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Archive for June, 1992

The changing world

The collapse of the Soviet Union has triggered off a series of far-flung changes, the most profound dynamics being in Europe. The map of the world designated by the western powers post-World War I and redefined after World War II is in shambles. East Germany has come in from the cold to become a part of the more natural Federal Republic of Germany, Yugoslavia is haemorrhaging bloodily into many nations and the Czech-Slovak union is coming asunder, albeit peacefully uptil now. There is a re-drawing of more natural boundaries among the States of the old USSR, Russia having retreated from its hegemony in (and of) the Soviet Union to its original parameters. While the whole area is now endemic with conflict, the silver lining is that the emerging nation-states are populated by a more homogeneous ethnic mix less likely to fight over race and religion. The problem is that due to the artificial shifting of populations post-World War I, the Russian Revolution and post-World War II have created pockets of economic and political resistance to the new majority rule. This has led to continuing internecine conflict leading to widespread death and destruction, the image of the peaceful civilization of Europe is in tatters, reminiscent of the 30 year wars of medieval times though across a wider canvas and certainly far more brutal given the advancement in weaponry.

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A recipe for survival

Very few leaders have the courage to face upto reality until it is too late for them to remain players of any consequence in the unfolding of history. Hindsight comes after the event, for everyone that is except those who are so engrossed in their own aura that their egos make them blind to the truth. A handful of men and women with vision do exist, people who are capable of sacrificing their todays for a better tomorrow for their nation. These leaders are sensitive to the needs of their electorate and are ready to take tough decisions from a position of strength rather than negotiate them when they become weak. The character of a nation is an amalgam of the character of its leaders, poor nations cannot afford poor leaders.

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The Textile Imbroglio

Pakistan is one of the largest producers of raw cotton in the world. Over the years, a sophisticated textile industry has been established, downstream many garment industries and other textile finishing factories have come into line giving value-added benefit to the nation to complement the hard work done by our farmers in the production of raw cotton. Pakistan has developed a fine balance between the exporting of raw cotton and finished products, taken cumulatively these are the largest earners of foreign exchange for our country. Because of protectionist measures employed increasingly by the developed world, our major source of hard cash earnings is seriously threatened. The quotas allocated to us do not reflect the base of our raw cotton production and the major percentage of our population whose lives are directly dependent upon cotton’s cumulative performance in the export sector. In contrast, countries that do not produce much cotton, if any, like Taiwan, S. Korea, Hong Kong, Philippines, Thailand, etc have quotas much in excess to what they should have, given the statistical facts and figures. Garment manufacturing factories in the aforementioned countries had proliferated because of cheap labour and we ended up right down the line as compared to them with respect to textile quotas when quotas were first imposed, taking into account their then respective exports.

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Operation Red Herring

As much as the Federal Government is taking pains to deny it, there is persistent confusion about the constitutional position about impending action by the Army in order to restore tranquillity to the troubled Province of Sindh. We have been corrected in one respect, an ISPR spokesman has confirmed that there is no such animal as BLUE FOX, this misnomer (with unfortunate connotations to the Operation BLUE STAR nomenclature given by the Indians to their ill-fated adventure in Amritsar against the Sikhs in 1984) was incorrect and was simply a speculative media creation about the proposed clean up exercise in Sindh. The Army is, meanwhile, fanning out all over the Province, both in the urban and rural areas, gearing up administratively and logistically for any future contemplated action. While the Army hierarchy has been in consultation with the Federal and Provincial governments about the parameters of its constitutional limits in Sindh, the Battle Procedure in the pre-operations build up has been deliberate and meaningful.

The Sindh Government seems to be bewildered about its constitutional identity even though it is assured of safe passage of its Annual Budget. The Muzzafar Shah regime is supposed to be the decision-maker of last resort in the Province, but for various purposes a deliberate stance of a dual-track policy has been adopted by the incumbents in a “between the devil and deep sea” situation. Essentially this has become a political survival game for Muzzafar Shah and the disparate coalition that supports him. The stakes are enormous and the consequences of failure in discharging one’s constitutional responsibilities are immense.

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A crisis of confidence

When an unruly mob runs riot and the situation is declared “out of control” of the civilian law enforcement agencies by a civilian magistrate in an “Aid to Civil Power” situation, the use of force to maximum effect becomes obligatory, the clear orders to the army detachment in such a situation being not to inflict wounds but to “shoot to kill” individual targets specified by the officer commanding the sub-unit. If there is imminent danger of the rioting crowd surging over the picket line the troops may fire at will in self-defence, still using single shots rather than the automatic option. The best scenario is always a flag march (in vehicles) for a “show of force” to act as a deterrent, the logic being that once the shooting starts the effect of deterrence ceases. That is why once action is engaged, it is executed with maximum force in the shortest possible time. The “shoot to kill” orders may seem ruthless, in fact in a perverse analogy they are meant to save lives by preventing the situation from creeping into becoming an internecine conflict. The best example of this was illustrated in the swift, sharp action by the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) in Tiananmen Square in Beijing resulting in anything between 1,000 to 3,000 casualties. While this may be 1,000 to 3,000 casualties too many, if the situation had been allowed to go out of control, the resulting civil war could have led to millions dead and the entire country devastated. In balance, to preserve order and save lives, it is sometimes necessary to be seemingly ruthless.

The dilemma of the Federal Government is understandable. As a democracy they cannot seem to be subjecting their own electorate to ruthless suppression. If their present confusion is acute, the relative situation of Ms Benazir in 1990 was worse. Her power base being Sindh, she could hardly be expected to agree to a military operation that could alienate the maximum of her solid voting populace. Estranged from the MQM, her erstwhile partners in coalition at the beginning of her PM-ship, the Pucca Killa operation in Hyderabad in 1990 was mishandled by the local administration and smacked of vengeance. Her problem was inherent vacillation in putting her own house in order in Sindh, aggravated by the stories of obstruction by her then non-political husband as a behind-the-scenes Chief Minister. Posterity will record that there was no better occasion to settle Sindh’s political problems than during her tenure, she simply failed to capitalise on an overwhelming electoral mandate.

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