June, 2002

What exactly is the solution to the Problems of Pakistan? Instead of one solution, there are, amazingly, over 150 million! Every Pakistani, literate or otherwise, mature or juvenile, male or female, each and every one has a solution. My barber has one, the woman who sweeps the floors in my house has another! Ride a taxi and the driver shall enlighten you about how he can sort things out. Order a meal and the waiter shall, if encouraged, disclose to you how he can better serve (sic) the country by solving its problems. The businessman, the doctor, the engineer, the laborer, the fruit seller, the dockworker, the unemployed; each have their versions. And of course, the intellectuals; our newspapers and TV are full of their pearls of wisdom! Sadly, because of our third world environment, these solution providers have, at best, an extremely vague knowledge of the problem. But, then, in true third world style, this is no barrier to formulating policy or expounding theories!

On the political front, each party has its own solution and, within it, every individual has his or her own variant of the party solution. Election time sees the parties vying with each other to impose their solution and the winning one get a chance to subject the nation to his or her solution.

(Given the propensity for each one of us having a personalized, individual solution, it is only logical that the Army Chief also has one. What sets his particular solution apart from mine or that of countless others like me is that the Army chief also has the wherewithal to impose his solution! And therefore we find Pakistan being taken over by the military at periodic intervals).

It is only when a person becomes the national leader that the true nature of the problem is realized. It is only at this stage that he or she becomes aware of the actual problems that beset the State! It is only when one sits in the chair of the President or Prime Minister that one realizes the immensity of the problems and the complexities that surround them. By then it is too late to backtrack and anyway, the perks are considerable. Why not hang around and try and solve some of these problems?

Poverty must necessarily be one of the major problems that one is confronted with at the outset. Not only the poverty that we see in the masses around us but within the government itself. An acute shortage of funds therefore motivates the well meaning, democratically elected leader to try and generate national wealth. The only meaningful way of doing so is to push for austerity, put firm limits on non-development expenditure and curb military spending. Easier said than done! A very visible and vocal Military establishment projects a threat that any caring and patriotic leader cannot ignore. An aggressive and proven ill-wisher towards the East actively assists in ensuring that our precious funds remain vectored towards non development spending. Simultaneously a self-serving bureaucracy guides the incumbent towards self-aggrandizement and opportunistic aims. Equally importantly, the incumbent realizes that change takes time and that there are no quick fixes. As the electorate clamors for betterment and as one realizes the impracticality of curtailing non-developmental expenditure one is forced to resort to short term, half-baked measures which only ensure additional waste and squandering of already scant resources. Solutions to national problems take a back seat as the leader is forced to pander to the requirements of the bureaucracy, the military and indeed, its own parasitic camp followers. The leader soon realizes the no-win situation he or she is in; if the military and the bureaucracy are tackled, removal from office is certain, if this is not done, the pathetic economic performance that is inevitable shall ensure a swift departure! In some ways, this removal provides a much needed relief from the impracticability and hopelessness of the situation. It also enables one to spend the ill gotten wealth in the pleasure pits of Europe or elsewhere while planning for a return to power.

Unfortunately, this option of being removed from office is not available to the Military leader who takes over through a coup. While the democratically elected leader can be moved out through public pressure, opposition groups or, more likely in the case of Pakistan, by the military, this exit is denied to the military leader, no matter how desperately he may seek it. He is destined to “ride the tiger” and is forced to live with the reality that can be, and indeed is, truly painful. This pain can however be alleviated by mediocrity of vision, lack of foresight and through systematic avoidance of good sound advice. These and other similar dubious attributes can generate a sense of well being in the most horrendous of situations. And, if all these exist in an environment where there are no meaningful establishments that can educate the autocratic incumbent, the pain can disappear completely. Nero can thus fiddle while Rome burns. Marie can hence offer cake to a starved populace. Closer to home, the concept of daylight saving can be bestowed upon a population, the majority of whom structure their lives in accordance with the movement of the sun and who work on a time scale that is based upon days, if not months!

It is this forced tiger ride that can transform a true military person, an aggressive architect of something as brilliant as Kargil into a desperate peace seeker extending hands of friendship all over the globe albeit with some periodic fist waving and harsh military statements thrown in. Forced into a strange and hostile environment of diplomacy, doublespeak and deceit, an outstanding professional officer can very rapidly assume the mantle of a naïve and insecure politician and be forced into an ever-tightening circle taking with him a helpless nation on a journey that can but only end in disaster.

Such is the journey that Pakistan is now embarked upon and it is being assisted by an amazingly incompetent and blundering Indian leadership. Our two nations have together achieved the dubious distinction of painting themselves into an inextricable corner! (Actually a more graphic, and indeed more apt, expression springs to mind instantly but that would not pass censorship). Through a series of ludicrously immature actions and indeed inactions, India and Pakistan now hold the world hostage to nuclear war!

However, what our limited imagination fails to recognize is that this is very much a vacuous threat: a single-shot diplomatic farce. There is not going to be any nuclear war; the world shall not allow it. Adequate measures shall be taken to ensure that these two juvenile and pathetically poor nations do not jeopardize the globe in this irreverent manner.

If we think that the world is going to rush to try and prevent us from battling it out given the nuclear arsenals on both sides, we are absolutely right. However, while basking in the dubious glow of this temporary limelight, we sadly fail to appreciate the highly sobering fact that neither one of us shall be allowed use this nuclear blackmail tactic ever again.

Because, if we think that the world is going to allow it to be held hostage again in this manner, we are sadly mistaken. By acting in this foolish and irresponsible manner, we have effectively driven the last nail in each of the coffins of the two national nuclear programs.

Because, in our juvenile enthusiasm, we forgot that we are dealing with a unipolar world and, more pertinently, we have forgotten how that “pole” became “uni”? If the leaders of Pakistan and India have forgotten the spectacular demise of the erstwhile USSR, if they have failed to comprehend the reasons for such a prodigious collapse, then of course, they are entitled to the naive perception that the United States and its Alliance partners shall be impressed by their wonderful and powerful nuclear toys and shall rush forth to embrace them as equals. Even friends and allies, China in the case of Pakistan and Russia in India’s case, understand that such devastating power cannot be allowed to remain in the hands of such irresponsible leadership.

Indeed, they shall come running now, emissaries, shuttle diplomats, Secretaries of State, Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Special Envoys. Even Bush may come over or order the obsequious Blair to visit. Yes, there shall be all levels of contacts. There will be calls from the capitals of the world, messages flashed across the globe, ambassadors and ambassadresses shall scurry back and forth and the leaders of these two third world, poverty stricken countries shall revel in the attention they get. They can and will boast to their masses, the opposition parties and all others how visionary their leadership is and how much the big guys respect them. They should bask in this glory for as long as possible because unfortunately, it is very short lived.

The problem of Kashmir shall be solved; it has to be. Not because the two countries are beating the war drums and showing off their military muscles but because the world is moving towards the swift and sure realization that peace and human development are the answers to our global future, not strife, poverty and ignorance. Yes, there shall be a policeman for this new world and yes, it has to be America for the time being but surely and inevitably, the singular nature of this leadership shall give way to a more pragmatic, more consultative and more equitable group leadership. What is certain is that this group leadership shall comprise caring, thinking, mature and responsible heads and not any emotional, weapon wielding, brash and irresponsible individuals that seem to be the lot of the third world to have as its leaders.

Despite our third world status, despite our teeming, illiterate, impoverished masses, despite our pathetic economies, despite our woes and miseries, we were granted an opportunity to be part of the emerging global leadership had we only demonstrated elementary maturity and common sense. Not any Putinic political brilliance, not any measure of JiangZeminic socio economic vision, not any Greenspanish economic wizardry; all that the world wanted to see was some maturity of thought and action. Sadly, our leaders failed us and denied us any chance that may have existed for us to be part of the emerging world leadership. We both lost it completely.

The Indian leadership lost it when it failed to realize that the struggle for Kashmir is now a totally indigenous effort and has acquired a momentum of its own. A political solution has to be found and there is very little else that can be done to stop the rebellion. Indeed India should be worried about the spillage of this sentiment and concept into its other provinces. India needs to take a lesson or two from its erstwhile tutor, mentor and guiding light, the Mighty Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. India lost it again when it decided to emulate the USA in its fight against terrorism, mistakenly assuming that a freedom struggle can be lumped together with terrorism. India lost it yet again when it elected to continue down an aggressive and vocally hostile path, shunning any peace initiatives in the region.

And Pakistan lost it when its leadership failed to go the whole nine yards in the fight against terrorism. It remained ensconced in the naïve belief that it could appease both the Americans and the local mullahs in the same breath. Of course it had lost it earlier when it mistook the machinations of some very dubious individuals to be the national desire and carried out the Chagai blasts. It lost it again when it undertook the Kargil misadventure. And again when Vajpayee made his bus journey. And again when General Musharraf stormed back from his visit to India.

And therefore, we are now destined to sit back and see how the world insures itself against the horrors of nuclear war. To be witness to how the saner and more sober nations of the world protect the fragile globe from its own errant and self-destructive elements. We are fated to see those who have known, experienced and researched the horrors of nuclear wars take over and put an end to our juvenile and clownish toying with this deadly force!


India has its hawks, so does Pakistan. These can prevail and plunge the world into a disaster of horrific proportions.

India has its hyenas, so does Pakistan. These watch from the sidelines and periodically agitate the scenario to ensure that blood does flow. They salivate, waiting for the carnage to begin.

India has its well-wishers, so does Pakistan. They remain silent, hoping and praying but not interfering because like everyone else, they too would prefer to hedge their bets.

India has its doves, so does Pakistan. Being doves, they are destined to coo feebly hoping that this melodious outpouring shall be heard above the shrill cries of the hawks, the rattling of sabers and the evil roar of ballistic missiles.