The power potential of a country depends on several factors, foremost is the internal cohesion and harmony of its people. Equally relevant is how well the different state institutions blend and work in unison with each other. Then at the core of this is the level and quality of education, and state of health of its people. This has to be reinforced by building the scientific, technological and industrial base of the country.
These attributes of a nation can only be developed when it is able to protect itself from external aggression and internal disruption.
As we celebrate Pakistan’s Republic Day we can feel genuinely proud of the professionalism of our armed forces and their commendable role in preserving the territorial integrity of the country. No less significant has been their contribution in nation-building and supporting the government’s efforts during natural and man-made disasters.
Pakistan, a country that was born in turbulence was fortunate that it inherited a military that was highly professional and dedicated. It not only thwarted India’s designs to dominate and scuttle its independence but also steadfastly countered its aggressive moves. Whether it was the conflict in 1948 in Kashmir or the Indo-Pakistan full-fledged war in 1965, the armed forces robustly defended the sovereignty and integrity of the country.
No less challenging has been the fallout of the Afghan conflict. Pakistan bore the brunt of the inflow of millions of Afghan refugees displaying an exceptional quality of tolerance and magnanimity. The army and the paramilitary forces played a commendable role in ensuring the security of the borders and played a key role in their rehabilitation. The people of erstwhile FATA faced the full brunt of the Afghan conflict. It was their resilience and tenacity that made them bear the harsh effects of the spillover and rigors of displacement.
The list of achievements of the armed forces in defending the nation is long but the recent notable one’s are the success story of Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad and the earlier Operation Zarb-e-Azb. These well-planned and executed joint military operations by the armed forces succeeded in successfully countering terrorism and effectively dealing with various militant groups.
Meanwhile, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) threat to the very integrity of the state had to be thwarted.
The list of achievements of the armed forces in defending the nation is long but the recent notable one’s are the success story of Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad and the earlier Operation Zarb-e-Azb. These well-planned and executed joint military operations by the armed forces succeeded in successfully countering terrorism and effectively dealing with various militant groups. The TTP, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, East Turkestan Islamic Movement, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Al-Qaeda and Jundallah were largely eliminated. The army’s success in disarming and subsequently eliminating sleeper cells across the country was another major achievement.
India’s unlawful occupation of Kashmir, its refusal to engage in any meaningful dialogue and its overall hegemonic designs has led Pakistan to develop a potent deterrence. Pakistan’s highly professional and motivated conventional military force coupled with its nuclear capability has deterred India from any misadventure. The recent misadventure of India, in which it tested its new strategy of surgical strikes, turned out to be a fiasco. Pakistan Air Force pilots were able to bring down two Indian jets and captured one of its pilots. This conveyed a strong message to India and to the world that Pakistan’s military is able to thwart any form of Indian aggression.
On the diplomatic front, the government has launched a highly effective campaign to highlight the atrocities being committed by Modi’s government in Kashmir. Prime Minister Imran Khan has been passionately echoing the sufferings of the Kashmiri people and trying to arouse the conscience of the world.
Despite India’s belligerence Pakistan’s leadership has made repeated efforts at developing a peaceful relationship with India.
As long as the BJP government pursues the anti-Pakistan and anti-Muslim agenda, there is no hope of any reciprocity from India. Unfortunately, due to pernicious and persistent Indian hostility it is unlikely that the situation would change in the near future either.
It is a matter of satisfaction and pride that Pakistan played a pivotal role in facilitating the peace agreement between the U.S. and Taliban. It earnestly hopes that the Taliban leadership will be able to work out a political understanding for sharing power with Afghan government and various warring factions that is acceptable to all. The Prime Minister and military leadership have been stressing all along that the solution of Afghanistan lies in developing a political consensus whereby various warring factions are able to share power. Until there is a modicum of peace and stability in Afghanistan the region would remain vulnerable to hostile forces.
Pakistan’s geo-strategic position will be considerably leveraged provided the borders are peaceful and relations with neighbors are normal. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan are so geographically linked that they have the potential to serve as trade corridors to Central Asia and then onwards to Europe.
Having built strong strategic, political and economic ties and commercial linkages with China, Pakistan aims at optimizing its geographical advantage. Already the benefits of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor are becoming evident in the form of improved power generation capacity and infrastructure. Strong relations with China have helped Pakistan raise the Kashmir issue at the United Nations Security Council and expose Indian hostilities in Occupied Jammu & Kashmir.
Pakistan has learnt the hard way that involvement in superpower rivalries may bring the gratitude and largesse of a major power but the country suffers heavily in the long term. It is important that we stay away from global power rivalries as Prime Minister Imran Khan has often reiterated. And do not repeat past mistakes for which the country has paid a huge price.
Hopefully, Pakistan’s leadership will strive for goals that bring prosperity to its people and open up wider horizons.
For Pakistan the greatest challenge is to attain economic self-sufficiency. The current economic prescription of the International Monetary Fund is to stabilize the economy but in addition we have to strive for improved growth prospects.
There should be no doubt that Pakistan has the intrinsic strength in terms of talent of its people to succeed in achieving it. But this would require serious focus on major determinants of economic expansion. Notably, control of population growth, good governance and expansion of international trade are the key determinants for progress. All these areas have been neglected in the past and have to be addressed earnestly.
The other challenge deserving the highest national priority should be the consolidation and strengthening of democracy. To expect that there would be sustainable economic development without political stability is a mistaken assumption. Whereas, it is equally true, as history bears witness, democracy has found a lasting foundation in countries where there was steady economic growth. Our own experience tells us that we have fallen back to military rule when democratic leaders were weak and economic conditions continued to deteriorate.
At the core of Pakistan’s priorities focus should be on improving the country’s education system, the responsibility of which lies both on the provincial and federal governments. Over 30 million children are out of school and those who are attending receive below standard education. It is expected that serious reforms will be undertaken to improve the standard of education and make it compatible with the requirements of the technological age we are living in.
Pakistan’s greatest achievement has been that it has successfully tackled its extremism problem. Its other notable success has been to thwart India’s aggressive designs. Its armed forces have made the nation proud by their high level of professional competence and operational readiness. Thousands of them have laid down their lives defending the nation.
The people have shown great patience and resilience in the hope that the economy would turn around and set on the right course. They also expect that Pakistan’s political leadership will strengthen democratic institutions and make it more effective and relevant for our times.
The writer is a retired Lieutenant General from Pakistan Army and an eminent scholar on national security and political issues. E-mail: [email protected]
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