As I was reading Dawn, I came across some thought provoking articles. I am sharing them with you. These articles will give you an insight into this troubled frontline nation which prided itself on the terrorists it produced as national assets rather than investing in vaccines like a weak ‘Endya’. Like always there is nothing original in these articles except my comments.
IRONIES OF A NO-WIN WAR BY MALEEHA LODHI
My Comment: Maleeha Lodhi reviews the book No-Win War by Zahid Hussain in this article. The review suggests to me that it is a must-read book for all professionals who deal with Pakistan. The most important aspect is that Maleeha Lodhi commends the author about not being defensive about Pakistan’s interests. It is a different matter that these interests were against Pakistan’s own interests.
Several books have been written on Pakistan-US relations. But few have explored the connection between domestic political developments and American foreign policy and the way Pakistan’s internal politics was at times influenced by geopolitical shifts in the region. Zahid Hussain’s latest book does just that. Titled No-Win War, it examines the ups and downs of Pakistan-US ties in the context of their often-divergent post-9/11 views and strategies in Afghanistan. This completes the author’s trilogy—his first book Frontline Pakistan and second, The Scorpion’s Tail, offered well-researched accounts of Pakistan’s policy dilemmas in the wake of 9/11 and the country’s battle against militant groups.
For me what is most important about the book is that it is written by a Pakistani who is not defensive about his country’s interests and who by his deep understanding of the country’s policies is able to offer Pakistan’s perspective on a pivotal period in a dispassionate and persuasive manner.
VACCINE NATIONALISM BY AYESHA IJAZ KHAN
My Comment: If Pakistan has invested in terror as a tool of national progress and has diplomats like Maleeha Lodhi commending authors for not being apologetic about Pakistan’s interests and if a bankrupt Pakistan can only show off military prowess on Pakistan Day and it can discuss only blasphemy intellectually, then how on earth can it think of Vaccines? The most poignant note in this article…. A formidable Pakistan Day parade showing off military prowess seems out of touch when there is no local vaccine factory that can rival India’s production capacity…
When it comes to vaccinating its population, the United States is in a secure position. With 14 per cent of the country fully vaccinated and 26pc having received a first dose… anger has been brewing in European capitals, particularly as they watched the UK racing ahead, vaccinating its elderly, while the virus continued to surge and deaths continued to mount in Europe. This vaccine rivalry has festered to a point where Europe is threatening a ban on vaccine exports to the UK, or indeed any country that has vaccinated more of its population than Europe has. This could include countries like the UAE… As Europe and the UK scramble for vaccine supplies, the US is sitting on excess doses which it does not need. It has promised to send some to Canada and Mexico, but there are many more takers, the latest pleas coming from the Caribbean countries… So while less fortunate countries are begging the US to share its doses, China is engaging in a more proactive form of vaccine diplomacy. In fact, a March 17 article in The Guardian titled, ‘Why home-produced Covid vaccine hasn’t helped India, Russia and China rollouts’, stated that in all three countries the indigenously produced vaccines were being used more as diplomacy tools than to vaccinate their own populations…. So where does all this leave Pakistan? Relying primarily on vaccine donations doesn’t seem to be a wise strategy. No contact seems to have been made at the governmental level to negotiate favourable deals with pharmaceuticals, as Israel did, for instance, and received the Pfizer vaccine for a fraction of cost in exchange for a data-sharing arrangement… A formidable Pakistan Day parade showing off military prowess seems out of touch when there is no local vaccine factory that can rival India’s production capacity. Scientists are saying this may not be the only pandemic we will have to face in our lifetimes. That alone should force a national rethink.
ECONOMIES OF VACCINES BY SHAHID MEHMOOD
My Comment: The author raises a valid question: Why is there no domestically produced vaccine, or even a semblance of an effort to produce it? Well. You have produced Ayub Khan. Yahya Kahan, Zia ul Haq, Pervez Musharraf and Bajwa, besides Hafiz Sayeed, Azhar Masood and Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh. Do you think these social scientists could have invented Covishield and Covaxin?
Covid-19 brought the world to its knees. The Covid vaccine has been the most sought-after product. However, as governments around the world rush to vaccinate their citizens, some aspects need deliberation and clarity. For instance, what explains the short supply of vaccines? And there’s the lesser discussed (but very important) aspect of non-production of vaccines in Pakistan.
Why publicly fund research into vaccines? As Covid-19 and historic episodes like the Spanish flu and bubonic plague (‘black death’) aptly demonstrated, viruses have the potential to bring the world to its knees, causing massive financial and economic losses plus utter misery. It is perfectly sensible and logical to pre-empt such a catastrophe. Since viruses also mutate over time, it requires constant research plus investment in infrastructure, which in turn requires extensive financial resources. Pharma firms will only be willing to devote the required resources if there is a good demand for vaccines. In a manner of speaking, government support ameliorates fears of investment going to waste. It’s a win-win situation for both the industry and government: companies get much-needed financial support to lessen uncertainty, while the government gets the vaccines it requires for public welfare.
Now we come to another very important topic. In Pakistan, not a single vaccine of any kind is being produced despite over 700 pharma firms. Why is there no domestically produced vaccine, or even a semblance of an effort to produce it? In our immediate neighbourhood, India has the world’s leading producers such as SII (Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine — known locally as Covishield — and Covaxin), Bharat BioTec (Covaxin, CoraVax), Biological E (Johnson & Johnson), Zydus Cadila (ZyCov-D), Hetero BioPharma (Sputnik V) and Dr Reddy’s Lab (Sputnik V). SII, aside from providing millions of Covid-19 doses within India, is in commercially contracted to providing 900 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine and 145m doses of Novavax globally. While exports are held up at the moment, imagine the scale of Indian vaccine production with the local authorities aiming to administer 600m doses within seven months, meaning about 85m doses a month.
Contrast this to Pakistan’s predicament, where the pharma industry is being charged tax in the name of ‘research’ (the Central Research Fund or CRF) since 1976, equivalent to one per cent of its gross sales. Put another way, the government’s message to the industry is: leave research to us and just pay for it. While the industry has obliged, the government has utterly failed. There is little or zero research to show for. Where did all that money since 1976 go? Officials remain tightlipped. What we do know is that there is not a single FDA-approved lab (international gold standard) nor any international-level infrastructure established through public expense.
THE ROCKY ROAD TO PEACE BY ABBAS NASIR
My Comment: The knives are out. This article is as insidious a peace as I have seen which is going to subterfuge the peace process. Equally it brings out the truth behind this entire proposal: Self-preservation of the Bajwa-Imran combination.
Some 10 days after Pakistan’s Islamabad Security Dialogue saw Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa offering an olive branch to India amidst toned-down rhetoric on Kashmir, details remain sketchy of the process that led to the country’s civil and military leaders’ change of tack.
And this is what is going to be a tricky area. As discussed last week in these columns the Islamabad Security Dialogue speeches of the prime minister and the army chief were markedly different from their words of recent months.
Their rhetoric had understandably acquired a particularly strident tone since the August 2019 scrapping of Article 370, governing India-held Kashmir and its recognition as a disputed territory, by the Modi government and its unilateral annexation of Kashmir.
The Islamabad Security Dialogue speeches, which marked a softening of position towards India and an attempt to allay US fears about China’s growing economic proximity to Pakistan, were welcomed in editorials and by some analysts as a positive move.
Ambassador Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, who has also served as Pakistan’s envoy to India, has written in this paper indicating nothing less than status quo ante will allow credible negotiations to commence. He has also mentioned the positive reaction of the Indian media to the statements of Pakistani leaders.
That, in his view, was because the statements were seen as Islamabad implicitly accepting India’s fait accompli in Kashmir. He feared that would exacerbate scepticism in the valley that the “talk of a new era in India-Pakistan relations comes without any concession from India while the Kashmiris of the Valley face the prospect of genocide”.
Pakistan would do well to elicit the support of more moderate Hurriyat leaders, after explaining the context of the statements of the country’s two leaders and possibly at least privately detailing the give and take involved.
There are indications that the initiators of this new dialogue with the hostile eastern neighbour are also now sending out feelers to our own opposition political parties to suss out their reaction to and stance on the issue.
SECURITY FRAMEWORK BY ADNAN RAFIQ
My Comment: The author rightly points out that Pakistan’s national security interests lie beyond protecting it from India. However the more interesting part is that the cancer in Pakistan—its security establishment aka deep state—has spread far and wide…into development (the National Development Council and CPEC Authority), health (the NCOC), criminal justice (JITs), disaster management (NDMA) among others, and at state-owned enterprises, with mixed results… Has Pakistan entered the cancer ward?
For most of its existence, Pakistan’s national security interests have been defined as protecting the country from India. During the last two decades however, factors such as internal discord epitomised by violent religious and secessionist movements, extremism, economic woes, climate change and, most recently, Covid-19 have challenged the traditional understanding of threats to national security.
The framework emphasises economic security as the key guarantor of other elements of national power—defence and deterrence, foreign policy and diplomacy and national cohesion. Increasing the national resource pie, it says, is key to stronger defence capability and meeting human security needs that include food security, water security and public health. It suggests leveraging Pakistan’s geographic location for economic growth by focusing on regional trade, connectivity and peace.
The World Bank report titled Pakistan@100 points to elite capture and jobless growth as key impediments to realising the nation’s true potential.
Second is the need for political stability and inclusion. Without settled rules of the game and consensus among all political players to abide by them, none of the objectives outlined by any national policy can be achieved. The peculiar nature of Pakistani polity requires greater consensus building and acceptance of a split mandate given by a diverse electorate.
Lastly, one would have to see whether the proposed policy paves the way for a greater role of the security community in various social sector fields or whether space can be created for actors in these realms to inform the security agenda. The security apparatus has now expanded its footprint in areas such as development (the National Development Council and CPEC Authority), health (the NCOC), criminal justice (JITs), disaster management (NDMA) among others, and at state-owned enterprises, with mixed results.
MISSING THREAT BY ZEBA SATHAR
My Comment: Very erudite article on population problem facing Pakistan. Beautifully compared – Bangladesh development vs Pakistani non development. To me the scary part is …340m Pakistanis by 2050…they are more than a nuke! Need to think ahead and out of the box. Will the day come when the question arises whether we have to shoot down impoverished Pakistanis on the border fence or accept them as part of our humanity?
The national security dialogue last week renewed hope that finally Pakistan plans to focus on its own issues and rising internal non-traditional threats. Included in the agenda were climate change, water security, food security and a host of other challenges.
However, it did not go unnoticed that there was no reference to concerns regarding our unabated population growth rate or planning for projected population numbers. Once again in a policy shift that stressed greater introspection for national security issues, the conversation on population is missing. Clearly, 220 million people, growing at twice the level of others in the region, with threats to their livelihood and survival, were not deemed an important topic.
Bangladesh is now posting statistics showing that child mortality is half the levels in Pakistan and its citizens will live five years longer on average, while female literacy has gone up to 72 per cent (compared to 47pc in Pakistan). If we do not care about these statistics, we certainly should when other figures that do matter to our powerful leaders are presented. Our per capita income today is approximately $1,400 while that of Bangladesh is above $2,000; their foreign exchange reserve is $42 billion, ours is half that at about $21bn; their economic growth during the pandemic last year was 5.2pc compared to our -0.4pc or so.
Bangladesh has achieved replacement fertility of 2.1 children allowing them to make investments in people and their education and health. Our fertility today is 3.6 children per woman. Bangladesh will stabilise at 200m, implying its population size will level off at that maximum for many years while we leap beyond the 350 million-plus mark in a few decades. Who is more likely to prosper, combat pandemics, improve health systems, maximise exports and become more prominent as a nation?
The choice is between two paths: We can focus on one of the largest non-traditional threats or on ‘big boy’ issues. I fear I know which path Pakistan will take. So, let us be prepared for the consequences for internal security and viability as the threat implodes with all the pressure exerted by 340m Pakistanis by 2050.
Lt Gen P.R. Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the modernisation and indigenisation of Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved in applied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read on www.gunnersshot.com.
Several books have been written on Pakistan-US relations. But few have explored the connection between domestic political developments and American foreign policy and the way Pakistan’s internal politics was at times influenced by geopolitical shifts in the region. Zahid Hussain’s latest book does just that. Titled ‘No-Win War’, it examines the ups and downs of Pakistan-US ties in the context of their often-divergent post-9/11 views and strategies in Afghanistan. This completes the author’s trilogy—his first book ‘Frontline Pakistan’ and second, ‘The Scorpion’s Tail’, offered well-researched accounts of Pakistan’s policy dilemmas in the wake of 9/11 and the country’s battle against militant groups.