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A reflection of Pak crisis - The Daily

M. V. Kamath ()
September 27, 1998

Title: A reflection of Pak crisis
Author: M. V. Kamath
Publication: The Daily
Date: September 27, 1998

Pakistan 1997: Edited by Craig Baxter & Charles Kennedy;
American Institute of Pakistan Studies Harper Collins, New
Delhi, Pages 189; Rs. 350.

Though Pakistan is our next door neigh-boor and we have had so
many problems with it, knowledge of the country in India is all
too sparse. In the first place hardly any newspaper in India
maintain a correspondent in Islamabad or Karachi. There is
little attempt on the part of scholars in India to study events
in Pakistan and coverage of the country is abysmal. That is why
a book like the one under review is so welcome.

This happens to be the third volume in a series of biennial
commentaries on contemporary events and issues in Pakistan
issued by the American Institute of Pakistan Studies which is a
non-partisan consortium of American colleges and universities
and individual members devoted to the study of that country. The
first two volumes were published in 1993 and 1995. This volume
assumes special relevance considering that it is fifty years
since Pakistan was born following partition of India. The
editors of this volume make no bones of their distress
concerning the direction in which Pakistan is moving.

Pak Legal System

They note in their preface how the integrity of the legal system
has been compromised by attempt by Benazir Bhutto to tamper with
the tenure and appointment of member of the superior judiciary,
how environmental policy is directionless, how religious
intolerance particularly the sectarian divide in Islam between
Sunnis and Shias has led to widespread terrorist activities and
how ethno-national violence continues to plague Pakistan's most
populous city, Karachi.

According to the editors, Pakistan remains unable to conduct a
fresh national consensus, its place in the regional context of
South Asia is problematic and its international role in the
aftermath of the Cold War uncertain. The chapters in this book
address many of these issues. In all there are eight chapters.
In the first, Mohammad Waseem, currently Quaid-i-Azam professor
at Oxford University analyses the general elections of February
1997. In the second chapter Shahid Javed Burki who was Minister
of Finance, Planning and Economic Development during the
caretaker interregnum following Benazir's dismissal, looks with
an experienced eye at the economic problems faced by his
country.

A third chapter by Hasan-Askari Rizvi, currently Quaid-i-Azam
professor at Columbia University discusses Pakistan's new
position in the context of the end of the Cold War. A former
Chief Justice of Pakistan, Nasim Hasan Shah expertly addresses
issues raised by the Supreme Court decision in the so-called
udges Case. Then there are chapters on Liberalisation of the
Economy, on Revivalism, Islamisation, Sectarianism and Violence,
on Challenges to the State and on Pakistan's Environment.

Pak's Economic Future

Every subject is dealt with by an expert in the field but in the
context of Pakistan's current troubles, many would find Burki's
chapter on Pakistan's economic future particularly enlightening,
as also the chapter on Revivalism, Sectarianism, etc. By Mumtaz
Ahmed who is professor Political Science at Hampton University.
To understand this, one must keep in mind that in the 1950s, two
to three million people migrated from Punjab and NEFP to Karachi
and that, following the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan by the
Soviet Union, another 3.5 million Afghans arrived in Pakistan
throwing the demographic composition of the state into disarray.
According to Burki, unlike India, Pakistan has not stood still
long enough to devote sufficient attention to the building of
institutions and that his interplay between rapid social
change, slow institutional development and social and political
volatility is the bane of Pakistan's socio-political history.

In his chapter on Pakistan and the Post-Cold War Environment,
Prof. Rizvi makes it clear that the country's strategic
importance has diminished with its ties with major powers grown
erilously thin. Rizvi also draws attention to the fact that
with diminishing strategic importance. Pakistan no longer enjoys
the kind of international support it had during the Afghan war
period. The US stopped military sales to Pakistan in October
1990 and even summoned back all frigates and warships it had
leased to the Pakistan Navy which in the event caused a major
setback to the on-going modernisation of the three branches of
the armed forces.

US relation turns Expensive

For Pakistan, the maintenance of the US supplied military
equipment, especially F-16 aircraft, has proved very expensive
since spare parts had to be obtained from then open market.
Rizvi add: s no major upgrading of the defense system was done
after the late 1980s, military asymmetry in South Asia further
increased to the disadvantage of Pakistan.

Rizvi is either ignorant of Pakistan-China contacts or is
reticent but there is very little discussion on that subject.
Strangely enough, no writer has offered any thought on how
Pakistan can look forward to a better future. Why is Pakistan in
trouble today? This is because of its dependence on the United
States and the West. Why did it agree to be dependent on the US?
Because of its dispute with India.

Then comes the crucial question: Why is Pakistan so insistent on
fighting India over Jammu & Kashmir when it can make peace with
Delhi, cut down on its dependence on foreign countries and make
common cause with India for mutual benefit? No one bothers to
address himself to this vital issue.

Hope India

In this it has failed miserably. And it will continue to fail
because the only hope for Pakistan is to look towards India, not
away from it. Pakistan can prosper only in the context of its
full and active cooperation with India, a point that no
contributor to this book has dared to discuss. Which is a pity.
Even sectarian differences in Pakistan can be marginalised if
Pakistan's economy can get a boost through opening its doors
wide to India and forgetting the two-nation theory. But that
would call for imagination and a vision which Pakistan's
political leaders do not have.

The usefulness of this book is in its holding a mirror to
Pakistan's current face. The mirror cannot go wrong but the
picture one sees in it is one of a distraught Pakistan, torn by
internal strife and marred by sectarian rivalry. The sad part of
it all is that no contributor seems to have the courage to say
that the very concept of Pakistan was wrong to start with. When
that is the case, what panacea to Pakistan's ills can the
authors possibly prescribe? Who would dare to tell the truth?


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