IDEAS 2014

They say war is to man what maternity is to women, and peace is only an interlude between two wars. What makes a war won or lost depends on the fighting courage of men and quality of arms they bear. At the time of its independence, Pakistan had inherited fighting-fit soldiers but they were essentially under-armed thanks to the perfidious division of defence assets by the outgoing colonial power. Pakistan had to start from scratch, and by the grace of God Almighty has come a long way. It has made a significant progress since then, so much so that at the IDEAS-2014 Expo, now under way in Karachi, it has put on display a wide variety of indigenously-produced arms and arms-systems including Main Battle Tank Al-Khalid, JF-17 Thunder Fighter Aircraft, APCs and missile boats. The overall performance of Pakistan’s defence-related manufacturing sector has been favourable and heart-warming having recorded an across-the-board growth in production of indigenous and collaborative products, says minister for Defence Production Rana Tanveer Hussain. The event also affords an opportunity to Defence Ministry to speed up networking for joint ventures and trade. Our defence manufacturing industries have already moved towards marketing their products at the international level, besides offering training packages at its military training establishments. The display is the eighth edition of the Tri-Services International Defence Exhibition, which exhibits a wide variety of technology and equipment used by armed forces all over the world. The platform provides unique opportunity to defence exhibitors, analysts, delegates and trade visitors for sharing views and developing understanding about latest developments in the defence industry. Delegates and analysts from 67 countries are taking part or attending the event.

On the face of it, having achieved a nuclear parity at the regional level and its defence capability fully backed by the well-equipped professional armed forces Pakistan should feel secure and sanguine. But it cannot, because the nature of threat to its security has morphed into a two-headed monster. Not only does its traditional state enemy knock at its door every day by resorting to firing from across the border there is also this non-state actor actively aimed at undermining internal security. Consider the enormity of this threat posed by the non-state actors: In five operations in Balochistan the Frontier Corps (FC) seized 5000 kilograms of explosives and a huge cache of arms which includes 2669 SMGs, 141 LMGs, 272 pistols, 12 rifles, 40 rocket launchers, 16 heavy machine guns and thousands of mortar rounds. Rightly then, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in his address to the inaugural session of IDEAS-2014, said that given the fact that threats to national security have multiplied “we need to develop new tools and gadgets to effectively deal with these threats”. Reaffirming his commitment to eliminate terrorism in all its hues and manifestation, he said Pakistan reaches out to the world with the theme of “arms for peace”. No doubt Pakistan’s armed forces and various branches of security agencies are striving to eliminate terrorism, but this is also a fact that they are short of sufficiently effective counter-terrorism gadgetry. That’s perhaps the reason that CIA-operated drones still fly over Pakistan and the otherwise communicatively active Taliban spokesmen remain untraced.

Since IDEAS-2014 is not only an exhibition of fighting arms but also happens to be a platform for intellectual discourse upon issues of war and peace the whys and wherefores that breed and nurture terrorism prominently figured as well in the prime minister’s speech. Defence is, of course, among his government’s top priorities, he said but added “it is equally mindful of poverty and illiteracy”. Undoubtedly, it’s a lofty vision and a huge challenge for the third-time prime minister to make up for the time lost in the race with other developing countries. Given poor political leadership and periodic interventions of Bonapartism, Pakistan’s growth potential largely remains unexploited. How he translates his words into action it is up to Nawaz Sharif, and for this to happen his personal ego or his opponents’ rebuke should not stand in the way. It is heartening to note that he has decided to revive the dialogue with PTI leadership despite opposition from some of his aides, in that we see some concretization of his worldview, and hope it lasts long enough to bear fruit.