Fatalistic articles about the future of Pakistan are nothing new. This is a subject that Indian, American and indeed, even Pakistani writers have opined on. Conflict with India in Kashmir, sectarian violence in Sindh, secessionist movements in Balochistan, a war in Swat, and the talibanization of FATA, do not help in dispelling the prophecies of dismemberment that the US’s National Intelligence Council (NIC) highlights in its paper Global Trends 2025: A Word Transformed (PDF). Ahmad Faruqui’s article on Outlook builds on that report and asks, given the current state of affairs, if it is possible to envision a rosy future for the State.
Alas, the advice to focus on the future was not taken as the nation soon plunged into reliving the battles of the past. The storm over Mumbai will eventually pass but what about the gathering storm in Swat and the full force gale that is blowing through Fata? The tussle between the ISI, the army and the civilian government continues. A new tussle appears to have emerged between the civilian president and prime minister, both of the PPP. There are few signs that the judges will be restored or that the nefarious constitutional amendments dating back to the Zia era will be annulled.
I’ve pointed to the gradual talibanization of Pakistan in previous posts because this is a matter that should be of significant concern to India. As the writ of the state of Pakistan diminishes in the western provinces, the tussle will be between the US military and the Pashtuns. While India’s relations with the United States have improved since they hit nadir in December 1971, any future presence of US forces within the territory of present day Pakistan will be viewed by India with some discomfort. Increasingly, as we move from a unipolar to a multipolar world (with India being one of the poles), India will consider the Subcontinent to be part of its sphere of influence. The presence of foreign forces within this realm of influence will bother India. India’s growing economic and political clout notwithstanding, our leaders would also do well to learn from the collapsing political engine in the Pakistani federation. With regard to Pakistan, Faruqui proposes:
To avoid a meltdown, first and foremost, a change in political culture needs to occur. Extremism has to be taken out and replaced with tolerance. The government cannot do this by fiat. The clergy, the academics, the literati and the media — they have to bring this about, from the grassroots up.
Secondly, law and order has to be restored on the streets. It is not possible to envision a rosy future if kidnappings, robberies, murders and beheadings dominate the headlines.
Vigilante justice and moral police mobs inflict chaos, increasingly with impunity in the streets of Indian cities. States’ inability to enforce law and order and the mob’s ability to unleash its own version of moral code will have very dire consequences for the Indian State. Instead of dealing with this scourge, India’s netas are quick to utter that timeless Indian phrase — “politically motivated” — to weasel their way out of taking concrete action. Pakistan’s quagmire should be a lesson to India and our leaders would do well to learn from Pakistan’s mistakes.