Regional Peace Depends on Pakistan’s Very Future
Copyright: Economic Times, July 18, 2007
Strategic Affairs Expert
Barely 60 years after it was carved out of India, Pakistan’s future is looking increasingly uncertain owing to serious internal challenges and contradictions. Pakistan has now approached a critical turning point, with a choice between recouping from the present troubles or risking a free fall. Without a transition to democratic rule, Pakistan will find it hard to pull back from the brink.
Hobbled by military rule, militant Islam, endemic corruption and dependency on foreign aid, Pakistan remains a main breeding ground of global terror. Having spent the past 17 years trying to bleed India through its ‘war of a thousand cuts’, Pakistan today is itself bleeding — due to the threat from within. By setting up state-run terrorist complexes, Pakistan became its own enemy. The Frankensteins it created have come to haunt its own security.
Today, the battlelines pit jehadist puppeteers in the establishment against their jehadist puppets outside. The puppeteers have become the targets of those whom they reared for long.
Against this background, the central issue that will determine regional peace is not the state of Indo-Pak relations but Pakistan’s own future. Will Pakistan sink deeper in militarism, extremism and fundamentalism? Is it likely to fragment ethnically, given that it remains a state of five tribes in search of a national identity? Can it survive in its present shape?
The fight against international terrorism is very much tied to how the Pakistani state evolves in the coming years. Today, Pakistan is disparaged as “Problemistan”, “Terroristan” and “Al Qaidastan”, with Bush himself calling Pakistan “wilder than the Wild West”.
Pakistan’s fate has always been in the hands of three As — Allah, Army and America. Now Allah’s wrath has wrought havoc on what has become the playground of terrorists, while the spreading pro-democracy movement has the Army on the defensive. But the third factor, America, is still seeking to buck the popular tide by propping up military rule. New Delhi, however, can never make peace with the Pakistan military, whose power and prerogative flow from foiling peace with India.