Pakistan is currently faced with multifarious problems: the political problem of evolving a political system which corresponds to the genius of its people and their democratic aspirations, the problem of economic development and raising the standard of living of its people, the problem of good governance to provide essential services like basic nutrition, health, education, shelter, justice, and rule of law and to build up the physical infrastructure of the country, and the problem of ensuring internal and external security. A cursory glance at our history shows that the successive governments in Pakistan have failed to overcome these problems. There are several factors which are responsible for this sad state of affairs. They include lack of maturity and integrity of our politicians, the adventurism and corruption of our army generals whose lack of comprehension of national issues is matched by their disregard of the constitution and rule of law, and an inefficient bureaucracy made growingly ineffective by politicisation and repeated instances of military rule. However, if there is one underlying factor which is responsible for most of our national ills, it is the problem of strategic exhaustion. It was Pakistans misfortune that soon after independence its political elite failed to provide the leadership that the country needed. The vacuum thus created due to the sheer incapacity of the political leadership to deliver was filled up initially by the civilian bureaucracy but ultimately by the senior generals of the Pakistan Army starting with Ayub Khan. The precedent set by him was followed by other military usurpers including Yahya Khan, Ziaul Haq and Pervez Musharraf. In the process, Pakistan remained under the military rule for 33 years out of the 62 years of its existence. Even when the army generals were not directly ruling the country, they were busy pulling the strings from behind the scenes. The net result was that the political evolution of the country on democratic lines was stunted and the army gradually entrenched itself in the corridors of power so as to dominate and control the governmental decision making processes. The military claimed the lions share of the budget. Not only that, the military budget also became off limit for the Parliament. The army generals virtually dictated the countrys security and foreign policies. The army also came to dominate the economic scene by establishing a vast business empire covering the industrial, banking, real estate, and transportation sectors with obvious adverse implications for professionalism in the army. The worst part of the story was that the army through its pervasive influence pursued a security policy which over-emphasised its military dimension at the expense of its economic and political aspects. Consequently, the successive governments in Pakistan have generally assigned lower priority to the task of economic development and improving the lot of the common man as against the military in terms of the allocation of national resources, and relegated the political and diplomatic aspects to the background in the formulation and execution of the countrys security policy. The Kashmir and Afghanistan policies pursued by the military in the 1990s are prime examples of the almost exclusive reliance on military means for achieving our security and foreign policy goals to the neglect of the political and diplomatic dimensions of policy. These policies and Kargil type adventures merely resulted in raising tensions in our relations with our neighbours and thus reinforced the case for allocating additional resources to the military. The Kashmir and Afghanistan policies of the 1990s were also directly responsible for the monster of terrorism which now threatens to tear apart the very fabric of our society. These developments over the past five decades have led to the building up of a top heavy military superstructure over weak economic foundations making the country excessively dependent on the largesse of foreign countries, especially the US (the Kerry-Lugar Bill is the latest reflection of this dependence), for its survival, reducing the manoeuvrability of our foreign policy, thus, impinging on our national sovereignty, slowing down our economic growth rates, impoverishing the people at large, and resulting in the neglect of the human resource development and the physical infrastructure. These are all the signs of strategic exhaustion which raise the frightful prospect of turning our country into a failed state. There is little doubt that the current situation in Pakistan is unsustainable and calls for urgent corrective measures. The Soviet Union collapsed not because of the lack of sophisticated weaponry but because there was the inevitability of the collapse of a heavy military structure built on weak economic foundations. The Chinese, on the other hand, have followed a more sensible approach since 1979 by declaring economic development as the supreme national goal. In pursuance of their development centred policy, they embarked upon an ambitious programme of economic reforms to unleash the energy of the Chinese people for economic growth. It was necessary for the success of this strategy to limit the military expenditure and allocate increased resources to economic development. This objective was achieved by defusing tensions in Chinas relations with its neighbours like the Soviet Union and India through the commencement of negotiations for the resolution of border disputes. As a result of this grand strategy, China has achieved phenomenally high growth rates which within a span of four decades have made China an economic power to reckon with. It is only now when China has achieved economic progress and strengthened its economic foundations that it has embarked upon a programme of the rapid build up of its military power. Pakistans policy makers and security planners show no sign of learning from Pakistans past experience or from the history of other nations. No nation in the modern era has prospered by building up military power before strengthening itself economically. This is the lesson one learns from the experiences of such diverse nations as the United States, Japan and China. Pakistan made the serious mistake of putting the cart before the horse and assigned higher priority to the military build up than to economic development in the past six decades of its existence. The results of this misguided policy are all too familiar in the form of low economic growth rates, grinding poverty, dilapidated physical infrastructure, a predominantly illiterate or semi-literate population and other indicators of low level of human resource development. Unfortunately, our leaders, belonging both to the military and the civilian sides, seem to believe in more of the same thus continuing the nations downward slide through strategic overstretch and exhaustion. The need of the hour is to bring about a reversal of our past policies by assigning economic development the highest priority in the allocation of resources, limiting our military expenditure, defusing tensions in our relations with our neighbours which would have important implications for our Kashmir and Afghanistan policies, and strengthening internal political stability through the eradication of terrorism and consensus based politics. The writer is a retired ambassador. Email: