The US President’s recent visit to Pakistan has attracted considerable; attention, criticism and debate, generating significant column inches in newspapers and passionate views on both sides. Most critics have cited the significant difference in his visits of India and Pakistan with the former getting a nuclear deal and the latter an empty palm. Yet this is to be expected, India is an important strategic ally fulfilling the role of a junior partner to America’s more senior status. The relationship with Pakistan is not strategic at all but merely tactical as a result of the War on Terror, in that sense it is the same relationship as one has with a piece of chewing gum.
The problem with most Pakistani commentators and politicians is that they don’t fully understand this and so remain stuck in the 5 I’s syndrome. The 5 I’s are the prism by which most Pakistanis look at their country; India, Incompetence, Insecurity, Indebtedness and Inferiority. You know the drill, whenever the Musharraf regime is criticised about anything, whether it is it’s subservient relationship with the United States, its failure to diversify away from a cotton based economy or its inability to remove corruption from politics, it and its supporters invoke the 5 I’s. Let me explain, in response to criticism of Pakistan’s over dependence on the US, the reply that comes back is that strong relations with America are essential because if we don’t India will benefit at our expense, thus the Indian blind spot constitutes the 1st I. The 2nd I is invoked whenever there is criticism of policy; don’t worry the previous regimes were incompetent and corrupt, we are running the economy and foreign policy far more effectively and professionally now. The third I is also constantly paraded, the one of insecurity; we have to support America, we have to kill people in Waziristan, we have to permit American bases because Pakistan is in an insecure state. The fourth I builds on insecurity by ubiquitously articulating a state of indebtedness; we are $35 billion in debt, we are a poor country, we have no natural resources, we are much smaller than India and if Europe can’t stand up to Bush, why are you expecting us to. All these 4 I’s are a subset of the main I, the mother of all the I‘s, that of inferiority. Inferiority is the disease of the Pakistani body politic; it is enmeshed in every idea they come up with, every word they utter, every paragraph they write and every policy they formulate. Every post independence leader from Liaquat Ali Khan to Pervez Musharraf has had an inferiority complex and given the impression of being a leader in office but not in power. No surprise then, that the country fails to even punch at its own weight forget about punching above it.
Countries like Singapore and South Korea are much smaller in size and population than Pakistan and have been equally ravaged by horrendous wars and conflicts. Yet despite this, these nations are technologically streets ahead of Pakistan notwithstanding the huge inequalities of neo-liberal economic policies. Even Cuba boycotted by the US since 1961 has a higher GDP per capita. The constant blaming of America, the army, corrupt politicians or India’s RAW for every conceivable failing are fast becoming torpid excuses. Pakistan like most Muslim countries does not lack resources or empty slogans like enlightened moderation they lacks leadership, vision and political will. There is a clear alternative to the current policy of servitude to America, but it requires courage and sacrifice. Pakistan should seek a stronger economic realignment with the Muslim world, together the Islamic world controls most of the energy, key waterways, a quarter of the world’s population, enjoys a strong military as well as having huge financial clout. As Ann Berg a former Director of the Chicago Board of Trade recently wrote ‘Imagine the power of an Islamic financial supermarket, rivalling the sophistication of the U.S. market (itself only 30 years old), to channel dollar holdings into dinars for a billion-plus people! The embrace of a pan-Islamic, gold-backed system would create an unparalleled financial upheaval.’ A more unified Islamic bloc may be a dream to some but it is increasingly a nightmare to those sitting in London and Washington. As the War on Terror and global inequality have repeatedly demonstrated; western foreign policy, global capitalism and liberal values simply aren’t up to the task. The Muslim world must summon new powerful solutions to address the unprecedented challenges mankind faces today, but to do this they must rid themselves first of the yoke of inferiority.