Monday, October 11, 2010

Is Pakistan going to implode?

Pakistan is on the brink. The writ of the central government does not run and it is in control only in name. The real power is held by the army but it does not want to shoulder the responsibility of governance, not at least for the time being, but this does not stop it from serving notice to the civilian government to put its own house in order and bring down the level of corruption or else … The North West Frontier Province (NWFP) has been lost to the Talibans of the Afghan variety and also the local bred, Baluchistan has been having aspirations of freedom for a long time, and so is Sindh, whereas the richest and most important province, Punjab, is the pocket borough of the army. Shias, the minority among the Muslims, live in fear of the majority, Sunnis, and for a good reason because they get routinely killed - bombed or sprayed with bullets - particularly when they take out processions commemorating their martyrs of the yore. There have also been very many instances of the Shias murderously attacked while offering prayers in their mosques. Those, who, at the time of India’s partition, had migrated to the Pakistani provinces of Punjab and Sindh from the undivided India’s United Provinces, are still called “muhajirs” or shelter seekers by the original inhabitants. The differences between the two sides often acquire dangerous proportions leading to civil war like situation in Pakistan’s most populous city and business capital, Karachi, which is dominated by the muhajirs.

All this lack of security and the general feeling of uncertainty it has engendered over the past few years have impacted the country’s economy very badly. It is now in a pathetic state and is being held back form a definite bankruptcy by the huge amount of aid doled out to Pakistan for being America’s forward ally in its war with the Al Qaida in Afghanistan and the hills of the NWFP. The economic situation has been made still worse this year by the heaviest floods in the country’s history which inundated one third of its total land area for weeks at end and uprooted about one-eighth of its population from their homes. Development experts have estimated that it would take Pakistan’s economy two to three years to recover from this season’s floods, the agricultural economy is estimated to take even longer. Opening avenues for much freer trade with India can help Pakistani economy tremendously but politics and a false sense of pride come in the way.

The over-all situation in Pakistan has been made more complicated by the government’s dependence on the United States for economic survival but the man on the street regarding that country as an enemy of Islam which is out to destroy good Musilms. He hates it specially for employing droves of drones to launch sneaky missile attacks on Al Qaida and its supporters on the Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. Death in a war he does not mind but causing sudden and selective death through a machine he considers the work of the devil, and that is how he views U.S. as. Another serious contradiction riving Pakistan is the increasing chasm between the traditionalists who seek and find all the answers in Islam’s original texts and practices and the moderates who have had exposure to the western style education. But the moderates are losing the battle and the people are getting more and more radicalised.

It is the army which has been the main agency preventing Pakistan from giving way under the collective weight of the numerous contradictions of the Pakistani society. But the process of Islamisation started by Gen. Zia-ul-Haq thirty years ago and still continuing has compromised its professionalism and its role of an honest broker. The army’s long time support, mostly through the ISI, to various anti-India terrorist groupings like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Zaish-e-Mohammed has further played havoc with its effectiveness as a counter balance to the forces of destabilisation in Pakistan.

The definite but unfortunate conclusion from the above has to be that Pakistan imploding under the increasing pulls and pressures that it is subject to, basically from within but from without too, can not be ruled out. The rest of the world, particularly India, has to do its best for not letting that to happen, but also keep itself in readiness to deal with the situation if and when it happens.

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