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The natural consequences

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

by Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

More than 80 million children and mothers will needlessly die in the developing world by 2015 unless the Millennium Development Goals are met. Those spending money on the military, oblivious to human suffering, are concerned only about their profits

The unbridled expenditure on militaries and weapons by countries to create ‘national security states’ not only promotes war-mongering and indiscriminate use of force but also leaves people perpetually tottering on the brink of an abyss. This folly is akin to credit card use: carefree fun initially and desperation at payback time. Unfortunately, it is the innocents who pay the price with interest while big guns find refuge in Sharm el-Sheikh.

The madness of diverting resources primarily towards military strength cannot be achieved without disregard for people’s rights. Such countries are essentially internally repressive and jingoistic in external relations. Naturally, the countries that neglect the human suffering dimensions of their waste of resources not only lag behind but start regressing, slowly becoming derelict and decrepit.

Invariably, the creation of the security state results in massive corruption by the rulers and institutions, as is apparent in South Asia and the Middle East. The Mubarak family’s estimated net worth ranges from $ 40 billion to $ 70 billion. Ben Ali of Tunisia and his family had majority stakes in every sphere of the economy. The purchase of a Rs 15 million worth bullet-proof jeep by the son of Prime Minister Gilani and other scams expose the extent of the rot in Pakistan.

To comprehend the magnitude of the problem that this irrational diversion of precious resources creates, we only need to look at the figures. More than 80 million children and mothers will needlessly die in the developing world by 2015 unless the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that aim to cut child mortality by two thirds and maternal death rates by three quarters are met. Those spending money on the military, oblivious to human suffering, are concerned only about their profits.

The over $ 1.5 trillion in 2009 in global military expenditure corresponds to 2.7 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) or, approximately, $ 225 per person. In stark contrast, the UN spends only $ 27 billion annually, which is a mere $ 4 per person. The entire UN budget is 1.8 percent of the world’s military expenditure. Little wonder then that, worldwide, more than six million children under the age of five needlessly die yearly due to diarrhoea, which kills over two million, pneumonia, which kills over two million, malaria, which kills about one million, AIDS, which kills about 0.3 million, and measles, which accounts for 0.1 million. Malaria alone makes 300 million people ill and causes a million deaths worldwide annually. Some 90 percent of cases are in Sub-Saharan Africa where, every 30 seconds, a child dies of malaria. The natural consequences of this criminal diversion of resources being such, it is mind boggling that developing countries continue spending on militaries.

Naturally, the progress towards the MDGs, which include eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, achievement of universal primary education, promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women, reduction of child mortality, improvement in maternal health and combating malaria and other diseases, has been pathetic because these goals need money and commitments, which the governments geared towards creating their national security state are unwilling to provide.

The emphasis on ‘security’ has resulted in the neglect of human development and is helping to make the apocalypse scenario a reality. The Foresight Report on Food and Farming Futures (a UK government commissioned study into food security) has called for urgent action to avert global hunger. The report predicts that in the next 20 years, the world population will increase to something like 8.3 billion people and some 65-70 percent of the world’s population will be living in cities at that time. Unless 40 percent more food, 30 percent more fresh water and 50 percent more energy is made available, an irresolvable crisis will grip the world.

The report says that the “food production system will need to be radically changed, not just to produce more food but to produce it sustainably. Some 925 million people already suffer hunger and perhaps a further billion lack micronutrients and are malnourished. The task is difficult because the food system is working for the majority of people but those at risk of hunger have least influence on decision-making.” The problem is compounded by the fact that those most at risk will never have a voice as long as powerful interests continue to profit from militarisation. The ‘haves’ actively ensure that the ‘have-nots’ remain the have-nots.

This is so very true. Ayesha Siddiqa in an ‘exposé’ on water theft in Cholistan says, “Move on towards Sadiqabad and Rahimyar Khan in Bahawalpur and you will hear farmers complain about how the army is stealing their share of water. In the past few years, they have held public demonstrations against water theft, but to no avail. According to official estimates, 21,000 acres of land in these two districts are affected due to water theft from the Abbasia Link Canal. Out of the canal’s capacity of 4,500 cusecs of water, nearly 350-400 cusecs are being stolen. This canal became operational in 2002 and the army units have made 20 illegal outlets (104-109 RD and 213-228 RD) at Chak Wahni and Qasimwala. Officially, the army is only allowed one outlet to feed its troops while they exercise in the area. Irrigation officials claim that even the legal outlet has been expanded illegally to draw more water.”

Those most at risk are powerless to effectively challenge authority and influence powerful persons who continue to prosper at their cost. In Pakistan, Tahrir Square-like events exist only in drawing room discussions.

According to the Human Development Report 2009, in the Human Development Index (HDI) rankings, Pakistan stands at number 141 while India is not much better at 134. According to the 2010 Global Hunger Index, Pakistan is in the serious-severity bracket while India is in the alarming-severity bracket. However, probably no one is listening as the expenses on defence continue. India’s defence budget now stands at $ 32 billion and Pakistan hiked its budget to Rs 343 billion in 2009-10. With overheads breaching this by a wide margin, one is forced to presume that they wilfully ignore the bitter realities.

Unless jingoism and the self-assumed central position in the universe are shunned completely and attention is paid to the consequences of the immorally misdirected use of resources in the name of false national pride, a time will come when they will be left with neither as all will be consumed in the anarchy and mayhem that has become the norm and is worsening with every passing minute. But as long as ‘loving the bomb’ continues to make certain people and institutions prosperous and powerful, it is futile to hope that reason will prevail.

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at mmatalpur@gmail.com


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