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In a world of their own

Pakistan refuses to acknowledge that most of its problems are self-created.

india Updated: Oct 29, 2009 21:12 IST

One almost feels sorry for the US as it attempts to gain traction with Pakistan. A common claim: we helped the US drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan and were then abandoned. This is disingenuous. Pakistan knew that the US was legally bound to sever ties if it persisted with its covert nuclear programme. It persevered and forced the US to walk away. The John Kerry-Richard Lugar bill provides generous and, compared to past aid packages, remarkably condition-free military and civilian assistance to Islamabad. Yet it was treated as a means to convert Pakistan into the indentured servant of the US.

A deepening trend in Pakistan is a national sense of delusion about the nature and origins of the problems that afflict the country. Unfortunately, the country’s leaders have come to believe in these delusions or propagate them for short-term political gain. Just as is the case with individuals, conspiratorial thinking and a bias towards fantastic narratives is born from a sense of powerlessness and disenfranchisement. Pakistanis seem to accept that they are in a sinking ship but prefer to blame the leaking hull on unknown swimmers rather than their unwillingness to plug holes. This is not a surprise.

To look too closely at themselves would require Pakistanis to acknowledge that the militants now waging war against them are their own creation, that they have guided their country away from a modern States’s inclusive polity and that if their sovereignty today is mortgaged to Washington, Beijing and Riyadh, it is because of their fruitless attempt to match India in every field.

Countries that require therapy rather than mere material assistance are not beyond a cure. Unfortunately, the cure often comes after a complete political and social collapse. Or a more controlled revolution where an older establishment is replaced with the mindset of a new order. But even this requires Pakistanis to accept that their problems are largely of their own order. There is evidence this is starting to happen. The question will be whether this awareness will be overwhelmed by the strength of the delusions. If so, Pakistan’s troubles will be beyond the ability of aid or arms. A failed State first occurs when people begin to blame everyone but themselves for their problems.