The myth of dependence

This is a Pakpotpourri Exclusive

By: Shireen M Mazari  

Z A Bhutto wrote The Myth of Independence in the late sixties and it shaped my perspective on the Pakistan-US relationship. A return to the book shows its continuing relevancy today since we find ourselves trapped again in the psychological grip of a unidimensional US-centric approach to external policy that Bhutto warned against. “American policy to bring Pakistan under Indian hegemony” goes the title of one chapter and it rings so true today. What has altered is that the stakes are more fatal because today our leaders are propagating a myth of dependency on the US that is literally deathly. It is preventing us from creating a favourable operational environment in which to tackle our home-grown demons of militancy and terrorism more effectively. Some “liberal” friends like Ayaz Amir have finally acknowledged and written about the need to delink ourselves of the failed US imperialist venture in Afghanistan.

However, we first need to rid ourselves of this myth of US dependency that some have been propagating to justify our seeming helplessness before Washington’s diktat. Not being an economist, my focus is on one part of the dependency syndrome – the military one. However, even as a layperson it is rather apparent that if some of our Pakistani elite can hold millions in property and bank accounts abroad, much of it ill-gotten, then there is sufficient national wealth and resource for development, if corruption was weeded out and the stolen wealth brought back. Again, if only those who should be paying taxes actually paid them, including our political and business elite plus all those professionals whose incomes are not taxed at source, we would generate national revenues. Also it is certainly time to rationalise the tax in the agricultural sector so that it is based on income rather than holdings.

As for US aid, there is always a cost and when we are bandying about figures we should also look at the costs of the present alliance in terms of civilian and military deaths and injuries, displacement of people, markets lost and industries destroyed after we became a frontline state for the US-led “war on terror” which effectively has created increasing terror within Pakistan. One calculation for US aid from 1950 to 2010, is $ 22.87 billion, while losses to Pakistan for the same period have been calculated at $ 60 billion. Many economists have done far more extensive cost-benefit analyses – but don’t expect much from the set of economists presently running our affairs courtesy the IMF with their own vested US interests. The bottom line is that we have allowed ourselves to be dragged into a falsely created dependency on US aid, by vested interests, which has little to do with national needs such as greater access to markets.

The situation is even more farcical in the military field. Much is being made of the Pakistan army general who has spoken in support of the drone attacks. But why the surprise?  The US has always maintained that the Pakistan government, including the military, has been complicit in the drone policy from the start. As for this myth that our military is dependent on US assistance, this needs to be exposed. Since 1967, when the US cut off military supplies and spares to Pakistan formally, the Pakistan military has moved towards indigenous production as well as acquisition of major weapon systems from alternate sources. As a result, there is now not only an indigenous conventional capability, but also missile capability with the Hatf series now solid fuelled. The Army’s tanks, APCs and other conventional weapons have no US component. We got some helicopters during the Zia dictatorship, but then they had to be grounded when their sensitive rotors caught dust and US spares were not forthcoming. Now again we have some US weapons systems for the Army in support of the counter terrorism “war” but these are not essential for our offensive strategies. As for fighting terrorism, even the US is now reluctantly conceding that a military-centric approach is wrong and only creates more space for the militants.

The PAF may feel it has a greater dependency on the US in terms of acquiring F-16s but here also we have developed alternatives with Chinese assistance such as the JF-17, the A5 (close support), F 7P (interceptor fighter) and the various Mirage 3 and 5 platforms, purchased from France and Australia but now totally updated with advanced Italian avionics packages. Certainly the F-16s add to the strength of the PAF but for decades we maintained a credible air force without US components. Also F-16s come at a high cost – both financial and political as we learnt the last time we paid for F-16s but eventually got wheat and soya beans. Our air launched cruise missiles also have no US dependency factor. As for the Navy, the main offensive weapon system is the submarine and the subs are French in origin but we are in the process of acquiring indigenous capability.

Even in terms of training, given the disastrous record of the US in fighting asymmetric conflicts from Vietnam to Afghanistan, we hardly need their trainers! Also, unlike a domestic production industry which has hi-tech spin-offs for the civilian sector, importing US weaponry creates an artificial dependency with no local spin-offs. So why is this myth of military dependency being propagated? By vested interests including amongst the military and lobbyists and defence contractors.

If there is a dependency at all, it is a psychological one which is preventing us from extricating ourselves from the US deathly embrace. Bhutto referred not only to Pakistan’s first military dictator Ayub loyally stating to the US Congress (1961) that Pakistan was the only country in Asia where US forces “could land at any moment for the defence of the ‘free world’”; but also to the U2 incident where the US itself was being ambiguous but Ayub admitted that the aircraft took off from Pakistan! Are our military and civilian power holders any different today?

NOTE:Shireen M. Mazari is a scholar and commentator on Strategic Studies and Political Science from Pakistan. She was Director General of Institute of Strategic Studies, a research think-tank based in Islamabad, Pakistan and former Editor of The Nation.

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  • Salim Ullah  On March 13, 2011 at 5:09 am

    “Bhutto’s greediness to become the PM bifurcated Pakistan in to two countries. Bhutto could only dream of being a PM of Pakistan as long Awami league would have been in majority

    • Khalid Bukhari  On March 13, 2011 at 5:29 am

      Mr Ahsan i think u r talking based on presumption and Remus Z A Bhutto never seems corruption and greediness for PM ship. Please correct yours sentences and read the history who was the bloody bifurcated pakistan in to two countries. Bhutto was the only leader who talks about Pakistan and making Constitution in 1973.

  • Zain I. Syed  On March 13, 2011 at 5:31 am

    Shireen makes an awesome point! Pakistan’s dependence on the US is psychological. We always get junk technology from the US at an exorbitant political and financial cost.

    As a state policy we always buy junk for the price of gold because that is where we make the most commission.

    The F-16’s are a 1980 era junk which we are so proud to display in our arsenal. Who are we trying to fool?

    • Khalid Bukhari  On March 13, 2011 at 5:53 am

      Mr Zain you r right said we r in mental slavery, should increase self esteem.

    • Zain I. Syed  On March 13, 2011 at 5:55 am

      Yasmeen, we all know the answer to that. The issue is mental slavery! Anyone who feels proud on being kicked around by the town bully does get kicked around the most! There is no rocket science involved in this! We as a nation have a pretty low self esteem

      • Khalid Bukhari  On March 13, 2011 at 7:46 am

        Zain you r right said we r in mental slavery, should increase self esteem

    • S U Turkman  On March 14, 2011 at 2:51 am

      What should be Psychology of a country that has not earned enough Foreign Exchange to offset it imports every year since its birth and has to keep begging for Charity of Aid and Loans?
      How should this country advance, when from level of an ordinary Policeman to Army Generals collect Protection Money or BHuTTaa?
      I have tried to bring to Pakistan the most advanced Electronics Technology 4 times but I was told, “Who told you, we want your help. Go back to where you came from …!”
      Give me a break corrupt characterless people, blaming USA for everything you do wrong yourself …!
      Beggars blaming the Givers …!

      • Ishi Hishimoto  On March 14, 2011 at 1:42 pm

        Say Turkman do you do this for free or does the Indian government pay you?

  • Admiral Sirohey  On March 13, 2011 at 7:52 am

    A timely reminder for the rulers. It is unlikely that anyone will take notice of it. They are bound by the undertakings given by the successive administrations.
    There is apparent lack of honour and dignity, devoid of original thinking, oblivious of what lays ahead.


    • S U Turkman  On March 14, 2011 at 2:52 am

      What Honor or Dignity you expect from Looters and Beggars?

  • Munir Varraich  On March 13, 2011 at 8:34 am

    When it comes to strategic interests of Pakistan, it was essential to make pacts (CENTO and SEATO) to counter USSR and India. In hind site those were sensible decisions. Later, by the time Z.A.Bhutto’s PPP took over, the world had moved on and shifts in alliances took Pakistan closer to China. In hind site those were also the best choices when it comes to national interests of Pakistan.

    The era of Gen Zia’s 11 years rule, was a difficult time for Pakistan. The only power which could counter the onslaught of the USSR, which had a defence pact with India, and was knocking at our doors, was the USA. The strategic interests of both Pakistan and the USA merged and that onslaught was successfully repulsed, at a great price.

    By 1989, USSR had imploded, Pakistan’s strategic interests demanded to balance our foreign policy viz-a-viz USA. That was done by our close relationship with China.

    The turn of the 21st century brought Pakistan face to face with another reality – also mentioned in the “Myth of Independance” that “international alliances keep on shifting”. Those shifts were made by Pakistan at the appropriate time and to the best interests of Pakistan.

    All this while, in spite of all odds, Pakistan has moved on to acquire all the capabilities which Dr.Mazari mentions in her article. Of course, when it comes to steering a nation in rough seas, it is not easy. And Pakistan, as a nation has been roughing it out all these years with perseverance. And in the process has learned how to shuffle off the colonial coil.


    • S U Turkman  On March 14, 2011 at 3:00 am

      Oh yes, yes. Beggars on our Streets also need independence from us. We have been controlling them too much just like USA has been controlling us, making us violate even Traffic Rules.
      We are innocent like a new-born Baby and never Sin. God’s Prophet would swear by our Character. We never lie, never cheat, never steal, never pay bribes, never extort bribes, never collect Protection Money or BHuTTaa, never bomb each others mosques, etc.
      God is not treating us right. We should be ruling this world because we are so advance that we even have Atomic Bombs and Missiles. Its all because of Satanic USA and Allah do not have anything to do with it because USA has defeated even Allah now.

  • S. Cadri  On March 13, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Mazari needs some correction:

    Agriculture must be taxed on holdings not on income. Any body holding land over 60 acres say, must be heavily taxed. This will discourage people from holding on to large tracts of land, rendering them unproductive, which is also the cause of all the problems basically.

    Large holdings help the land lords to keep people illiterate otherwise they say who will work on their farms and how will they maintain private jails?

    Small land holdings ensure that the common man sits in the Parliament and Assemblies and not a land lord for whom the Parliament is an elitist club, nothing else. He goes there to make contacts to make money not serve the people of Pakistan or Pakistan. He serves himself right royally.

    Hence I do not agree with Mazari that land’s income should be taxed not the holding. If holdings are taxed she sees her lands slipping. Once people of Pakistan start deciding then no America no Britain and no Russia can dictate terms to us. None.

    Then we will be our own masters. Not until then. Introduce land ceiling.

    • S U Turkman  On March 14, 2011 at 3:13 am

      I tell you even a lot simpler Taxation System based on Islamic Philosophy because my conclusion is that in 7th Century world, what Islamic Law was doing was taxing the Assets, not Income. If Computers were invented and Records could be kept like now in 21st Century, Allah would have asked for an Asset Tax instead of ZkaaT, Khoms and Ashra.
      There should be no Taxes but Asset Tax. All your Holdings are Assets including your Household items. There should be a per person free Allowance and over that Allowance everybody should pay an Asset Tax.
      Income should not be taxed because if someone keeps spending, what he/she earns, that person is keeping the flow of money in Economy to let Economy grow. Since whatever such person spends on could be Asset of someone else, he/she is already paying Asset Tax indirectly because the Asset Owner is paying tax.
      You can rent a car, house, furniture, etc to show no Assets but since whoever you are renting from is paying tax, you are paying tax also though indirectly.
      Islam does not want you to hoard and have any Assets because Islam says, “Spend what you have earned today and trust Allah to give you more tomorrow” and its a perfect Economic Theory because flow of money and money changing hands runs Economy, not Hoarding.

  • siddiqui my  On March 13, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Ref Mazari Sahiba’s article
    In essence I endorse Munir Varraich’s comments
    Ms Mazari is being wise after the event; from the begining we have the millstone of Kashmir and Nehruivan enmity around our neck………..West had started weaving a net around pakistan even before we got entangled in the US web; Pakistan was an important stop in the West;s strategic plan against USSR.. ( only a year earlier Churchill had spoken of IRON CURTAIN ! )just look at the map ?
    Perhaps Ms Shireen was not even born when Pakistan came into being ? we had no infra structure of any kind; even no money to pay the salaries !! Pakistan even lacked basic infra structure; no central bank; no universities, no factories. no trained engineers or economists etc etc….yet we not only survived but today we are a better nuclear power than India ( surprised ?) despite every possible sanction against us we did it !!!!!
    Instead of feeling proud of ourselves we are always cussing ourselves even more than the Indians……I have yet to meet a Pakistani, however well off and highly educated, from Dacca to California who within minutes does not start cusing and abusing Pakistan ! It is sad and tragic…………….
    We are a new born country; 60 years is no time in a Nation’s life time; it took nearly a century for US of A to become United States of America; even before we could walk we were abducted by grown ups of this “civilised ” world…have you not seen the abducted begging boys/girls who are maimed and disfigured by their abductors ? We are those boys and girls
    What are we today ? MONKEYS?? we have no language. we have no culture. we have no identity; we simply APE and feel proud. Our young ones neither can spaek decent English nor can express themselves in urdu…..Have you not noticed GEO’ Urdu tallop which has half a dozen spelling mistakes..and JANG is World’s LARGEST circulating Urdu Daily? ……does any one care ?
    Are we really a NATION? Do we have a culture; we ape and admire everything Indian/European….we the Muslims who were building Taj Mahals while Europeans were living in hovels and before the Muslims came to India, the indians did not wear sewn clothes!!!!!!!!!!!
    I may be over stating but why are we not proud of ourselves; why cant we stand up and say “I am a Pakistani”…………
    Yes, Ms Sherin, we have made mistakes. we have committed blunders, yes we will trip and fall BUT this is all part of growing up; loving and caring parents do not give up or abondon…………so please understand
    Two actions are easiest in life : Criticism ( without giving solution ) and Escape ( you clean it, I have to rush for board meeting !! )

    • S U Turkman  On March 14, 2011 at 3:21 am

      We are not a new country or Infants because more than a few countries born after Pakistan have advanced a lot more with a lot less begging of Charity of Aid and Loans.
      We commit Sins and blame it on Satan and Pak Establishment loots Pakistanis and blames USA and tells us to hate USA. Its simple as that.

  • Salman Abbasy  On March 13, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    In an oblique reference to the real dependency, Dr. Mazari has politely termed it a ‘psychological’ one. It is, in fact, a financial one of the kickback variety, and with a much greater ‘kick’ than the oil industry as borne out by old schoolmate Amer Lodhi of Rawalpindi.

    • Zain.I.Syed  On March 14, 2011 at 1:46 pm

      Pakistan has been receiving kick backs in every transaction. Not only from the Americans but from everyone else as well.

      Following is a list that I am personally aware of:

      -Former Naval chief Admiral Abdul Aziz Mirza confimed that over $49 million kickbacks in the Agosta-submarine deal were received by President Asif Ali Zardari and others, including Naval officers, disclosing that the then Benazir government had forced the Pakistan Navy to go for the French subs.

      -Air Chief Marshal Abbas Khattak (retired) had received Rs180 million as kickbacks in the purchase of 40 old Mirage fighters (poor Khattak, he got sold out for a paltry $4 million)

      – Air Chief Marshal, Farooq Feroz Khan received a five per cent commission on the purchase of 40 F-7 planes worth $271 million (very smart dude).

      – In 1996, the Army bought 1,047 GS-90s jeeps, at a cost of $20,889 per unit. The market value of a jeep then was only $13,000. Some senior Army officers made Rs. 510 million in the deal.

      – The Army awarded a contract for the purchase of 1,000 Hino trucks at $40,000 per unit while the local Gandhara Industries had offered trucks of the same specification for $25,000 a piece. In the purchase of 3,000 Land Rover jeeps in 1995, Army officials received around Rs. 2 billion as kickbacks. (I can name each one of them and the amount received by each)

      – Ex Army chief General Jahangir Karamat took kickbacks of more than US$ 20 Million from Ukrainian tank company for purchase of 300 Ukrainian tanks for Pakistan Army through a middleman named as Colonel Mahmood , a brother tank corps officer of Karamat . (this costed Karamat his job)

      What self respect and what self esteem? Crooks need to be kicked around and that is exactly what the Americans are doing!
      21 hours ago · Like

      • Ali Chaudhry  On March 14, 2011 at 1:46 pm

        dn y u not go to d court

  • Inam Khan  On March 13, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    With due respect to Ms.Shreen Mazari,we have no national policy on defence,foreign affairs and viable fiscal.The man who has amassed all the authority is only interested in self perseverance and accumulating wealth.Country under him is fast approaching disaster of unimaginable proportions………..Inam Khan

    • S U Turkman  On March 14, 2011 at 3:37 am

      What kind of National Policy are you expecting from Wolves running Pakistan?
      National Policy of Army is …
      * … to keep eating up half to 3/4th of our Budget every year in the name of Defense and existence of Pakistan.
      * … to spread hate against India so its always considered ‘needed’ to protect us from India though it had failed 56% of Pakistanis to remain in Pakistan.
      * … to keep telling us, what would you do if there was no country left and India took Pakistan over, when India refused to take East Pakistan over, freed it and 56% of Pakistanis have a country called Bangladesh to live anyway.
      * … to not to let Pakistan advance so, it can keep ruling us directly or indirectly by plotting Staged Democracies, who have no right to have good relations with India to end huge Pak Army Budget.
      * … to sabotage negotiations with India by any Elected Government that tries to have good relations with India by its Infiltration or Terrorist Activities like Kargil, Indian Parliament Attack and Mumbai Attacks.
      * … to replace any Elected Government that tries to have good relations with India and this is what is going on in its campaign against Zardari since Obama had refused Gen. Keyani to overthrow him a couple of years ago.
      * … to keep instigating India because it thinks, USA would save it from an Indian Attack just like she has last 4 times.
      Pakistan can not have any progress besides some progress caused by US granted Export Concessions, Charity of Aid and Loans unless it does not become free of greedy Power Hungry Army’s clutches that is ruling Pakistan and is the Super Power of Pakistan.
      Its like a country controlled by a Mafia Syndicate of Criminals. How can it advance?

  • siddiqui my  On March 14, 2011 at 4:48 am

    Turkman is more than cynical and seem to have a bug about the Army…perhaps he was refused admission in Kakul ??
    Did Pakistan ever first massed troops against Indian border ? India did it right from the early days of Nehru govt………..and threatened military/naval action after Mumbai episode………..
    As a Pakistani i do plead guilty……Turkman should get his facts correct……and objectively asses Pakistan’s early history; oher countries eg China, Korea or malayasia had a totally different circumstantial History
    But if one has one track thinking then nothing will make one to be objective and fair minded
    Faith and Resolve is neededto change; mere criticsm and abuse will never change anything; Eloquence is no substitute for dedicated effort
    Best wishes

  • Salim Ullah  On March 14, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    Mr.Khalid Bukhari: The constitution was framed in 1973, where as the conspiracy of bifurcation took place after 1970 election. I personally attended most of Mr. Mujeeb’s press conferences almost every evening. You need to correct your version of history. Moreover, in the mean time go through the white papers published by Govt. of Pakistan it will revel as to how Bhutto and his father multiplied their asserts by false claims back in 60’s. Your favorite leader and his father could not even decide whether to come to Pakistan or stay back in India till mid 50’s. Bhutto was an evil genuine and wanted to remain in power by all means.

    • Zain.I.Syed  On March 14, 2011 at 2:16 pm

      Salimullah, While it is true that the Bhutto family multiplied their assets through false claims but so did every other family in Pakistan. Bhutto was an evil genius and wanted to remain in power by all means. This is also true for every leader in Pakistan’s checkered history! Who did not want to remain in power by any means – Mush, Zia, Ayub? Who arrested Mujeeb and kept him in jail for nine months after he won the elections and was all set to become the PM of Pakistan? Let us all talk about the future of Pakistan. How do we get our self esteem back?”

  • Summaya  On March 14, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    I agree with Dr Mazari however economic independence is the answer. I do not see that happening in near future!
    Ironically, it was “Dictator” Musharraf who got us off the IMF thingee!

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