Putting institutionalized insight in policy planning – Guest post by Qudrat Ullah

Pakistan and India are the two estranged bed fellows destined to live in the close proximity of each other. Both the antagonists share a long and complicated history of conflicts, internecine and protracted wars which further widened the historical divide. In fact, religion based socio-political spar between Hindus and Muslims in South Asia can be termed as the primal example of Clash of Civilization theory. The history of Sub-Continent is but a witness to continuous chasm between different faiths and ethnic minorities as they continually effort to survive in an environment of insular browbeat. The great divide of 1947 did not end the historical divide but proved force multiplier with India being the hegemonic player and Pakistan the prime victim.

Pakistan, as the history proves, is the only country after Israel which has faced resistance and cross-border terrorism by a hegemonic neighbor the size of India. But unlike Israel which not only gets unequivocal support from the international Jewish community but has also established a world-class spy agency like MOSSAD and secured it security interests vis-à-vis hostile Arabs; Pakistan, on the other hand, has miserably failed to protect its vital national security interests because we failed in institutional building. The fault line in our policy planning is the Establishment which considers policy development as its exclusive domain-beyond the reach of any other institution. Furthermore, Pakistan is also suffering from heroism syndrome. We worship our temporal heroes and abate state institutions for petty gains. This has hampered strong institution building in Pakistan while neighboring India strengthened the provincial autonomy and made its institutions more vibrant and proactive to keep the multi-ethnic multi-cultural society intact. Its leaders also believe that popular democracy is the only panacea for the ordinary people. Therefore, they sell it well- both inside and outside to gain economic, military and political mileage against traditional enemies like China and Pakistan.

The 62 years history shows our never-ending disregard towards institutionalization of policy planning and rationale analyses. There is hardly any decision making process in Pakistan at any level. We did not even bother to develop an institutionalized approach for understanding the Bengali nationalism in its true perspective. And the end result was the debacle of 1971. Post 1971 scenario was also marred with growth of rivaling Sindhi and Mohajir jingoism, Baloch insurgency and frequent Bonapartism. The situation gets even worse when Establishment tries to control federation with some sporadic administrative and coercive measures, ignoring the sentiments of the people.

On the contrary, almost all the developed nations of the world have already setup their multimillion dollar research and policy planning institutions to safeguard their foreign policy and economic interests in the rapidly changing world and to provide necessary intellectual input to the political leadership for decision making. They have given an institutionalized approach to the statecraft. Even the USA is giving utmost importance to this aspect. The Policy Planning Staff at the Department of State, USA was created way back in 1947 by George Kennan at the request of then Secretary of State George C. Marshall. It serves as a source of independent policy analyses and advice for the Secretary of State. The Policy Planning Staff’s mission is to take a longer term, strategic view of global trends and frame necessary recommendations for the Secretary of State to advance US interests globally. Its mission is “to serves as an internal think tank for the Department of State-undertaking broad analytical studies of regional and functional issues, identifying gaps in policy, and initiating policy planning and formulation to fill these gaps.” Recently, the Staff has also included foreign service officers, academics from universities and think tanks, intelligence analysts, former Congressional staffers, an emergency room physician, a retired military officer, a business consultant, an arms control expert, and an economist. This section also serves as an institutionalized “second opinion” on policy matters – providing recommendations and alternative courses of action to the Secretary of State.

Modern nations do not trust their bureaucracy for decision making or policy planning. They have their institutionalized infrastructure for this purpose. A study in the early 2009 has found that a total of 5,465 think tanks are working worldwide. Of that number, 1,777 are based in the United States and approximately 350 in Washington, DC alone. This shows important role of think tanks in the policy analyses and global planning. On the contrary, Muslim world is still intellectually impoverished, struggling to cope with the issues like terrorism, poverty, women rights and dictatorship. It has no leadership to steer the Muslim nations to prosperity and development. Regrettably, the Islamic world, which was a center of learning a thousand years ago, is far behind the West in terms of technological development today. On the other hand, Israel, the 100th smallest country, with less than 1/1000th of the world’s population, can lay claim to have the highest ratio of university degrees to the population in the whole world. Israel leads the world in the number of scientists and technicians in the workforce, with 145 per 10,000, as opposed to 85 in the US, over 70 in Japan, and less than 60 in Germany. With over 25% of its work force employed in technical professions, Israel places first in this category as well. And not last but least, Israel’s $100 billion economy is larger than all of its immediate neighbors combined.

Perhaps, the trouble lies in our ineffective system and mindset of the ruling clique in Muslim countries, which have failed to deliver while the corrupt and self-servient bourgeoisie is plundering resources and playing with the destiny of the people.

In a post 9/11 scenario, Pakistan is left to counter the new axis of enemies with India playing the leading role to stage an all-out warfare against Pakistan. According to a media report, approximately 120 countries are developing ways to use the Internet as a weapon and target financial markets, government computer systems and utilities. This great game is being fought both psychological as well as militarily by our foes. Axis of enemies perceives Pakistan’s ideological and geographical position as a stumbling block against the grand chess board of political and ideological hegemony. We should, therefore, remember that a policy of strewn reaction never wins warfare; we will have to have the acuity of a mutual adversary to mold public opinion for national cohesion.

It is a good omen that our forces have effectively defeated the Taliban terrorists but the bigger war is yet to be fought and that is the struggle of survival in an age of economic and military rivalries. In this complex situation, Pakistan is needed to develop think tank institutions to study primal enemy like India and its weaknesses should be learnt for their prompt exploit in our favour. India is already reaping the fruits of as many as 14 Pakistan study centres’ discreet research which keep on probing our domestic weaknesses and their work helps the Indian Establishment in proper policy framework vis-à-vis Pakistan. It is therefore, expedient for Pakistani Establishment to institutionalize the policy planning and a Pakistan Institute of India Studies (PIIS) should be set up, in the initial phase, for institutionalized planning involving all stakeholders. However, its fate should not be like that of federally funded Centre for South Asian Studies (CSAS) at Punjab University, Lahore which is not only working sans a regular/permanent Director for quite some time but has only one Ph.D. researcher- and that too from the University hierarchy. Other Ph.D. researcher-Dr. Jehangir Tamimi has since been retired is given two years extension on reaching the age of superannuation, for academic work- if there is any.

Unfortunately, we have a habit to react in haste against local and global happenings that have some relation to Pakistan and Pakistani public is deliberately kept divided among themselves by their opinion leaders. It is a win-win situation for everyone to twist our arms as a state and ask us to do what is not in our interest. Only institutionalized approach will counter it.

Will we ever learn to fight back with vengeance?


Lahore Cantt., Pakistan



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