Pakistan is unfortunate amongst a few select countries to have never had a cohesive, integrated and permanent national policy. It is a sad but a true reflection of a state that has spent half its existence under military dictatorships or tailored democracies. Whatever time that can be credited to civilian establishments either had a stamp of bureaucratic intrigues or infightings within the parliamentary system, resulting in scant national policymaking.

The first decade was lost to political conspiracies hatched by a group of bureaucrats and politicians, who had the advantage but not the conscience of serving with Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. These rulers rather than adhere to the vision of their leader amply enunciated in his speeches, minutes, August 11th speech to the first Constituent Assembly and the complexion and diversity of his first announced cabinet, chose to embark through a muddied perspective on an elusive and unending journey of inventive nationalism that set a precedence of disfigurement through repeated surgical procedures at the hands of butchers and opportunists. Pakistan, therefore, never belonged to Pakistanis!

Ayub’s rule from 1959 to 1969 was a relatively stable period for economic growth. Yet, the questions relating to the federation since 1947 were ignored and complicated. Rather than forge a ‘welfare state’, the paradigm was set for Pakistan to become a ‘security state’ patrolled by the military and intelligence agencies under the sharp eye of USA. Hence, the national policy revolved and evolved around a security paradigm with India as the enemy along with a strategy of military alliances with USA, which put Pakistan firmly aligned to the anti-Communist camp. It was this paradigm and doctrine that ultimately saw the secession of East Pakistan and a military surrender to India. The reaction gave rise to Bhutto’s populism.

The Constitution of 1973 is the first federal and democratic document that Pakistan under the leadership of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto managed to evolve. Bhutto’s economic policies were meant to make Pakistan self-reliant and, therefore, independent of the influence of its old allies like USA towards an independent foreign policy. Bhutto made Pakistan popular amongst the Muslim countries, established lines of financial cooperation and began the nuclear programme. His mindset was central to the oil embargo of 1973. His motivation and policies were a reflection of his desire and resolve to make Pakistan a truly independent, self-reliant and progressive Muslim state. His economic policies soon backfired and he thought he needed more time. Perhaps, an explanation for rigging could be his desire to see the complete implementation of his policies and thus a paradigm shift to a truly welfare state.

However, Bhutto - the populist and nationalist - was also an autocrat in his own right. He realised that while he was breaking away from the West, he could not allow the USSR and India to extend their influence in Pakistan and use proxies to destabilise the country. Hence, he made amendments in the Constitution, dismissed the ANP/JUI dominated governments in NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and Balochistan. As events proved later, there was indeed Indian and Soviet collusion during the insurgency in Balochistan, the threads of which have once again been picked up by outside actors. He also adopted a more aggressive arm-twisting approach towards Afghanistan; the launching pad of KGB inspired instability into Pakistan. The military took advantage of the PNA-led movement against him to impose martial law.

As events proved, the military takeover in 1977 served US interests and infused permanent seeds of internal instability in the form of weaponisation of society, drugs, militant organisations, intolerance, sectarianism and religiously inspired violence. This era also saw the rise of political parties with integral militant wings. Hence, the clock was effectively turned back on an era whence Pakistan made a genuine effort to break away from US influence. The concept of a welfare state could never take shape and Pakistan willingly once again dragged itself into a security dominated paradigm with propagating seeds of internal instability.

The mock Afghan jihad lasted as long as it served US interests and was conveniently relabelled as the invisible floating threat of Islamic terrorists. The events of US intervention in Afghanistan, the indiscriminate carpet bombings with daisy cutters, cruise missiles and stealth bombers has since given way to a war by remote control, the dreaded drones. Ten years hence, Afghanistan now is the launching pad from where all operations into AfPak are launched with or without the cooperation or an invisible nod from Pakistan.

The issue in the US perspective is now not Afghanistan, but the restive border of Pakistan from where all support to the Afghan Taliban comes. The USA continues to wage a war of destruction upon people on both sides of the Durand Line not willing to understand or comprehend the Western strategic parlance. To them, it is an atrocious war of occupation that must be defeated. In the absence of parlance and common vocabulary and the defiant tone of the US presidential candidates, an end to this conflict does not seem imminent.

Nor do the present ruling classes of Pakistan have the character, potential or performance criteria to cajole the US into negotiations and peace. They, through the NRO, albeit an extension of the Musharraf regime, are part of the US strategy in the region. It is a pity that a Parliament that passed a unanimous resolution against drones and Salala, lacks the character and wherewithal to make itself effective towards a single legislation towards the national counter-terrorism policy.

Pakistan is involved in a multidimensional military conflict with the major part of its security forces deployed in conflict areas without a comprehensive national direction. As events prove, the political, administrative and judicial arms do not work in synergy with military plans and operations in counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence operations.

Post-US elections timeframe is not likely to result in any major policy review towards Pakistan. As I noted in an earlier article, till that time the Prime Minister of Pakistan is not likely to announce a new election schedule. It is most likely, that it will be announced after consultations with USA. Whenever elections are announced, the Asghar Khan case, notwithstanding, all efforts will be made to put a pro-USA coalition in power for the furtherance of grand objectives in the region.

Towards this objective, all efforts will be made to demonise Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf - the major challenger to the status quo and reflection of the populist sentiment of self-reliance. With the dice loaded heavily against him, elections will put Imran Khan’s capabilities as a national leader and administrator to the fullest test.

Will Pakistan be able to have an indigenous national policy is a question that shall come later.

The writer is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a political economist.  Email: