October 1972. We were the first batch of cadets that had voluntarily joined the Pakistan Military Academy after the surrender of 1971. Rather than a profession, we were on a spiritual vocation. We sat in the Ingle Hall waiting for our term commander to deliver his lecture, there it was! “The honour of the country is paramount; that of the men one commands the next; and self, the last.” Soldiering is the only profession where men and women are expected to sacrifice their today for the tomorrow of others. Then he came, greeted us and began with a soliloquy of William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet:
“To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind
The slings and arrows of
Or to take arms against a sea
And by opposing end them? to
die, to sleep.”
Such were the rallying points to build courage when valour seemed to fail; to regain faith when despair abounded; and to create hope when it was forlorn. On every face, there was that temperate will, a quality of imagination, vigour of the emotions, an appetite for adventure and the resolve to win back the lost honour. So motivating was his speech that it stuck in our minds throughout our military career. Yet as a student of Shakespeare, I often contemplated over the relevance of this soliloquy to suicide and chivalry.
As I witness Pakistan’s drift into chaos through self-inflicted injuries, I conjecture the dramatic irony and the suicidal path its security managers chose for themselves and the country. Playing second fiddle to US imperialism far too long, we have adorned the king’s proverbial invisible robe with complete disregard to our vulnerability. There is a total disconnect between the compulsions of Pakistan’s security paradigm and the capability of the country to sustain this juggernaut. Not because the potential is nonexistent, but because it never was the intention to attain it. Singular focus on security through the overbearing instrument of military power has got us nowhere. In concert, our Harvard trained economic czars have led us nowhere either.
The latest episode of a mutely murmured and indirect apology; and the aptness with which Pakistan responded is a national shame. It appears that at the heels of continuous US interventions in Pakistan, gun boat diplomacy, Henry Kissinger satirically hearing ‘the war drums’, Christine Fair sending a rejoinder to Pakistan through the erstwhile foreign policy and reopening of the Mumbai bombing accusations, Pakistan blinked with a bifocal vision. Though the military was keen in resolving the issue quickly, it was caught off guard by what transpired between Hillary and Khar over the telephone. The quickness of response by Pakistan suggests that the entire farce was prepared well in advance and was to be made public on the American Declaration of Independence Day. In our eagerness to mend the fences, we have owned a part of the blame and become both co-accused and co-apologists.
Does it mean that the acceptance of the apology by the Defence Committee of the Cabinet, or DCC, and the quick government reaction is a collusion of sorts? Or has the security establishment been taken for a ride? Whatever the conjecture, it is clear that Pakistan is once again on a Shakespearian suicidal path and that, there is a smile on the face of the tiger after devouring the proverbial lady, who went on it for a ride.
If the credibility of the ‘apology’ as Ms Khar suggests is indeed indisputable, it means that there has been a serious review of the circumstances that led to the Salala tragedy and convinced USA to apologise. Logically, this should now be followed by affirmative punitive action against the planners of this operation that put USA’s relations with Pakistan in jeopardy. The fact that this will never happen goes to prove the point that it never was an apology - an observation brought out by a Pakistani journalist based in Washington and Wall Street Journal of July 5, 2012, by writing: “The final language was far less than what Pakistani officials initially sought. Mrs Clinton stopped short of taking responsibility for the deaths. The Pentagon says Pakistan was partly to blame for the incident.”
In my past writings, I had questioned the strategy of an ‘apology’. What Pakistan should have demanded was a neutral joint investigation followed by an explanation. The military missed this subtle point and actually got nothing to boost its morale. It is without doubt that this incident will play on the minds of servicemen for a long time. Security analysts and the next of kin will continue to question whether it was ever worth it.
But then, it can be argued that Pakistan’s establishment led by the military volunteered for this conflict and in the bargain also fight the very monsters it helped create for the USA and later use as game changers. The paradigm shift should have been affected in the mid-nineties when the world was morphing to a unipolar system with Transylvanian non-state actors as the emerging threat. After Kargil, everything had run amok.
Yet, I maintain what I wrote in my previous article: “The government’s intransigence in not opening the Nato land routes has relevance to the theory of uncontrolled demolition, which neither suits government nor USA. Knowing that in diplomacy, the secretaries and under secretaries draft and finalise agreements well in advance of the political ceremonies, this political bravery deflects all the effects of this stubbornness on the people and armed forces. Any haste may lead to a popular reaction within and upset the US scheme of sequential events in Pakistan focused exclusively on the army and the nuclear capability.”
So what next?
For far too long, Pakistani opposition has singularly criticised the NRO on the premise of corruption. What preceded the NRO is a development in the eclipsed ranches of Camp David. The purpose of this unknown agreement was an enduring framework of cooperation between USA and Pakistan in Central and South Asia. To ensure that the ends of this agreement were met, both parties agreed to put in place a dispensation that shall deliver. Pakistani leaders and critics need to realise that the NRO is much beyond what they criticise.
As a follow up, we may now witness a package of constitutional amendments curtailing the power of the judiciary, nationality issues related to transplantation of Western educated and enlightened liberals, and procedures related to the stratification of armed forces albeit how Pakistan’s most envied assets can be managed.
This could all be part of what cynics term the “New American Century” as Pakistan goes chanting, “and by opposing end them? to die, to sleep.”
n The writer is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a political economist.