Pakistan’s main problem is not that it has many Muslim extremists or a weak economy. Rather, it is Pakistan’s dependence on the West and especially the U.S. that prevents it from fulfilling its potential.
As a developing country Pakistan’s main concern should be to modernize. The cause for Pakistan’s lack of progress is the backwards state of the country as a whole: the government, society, customs, education, the economy and so on. A weak economy, having many extremists are not more than symptoms of this larger problem.
Pakistan’s government has historically made the mistake to confuse symptoms for causes. The West was richer, so it should be befriended and, to a degree, imitated. The West was stronger, so Pakistan’s military had to be reformed and equipped with modern weapons. The West had more money, so Pakistan should borrow some and use it to improve its own economy.
The problem with all these grand approaches was and is that they did not deal with the root of the problem.
Unlike what Pakistani (and those of developing countries in general) leaders seem to think the West did not become rich and powerful overnight. Becoming ‘modern’ took centuries, not years. Imitating the West, then, would mean one has to take centuries to modernize. Only such an approach could create the same amount of stability.
Since politicians don’t have centuries they cramp those centuries into years, and somehow expect society as a whole to be able to deal with all the changes. This isn’t more than pure idiocy. What was achieved in centuries, cannot be achieved in years.
At least, not if one tries to copy these systems that took centuries to develop.
Rather, Pakistan’s leaders should look at other countries that were once in a similar position. The best example of such a country is Turkey. In 1920 this country was nearly destroyed, highly dependent on foreign ‘aid’ (which came against a heavy price) and searching for way to close the gap with the West. The men who in the end succeeded in modernizing Turkey and the Turkish people, Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk), understood that he had to come up with a brand new parable of modernization, for those of ‘developed’ countries were not applicable on the Turkish people and situation.
Turkey, Ataturk rightfully believed, had to find its own way. Instead of running to the West for ‘aid,’ Turkey had to rely on itself and only on itself. It had to be able to design its own policies and act in its own interests; being dependent on the West means the West will influence what you do. After all, the main concern of any country is to protect its own interests. And so, Ataturk drew more power to himself, he became an authoritarian ruler who quashed any possible opponents. He nationalized much of Turkey’s economy and created whole industries, run by the government. Regardless of what the West thought of such ‘ socialist’ policies, he pursued them relentlessly. In international conflicts, Turkey remained neutral: its goal was to protect its own interests regardless of what others thought. It had this freedom because it was not dependent on the West in any way whatsoever.
And this is precisely what Pakistan needs to do as well. It should stop giving in to demands from anyone, and it should stop accepting foreign ‘aide’ immediately. Its leaders will have to create a parable of modernization handmade for Pakistan. This plan should take Pakistan’s current state into consideration, its culture (which differs tremendously from Western culture), its history and its geography.
This will mean that Pakistan will become less, rather than more democratic in the coming years. Undoubtedly, the U.S. will react angrily to such a development. Pakistan should respond by telling the U.S. that its approval is not necessary or required, even irrelevant, and carry on the reforms. Industries will have to be nationalized, and the West will once again respond furiously; again Pakistan should carry on, regardless of what others may think. Islamabad will have to find a way to limit the influence and power of extremists. This may mean that they have to be destroyed, bribed, reeducated, or even entire populations moved away from their homelands and spread in the rest of the country: whatever works best. Again, if such actions irritate the West, so be it.
Each and every developing country in the world faces Pakistan’s problems to one degree or another. All of them will have to learn that the issue is modernization and nothing else. They will also all have to find ways to create their own parable of modernization one that differs significantly from that of the West.
Pakistan has the potential to become one of the region’s leaders. It can become strong, rich and powerful. In order to do so, however, it will need to break bonds with the West, and truly act in its own interest. If it does Pakistan’s future will be bright indeed.
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