Pakistan? It did not help Pakistan in any of its wars with India in 1965, 1971 or the Kargil crisis of 1999, when it took the same line as the US and even India. It did little to help Pakistan in the 2001-2002 crisis with India and it even voted in the UN Security Council to declare Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) a terrorist organisation in 2009 in the wake of the Mumbai terror outrage.
The roads and ports and other infrastructure that the Chinese are building in Pakistan principally benefit China. Pakistanis are an afterthought. The Chinese obtain contracts on favourable and profitable investment terms, use their own employees, and contribute little to the local economy ultimately to build projects that facilitate the movement and sales of cheap (but also dangerous and poorly crafted) Chinese goods and products into and through Pakistan.
It is a sad fact that China uses Pakistan for its foreign policy aims as well. It provides Pakistan nuclear assistance and large amounts of military assistance to purchase subpar military platforms in hopes of sustaining Pakistan’s anti-status quo policy towards India. By encouraging Pakistani adventurism towards India, Beijing hopes that India’s massive defence modernisation and status of forces remain focused upon Pakistan — not China. China wants to sustain the animosity between India and Pakistan but it certainly does not want an actual conflict to ensue as it would then be forced to show its hand again — by not supporting Pakistan in such a conflict.
What about Saudi Arabia? The increasingly broke US citizen provided more assistance to Pakistan’s flood victims than Pakistan’s Islamic, oil tycoon brethren in Saudi Arabia. While the US government has not figured out how to give aid in a way that minimises corruption and maximises benefit, Pakistanis should note that at least the US tries to do so in contrast to Saudi Arabia, which simply abdicates.
Saudi Arabia does fund madrassas, albeit of a highly sectarian variety. Yet, Pakistan does not need more madrassas. In fact, the educational market shows that Pakistani interest in madrassa education is stagnant while interest in private schooling is expanding. Unfortunately, those madrassas and Islamic institutions that Saudi Arabia does support have contributed to a bloody sectarian divide in Pakistan that has killed far more innocent Pakistanis than the inaccurately reviled US drone programme a thousand times over.
In short, Saudi Arabia too uses Pakistan to isolate Shia Iran and to promote the dominance of Wahabiism over other Sunni maslaks (sub-sects) and over all Shia maslaks. Pakistan has paid a bloody price for the Saudis’ assistance.
Today’s pain in the national gut is Raymond Davis. Here’s an American who shot two Pakistanis who were either robbers or intelligence agents (or both) and apparently took some photos that would certainly make a strange addition to a tourist’s photo album. Asif Ezdi writes in The News that,
The government will do a great service not only to the nation but also to itself if it does not bow to US demands on Davis. It will give some credibility to our claim of being a sovereign country and do a lot of good to national self-esteem. God knows we need it badly. Countries that succumb to the first signs of international pressure never attain their national goals.
Great. We thumb our nose over Raymond Davis, hang him in the street – or better yet, bravely shoot him 26 times in the back. Then what? We all feel better for a few days, maybe a week, and we will find that nothing has changed. Actually, things would probably even be worse.
Regardless of what is said by those who have made fortunes hawking conspiracy theories and stories about secret American designs on Pakistan, the best way to get rid of the Raymond Davis’s in Pakistan is to get our own issues under control ourselves. Here’s what Christine Fair says:
If Pakistanis genuinely want to toss off the yoke of financial servitude and gain a genuine stake in their government, they should stop howling at the US government. Instead, the street power mobilised to support a flawed law and a murderer should be redirected to policy issues that are critical to the state’s survival. And rest assured, financial sovereignty is one such issue.
Perhaps such advice is not as easy or as fun as burning effigies or shouting and stomping our feet outside the LHC. But if we’re really worried about Pakistani sovereignty, it might be the best advice there is. And it came from an American. I guess they understand the concept of ‘tough love’ also.