The absence of trust

How it’s taking a toll in Pakistan.

Written by Khaled Ahmed | Published on:July 12, 2014 12:50 am

How it’s taking a toll in Pakistan.

On Sunday, June 8, the Taliban attacked the Karachi airport and killed 18 security personnel. All 10 attackers were killed in the battle that ensued. Most TV reporters and anchors, who took it upon themselves to interpret what was being reported live, did not miss the opportunity of pinning the terrorist attack on “foreign countries”, the label regularly given by derelict police officers to India. Then the Taliban, led by a psychopath named Fazlullah, announced that they had done the deed.


But the retired military officers who appeared on TV to comment on terrorism were not blindsided in the same way as the police officers. Their accusations, however, were based on a professional lack of trust all armies are taught to cultivate: “Don’t look at the expressed intent of India; look at its perceived capability.”

The message is: don’t trust India if you have to frame a strategy of national security. (This applies to all armies of the world.) The United States and Israel are thrown in as allies of India and, therefore, rated equally dangerous. If you are a strategist, think black and white and lean on nationalism to avoid intellectual accountability; strategy won’t work if it is shot through with intellectual relativism.

But politicians with their uncertain survival kits can’t afford to be so Manichaean. They tend to “trust” the enemy and its expressed intent and ignore its concealed “capability” of “assured destruction”. That is why in India and Pakistan, military officers tend to think poorly of politicians and will exercise pressure through popular opinion to ignore their policy directives of “peace”. In India, army officers are more inclined to favour the warlike BJP; in Pakistan, they like the religious parties, whose seminarians fight the jihad of covert war to set at naught the theory of military balance of power. The world, after that, is “asymmetrical”.

Some nations are warlike and have no use for trust. Some nations are trading communities based on trust. Armies created by warlike nations are different from the armies created by trading nations. In one case, they are instruments of national pride; in the other, repositories of national gratitude. In the first case, the lack of trust as a communal trait makes economic function difficult. In today’s economically interconnected world, trust as a national trait must be cultivated even if it goes against the grain of the warrior willing to die for honour.

Trust was described first as social capital, that unquantifiable sector that relies on faith among individuals, encourages networking and results in coordinated action needed for competitive economic function. In addition, “trust” yields good governance, better education, lower crime and increased civic participation. Civil society is the matrix within which trust functions as a value. Civil society is the mediator between the state as a coercive apparatus and the citizen, and it can gel around political parties, human rights organisations, professional guilds, etc.

Within this networking, there is the function of trust. Let us imagine that it grows out of man’s …continued »

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