Hamza Alavi's Wisdom in 2011

An ardent critic of this unholy alliance, Hamza Alavi always thought we have been serving a super power that used us throughout the history of our existence for the last half-a-century for its own vested interests. The partnership has been unbalanced and one way, serving only the big boss that has been bullying and exploiting the weaker partner in its relationship.

How would a scholar, who always viewed the US-Pakistan relations suspiciously within the historical context of what we gained and lost as a nation in this game, see this strategic partnership now in 20011?

An ardent critic of this unholy alliance, Hamza Alavi always thought we have been serving a super power that used us throughout the history of our existence for the last half-a-century for its own vested interests. The partnership has been unbalanced and one way, serving only the big boss that has been bullying and exploiting the weaker partner in its relationship.

Coming from a Bohra business family of Karachi, Hamza Alavi (1921-2003) did his masters in economics from Aligarh University and joined the Bank of India in 1945. The young economist who helped establish the banking system of Pakistan in its early days, decided to leave the country for Tanzania as he could not break the unending cycle of bureaucracy and incompetency. Later he did his Ph.D. at the London School of Economics and became a known scholar, activist and sociologist with a socialist perspective.

Hamza Alavi was busy in establishing the State Bank of Pakistan when the country started its journey as a nonaligned nation being a member of the thriving Nonaligned Movement of the 50s and 60s. As Pakistan was trying to establish its own space as a new country, the first Pakistani Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, was very much in favor of keeping this nonaligned status and reportedly he refused to bow down to the U.S. pressure to follow their line.

While this was going on, he was mysteriously shot dead in a public rally and according to a report published in an Indian newspaper he was removed from the scene by the same forces that tried to pressure him to bend in their favor with the help of CIA.

After his removal, it was all under control! The military rulers that followed served the purpose of external lords efficiently and strengthened their grip on power through the American military aid and economic support. In the process, however, democracy suffered the most but who cares for democracy when generals can serve you better?

Hamza Alavi, in his article “The Origins and Significance of the Pakistan-US Military Alliance” narrated the historical view of how the partnership took different forms in different periods. In the 1950s Pakistan became a garrison state as part of the “US Client Garrison Strategy” to establish a military force ready to be used in the Middle East when needed to protect its security interests in this oil-rich region.

Later under the US Military Assistance Program (MAP) a separate contingent of Pakistan armed forces was established equipped with American armaments and training. Both strategies did not work, however, and they were abandoned. For Hamza Alavi “This was a curious policy for any free nation to undertake. It can be explained only by the ambitions of powerful Generals that were served by an inflated military.”

In the 1980s America found a base for its forces in the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean to develop the Rapid Deployment Force (RDF). But the island was too far from the Gulf, Iran and the Middle East. Pakistan, on the other hand, lies on a highly strategic position very close to Iran and the Gulf States. A US military base in Makran near Gwadar would efficiently serve the purpose. Although, an open secret, the base became more important in the aftermath of the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Nine eleven changed the world political scene altogether and Pakistan, after fighting a proxy war for the US against the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan, once again found itself victim of its own geopolitical realities. The famous Mujahedeen, developed with the weapons and financial support of the CIA and ISI, now became enemies as a monstrous organization, the Taliban.

America hurried itself to invade Afghanistan after 9/11 but 10 years and millions of dollars later it is trying now to avoid the same fate that the Soviets had faced earlier.

As Afghanistan is no more on the US agenda now, the process of withdrawing its forces has been started. Although after breaking up the strength of Al-Qaeda and killing the main architect of the 9/11 attack Osama Bin Laden, there is little justification for US forces in Afghanistan, but the game is not over yet.

The American dream of building a strong military presence on the shores of the Arabian Sea, close to Iran, the Gulf States and the Middle East is not over. They will remain as a strong force in Afghanistan and Pakistan while leaving the political and defense administration to the Afghan government. The plan seems to be to send a major portion of their forces back home and keep strong bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

As it looks there is an additional priority item on the US agenda-disarming Pakistan from its nuclear armaments. The huge presence of security contractors and their mysterious activities, which slowed down a little after the Raymond Davis incident, might have some clandestine motives.

America has always been a focal point in Pakistan’s foreign policy. It has been a vital force in determining internal political dynamics and external affairs of Pakistan. But never in our history America has been more aggressively dominant in our internal and external affairs than it is now, militarily, politically and economically.

The US-Pakistan relations are at a critical juncture in 2011. After the sneaky US action in Abbottabad killing Osama, mutual relations are between a rock and a hard place. While General Kiyani talks about the lack of trust and limiting access to the US security and military personnel, the civilian government, one the other hand, seems more optimist on normalizing these relations in the near future.

This, however, appears to be an excellent opportunity for Pakistan to take a serious look at bilateral relations and chalk out a more pragmatic and multifaceted foreign policy to include other regions and countries into the fold rather than depending on one super power.

Exploring strong relations with Russia and China on one hand, and strengthening ties with the Middle East, neighboring Muslim nations and South Asia on the other hand, might be one of the many options we should consider seriously.

Hamza Alavi’s words, “Pakistan, for its part, needs to consider how its own interests are served by that involvement, for they do not necessarily coincide with those of the US” still grasp his political far sightedness and intellectual wisdom in 2011.

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