PAKISTAN: A RUDDERLESS STATE WITH A RESILIENT NATION
It was over two years ago while opinionating on the Nature of International Coercion of Pakistan, I wrote in the Daily News: -
‘What ever the concept, scope and objective of such limited escalations, India with its new found allies has decided to maintain a constant vigil and coercion of Pakistan over a prolonged period of time but well below a Fire Break Point. The obvious targets in tandem with its allies will be addressed through diverse instruments like control of rivers, economics, diplomacy, international pressure, international law, military intimidation and even insurgency. The war has already begun’.
Published belatedly and with no sense of urgency by the editors, the article was hotly debated world over for its contents and hypothesis. It was followed by a non stop series of articles both in The Daily News and Nation on the US War in Afghanistan, Security Perspectives of Pakistan and how Pakistan could become weaker through societal fragmentation, manipulation of the political economy, bankruptcy and the disconnect of military operations to the public perceptions.
The various hypotheses in these series of articles were neither a product of expediency nor conspiracy theories grown out of fear. They were in fact the conclusions of my thesis of a Future War that Pakistan could confront, written well back in 2001.
Ever since, the inevitable has come to pass; ironically before the very eyes of those who know and matter. Pakistan has become a state that nibbles at itself least cognizant what this cannibalism could lead to. At no point does it appear a country at war within the context of the Great Game as also with itself. Politically, the fait accompli is a foregone conclusion. There appears neither a political direction nor a will to ride the wave of crises. In the midst of a tempest, trapped between a hard rock and an angry sea, Pakistan lacks a helmsman who can see the vessel home.
A brief review of how all this came to pass would be appropriate.
The Trojan of circular debt deliberately created during the era of Shaukat Aziz has succeeded in melting the economy and plunging Pakistan into a spiral of energy crises that are not likely to abate for some time to come. The international financial institutions are now in control along with hapless financial advisors with no clue about how to ride the crises other than seeking more foreign aid and debt. Intellectually bankrupt, they resort to the obvious ie increase consumer taxes and energy tariffs.
Political elites spend their best time in machinations of political survivability while the masses suffer one shock after the other. The reconstructions in the wake of 2005 earthquake are far from materializing. As if this was not enough, the country has faced the worst floods of recent history in which dykes and levies were manipulated at will to inundate the most productive agricultural areas of Pakistan. This has already affected food security, poverty lines and law and order.
Pakistan’s concept of National Power rises from a somewhat stable platform of geography through elements of national power like melting economics, fragile and self promoting political system, un-explored and rented out natural resources, a rejuvenating judicial system and an army that is fighting an insurgency that it helped create, partially to gain trust of USA and partially to gain time and space without compromising its core interests. Yet, as a country, we are not sure that the end game that Pakistan pursues would reach its objectives or will it be another case of believing too much in faulty assumptions? Pakistan’s present situation is neither this way nor that. The Americans mistrust us as much as our own radicals and insurgents working on an anti Pakistan agenda. Anarchy and militancy grows by the day.
Amazingly, despite such a pessimistic and forlorn situation, this resilient Nation survives being labeled as a State that refuses to fail.
Much of what has happened was avoidable had the government and the military sat together and drafted a comprehensive and realistic national policy on the US intervention in Afghanistan and its effects on Pakistan. Though social scientist in Pakistan cried hoarse over the manner in which Pakistan handled its cooperation with USA post 9/11, each organization within the government continued to work its own way during the crises. Hence what should have been a synergized and unified effort has ended up as a lethal broth cooked by too many cooks.
Pakistan is an agglomeration of an ally of opportunity, dwindling in national power, corrupt to core, a reluctant go getter and a people who refuse to succumb. Tragically, Pakistan has ostensibly landed itself into a position wherein all choices are bad and destructive. Still, it appears that Pakistan’s immediate and long term future will be shaped by US policies in the region.
If Pakistan continues to cooperate with USA and takes the military operations into North Waziristan, it will have to contend with the backlash in other parts of the country. The decision will also tempt diverse militant groups to cooperate with each other for their own survival and hence expand the theatre to other areas stretching Pakistan Army from Amri in Balochistan to Chitral along the Durand Line and deep inside the heartland. The counter insurgency war will be long and bloody and Pakistan will have to fight it all alone, albeit with measured military and economic assistance.
If it does not, than Pakistan will have to forego military and economic assistance controlled by USA and yet battle the conflict spreading along the Durand Line and the mainland due to the AF-Pak Strategy objectives spelled out by President Obama. It will also have to contend with military operations launched from coalition citadels inside Afghanistan with a choice of either looking the other way (drone syndrome) or involving itself in pitched battles with the coalition forces. Ultimately, some parts of Pakistan will become targets to stand off precision guided munitions and deeper drone attacks.
The weak economy, situation in Balochistan and the ability of power brokers to switch Karachi on and off will be a common denominator to both choices.
Though USA will have the illusion of having India as a long term strategic partner in the region, India will extract the maximum and yet only proceed up to a point where its own interest are not compromised. A very important interest in this context is to disarm a nuclear Pakistan preferably through a diplomatic option or through anarchy wherein a hapless government with a defeated and discredited army is pressurized to ask for international assistance.
Military dispositions for any one of the scenarios are now well placed. The coming days will witness a wider cooperation amongst all neighboring countries of Afghanistan including Iran, India and Russia. The purpose will not be to fight Pakistan but rather to contain the insurgency within the Pashtun areas of Afghanistan and push it into Pakistan to make AF-Pak a reality. Once that is achieved, USA and ISAF will maintain their pivots in Afghanistan to damper Afghan Taliban as also launch Cold Start type operations along the Durand Line. That will be the first step of US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the next phase of the Long War.
The reluctant ally is most likely to trudge along unless the people of Pakistan decide to shed the yoke.
The writer is a retired brigadier and a political economist. Email: email@example.com