Imagine a scenario. US Special Forces raid a target in India, complete the operation and successfully extricate. What would the discussion be like? Would you have Indians arguing that there is no point in invoking sovereignty against the US because India’s sovereignty has been undermined in every third district by the Naxals every day for decades? I don’t think so.
Yet, in this country, this very argument has been trotted out by sections of society that are educated and liberal, and by being so are best placed to advance the interests of this country. Why would educated people make such error of conflation?
Somewhat simple, and here we get into the definitional problem of what is best for this country. These sections do not think that the manner in which the idea of security has been conceptualised traditionally in Pakistan is the right one. They aren’t too wrong in this but given the sharpening of the fault-line(s) they tend to move away entirely from realpolitik.
But this is not the only problem with their approach. The bigger problem is that even in trying to reclaim the state, even if conceptually, they end up mixing up the concept of the state and how it has to operate in an anarchic world with the “establishment” that remains in occupation of the state and which they oppose for its worldview. And such is this opposition that they are prepared to accept the violation of state sovereignty by another state, putting a moratorium on the fact that sovereignty is a core concept for the very existence of a state entity.
In his 1937 essay On Contradiction, Mao Tse Tung, explaining the principal contradiction, the principal aspect of a contradiction and secondary contradictions argued that “In a semi-colonial country such as China, the relationship between the principal contradiction and the non-principal contradictions presents a complicated picture”. He wrote:
“When imperialism launches a war of aggression against such a country, all its various classes…can temporarily unite in a national war against imperialism. At such a time, the contradiction between imperialism and the country concerned becomes the principal contradiction, while all the contradictions among the various classes within the country (including what was the principal contradiction, between the feudal system and the great masses of the people) are temporarily relegated to a secondary and subordinate position.”
But then he presents another dimension – i.e. that of indirect imperialism:
“When imperialism carries on its oppression not by war, but by milder means – political, economic and cultural – the ruling classes in semi-colonial countries capitulate to imperialism, and the two form an alliance for the joint oppression of the masses of the people. At such a time, the masses often resort to civil war against the alliance of imperialism and the feudal classes, while imperialism often employs indirect methods rather than direct action in helping the reactionaries in the semi-colonial countries to oppress the people, and thus the internal contradictions become particularly sharp.”
The problem for us becomes sharper. The liberals, especially the left-liberals, have always accused the establishment, primarily the military, of renting itself out to the United States in combination with the reactionary rightwing. But we have had an about-face which has turned the rightwing against the state represented by the traditional security policies. Sections of the liberals are fairly happy with the current round of renting out that beats up the rightwing. Seen from this perspective, it is not the rentier approach itself but who the military should rent itself out to which matters. But then the military presents another problem. While it has evidently been allied with the US, it has also, equally evidently, pursued policies which diverge sharply from those of the US. The raid in Abbottabad is the starkest manifestation of that.
At this point the liberals feel unhappy again and argue that the military secretly remains allied with the rightwing. In fact, some go to the extent of arguing that the military is callously happy to get its own men, officers and soldiers, killed to advance its concept of security. At this point, the principal contradiction for the left-liberals and the liberals shows itself again to be between the civilians and the military rather than between Pakistan and the US, what Mao would have referred to as “imperialism”.
The state at this juncture is hanging in a limbo – the right and the left do not consider it legitimate, nor do the liberals. In fact, at this point, while the right wants to attack and kill military personnel because the military is fighting America’s war, the left and the liberals want the US to bring enough pressure to bear on the military to ensure it buckles under, is weaned from its traditional security paradigm, and helps decimate the rightwing. The hidden assumption in this is that if the US could force the Pakistani military into cleaning up its act, that would also indirectly lead to civilian supremacy in this country.
These sharp fault-lines are the biggest threat to Pakistan, more formidable than anything the Taliban-Al Qaeda combine on the one hand and the US juggernaut on the other can pose. Both entities, the extremists and the US, are in the process of exploiting these fault-lines and the contest is unfolding to the detriment of Pakistani state and society.
And these contradictions are only going to sharpen further. I wrote two articles, one on the civil-military divide, the other on the need for Pakistan to take the issue of the American incursion to the UN. At a dinner, my host, a sharp, young economist and entrepreneur, said to me: “I really loved your article on the civil-military divide but then I read your other piece and it was more tilted towards the establishment.”
His formulation left me wondering and I asked him: “How can my insistence that the military bow to the civilians contradict my argument that the state should protest the violation of its sovereignty unless you conflate the military with the state?”
But that is precisely where we are. The situation has reached a point where many would be happy to have the military bludgeoned and humiliated by an external power even if the state loses its sovereignty in the process. Would we even be viable as a state after that considering that we are not a nation anymore?
The writer is Contributing Editor, The Friday Times.