The other threat to national security

Most attention to national security is given to threats such as Indian hegemony, sectarianism, and anti-state militants. However, there is another threat looming which must be given serious attention if disaster is to be avoided.

Federal Minister Planning, Development & Reform Ahsan Iqbal has announced that Pakistan needs 7-8 per cent growth for next 10 years in order to accommodate the population growth. The Minister says “we need to maximize growth through productivity gains”, but saying this and doing this are two different things. Actually, Pakistan has not achieved the minimum level of growth needed, and is not expected to.

World Bank data shows that while indicators are improving, since 2011 Pakistan has not achieved even 5 per cent growth, and is not expected to reach the necessary levels. We are predicted to lag behind India and Bangladesh and soon to be passed by Sri Lanka also.

Economic Growth PakistanWhile economic growth is not expected to be enough to sustain population growth, trade deficit is increasing at an alarming rate.

Amid fresh concerns over further loss of competitiveness in global markets, Pakistan’s external trade deficit stood at roughly $12 billion during the first half of this fiscal year (Jul-Dec 2015) -$3 billion more than International Monetary Fund’s projections – owing to steep decline in exports.

IMF notes many reasons for this including internal security, which is how the problem should be addressed. Till date, this threat has not received the attention that it needs.

Education Has Become a National Security Crisis

classroomEducation is important, not just so that a child can learn to read and write, but so that a nation can prosper. Researchers with the United Nations found that “each additional year of education boosts a person’s income by 10 per cent and increases a country’s GDP by 18 per cent”. This should make education a central part of national policy in Pakistan where economic growth has lagged for decades despite the country being located in one of the fastest growing economic regions of the world. Actually, Pakistan is second from last in economic growth in the region. The only country worse is Afghanistan, which has been a war zone since more than 10 years.

South Asia Economic Growth 2015If we are lagging in economic growth, and education is a proven way of boosting economic growth, what is our current education policy? Once again, we are almost at the bottom. Not only of the region, but of the entire world.

Pakistan has the second highest concentration of out-of-school children in the world after Nigeria

Some efforts are being made to improve things. Punjab government has successfully enrolled in school 18,622 children from brick kilns. However, it is a drop in the ocean of the problem. 360 schools were destroyed in Fata this year. And while 18,622 children have been enrolled in school in Punjab, 1.6 million children are out of school in Balochistan.

Pakistan’s education emergency is not new, but it is not improving and it is pushing us towards economic disaster for coming generations. Education is a matter of uplifting the poor and improving girls empowerment, but treating this emergency as such has been a failure till date. We need to treat the dire education emergency for what it is: a national security crisis.

Winners and losers in the new economy

Demolition of katchi abadi in I/11 has drawn much attention as the pathetic plight of the poor souls facing eviction from the callousness of the powers that be cannot be understated. To truly understand this story, though, one must acknowledge that is only one scene in a larger drama, and the poor slum dwellers and the wealthy Sharifs are not the only actors. However, this relatively minor episode is worth noting not only out of sympathy for the poor and defenceless, but because of what it says about our society more broadly.

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Money Talks: Why India is getting closer to US while Pakistan is not

Obama and Modi

A Tweet by Jang Group correspondent Murtaza Ali Shah caught my attention this morning.

Unfortunately, the link clicked through to an article by Ansar Abbasi reporting the worn out claim that Jamaat-ud-Dawa is a welfare organisation and that anyone who says otherwise is parroting Indian propaganda. Abbasi gained this information from “highly placed sources” with inside access to what was communicated to US Secretary of State John Kerry during his recent visit. The fact of the matter is that anyone with eyes and ears can see and hear what kind of “charity” Hafiz Saeed and his JuD have been operating – No propaganda necessary. So unless JuD itself is being sponsored by RAW, Abbasi’s report is not only baseless, it’s comedic. But what this has to do with US and India and business deals? That is what I was interested in. If Murtaza’s link would not provide the information, though, my interest was piqued enough that I would have to look for it myself.

It didn’t take me long to find a better fitting link for Murtaza’s Tweet, a recent article from Forbes about President Obama’s upcoming trip to India that reports that the US president will be joined by a cadre of American CEOs. Now this is interesting.

CEOs from top U.S. companies are joining the President on his trip this weekend to the world’s biggest democracy.

When President Obama flies off to India this weekend for a historic second trip to the newly-arrived economic giant, he’ll have a blue-chip roster of CEOs in tow.

The delegation of business chiefs so far includes Ajay Banga of Mastercard MA 0.01% , Dave Cote of Honeywell HON 3.13% , Bob Iger of Disney DIS -0.45% , Indra Nooyi of Pepsi PEP -0.37% , Arne Sorenson of Marriott MAR 0.04% , and Vivek Ranadive of Tibco TIBX , Fortune has learned.

Officially, Obama is traveling to attend India’s Republic Day celebrations as the guest of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (the President even scrambled scheduling of his State of the Union address to accommodate his attendance). But the presence of the corporate captains the White House hustled to recruit for the mission indicates the economic stakes. Warming diplomatic ties between the world’s oldest democracy and its largest are encouraging American companies seeking expanded access to India’s $2 trillion economy.

Modi is pushing to make his country friendlier to foreign investment with new incentives and regulatory reforms. He unveiled a “Make in India” campaign in September aimed at promoting the country as a manufacturing haven. And the US and India are chasing a five-fold increase in bilateral trade, to $500 billion, by 2020.

This is eye-popping, and should serve as a wake up call to our national strategists and policy makers in Islamabad.

India has never been America’s close ally. Actually, quite the opposite has been true. This doesn’t mean that the Indians haven’t tried to warm relations with the US, just that their attempts have usually received a cool response as the Americans have treated India with a healthy suspicion since their non-alignment during the Cold War. Washington saw Indians as always looking out for themselves, and therefore untrustworthy. This is why India’s attempts to poison relations between Pakistan and the US have never been successful – their machinations were always too obvious. Now, however, India has discovered the way to America’s heart, and it’s not through “national security”, it’s through “national exchequer”.

Here is the one area where American can accept that the Indians are looking out for themselves. In business, everyone is looking out for themselves. But in business, even though everyone understands that they are looking out for themselves, they are also looking to work together to improve their returns. In business, US and India can work closely together without any pretense of brotherly affection or timeless bonds. The only “bonds” they will be discussing will be the financial kind.

Meanwhile, Pakistan continues to base its relations with the US on issues of national security. We are a “strategically important nation” because of our geolocation in a dangerous part of the world. America needs to work with us because we are the front line in the war on terrorism. Problem is, this is the same rationale we have been using since over 50 years, and the Americans have started asking when they’re going to see returns on their investment. As the state dithers on questions about jihadi groups like Jamaat-ud-Dawa, our relationship looks less and less like one of mutual benefit and more and more like extortion. As a sovereign nation, we have the right to decide whether or not certain groups are actually supporting our national security objectives, but other countries also have the right to decide that they don’t support those objectives and to pull out of their investments.

The one area where everyone has the same interest is in business. We want to make money. They want to make money. This is the one area that all nations have in common. It is why historical enemies like India and America can become allies. It is even why nations like China and America can overcome all odds of being enemies and become allies – or at least develop an understanding that precludes military conflict.

Our national security strategy has failed us. We are not only not safer, we are becoming less and less secure almost daily. It’s time to re-think a national security strategy that prioritizes military strength and begin to develop one that prioritizes economic strength. American is not as large as India or China, but it far outpaces them in military strength because it first built its economic strength. Moreover, it has neutralized those countries who might challenge its hegemony by placing economic interests in the way. This is a proven model of success, and one that we should be following.