I keep hearing: ‘Pakistan adopted the wrong path. Look at India.’
Pakistanis say it sadly, Indians say it gloatingly.
May I respectfully submit—both are wrong.
Pakistan is 100% on the right path, which it has successfully pursued for over 50 years.
No, I don’t mean anything nasty, like ‘path of self-destruction’.
But first, let me ask—what is Pakistan? A country, right?
Pakistan is a corporation, owned and run by an owner-management group—the ‘establishment’, “E” for short.
As you know, the purpose of a corporation is ‘to maximise the wealth of its shareholders’. Its management’s task is to achieve this purpose.
In Pakistan, E controls every important area—foreign policy, economy, and even court decisions. It also owns a good chunk of the country’s assets through Fauji Foundation. In effect, E owns and manages Pakistan.
E consists of the dozen or so ‘key decision-makers in the country's military and intelligence services’ (courtesy—Wikipedia). It is aided by around 100+ other people – second-rank generals, plus those who really matter in bureaucracy, politics, and business. They are paid handsomely to do one key job - control the people below them.
E, as an entity, did not exist when Pakistan was created 76 years ago, because nobody, starting with Muhammad Ali Jinnah, had really any clue about what Pakistan was all about. Only one thing was clear – it was not India.
It was this ‘vision’, or rather, the lack of it, that set Pakistan on an uncertain path after Mr Jinnah died. A chaotic power grab started, prime ministers came and went, and nobody was quite sure who was in charge.
The army stepped in.
General Ayub Khan, a first-rate opportunist if ever there was one, grabbed power through Pakistan’s first military coup and installed himself as president.
That was the birth of E.
Things were going quite well at first. Gen Khan became a paltu of Uncle Sam, received largesse, by way of both cash and arms, and E prospered.
Then came E’s first big blunder.
It saw India to be an impoverished nation, dependent on PL-480 for food, with a weak army that recently fought a war with China. Pakistan had Patton tanks, Sabre jets and American backing. Gen Khan launched Operation Gibraltar, which flopped.
The 1965 misadventure was followed by the second blunder which led to the debacle of 1971. E was publicly humiliated and half the country was gone.
E lay low for a few years until Gen Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq revived it. He found the right formula – the path to success.
It had two principles:
- Keep the country going, as long as possible, and go on making money.
- Keep the public sedated with two opiates: religion and hatred of India.
E collected money from whomever or wherever it could, e.g.,:
- International Monetary Fund (IMF), 22 times;
- US, during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and then during the ‘war on terror’;
- China, via China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and by
- mortgaging fixed assets – ports, airports, highways.
The amounts involved are humongous. A small slice, say just 10%, from every such funding would add up to tens of billions. Just 1% from the economy would be more than US$2bn (billion) a year.
The members of E share this money among themselves. Evidence of this is plentiful. Gen Bajwa gave his future daughter-in-law Rs100 crore at the engagement. The ‘junior’ Bajwa – a retired Lt Gen, owns the Papa John pizza chain. Need I say more?
There is an established system of batwara whereby every senior general gets his cut so that he can stash enough wealth abroad for his future generations.
Yes, E has been on the right path for over 50 years.
Cut to the present.
The country is bankrupt, people are revolting, provinces are threatening to secede, the Taliban is attacking on one side, and India looms on the other...
What does E do now?
There is no fear of any personal harm befalling the members of E. For them, “bags are packed and ready to go, taxi is waiting at the door.” If things go badly wrong, they will board their respective getaway airplanes and fly to their new lives already set up abroad.
But, that is the final fallback option, the 'retreat'.
The objective continues to be—keep the system going and continue making money.
How to achieve this?
There are several cards left to play.
1. The suicide card. Announce to the world that unless substantial help comes, right now, the country will collapse, civil war will start, and atom bombs will fall into the wrong hands—in short, Armageddon. Can the world allow this to happen?
2. The asset card. Sell more assets—Gwadar and parts of Gilgit to China, remaining utilities and businesses to the Arabs. A good chunk of money can still be made from the usual cuts.
3. The atom bomb card. Sell the atom bombs to the highest bidders, not just one bidder. Some can go to Uncle Sam, others (very quietly) to ISIS and its kin. No dearth of takers for 150 bombs, I would think.
4. The MBS card. Round up all the rich, non-military chaps (businessmen, bureaucrats, politicians, and judges), put them in a hotel, and ‘gently’ persuade them to ‘contribute’ a portion of their wealth for bailing out their country.
5. The India card. Hand over the likes of Hafeez-bhai, Dawood-saab, etc, promise to stop terrorism and beg for money and help.
Maybe there are more options—I don’t know.
Some of them, especially No. 5, will be unpalatable to the members of E. But remember, their pockets are already full; hence, they can afford to have egos.
But what about the ‘ladies-in-waiting’, the next echelon of generals, who have been doing the “yes sir, no sir” routine for 30 years, hoping to make it to E-status? They don’t want the system to collapse.
Bottom line—E had better make up its mind about which option(s) to choose to keep the show going, or there could be a coup d'état. The E-graders may find themselves in their getaway planes, in prison, or simply dead.
Interesting times next door, not just here (Bharat vs I.N.D.I.A.).
(Deserting engineering after a year in a factory, Amitabha Banerjee did an MBA in the US and returned to India. Choosing work-to-live over live-to-work, he joined banking and worked for various banks in India and the Middle East. Post-retirement, he returned to his hometown Kolkata and is now spending his golden years travelling the world, playing bridge, befriending Netflix & Prime Video and writing in his wife’s travel blog.)