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The GHQ has got it wrong! -by Khaled Ahmed

The writer is a director at the South Asia Free Media Association, Lahore khaled.ahmed@tribune.com.pk

The Pakistan Army has turned Pakistan isolatiaonist on the principle of ghairat (honour). Everyone knows it runs the country’s foreign and security policies. Look closely enough and you will find that it runs practically everything.

The TV channels emphasising ghairat, back the army. Last week, when outspoken journlist Rauf Klasra began spelling out the dominance of the army on a TV talk show, the lady anchor cut him off, not willing to go into the Abbottabad fiasco from that angle.

The Foreign Office which is the closest state institution to the army, because of the latter’s monopoly over foreign policy, used an interesting formulation in its post-Abbottabad statement:“The government of Pakistan and its armed forces consider the support of the people of Pakistan to be its (sic!) mainstay and actual strength. Any actions contrary to their aspirations, therefore, run against the very basis on which the edifice of national defence and security is based (sic!)’.

The Supreme Court, too, took this line when it went activist after its restoration, and it has not been good for Pakistan. Why is ‘going with the people’ not good? Why is ghairat not a good principle to follow in foreign policy?

Democracy is often mistaken with ‘direct democracy’ and today its legal manifestation is only in referendum. Why do referendums — direct consultation with the masses — lead to trouble? We know the case in Pakistan when General Zia and General Musharraf resorted to them. In the US, the state of California alone resorts to them and has bankrupted itself in the process.

Athens was directly ruled by the people, not by a government of their representatives. Plato and Aristotle ended up condemning it. Why? Because they discovered that popular opinion was mostly emotion-based and extreme. It was this lack of moderation of ‘direct democracy’ that made it unpopular in the West, where its ‘representative’ variant finally evolved as the ‘best available’ mode of governance.

What the Foreign Office should have referred to was the government, not the government and the army as institutions subservient to the people and their passions as expressed on the TV channels.

It is folly to adopt ‘state sovereignty’ as the flag of revolt against the world. First of all, it is a myth and secondly, it is used incorrectly. It is used against the US alone, while those who violate Pakistan’s sovereignty include foreign elements that Pakistan ignores.

All things being relative, it is not the CIA which is dangerous for Pakistan’s existence but al Qaeda and its local affiliates. The truth is that the people of Pakistan are with al Qaeda, and al Qaeda has a blueprint for the country’s takeover. If the people and the army don’t mind al Qaeda then Pakistan can become dangerous for the world.

The danger comes from Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. The CIA is said to be after Pakistan’s bomb, but there is no evidence for that. There is evidence, however, that Pakistani nuclear scientists had made early contact with Osama bin Laden after 2001.

Left in the hands of the PPP or the PML-N — both were ousted in the 1990s for dabbling in foreign policy — Pakistan can get out of trouble. They represent the people, yet they know that international affairs demand realistic adjustment to the exigencies of power relationships in the world.

The GHQ is wrong in embracing ghairat as expressed in ‘sovereignty’. It has gone wrong in the past — remember Kargil? — and it is wrong again. And this time the masses need ‘welfare’ even if it comes with a little bit of tweaking of ‘honour’.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 15th, 2011.