Sunday, 5 February 2012

Pakistani cities, suicide bombers and the US war on terror

Most Pakistanis have noticed the marked decrease in violence in the nation's urban areas. Analysts find it hard not to link the relative peace in Pakistani cities with the government's new found strength at confronting America regional anti-terrorism policies (aka the US led war in Afghanistan).
Surely, Pakistani law enforcement agencies, military operations and even US sponsored drone strikes in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have dented the Pakistani Taliban's ability to operate in the Pakistani mainland. However, scores of idle NATO supply trucks dot Pakistan's landscape; sitting ducks for opponents of Pakistan's collaboration with Afghan based NATO forces. Observers may recall the severity and frequency of attacks on Pakistani trucks heading towards Afghanistan each time the Khyber Pass was closed in the past.
Pakistani container trucks normally carrying supplies for US led forces in Afghanistan parked near Peshawar

That there have been few, if any, attacks on US and NATO supply convoys stranded on Pakistan's territory since the closure of US supply routes in late November 2011 supports the notion that Pakistani militants are consciously limiting violence. The diminished violence may allow the government to return to its primary purpose: economic and social development.
Unfortunately, Pakistani politics are never so simple. The tag team wrestling match between the military, parliament and the Supreme Court dominates the current political agenda. Certainly, power dynamics within the Pakistani political establishment have to be resolved for a smoothly functioning political system to emerge.
Each of the three state pillars, i.e. the military, parliament and the Supreme Court, must have their operational scope and relationships circumscribed. In corporate speak, detailed 'Job Descriptions' of the Prime Minister, Chief of Army Staff and Chief Justice must be reviewed, debated, amended and approved.
So, while the political elite plays its power games in Islamabad (and its twin city, Rawalpindi) ordinary Pakistanis wonder about power closer to home: electricity. Countrywide electricity shortages typify the stupor and malaise of the Pakistani political establishment. The national grid's ability to meet electricity demand has deteriorated progressively during the last two decades.
There can be little progress without uninterrupted and stable electricity supplies. Sure, industrial establishments may have back-up electricity sources but can generators power economic development in a nation of 180 million.  
Pakistan's future is a debate about priorities. Which subjects deserve the state's limited resources? Engendering a compliant Afghanistan to create so-called strategic depth; becoming a US lapdog in return for the odd bone thrown by the US Congress; strengthening state institutions to improve policy implementation; developing physical infrastructure which enables economic development; or a well thought out combination of all of the above.
To build a successful Pakistan requires a reordering of the country's existing priorities. To be sure, a consensus among the country's military, parliament and Supreme Court is a prerequisite. Nonetheless, a prosperous Pakistan requires good governance of the sort only provided by sincere and committed individuals.
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Imran is a business and management consultant. Through his work at Deodar Advisors, Imran improves the profitability of small and medium sized businesses operating in Singapore and the region. He can be reached at imran@deodaradvisors.com.

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