The ‘get Pakistan’ syndrome

It is in trying times like these that nations show their true inner strength, resilience and character.

Pakistan is caught in a multidimen­sional web of economic, geostra­tegic and geopolitical obligations and constraints. An apparent double en­velopment, by the unforgiving IFIs led by the IMF and the deep ma­neuverings of major powers, seems in operation. Together, they have caught Pakistan in a strategic vise and seem intent on demanding their proverbi­al pound of flesh—blood, and all! The grand strategic design un­folds slowly but surely!

Pakistan however, appears stupefied into strategic paralysis; primed for eco­nomic, diplomatic and military coer­cion and unable to forestall it!

What could possibly be the terms and conditions that the powers-that-be and IFIs could lay for allowing Paki­stan off the economic hook? It is wide­ly acknowledged that an economically strong military-nuclear-missile toting Pakistan would be very assertive in the region and stridently independent in thought and action. An economical­ly weak Pakistan however, will find its military-nuclear-missile prowess read­ily neutralized, rendering it extremely vulnerable to all forms of coercion. The obvious is underway. The IMF has made its terms and conditions to bail Pakistan out of its economic mess very clear. It is a very severe wake up call for Pakistan. The impact of IMF’s diktat on the Paki­stani economy and its people has been direct, devastating and brutal. Pakistan society stares dumbfounded as its gov­ernment flounders around for the elu­sive Staff Level Agreement with the strangely, ironically irreconcilable IMF!

Pakistan could be faced with a very critical situation in the geopolitical and geostrategic realms, too. One, it could be asked to wean itself away from Chi­na, break off its strategic partnership with it and unconditionally scuttle the BRI-CPEC. Two, it could be asked to com­promise on its strategic assets, (Securing Pakistan’s Nukes, by this scribe, The Na­tion, 05 and 08 November 2022). This could entail either a no first use declara­tion, joint controls with the powers-that-be/UN/relevant international institu­tions or worse a gradual capping, rolling back and eventual elimination of its nu­clear-missile infrastructure, capabili­ties and capacities. There is nevertheless uncompromisable, unanimous national consensus for retaining nuclear capabili­ties by Pakistan. No Government of Paki­stan worth its salt can ever contemplate submitting to such outrageous, suicid­al demands. Pakistan must never go the Ukraine way. (Geopolitics sans Morali­ty, by this scribe, The Nation, 12 March 2022). Three, reduce the defense budget. This could entail decreasing the size of the armed forces as well as cutting down all other defense-related expenditures. Coupled with the reduction/elimination of its strategic assets this would amount to a deadly double pincer movement to totally defang Pakistan and leave it de­fenseless. There cannot be a bigger exis­tential threat than this. This would also be tantamount to accepting Indian hege­mony and leaving itself open to its wan­ton aggression. The first step seeming­ly has already been taken. A large chunk of the Army’s budget including rations (PKR 20 billion) has been cut, disregard­ing the age-old maxim that “armies tra­ditionally march on their bellies”. This would weaken Pakistan beyond redemp­tion and will leave it prone to relent­less diplomatic and military coercion by its larger neighbors too - a la Ukraine. Four, put Kashmir on the back burner or worse just accept the status quo and live with it. This will bring to naught the struggles and sacrifices of the last sev­en decades plus, nullify numerous UNSC Resolutions on the issue, and would vali­date Indian illegal occupation of the dis­puted territories. This would not only nullify the Indus Water Treaty but would also adversely affect human rights move­ments like Palestine, Khalistan etc. Five, Pakistan to allow foreign military bas­es or give access to its military bases, air corridors and ground spaces. This would amount to direct threats to Iran and Af­ghanistan as they could come under in­vasive surveillance and attacks from these bases/corridors. In the case of Af­ghanistan, it could be in the garb of coun­ter terrorism operations (talks/discus­sions are already on). This will instigate a resurgence of the War on Terror, with catastrophic effects on Pakistan. Six, once fully neutered, Pakistan could then be easily coerced to recognize Israel and become an obedient, neutralized camp follower, like so many others!

The current government’s Achilles heel is its alleged corruption further com­pounded by its pathetic performance. Its political survival hangs on its perpet­uation in power. Out of power, its past and current shenanigans will catch up with it. This situation puts vital nation­al interests in direct clash with person­al/political interests of the ruling elite. A sensible dialogue between the politi­cal adversaries might have helped find a viable way out of this incapacitating co­nundrum. However, the political polar­ization is just too severe to expect a sane and rational response from our largely insensitive national polity. There appear to be no arbiters in sight either. This in­tolerable situation cannot be allowed to persist to Pakistan’s abiding detri­ment. It becomes inevitable that the na­tion comes back to an even keel before it starts tackling these multifarious chal­lenges head on. A recourse to the public mandate would put all conflicting claims to legitimacy of power and rule to rest. Let sanity prevail. Let political stability be restored. Let the political spectrum regain balance. Let a fully representative and effective Parliament re-emerge. Let the people speak. Let genuine democra­cy prevail. The government that gets the fresh mandate will have the legal and moral authority to deal with the powers-that-be and the IFIs with confidence. Im­mediate, free and fair elections are thus the only sensible and logical way out of this deadly, enervating imbroglio.

It is in trying times like these that na­tions show their true inner strength, resilience and character. They face all adversities together, stoically and man­fully. They forge unity in their ranks and present a united front to inimi­cal forces that seek to divide, weak­en, frighten, bludgeon and overwhelm them. It is in such times that true lead­ers emerge who unite, inspire, moti­vate and lead nations out of seeming­ly impossible situations. All is clearly not lost. The noose might appear to be tightening, yet we have the inherent national strength and never-say-die spirit to not only equalize but also de­feat all odds! God willing, there will al­ways be a truly independent Pakistan!

Imran Malik
The writer is a retired brigadier of the Pakistan Army. He can be reached at im.k846@gmail.com and tweets @K846Im.

The writer is a retired brigadier of the Pakistan Army. He can be reached at im.k846@gmail.com and tweets @K846Im.

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