The Pakistan People’s Party and Balochistan. The relationship between the two mirrors the relationship of the former with many other entities. That of an ascent.
By way of example, consider the ANP, consider the media, consider Balochistan. ZAB persecuted NAP brutally and had them, ironically, judicially terminated. Relations between the two parties thawed in the BB years and developed into a trusted alliance in the Zardari years.
The media was suppressed in a near fascist manner in the PPP’s first government, the BB years showed how much she believed in a free media and the Zardari government has withstood the most guttural of slurs without snapping.
The first PPP government went about persecuting Baloch voices, an attitude that culminated in the original Balochistan operations, the BB years were those of reconciliation while the Zardari dispensation is genuinely most understanding of the plight of the Baloch. The president, in fact, identifies himself as one.
Where does this late awakening place the ANP, the media and the Baloch? Are they any better for it? One local ANP leader after another is being killed by the Islamofascists and their handlers; journalists are being picked up, tortured and murdered, with Pakistan being one of the most dangerous places in the world for reporters to practice their craft and the activists of Baloch nationalist parties are disappearing from the vast expanse of the province with an unreported regularity.
The ruling party, indeed, the civil structure of the state as a whole, is weak, unable to exert its own authority and implement its vision. The current government has announced an unprecedented Balochistan package. It has announced jobs (20,000 of them, claimed the PM yesterday) and has made all efforts to reach out to them. The premier has announced that he will visit the province every month whereas a federal minister will visit the province every week to hear the problems of the people. The PPP makes all the right noises and seems to have its heart in the right place; the hypernationalist separatists, too, for their part, have never really accused the ruling party of anything but, perhaps irrelevance.
The Baloch problem, like most of Pakistan’s problems, stems from a hijacking of authority by powers that are accountable to no one, least of all the elected representatives of the people. The politicians are a mere footnote in the present Baloch saga.
Ilyas Kashmiri, responsible for attacks on PNS Mehran and several other key security establishments in Pakistan, has finally been killed in a drone attack in South Waziristan. On Wednesday Afghan Taliban had overrun a security post in Upper Dir killing 28 security personnel and six civilians. Within hours of the claim that the incursion had been repulsed, they launched yet another massive attack. It should be clear now to those who matter that most of the security threats emanate from the country’s west. The US special troops who killed OBL in Abbottabad had also been flown in from the same side. Maulvi Fakir Mohammad’s grim warning, sent presumably from North Wazirisan, should not be taken lightly. The TTP’s Deputy Chief has said the terrorist outfit has changed strategy and would now focus on large-scale attacks on the military installations. While the TTP had previously also brought in fighters from across the porous border to attack Pakistani security forces, what should open the eyes of the authorities is that this time the scale was much larger and one attack followed another. The TTP’s activities have picked up after My 2. Among other places the outfit has attacked paramilitary cadets, navy personnel and assets, and a US consulate convoy. It is thus challenging the army’s claim that the offensives conducted against the militants have broken their backbone. The momentum of the terrorists’ attacks has to be broken to provide confidence to the common man. Till recently there have been complaints of militants crossing over from Pakistan’s tribal areas into Afghanistan to conduct attacks. Now a reverse movement seems to be in the offing. The main security threat in the coming months and years is likely to emerge from the areas along the Durand Line where the militants are currently concentrated, particularly from North Waziristan and the terrorists’ allies on the other side of the western border. This calls for an urgent and thorough review of the military’s India-centric security paradigm. There is much more threat from the west than from the east.
Few but the boys club would find fault with the finance minister’s suggestion for the defence budget to be fully accountable. It isn’t at the moment, with just the one line indicating the total defence budget being read out. The military prides itself in being a far more professional organisation than the rest of the country. Well, adherence to financial accountability protocols are an integral part of the whole professionalism mantra. Going by the sheer and abject lack of it in the forces, one would be tempted to conclude that the country’s revenue apparatus, that den of corruption and incompetence, registers a notch above defence on the scale of professionalism. Though the forces will not put up with talk of opening up military accounts absolutely completely or reducing the defence budget to begin with, analysts believe the latter is still the more achievable of these two tall orders. It is interesting how one same fact can be used in rhetoric by two opposing schools of thought. Consider the current speculation that India is going to increase its defence budget by a quantum that is almost the same as that of Pakistan’s entire defence budget to begin with. The hysterical see this as an impetus to increase the defence budget. The peaceniks see this as an example in pointing out how futile it is to attempt to somehow keep up. There are no points for guessing which school held sway; the new budget has a 12 per cent increase for the armed forces, that too, in these times of great fiscal constraints. The stark absence of civilians in matters military is distressing. The US runs, at the moment, a military juggernaut the likes of which the world has not yet seen in human history. That doesn’t exempt the generals there from questioning by even relatively junior civil bureaucrats from the financial services, what to speak of the elected politicians. Ditto for the Israelis, whose morals may be questionable but are the last word on how to run a tight ship in military affairs. There isn’t much money to go around and they’re spending too much of it. Something’s got to give.
In the mad media rush to get vox pops on the budget and sound bites from politicians, an MNA from the MQM remarked how it was impossible to fashion a “people’s budget” until it has been made by the true representatives of the people. That it was impossible to expect one from a feudal.
The legislator was half-right. Not about the feudal bit, though; the f-word has been played with for longer than it is worth. The “feudal” finance minister is far more receptive to criticism from harsh detractors than those who call the shots in Karachi. The MNA was right only in the observation that it is impossible to make a people’s budget. For there can’t be a people’s budget till the people themselves proclaim it to be so. And that they won’t. This is not a comment on the quality of the budgets (though they have, collectively, left much to be desired) but on the near impossibility of any measure of approval from either the people or the media on a subject that is not clearly understood by either of them. Even if a government were to make a criminally populist budget, the commentariat would histrionically lament that the wretched of the earth have gotten nothing. The people, far more intelligent than the media, would, eventually, find out but only much, much later. Not at the time of the budget.
The above stems from the difficulty inherent in correctly understanding any budget. It is difficult to make sense of what this-much-for-this-and-this-much-for-that actually means, that too in the context of the existing economy, the socio-political space where the money is to be spent and the pressures of global economy. Even some members of the PML(N), which brewed up a storm on the floor of the house while the budget was being presented, conceded that the protest was not at the budget per se but, you know, generally...
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The budget itself: the government has set some rather ambitious targets. Suffice to say, it will miss most of them. A harsh pronouncement, yes, but it is really not believable that the government will achieve the quantum of revenue it is eyeing without taking some drastic steps. Yes, the removal of GST exemptions from certain items might net them a little here and a little there but anything short of the RGST won’t yield much. And, as, again the MQM, has made it clear, the RGST is going to be opposed tooth and nail if it comes up, dressed as anything, in the finance bill.
Yes, the government is slashing certain subsidies, but the shortfall in revenue is going make it unlikely to meet the fiscal deficit target of 4.6 per cent of the economy. The government is going to finance the deficit by, among other things, borrowing from the central bank, which will fuel more inflation.
But that won’t be the only factor causing inflation. The age of cheap food and cheap fuel long since over, the international markets for grain and oil are going to be as unforgiving as ever. The government’s subsidies on oil, at least, should indeed be slashed as it is going to be increasingly unsustainable to do so.
To segue into penchants unsustainable, the military got a 12 per cent budget hike. True, there’s a war going on but even the most casual of glances at the military budget would attest that the boys club was already being well compensated for that. The subject under discussion is the budget and not the dispensation of power within the state so let the digression be succinct: it would do us well to realise that if one wages war against the laws of economics, the laws of economics will win.
More on the war against terror: it is sad that the budgets of civil law enforcement agencies like the police, who have lost far more men and whose services are internationally recognised to be far more vital for our war, have been slashed. This attitude towards a set of organisations that is not playing any double game in the war against terror? Strange are the rules of the school of the world, muses the poet Momin, the student who learns his lessons well, never gets a day off.
Our development program, the PSDP, has seen a substantial increase. Speculation abound that the next budget is going to see an even higher increase for political reasons. That is probably not an apt prediction. It makes more sense for a government to undertake more development programs earlier on in the term so they can be completed in time for the next elections. Populism in the last budget before the elections might not see more programs but more subsidies. Unless the programs in question are, in effect, targeted subsidies, like the Benazir Income Support Program of the federal government or KP’s Bacha Khan Khpul Rozgar Scheme.
Budgets are that time of the year where the political opposition lets the country down. By way of not providing much opposition. The rumpus in the assembly? That wasn’t opposition. That was frothing at the mouth; a throw of the bangles here, a flashing of a nan there. Until the political class seriously gets down to figuring the budget out and cuts out the ill-informed populism, and effectively articulates what exactly it is they have a problem with, we’re none the better for any amount of brouhaha they might conjure up in the house.
The PML(N) is within its right to put the government on the mat in the NA and Senate. The opposition in a democracy is in fact supposed to keep the government on its toes by bringing the faults in its policies under the spotlight. One can therefore understand the decision by the PML(N)’s joint parliamentary committee to protest against the government’s failure to implement the parliament’s resolution on an independent commission to probe the Abbottabad fiasco.
It is difficult to conceive of democracy without difference of opinion and institutionalised controversy. The parliamentary system provides the opposition a forum to expose the mistakes committed by the government through debates, by raising points of order and intelligently utilising the question hours. With the media today being freer than ever, the exposure would help the opposition mould public opinion in its favour and provide it an opportunity to win the next election. Using the opportunities to project its policies, the opposition wins public support in an orderly way and without causing any destabilisation. This however requires accommodation from both sides. The ruling coalition has to ensure that the opposition has enough time to express its views and attempts are not made to steamroll it. Further, the majority at the disposal of the ruling coalition must not be used to turn parliament into a rubber stamp. The opposition on the other hand has to avoid the temptation to resort to unruliness which undermines the parliament’s prestige.
One, however, fails to understand what the committee was driving at when it gave Mian Nawaz Sharif the mandate to launch a decisive movement, after the ground has been prepared, to topple the government and not to allow it to complete its tenure. Public gatherings are understandable, all the more so since the elections are approaching soon. What the PML(N) needs to realise that it is a signatory to the CoD which requires the opposition to allow the elected government to complete its tenure.
This editorial space might as well be called the obituary section given the distressing news of death it carries on an almost daily basis. Such is the state of affairs in Pakistan that we bury our brave everyday and keep searching for the crimes which led them to their end. Not two days ago, it was Saleem Shahzad and today we write for another courageous soul.
Almost all men and women have ideals they live by but few are great enough to be willing to pay the price for those very ideals. Professor Saba Dashtyari was one such man who paid the ultimate price in death. Brutally gunned down by unidentified gunmen on Wednesday, he was an unrelenting voice propagating for the rights of the Balochis and speedy recovery of the many missing persons. He was a seasoned academic who had been serving in the University of Balochistan for twenty five years. Not only was he active in promoting the cause of the missing persons, he made unmatched contributions to the promotion of Baloch culture amongst them almost 24 books and the establishment of the Syed Zahoor Shah Hashmi Library – Pakistan’s largest repository of Baloch literature.
Sadly, he isn’t the only professor of the UoB to be killed in the recent past. As many as four of his colleagues have been assassinated in the past few years. The anger of the students of the University is apparent as they mourn their beloved mentor and respected teacher. How much more blood will have to be spilled till the establishment realises that this atrocious suppression is not the answer? How much will the fault-lines have to deepen before the powers that be confess their sins? They think that silencing the crusaders of truth is equivalent to vanquishing the truth but it is not so. In the wake of recent events, the cries of accountability for these lives lost are reaching a crescendo and the truth must out – sooner not later.
Once when giving an impassioned speech about the fate of missing persons in a seminar, the professor was heckled by a woman to stop speaking. His simple reply, “Aap sach say kyun darti hain?” (Why are you afraid of the truth) But in this country, we are all afraid of the truth because it is very ugly indeed.
We missed all our targets but that isn’t as bad as it sounds. The tone of this year’s Economic Survey of Pakistan - which presents the state of the economy at the conclusion of each fiscal year. Not to cut the government any undeserved slack, but there does seem to be merit in the case. Barring a lunatic fringe, no one can blame the government for the devastating floods of the first quarter of the outgoing fiscal. Or the major fluctuations in the price of oil in the international markets. Moreover, the security situation, a serious problem since 2001, has contributed, like every year, to the slowing down of the pace of economic growth.
Though households across the country might be feeling the pinch, the inflation situation could have actually been worse. Food inflation, which has been the primary driver of inflation since a decade, was bound to be high, especially considering the fact that the floods completely disrupted the crop cycles. Yet, the downward pressures of - counter-intuitively - certain food prices provided a measure of balance. More on the inflation front: even though the government has outspent its fiscal deficit target, there has been an increased discipline as far as borrowing from the central bank has been concerned. This, coupled with the maintenance of a suitably high discount rate by SBP, has sucked excessive liquidity of the money markets, curbing inflation.
Unless some junior bureaucrat whose job it was to check the copy of the Survey report was slacking on the job and forgot to update it, it seems the government is indeed going to try to go for an RGST regime today when it announces the budget. It is about time. That, and the restructuring and privatisation of public sector enterprises, moving from the one-size-fits-all-subsidies to targeted ones like the BISP, better debt management and power sector reforms etc would make it reasonable to assume that the reader would find something to be cheerful about in this very space a year from now.
In a highly audacious move, about 200 Afghan Taliban entered Upper Dir district bordering Afghanistan’s Kunnar province to launch an attack on a security post 20 kilometers inside Pakistan. Besides blowing up several schools, they had by Thursday morning killed twenty five personnel of FC and Dir Levies. They blew up the only bridge connecting the area with the rest of the district to stop the reinforcements that were called in. This necessitated the deployment of gunship helicopters and the use of heavy artillery. Meanwhile, the Malakand Taliban have claimed the responsibility for the attack. This indicates that the terrorists who operate inside Pakistan have close links with those in Afghanistan. The incident underlines the need for close coordination between all forces fighting terrorists in both countries. Unless this is done there is little hope of getting rid of the terrorist threat.
Referring to reports about the long awaited operation in North Waziristan, PM Gilani said his government will decide itself if such an operation is required. Similarly, while briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Hina Rabbani Khar maintained that there was neither an agreement between Pakistan and the United States for an operation in North Waziristan nor has any final decision been taken for the operation. Identical views were expressed by Corps Commander Peshawar who told a news conference that the operation was not imminent and that it would only be undertaken when it is militarily and otherwise in the national interest. One can appreciate the point that the type of action has to be dictated by our national needs rather than dictation from an outside power. There are many who believe that dealing a mortal blow to the terrorists has become extremely necessary
Coming soon after the attack on PNS Mehran, the overrunning of the security post in Dir is yet another grim reminder that the terrorists are on the offensive against the security forces and that a decisive action against them is the urgently needed. Their sanctuaries, be these in North Waziristan or any other Agency, pose an existential threat to Pakistan. The incident in Upper Dir is the latest to support the point.
The commission to probe the Abbottabad fiasco may comprise independent members but, if Asma Jahangir is to be believed, its formation is illegal because the CJP was not consulted prior to the appointment of Justice Javed Iqbal as its head. That’s just one pickle. It appears that some of the nominees were not consulted and they learnt about their appointment through media reports. Justice (retd) Fakhrudin G Ibrahim is one and Justice Javed Iqbal is likely to be other. Did anybody in the prime minister’s office know that Lt Gen (retd) Nadeem Ahmad was being treated at the CMH for heart attack while the announcement was being made? The PM’s press secretary maintains that consultation with the nominees was not the government’s headache but of the political parties which had recommended their names. As the announcement of the commission comes from the PM, one expects him to have ensured that the nominees had no objection.
The resolution by the joint parliamentary session clearly stipulates that “the composition and modalities of the commission will be settled after consultations between the leader of the house and the leader of the opposition.” There is no indication that this was done.
The mandate given to the commission leaves out important matters that should have been clarified in the Terms of Reference. It is not spelt out, for instance, if the commission would be authorised to affix responsibility for the Abbottabad fiasco. Again no time frame has been given for the completion of the investigation. To sum up, the commission seems to have been formed in haste, perhaps keeping in view the four day deadline given by the PML(N). The commission is required to ascertain “the full facts” regarding the presence of OBL in Pakistan, investigate circumstances regarding the US operation in Abbottabad, determine the nature, background and causes of lapses of the concerned authorities and make recommendations. Keeping in view the importance of the commission’s work, the government needs to take measures to remove the legal flaws, formally seek the assent of the nominees and remove the deficiencies in the ToRs.
Back in the Swat debacle, he was an embedded journalist of sorts with the Taliban for a little while. When he had initially introduced himself to their spokesperson Muslim Khan, he was surprised to find that the latter followed his work online.
Yes, everybody read Saleem Shahzad. Everybody with an interest in security issues in the region. Everybody, including those his reports would incriminate. Was that the reason he was tortured and then brutally killed? Perhaps. The organisation being blamed by many for his murder isn’t breaking PR silence after the incident. Eerily quiet. Even if there is some spin out eventually, it won’t convince anyone but the pathologically naïve. Dead men tell no tales; he is said to have conveyed to Human Rights Watch some time ago that his life was under threat from those certain quarters.
Mr Shahzad was a feet-on-the-ground reporter, the sort of person whose personal knowledge of the issues at hand could not possibly be replicated by op-ed types. While the latter liberati counter-productively blamed the ANP-PPP government for the Swat peace deal, it was Mr Shahzad’s reporting – including that of some other brave souls – that revealed all was not what it seemed between the militants and the armed forces in the original Operation Rah-e-Haq. Similarly, while the self-important bloggers merely conjectured the number of possibilities that might have led to the PNS Mehran incident, Mr Shahzad went ahead and did a brilliant investigative story, the second part of which was fated to not see the press. Was it this particular story that led to his murder, a previous one that might have offended someone else (there were many) or was there something devastating that he knew and was going to make public soon?
For purposes of formality: the government should make all efforts to protect journalists and ensure they have easy access to information.
A futile plea, the above, because it is not the will of the political government that is the problem here. It is the proliferation of non-state actors and the unbridled empowerment of institutions that are states within themselves that are to be blamed.
North Waziristan Agency (NWA) has turned into the nerve centre of the various terrorist groups affiliated with the TTP and Al-Qaeda. Major extremist leaders including Hakimullah Mehsud, Ilyas Kashmiri and Qari Hussain have set up their command and control centers and training camps in the Agency. It is here that plans for deadly attacks inside Pakistan are made. Former Taliban associates Col (retd) Imam and Khalid Khwaja were lured to the Agency to be executed for their alleged betrayal of the terrorists’ cause. The Haqqani group which is accused by the US of organising cross border attacks inside Afghanistan also operates from the Agency. The activity cannot be allowed by any responsible state. Even if there was no foreign pressure to cleanse the area of terrorist groups, there was enough domestic compulsion to do so.
Terrorist attacks are on the rise and have created a deep sense of insecurity among the population. The economy has declined on account of the deterioration in law and order and investors are not willing to risk their money in the country. The terrorists are becoming increasingly aggressive and are targeting major security installations. On May 22, they destroyed Pakistan navy’s vital security assets at PNS Mehran, thus serving as enemy agents. There are genuine reasons to fear that they might try to get hold of f the country’s nuclear assets.
There is a need under the circumstances to destroy the terrorist strongholds in NWA from where most of the destructive activity is planned and directed. The operation needs to be handled with extreme care. It has to be based on real time intelligence and carefully targeted. Unless the strikes are conducted with surgical accuracy, these would evoke strong opposition as in the case of drone attacks. The air attacks will have to be followed by army action needed to flush out the militants and secure the areas. A plan has to be in place for handing over the control of the area to the political officials at the earliest.
For the easily amused: erstwhile dictator Pervez Musharraf is now what he always aspired to be but could never manage. Wanted by the people of Pakistan. Except, not by way of any popularity but only in the strictest legal sense of the term. An Anti Terrorist Court declared the former president a proclaimed offender in its hearing of the Benazir Bhutto murder case. It also ordered for the publication of advertisements against him in British newspapers.
The country has been rather gracious towards its dictators in the past. Ayub Khan and Yahya Khan both died in comfort, having never seen the inside of a jail cell. That horseman of the apocalypse who followed them in this illustrious list would have seen the same comfort had his plane not exploded. And then there was the guard of honour presented to the enlightened moderate.
What is it that stops the politicians from effectively holding these violators of the constitution to task? The immense power that the old boys club wields could be an answer. The prospect of someone messing with Sir Pervez, ten batches senior from Artillery, seems bleak. Even though Musharraf has been sent summons and what have you, no one is holding their breath for something to actually happen. Yes, the military does distance itself from past dictators but that is no reason to believe they don’t watch out for their own.
Though punishing former dictators is in no way untreaded territory. Not only are the Turks punishing generals behind a recent coup attempt, their judiciary has also called for the generals behind the successful coup of 1980 to testify in court. But there is much difference between Turkey and Pakistan. In Turkey, the military has grown weaker and weaker with every successive coup, finally culminating in one that was a botched attempt. While in Pakistan, the military has become more and more powerful with every successive coup, with the reason of the coup scaled down from the supposed prevention of anarchy in the earlier coups to a mere alleged violation of protocol while firing the army chief in the last.
In the murder of Benazir Bhutto, the country lost a fine practitioner of statecraft, a lady with a vision for her country in the international comity of nations. Musharraf, though, has far more sins than any involvement in her demise to atone for. It is about time the Republic takes overturning elected governments a crime more serious than any other.
He was cruising for a bruising, Nawaz Sharif was. You don’t warn of revolt and not expect for the government to hit back with scathing remarks of their own. Who is Mr Sharif set to revolt against, asks the PPP’s Babar Awan, the Constitution or democracy itself?
The erstwhile minister has a point. An admirable stance against the unelected establishment notwithstanding, the PML(N) supremo is yet to understand completely the subtleties of representative governance. Even if the purpose of said subversion is to ultimately empower the institution of the political government, a cognizance of the fact that the end does not justify the means is well needed. The way it was needed during the post-elections phase of the lawyers’ movement. The fact of the matter is that the executive authority of government in our parliamentary democracy rests with the party with the largest number of legislators. If said party is not acting in accordance with another party’s democratic ideals (like the restoration of a wrongfully deposed judiciary or completely taking on the military after a string of embarrassing failures) then the latter party should bide its time and sell this to the electorate in the next elections. Anything other than this, (apart from forging an alliance with other parliamentary bodies) is undemocratic.
That having been said, it had to be noted that the League is not entirely to be blamed here. The ruling party’s behaviour in the current set of circumstances has left much to be desired. Far from seizing this prized opportunity to set things right, it has actually tried to preserve the status quo. If this strategy is not capitulation but a gambit, the PPP needs to take the PML(N) in confidence over the issue. This is a time for the political class to stick together rather than fighting amongst each other.
Finally the Sindh government has felt the need to launch a probe into the terrorist attack on the PNS Mehran. So far, there has been no official word about any investigation except a cursory remark by Rehman Malik soon after the incident that an inquiry body has been constituted which would thoroughly investigate the incident. Nothing was said about the constitution of the body or its terms of reference. Meanwhile, there were unofficial reports of an enquiry committee having been constituted by the Navy and headed by a rear admiral. One strong point of the Navy investigators was that being insiders, they were more knowledgeable about the crime scene than anyone else. Investigating crimes of the type, however, requires specialised training and experience in the employment of modern techniques of discovering and interpreting the evidence which tends to get lost if not immediately preserved by those specialising in crime detection. What is more, the committee has to have a wider vision, enabling its members to interpret the crime in its proper perspective. One wonders if the Navy team really had the necessary expertise. Initially there was a disconcerting discrepancy about the exact number of terrorists. There were also unconfirmed reports of a dispute between the local security staff of the Navy and the Air Force, both sharing the base, about the jurisdiction of the area from which the terrorists had made their entry. A report in the media told about the DCC rejecting the suggestion for a high level commission by the CNS. Speaking of whom, given the magnitude of the failure, he should have at least offered to resign.
Whatever progress has been made over the week is insignificant and of a routine type. Statements of the staff on duty have been recorded. The brands of the weapons and equipment used by the terrorists have been determined. There were reports of five suspects having been arrested. Interesting, but all this takes one nowhere.
Important questions remain unanswered. These involve the state of preparedness at the base, possibility of inside information, the motive behind the selection of Orion aircrafts as target while ignoring other aircrafts and the fuel tank that could have blown up the entire base. Only an independent enquiry by competent officials can answer the questions. What is on trial is the credibility of the government.
The tail wags the dog. Back in the day, when the then government had made the decision to publicly test our nuclear program, the logic that was given to the public (though it needed no convincing) was that our nuclear devices were going to protect us. How ironic, then, that in the thirteen years since, our entire security paradigm has been centred around how to protect them. More ironic still, that this paradigm has been largely unquestioned in public discourse. We should support the US in attacking Afghanistan or else they’ll take out our nukes, pandered erstwhile dictator Musharraf to the people. This made all those opposing the alliance sit up and take notice. Such arguments continue till this very day and form the basis of our most primal fear. The principal argument in favour of nuclear weapons (not without its detractors) was that since there is no way we could compete with India in conventional warfare, we could use them as deterrents, specially since the Indian nuclear test presented us with an opportunity to do so. Point taken. But did that mean that spending on conventional weapons would then be curtailed? It did. But that is not what happened. Since the tests of the 28th of May, 1998, the candle seems to be burning from both ends, with the taxpayers footing the bill not just for our nuclear program but also for other toys for the boys. It is painfully clear to everyone but the boys club that Pakistan cannot afford to be a part of an arms race, nuclear or otherwise. If you fight a war with the laws of economics, the laws of economics will win. In principle, Pakistan and India need to be looking not at matrices of mutually assured destruction but the resolution of disputes to begin with. Nuclear weapons have a deterrent value but we should be looking at a future where deterrence won’t be needed to begin with. The immense human potential of a fifth of humanity lies locked within two states that care more about symbols than their people.