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ANALYSIS: Strategic mess -Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur.

Pakistan, May 16 -- "A people living under the perpetual menace of war and invasion is very easy to govern. It demands no social reforms. It does not haggle over expenditures on armaments and military equipment. It pays without discussion. It ruins itself; and that is an excellent thing for the syndicates of financiers and manufacturers for whom patriotic terrors are an abundant source of gain" - Jacques Anatole Thibault (1844-1924).

States bent upon denying rights to the people ensure that a situation of "perpetual menace of war and invasion" is sustained to make people acquiescent to their sinister aims. This approach is "an excellent thing for the syndicates of financiers and manufacturers for whom patriotic terrors are an abundant source of gain", though at a debilitating cost to the people.

Patriotism, they say, is the last refuge of every scoundrel and it is by creating a perpetual menace of war and invasion in the name of patriotism that these scoundrels make sure that people dare not demand their rights or oppose human rights abuses for the fear of being branded unpatriotic traitors. The ruling elite demands compliance and submission from the people as an essential condition for victory, but if this fails then they enforce conformity by force.

In uncertain military, economic and political circumstances, which are a natural corollary of all conflicts, the people are made to believe that preservation of ruling elite rights are more essential than eradication of poverty, illiteracy, disease, absence of the rule of law, blatant human rights abuses and permanent vassal status. Wars and conflicts sound the death knell for good governance, nay for everything civilised.

The costs of war, physical, financial, social and political, are borne entirely by the people while the perpetrators safely ensconced in hermetically sealed compounds and bulletproof Mercedes enjoy the benefits. The people hesitate to voice even legitimate demands for the fear of moral condemnation. The media, mostly wittingly, plays the sinister role of abetting in keeping the people under mental and physical subjugation. The entire people are held hostage by those few in whose interest it is to perpetuate war and conflict.

The ruling elites in the subcontinent have exploited conflicts to the maximum and excelled at brinkmanship and thus ensured continuation of their rule. These ruling elites have created conditions of distrust among the people. Taking advantage of this they became nuclear and the build up continues unabated with Hatfs and Agnis. These policies have taken their human toll in the form of poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy and social devastation, but the war syndicates care not.

Patriotic terror is not only used in an external context but also internally as well, where the stakes are greater and especially when the people's struggles threaten to succeed. The ruling elite then can and does make people disappear and brutally persecutes them in the name of national integrity. The people of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have suffered immeasurably while in India the Kashmiri and indigenous people have borne the brunt. Human rights abuses are conveniently sidelined and obfuscated in the rhetoric of the dangers of 'Balkanisation'.

Conflicts become an absolute necessity for the survival of the ruling elite but also carry the seeds of their destruction. The very powerful Egyptian, Greek civilisations and the Roman Empire disintegrated and unravelled due to constant conflicts. The US, because of its imperialistic designs, has always been in the forefront of creating conflicts even on false premises to help its armaments industry and allow concerns like Halliburton and Blackwater to flourish. It promotes conflicts to consolidate its imperialistic designs but is stepping into morasses and however powerful it may be, there is a limit to its capacity for extricating itself from quagmires.

It imported the most rabid and intolerant fundamentalism in the form of Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, specially released from an Egyptian prison, to help their sponsored jihad in Afghanistan; fundamentalists from the Central Asian Republics were also recruited. The US with its delusionary and destructive policies is wholly responsible for the present situation in Afghanistan and adjoining region and is reaping what it sowed while trying to defeat the Soviets to get even for its Vietnam defeat. The chickens have now come home to roost.

After achieving the objective of a Soviet withdrawal, it ditched everyone. This ditching was considered a godsend blessing by Pakistan, which saw the vacuum and chaos in Afghanistan as an opportunity to realise its visionless and foolish leaderships' cherished dream of 'strategic depth', but naturally ended up in a 'strategic mess' that will keep haunting it for eons.

I digress, but consider it essential to put things in proper perspective. The Pakistani policy of considering Afghanistan its backyard was not the fallout of the Soviet withdrawal because long before that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto harboured and supported Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Ahmad Shah Massoud and Burhanuddin Rabbani in organising armed resistance to Daud's regime. Around 5,000 Afghan dissidents were trained by Pakistan in its secret military camps as a counter to the Afghan support for Baloch rights campaigners.

Daud wilted under pressure and agreed to reconciliation with Islamabad; Bhutto visited Kabul in June 1976 and Daud reciprocated in August. He agreed to the recognition of the Durand Line and sending back of Baloch refugees but events overtook them both. Though Bhutto was ousted, Daud stuck to his part of the bargain until he was ousted in April 1978 by Noor Mohammad Tarakai of the Khalq Party. The new regime was soon under threat from the Pakistani-sponsored rebels and a chain of events led to the direct involvement of the Soviets in Afghanistan on December 27, 1979, which I, being in Kabul, witnessed.

The people have never been a priority for the ruling elite, which considers itself the legatee of the grand Mughal Empire. The status of the people in this borderline case of a failed state is secondary and superfluous; they are there just for being manipulated, exploited or oppressed as best suits the warped preferences of the ruling elite in any given situation. Their fates are decided by those without any inkling of how they subsist or what they want. For them the people's existence is only a means to their ends.

The people who are the true 'strategic assets' are neglected by the ruling elite, who go for delusionary 'strategic assets' and 'strategic depth' and invariably end up in a 'strategic mess'. Little wonder then that their policy to use the perpetual war menace to facilitate easy governance with 'patriotic terror' has boomeranged and endangered the very existence of the entity they thought they were protecting.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Daily Times. For more information on news feed please contact Sarabjit Jagirdar at

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Publication:Daily Times (Lahore, Pakistan)
Date:May 16, 2010
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