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In his latest write up for BBC, Pentagon adviser Ahmed Rashid proposes putting Pakistan under an international trusteeship. Too bad he forgot that Pakistan is not under US or NATO occupation. Ahmed Rashid leads the pack of pro-US and pro-UK activists in Pakistan, whose work is tailored to please a foreign audience. But he is not alone. There is Dr. Hafeez Shaikh and Dr. Nadeem ul Haq, Pakistan’s key economic managers. The United States does not need to invade and occupy Pakistan and execute a regime-change like it did in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Pakistan, Washington is using apologists in politics, media and intelligentsia who are willing accomplices without Washington having to fire a single bullet.
By Shireen M. Mazari | Published: September 15, 2010
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—The more one observes the Pakistan-US relationship, the more one realizes that to understand fully its multiple dimensions, one really needs to look at it through a Gramscian [Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci] framework of hegemony where the hegemon has so entrenched its value system in the ruling elite of the subservient nation that it does not need to exercise the use of force or brute power. In other words, it has established its hegemony, which Gramsci distinguishes from power through use of force – to explain the depth of Gramscian thought in a simplistic but comprehensible fashion. That is, the ruling elite imbibe the value system of the hegemon – in this case the US – as its own and relate to it, rather than to its own indigenous influences and realities. Aiding and abetting this external value system’s adoption are of course the “organic intellectuals” in the Gramscian sense, who are linked to the ruling class and have to be won over by the hegemon since it is this group in a society that create an awareness not only of a class’s functions in the economic sense, but also in the social and political fields. But an even more important group of “intellectuals” are the “traditional intellectuals” who claim to be autonomous and independent of any class in society, including the ruling class but are not always so. If one now examines the extensive definition of intellectuals by Gramsci, it includes not just those who think in society – which he says everyone does – but who have “the function of intellectuals” and included in this are business managers, media persons, researchers, engineers, politicians and so on.
In Pakistan today, one can see a range of these groups of intellectuals – both organic and traditional – who are increasingly being co-opted by the external hegemon, the US, as it pours money into the media and other sections of civil society.
Leading the field in the co-opted intellectuals one can identify the likes of Ahmed Rashid who now specifically writes what the West wants to hear and his latest piece for the BBC as a guest columnist practically suggests handing over Pakistan and its governance to foreign technocrats controlled by the US. It is no wonder the US government is using him as an adviser for this region – but unfortunately he is totally out of synch with the ground realities of Pakistan and its people; or he would have realized how such ideas will not gel in Pakistan just as the US-loyal intellectuals are finding few takers within the nation as a whole.
However, the problem for us is that the US is willing to accept the bizarre advice of people like Rashid and act on it – thereby causing more damage to Pakistan. After all, we already have some of these people in key economic decision-making roles from Dr Hafeez Shaikh to Dr. Nadeem ul Haq in the Planning Commission – all with strong links to the US and IMF. But that is not enough for Rashid who suggests in the column on the BBC website that foreign technocrats should take over our economic and, clearly linked to that, political decision-making. Now how “foreign” these technocrats should be is not specified given how Shaikh and Haq by any definition are foreign enough in terms of linkages and time spent abroad as well as assets abroad – and we are not too sure about dual nationalities!
Anyhow, Rashid has suggested that a Pakistan Reconstruction Trust Fund be set up like the one operating in Afghanistan, especially to fund the government, army and police! Such a fund would not just monitor the “cash” but also “help” (in other words dictate) a supposedly “non-political neutral” reconstruction effort. Oh the phrase “non-political and neutral” which used to denote a pretext for military non-democratic rule at one time! Now we are seeing it to justify Neoimperialism. While the floods are the pretext for justifying such a move, the real agenda is clearly that of the IMF and World Bank because according to Rashid, such a body would also plan long-term economic reforms including future taxes
Too bad Rashid has forgotten that Pakistan is not under US or NATO occupation, although judging from his earlier advice he may be wishing it were! To make this suggestion more acceptable he has advocated that “neutral” Pakistani technocrats should be included and of course where else can these be found but in the “NGO workers” for one! The fact is that in any social science field where there are value judgments, nothing is “neutral”. Clearly just as the British colonialists co-opted Indians into their running of British India, Rashid has the same idea for the neoimperialist masters of his – the US! The British colonists also felt they were more efficient than the Indian rulers – and perhaps they were considering that India’s Muslim rulers, the precursors to Pakistan, were in a decline after centuries in government – but the cost of this efficiency was colonization.
This is not to deny the sorry state of governance and the rampant corruption in the Pakistani state today but we have the capacity and capability to bring about change through our own resources and hopefully through democratic means. Incidentally, Rashid also continues to beat the bogey of the threat of “Islamic extremism” which has certainly served him well! Rashid tries to draw a parallel between the 1971 cyclone in what was then East Pakistan; but the fact is that the crisis there had begun way before the cyclone and secessionist forces and the ruling elite’s political obduracy were already on a collision course which was aggravated by the cyclone. This is not to say that things are not disastrous today as we look around a flood ravaged national landscape and an inept and corrupt government. But there are signs of hope also from the money pouring in from Pakistanis and private external donors to non-government sources as well as the exemplary relief work being done by the three Services (regardless of their other shortcomings). Pakistanis will reconstruct again – of this Rashid should have no doubts. Also, many Pakistanis are also seeing the floods as a wake-up call to restructure and reform their government and state institutions, but again not through the option of external rule and colonization. So there is a new political awakening; but the challenge is to bring change while strengthening democracy not accepting colonization.
Not that the US needs to colonize us overtly since it is already more than halfway there with a growing injection of money into the media and with its private and official covert operatives all over the country and in some of our sensitive air bases and other military outfits. In fact, the extent of the US presence in Pakistan is unknown but can be felt and seen to be extensive. What Ahmed Rashid is seeking is to find a legitimate way to make it all overt and therefore more legitimate. After all, as an organic intellectual of the hegemon he has to play his due role. But when will Pakistanis wake up and see this insidious agenda against the country?
This column was originally published in The Nation under the title, Apologists for US Imperialis. Reach Dr. Mazari at
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