View Full Version : Mortem per patibulo - Syed Bakhtiyar Kazmi - 22nd June 2015

22nd June 2015, 03:50 AM
It is fascinating to observe certain analysts passionately offering what can only be termed as choleric advice on handling the recent escalation of hostilities between Pakistan and its neighbour on the eastern border, as the latter continues to flex its muscles, unable to mask its atavistic hegemonic designs in the region anymore. Just a few months ago, these very quarters were enthusiastically prosecuting the establishment for its unflinchingly aggressive stance and urging politicians to go ahead with Aman ki Asha. To the Prime Minister’s credit, he did go out of his way to placate his Indian counterpart, Modi. But some things are just not meant to be.

Dear Readers, Ramzan Mubarak! The original plan for today’s column was to continue with the budget scrutiny and perhaps even include the provincial budgets in the ambit of the discussion. However, to expect the audience to focus on anything to do with the economy in the beginning of the holy month, that too on the first Sunday’s fast, would have qualified as imbecilic. On the other hand, a burst of patriotism, a flavour of national pride topped up with a jingoistic elixir is perhaps the right mix to boost depleted energy reserves; nothing qualifies better, on this count, than Indian balderdash!

Getting back to the band of senior analysts, the title “Senior” and, in certain cases, even “Analyst” is rather perplexing. Perhaps an inquiry is warranted about the basis of awarding these labels and perhaps the concerned authorities need to be empowered to regulate the entire conundrum. If the revenue generating segments of the economy can be subjected to obdurate regulatory oversight, why should a profession, largely irrelevant to growth and partially responsible for most national conspiracy theories get off scot-free?

Nonetheless, I expect there to be a consensus on the suggestion that senior analysts guilty of incorrect and inappropriate evaluations of the winds of change in the Indian psyche, and of suggesting that it would be beneficial for Pakistan to embrace the moment, should be barred from offering views and recommendations on the current situation. Remember the hype about the benefits from bilateral trade and cultural exchange that were supposed to accrue after India and Pakistan buried the hatchet. Frankly, the trade paradigm in this particular case was misperceived. Yes, trade would have escalated in gross terms, but considering the size and might of India’s industry and service sector, Pakistan would most definitely have ended up with an exorbitant net deficit. While relevant professionals are better suited to comment on the cultural benefits of this equation, I believe that a lot of foreign exchange is spent on importing Indian movies for the entertainment of the masses, while the nation’s armed forces fight at the borders.

Although I acknowledge my ignorance, contrary to the practice of senior analysts, who presume to be the authority on every subject under the sun, on all things political in general and all matters Indian in particular, it appears that the establishment was farsighted in its stance. And because today’s is a lazy read, ever wonder who and what exactly the “Establishment” is? This term has now been modified to a more descriptive expression: Military Establishment.

Astonishingly, someone has taken pains to provide a definition of the Pakistan establishment on Wikipedia: “The Establishment in Pakistan refers to its cooperative federations of the powerful military-dominant oligarchy, and the consolidated intelligence community.” This is a rather convoluted description and, in essence, means nothing because it would be illogical for retired persons to wield any kind of authority. Whether there is such an “Establishment” or whether these are simply individuals acting on their own behest, is perhaps irrelevant. However, claiming its existence and portraying it as responsible for all kind of crimes against democracy is an undeniably convenient narrative for the political oligarchy to cover its own bungling, and the bread and butter of the journalistic community.

The recent turn of events has also shafted the conspiracy theory of the establishment indulging in Orwellian double speak and its need to keep the country continuously at war for its very existence. This time around, it is the political leadership that is beating the war drums. Serendipitously perhaps, it is in Mr Modi’s own interests to divert attention from his own key performance indicators. Patriotism, especially at a heightened level, will silence all domestic criticism in favour of a common enemy, in this case Pakistan.

Those infatuated with Mr Modi’s performance in his previous political stint should understand that running a country is vastly different from running a state. In fact, on the economic front, the two are poles apart. Building bridges to nowhere might even kick start a small state’s economy but, on the national level, unproductive projects are a waste. Creating employment for millions every year and improving the quality of life of the masses, including the 60 percent or so living near or below the poverty line, is a tall order. Load shedding, lumbering State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) and a lack of investment are real problems in India as well. And exactly like Pakistan, while cheap oil might have improved the current account balance, long term policy decisions to increase manufacturing require urgent attention. All these facts disprove the fallacy that all of Pakistan’s ills emanated during military establishment rule. India has cultivated exactly the same ills — corruption, bad governance, inflation, poverty, load shedding and SOEs that run at a loss — in spite of being a democracy since independence. War is never a solution and it is hoped that the recent conversation between the Prime Minister of Pakistan and his Indian counterpart will act as a catalyst in curtailing the cross-border rhetoric and reverse the ongoing brinkmanship. It can be concluded that the peace process is dead, at least for the foreseeable future. Mortem per patibulo (death by hanging)!