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Archive for July, 1997

Economic Upturn?

If the boom on the Stock Market and the IMF delegation that was in Pakistan this week are to be believed we are back on the road to economic resurgence, a dramatic reflection of the present government’s economic restructuring drive. Conservative financial analysts do not pay much attention to the price of shares in Pakistan as a good enough economic indicator and the IMF stopped believing the Benazir regime’s fudged statistics since they made it into a state of art, in the presence of stock manipulators and gamblers who have a history of resorting to subterfuges for profit-taking, they prefer to look at the numbers that make up the fiscal deficit, such as the revenues available to meet the current expenditures and the sense of purpose behind structural reforms. However even the most hard-bitten observer will concede that there is momentum which must have origin in conceptually sustainable policies, this has been confirmed by the IMF team which has lauded “the concrete policies of the present backed by political determination”. As we go into the final stretch leading to the celebration of the 50th year since Independence, there is a remarkable parallel in July 1947 to July 1997, on a pro-rata basis that is. Our economic forefathers were then faced with imminent bankruptcy for the fledgling nation, being deprived of their allocated share of funds by British “fairplay”, they had too little in the kitty and too much to pay for. The vast difference in 1997 is that in 1947 in contrast to almost nothing in the areas designated for Pakistan, India had a wide range of medium to heavy industries with a sophisticated infrastructure in support. Pakistan virtually caught up in the 60s till the Bhutto hiccups “one” and “two”, father and daughter’s horrendous economic shortcomings paling before the voracious Zardari appetite for unadulterated greed almost put paid to us economically. In the early 60s, we were a model for more than a decade.


Efficiency-sizing the Armed Forces-V

(This is the FIFTH and CONCLUDING article on the DEFENCE BUDGET).

The advent of aircraft completely changed the dimension of warfare in the 20th century. At the beginning of World War I, aircraft were seen as a useful addition to the armoury, airpower came into real prominence as a force-multiplier during the Spanish Civil War (1936) pre-World War II. By the end of the World War the Air Arm had become a tactical and strategic weapon of some consequence to the final result of any war. Two fairly recent wars have showed what domination air power has over the course of battle. During the Six-Day War in 1967, the Israelis routed the Egyptians after a concentrated surprise air attack on the very first day made their airfields first unserviceable and, thereafter, destroyed most of Egyptian combat aircraft on the ground. As a direct result the Egyptian land forces across the Suez Canal in the Sinai were left at the mercy of marauding Israeli aircraft, entire tank and transport columns lay in flames end to end. Without the same aerial advantage as in 1967, the Arab-Israeli fight was far more equal in 1973. During the Gulf War, General Norman Schwarzkopf first mounted a sustained air assault to take out Iraq’s air defences and having driven the Iraqi Air Force from the skies and obliterated the Iraqi radar and communications, he set about softening Iraq’s ground troops. When the US and “allied” troops ultimately swept in to liberate Kuwait almost two months later, it was more of a “flag march”, they met virtually no ground resistance. In our case many factors contributed in 1971 to reverse the success of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) in 1965 (the virtual role model for the Israelis in 1967) with almost serious repercussions for our land forces in the Rajasthan Sector and adverse consequences for Karachi, if not so much in material losses, certainly in civilian morale.


Efficiency-sizing the Armed Forces-IV

(This is the FOURTH in a series of articles on the DEFENCE BUDGET)

One of the major misdirections in our strategic evaluation has been the failure to properly define the Navy’s mission. The primary aim of the Navy must be to defend Pakistan’s coastline and the secondary aim would normally be to keep the sea lanes open. Given that India has a blue-water Navy with an overwhelming superiority in numbers and its vast coastline gives it physical land domination of the Indian Ocean with its inherent advantages of sea domination, we must re-define our secondary aim to reflect ground (sea?) reality and change it to that of denying India the free use of its sea lanes. Defending its sea lanes forces the Indian Navy to divert resources away from its primary aim which must be to blockade the Pakistani coastline, with Karachi as the major focus of its operations.


Efficiency-sizing the Armed Forces-III

(This is the THIRD in a series of articles on the Defence Budget).

The basic fighting unit that makes up a soldier is composed of a human being, his weapon and his equipment. The modern environment of warfare makes improvement in the quality of the weapon and equipment imperative in keeping pace with the development of the human being as an effective fighting machine. Despite the overwhelming numbers that it used to good effect in “human wave” assaults in the Korean War, the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) realized the great disadvantage of lack of superior infantry weapons (among other weaknesses) in its short war with Vietnam, pragmatically it set about rectifying this anomaly.


National government? Don’t cry for Pakistan, Ms Benazir

Former PM Benazir Bhutto has asked that a national government composed of (or is it on the advice of?) the major political groupings, armed forces, bureaucrats, judiciary, intelligence agencies etc be formed “to save the country”. Despite opposition from her own political allies at this rather heretical and astonishing suggestion by a so-called “democrat”, she reiterated her demand the following day. Among the reasons she cited was the “Sartaj Aziz Strangulation Budget” and the adverse state of the economy, conveniently forgetting that we are in the state we are because of the despotic, corrupt rule of her husband as de facto PM. She remains predictable, every time she loses an election, she calls it a farce due to massive “rigging”, every time she finds that these charges do not find sympathy in the intelligentsia and/or reaction in the streets, she falls back to demanding a “national government”.

Ms Benazir and her husband left the country they ruled as virtual monarchs in shambles, the right royal loot and pillage being unprecedented in this region, if not in the third world. In dismissing her and forming a Caretaker “national government” pending elections, President Leghari cited a number of reasons where she ran afoul of the Constitution, among them cases of nepotism, corruption, illegal telephone tapping etc, almost all were upheld by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in turning down her plea for reinstatement of her government. In the elections that were subsequently held, her own supporters had grievance enough with her to stay at home rather than vote. This overwhelming disenchantment (and absenteeism thereof) converted the anticipated Mian Nawaz Sharif victory (of which he was robbed due to “computer rigging” post-midnight in 1993) into a virtual rout. Mian Nawaz Sharif marginally increased his vote bank, the failure of PPP voters to turn up resulted in a lop-sided landslide for him in terms of Assembly votes. While Mian Nawaz Sharif won a great triumph, the overwhelming “mandate” is not a computation of actual votes cast but a reflection of the imperfect democracy that allows anyone “first past the post” to win an Assembly seat. In the euphoria of their victory, there must be a cold, calculated analysis by PML(N) inner core and analysts of this aspect.