Nations under abnormal spell
16 January, 2007
By Muhammad Ahsan Yatu
Should a politician be highly educated? Educated yes, but highly educated necessarily only for the countries that have an abnormal environment. However, being a part of political process is also a kind of learning and it should be taken as one of the most important political qualifications. Why our graduate assembly did not prove any different from our previous assemblies is because of the fact that most of its members are not linked to any political process. They are creation of circumstances and speaking frankly choice of the fixed organs of the state and not the people. Despite, what is happening in Pakistan, the importance of knowledge in any sphere of human activity is an established phenomenon. However, for a politician, the level and type of formal education would vary from country to country and it would depend also on the role he is to be prepared for by his political attachments or other connections.
In Europe where nations and the institutions have attained maturity, for the top leadership initiative rather than higher education would be a better qualification. In China cadre of communist party is educated, and the party runs its own institutions to that effect. In India where institutions have been developed on the European model and have also attained reasonable stability, initiative would remain the most relevant qualification
The US, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran are under an abnormal spell since many decades. The challenge before the US is how to keep its economy, presently $ 12 trillion, moving. Saudi Arabia is struggling hard to preserve its tribal systems. Iraq and Afghanistan are looking for a new direction while battling with the old one. Poor and illiterate Pakistan and Iran are on a mission to make themselves and Ummah strong through high tech weaponry borrowed and bought from the ‘enemies’ of Ummah.
The social scientists of the US think that only an agitated environment outside and frustrated populace inside, can help maintain the US’s economic momentum. Thus keeping class based differences intact inside, and creating destabilisation outside are their opted for strategies. They will not shed their fixed perceptions. It is the religion of the US establishment. The world cannot change the US, the US presidents can. The US and the world would become smooth, if the US president is a social scientist, a think tank by himself. Given the commitment of the common Americans with their elected leaders, if the US president chooses to act rationally and nicely, he can confront the proponents of the fixed perceptions, if not wholly, to a reasonable extent certainly.
President Bush has been a student of history. His highest academic achievement is an MBA degree. It is sufficient to run oil business but not a country like US. Had he been a social scientist, he would have done almost the same that he did in Afghanistan and Iraq but with a difference. Social science would have taught him how to win or leave the East. The fact that ultimate success in Iraq would depend on how Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia would react to post war situation was ignored. If it was a planned affair that Iraq should remain difficult as usual, then ignoring Iraq’s neighbours had logic. Bush Senior could have easily removed Saddam in first Gulf war. He didn’t. And that only meant that the turbulence in the region was in the US interests.
After the second Gulf war if there was a real policy change and the US needed a stable and democratic Iraq, it could have been achieved only through the cooperation of the neighbouring countries. Had Bush been a social scientist he would have known that none of Iraq’s neighbours would have liked Iraq to become democratic. Can theocrats, monarchs and autocrats tolerate democrats as their neighbours so easily? So, the best way was another UN resolution on Iraq, immediately after the war. The UN take over of Iraq might have worked. And even if it would have failed, the US would have escaped the blame.
Had Bush been a social scientist he would have opted for the UN forces also in Afghanistan immediately after the removal of Taliban regime. Here, too, the situation was no different from that of Iraq. Emergence of a democratic Afghanistan does not appeal its eastern and southern neighbours. Could a theocratic Iran and a military led Pakistan change their age old perceptions because of 9/11? The US too was soft and it looks as if it wanted to give only a temporary jolt to Afghanistan, only to return to its pre-9/11 perceptions later. That is why regrouping of the Taliban that had started a few moths after the war in and around Afghanistan was ignored. There are reasons to believe that the president of USA and the US establishment are two different entities in many ways. Only a president with a real background of social sciences could confront the real US authorities to do something different in post-war Afghanistan and Iraq.
Pakistan where state is in the making and the state power is a one man show, the ruler should be a social scientist as well as a basic scientist. Pakistan is not the USA in any sense of the world. Here emotions and vested interests, not the rationality and national interest, shape the psyche of the ruling elite. Pakistan has its own dreams. It is not possible to ascertain whether the dreams are achievable or not unless the leader is aware of the scientific potential of nation. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was a social scientist but he was emotional and had an extremely narrow world vision. It was because he was not aware of a 700 hundred year long knowledge gap that existed between the West and the Ummah. His ideology of Islamic banking and unity of Ummah were fantasies. Had he been aware of the poverty of science in Pakistan, he would not have launched nuclear weapon programme. However, he was sure about its colossal cost. That was why he said that we would make the Islamic bomb even if we had to eat grass. Had Bhutto been a natural scientist, Pakistan would have spent $ 12 billion on education and not on nuclear programme.
His daughter Benazir Bhutto was equally ignorant about the scientific side of weapon making business. She was also unaware of its financial impact. She approved missile programme out of sheer ignorance. General Pervez Musharraf is not man of science. He is not a man of social science either. He too boasts, too often, of Pakistan’s nuclear and missile capabilities. He is not ignorant of nation’s poverty. He knew about it right from the start, the day he imposed his set-up on Pakistan. Yet, ignoring the social needs of nation, he too emulated the Bhuttos and is adamant on continuing with the weapon making business.
Before Bhuttos, General Ayub Khan had entered the arms race with the US support. The other rulers too did not remain far behind. They allocated funds to army as no nation has done in modern history, save in periods of wars. Allocations referred here are in proportion to GDP and in comparison to social sector receipts. That all the rulers added to poverty, illiteracy and ignorance of people is a crime against the nation. Acquisition of weapons of mass destruction through borrowed skills and technology is a farce and it factually added nothing to our defence capabilities. What actually happened is that the American and the Chinese businessmen have been befooling us through our so called scientists. We started our nuclear programme in 1975 and according to Musharraf till 1999 we had nothing but enriched uranium. The same is true about our missile making business, which is in fact money making business. Time ahead or another ruler with book would reveal that we have nothing but stupidities in our weapon account. Only a leadership well educated in social and basic sciences can undo wrongs of our present and past rulers. Let us hope it emerges before the Day of Judgment does.
In Iran and Saudi Arabia religious education or even no education would have worked in the past. Presently the rulers of these two countries must equip themselves with the knowledge of modern statecraft. The worrying news is that Iran too is acting like Pakistan. In spite of its huge oil reserves, Iran is a poor country. It has no technological base either. Only God knows why do not the rulers of poor countries act wisely? What is happening is that a gift endowed by nature, the fossil fuel, is being wasted. Even if the poor countries would acquire weapons of mass destruction, what would they gain from it? Can Iran compete with Israel? Is nuclear bomb to be used against the Arabs; if not, then why indulge in a futile exercise? Ahmedinejad is a highly educated civil engineer. To distinguish between fantasies and reality he needs some lessons in social sciences as well.
Saudi Arabia has been acting wisely and did not involve itself in weapons making business. It is not interested in nuclear absurdities either. Its dilemma is that it is confused. It cannot become democratic, because that would mean end of monarchy. It is soft on liberalism in the U.A.E, but cannot tolerate it elsewhere. It is practicing capitalism, but it cannot endorse it openly. Recent edicts of Saudi clerics against capitalism, socialism and liberalism reflect the gravity of anxiety that has gripped the house of Saudis. Only wisdom of social and natural sciences can show them a way out. They must turn to it, if they have not already planned to return to the age of tents.