We have been a virtual satellite of the Americans since 1950, when Liaquat Ali Khan, our first Prime Minister, exercised his choice to align with the United States of America that was leading the capitalist world over the Soviet-led Communist Bloc. We generated an uncalled for hostility with almost half of the developed world, as we pitched ourselves as a party in the cold war to shelter ourselves from the spread of communism and from hostile India. Liaquat Ali was assassinated under clouds of his refusal to grant CIA military bases in Pakistan at the request of President Harry S. Truman (Peshawar airbase was leased later in 1959 by Prime Minister H.S. Suhrawardy at the request of President Dwight D. Eisenhower). We entered into defence pacts called SEATO and CENTO that were designed to contain communist powers, both of which were a failure as were the later understandings of the US coming to our rescue in an hour of need.
The Pakistan of 1947 was agrarian with an elaborate canal irrigation system and a non-existent industrial base. Most of the lands belonged to large landowners, who dominated the political spectrum of the newly founded state due to the influence they wielded over the impoverished common people of their areas. The decade-long rule of Field Marshal Ayub Khan commencing in 1958 was an era during which mutual goodwill flourished between the USA and Pakistan that reinforced friendly relations between the people of both nations. The considerable military and civilian aid was consumed largely in West Pakistan that gradually alienated the people of East Pakistan. Rapid industrial growth was registered that was concentrated in West Pakistan and within 22 families (famously coined by Finance Minister Dr Mahbubul Haq). This economic miracle that was a beacon for the developing countries was short-lived. The half a billion dollars lost in the 1965 war cost Ayub Khan his presidency and the graph of the economic rise nosedived.
A charismatic period of left leaning Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) began after a short martial rule of General Yahya Khan, whose significant achievements were holding free and fair general elections and presiding over the disaster of East Pakistan. ZAB gave a voice to the downtrodden and embarked on revolutionary socialistic reforms. He nationalised key industries, consequent to which a large number of entrepreneurs and business families either restrained investment or left the country. Though most of the legislators elected on his Peoples Party tickets were little known and many hailed from modest backgrounds, he gradually proceeded to induct and rely more on the feudal class and even tried to please the clergy. The relations with the USA deteriorated, as he endeavoured to create an Islamic front and single-mindedly followed a nuclear programme that ultimately led to his tragic demise.
The Americans poured in substantial funds to finance the Afghan Jihad of the eighties and for the assistance to the government of General Ziaul Haq. The same was repeated after 9/11 during the army rule of General Pervez Musharraf. The lure of easy money diverted the attention of the landowner politicians from agriculture to industry that was not their area of expertise. As a consequence, a bulk of the industrial sector fell into the wrong hands as political favours and the agricultural outputs failed to register growth due to neglect and lack of investment by owners in progressive farming techniques. The nation was introduced to consumerism and became a dumping ground for finished products and equipment of the developed countries. We became net importers of machinery for conversion of our crops that were exported as raw material for the industrialised countries. Little attention was paid to develop the basic infrastructure, industries, skills and research or towards promoting education and raising the standard of the common people. The lust for short-term quick economic dividends has killed our initiative and capability of entrepreneurship and innovation and has placed us nearer the top of the list of most corrupt nations.
During the last 65 years, we have nurtured hostilities and hatreds, indulged in wars and promoted factional strife, mostly unprovoked and senseless. Our policies have been whimsical and have not followed a pattern or a guideline to any long-term objectives. It is time to learn from our short history of past blunders and strike a balance in our domestic and international relationships.
The rebellion of East Pakistan was caused by their deprivation of the economic and military benefits that their counterparts in West Pakistan enjoyed. A similar sense of alienation that had been simmering among numerous ethnic, regional, semi-religious and lingual groups has now boiled over and has raised its ugly head as open defiance to state authority. The successive governments have chosen either to let sleeping dogs lie or to use brute force and intimidation. No serious attempt is made to negotiate a settlement of their demands in a spirit of give and take and bring them into the fold. Militant wings of political parties continue fighting among themselves to gain turfs in Karachi, Balochistan, southern Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa under full knowledge and patronage of their leaders, who are in the government. Both have caused immense internal strife and instability in the country. The spirit of defiance has penetrated within the state organs, the writ of the government is nowhere to be seen and small fiefdoms are operating unchallenged.
We urgently need to initiate measures to redefine the hostilities nurtured from the time of the cold war and our ideological and strategic stances. Our nation needs to be made aware and fully conscious of the fact that the world has changed into a global village where there are no friends or enemies, but only national interests. There are no territorial wars, but only economic wars. We need to put our own house in order and be self-reliant. We need to be Pakistanis first and whatever else later.
You may also like to consider and conclude from a few facts. Our first and another former Prime Minister were assassinated, one was hanged and one President was blown up in the air - all under dubious circumstances. Our democratic system has repeatedly been derailed and one Prime Minister with a two-third majority in Parliament was sent into exile. Could all these events be a coincidence or be manipulated by a not so mysterious hidden hand?
n The writer is an engineer and an entrepreneur.