Pakistan: state dynamics

By K.N. Pandita

A country shaped on the basis of religion cannot escape subservience of the state authority to the ecclesiastical diktat. Evidently in such a state the church enjoys dictatorial powers often misused than used.

The church in Pakistan successfully superseded state institutions for the reason that it could forge convergence with the feudal-military and bureaucratic triumvirate.

The convergence point is the deep-seated and zealously propagated hate-India theorem. 

Hatred breeds fear. Over the time Pakistan’s fear psychosis transformed into morbid threat perception, essentially from India. Islamabad clung to Anglo-American sponsored military blocs in early decades in a bid to find redemption from Indian threat.

Pakistan tried to win their favour by claiming that she opted for free world as against India, which soft pedalled with the Soviet Bloc. India’s leadership in non-aligned movement precipitated Pa-Anglo American embrace.

What is India’s threat to Pakistan? It is not military threat; that never has been. Twice did Nehru offer her no-war pact, but she turned it down. Bangladeshis Pakistan’s own creation; it is reflective of ideological bankruptcy of Pakistan.

Yes, India is a threat to Pakistan but not in military terms. Indian secular democracy is her undoing. This specific threat is not to her people but to her rulers, the feudal-Army-bureaucratic and ecclesiastical combine, and hence, the demonization of India.

Looking at Pakistan from the prism of containment of communism strategy in the region, Anglo-American bloc willingly obliged Pakistan by linking Kashmir to the ideological divergence between India and Pakistan. Sheikh Abdullah’s secret meeting with Adlai Stevenson in Srinagar in 1952 was part of US-led regional strategy in South Asia.

Foreign policy:

Pakistan’s foreign policy is essentially India-centric with two main components: (a) projecting Pakistan as crucial to west’s strategic interests in the Asian continent, and (b) undermining India’s influence and status in world community.

Pakistan projected herself as bulwark against expansion of communist ideology southward. US cashed on Islamic tenet of abhorrence of atheism. Pakistani ulema coined the term “la deen” for the Soviets.

To undermine India’s influence and status, Pakistan played various cards like Indo-Soviet camaraderie, India’s non-alignment movement, but more significantly the Kashmir issue and she projected Kashmiris as suppressed and oppressed people.

Soviet President Brezhnev’s inanity helped forge closest alliance between Pakistan and the US in early 1980s. With Washington’s eagerness to give teeth to her strategy in the region, President Zia of Pakistan found all the four aces falling into his hands. These were (a) checkmating Soviet march southward (b) gaining strategic space westward (c) indispensability of Pakistan to American strategies and (d) prospect of radicalizing entire Pakistan society.

In the last mentioned achievement Zia clearly saw the virtue of what he later on called “carrying war with India on her soil”.
Has Zia’s strategy boomeranged on Pakistan? Opinions differ. I think not, taking into account the ultimate destination of the Islamic State of Pakistan.

Pakistan is an actor on the regional stage. Her role in Afghanistan and regional strategy is buoyed by the US and NATO commanders. In home-bred terrorist organizations Pakistan Army has successfully forged the first line of defence. Low intensity war against India has met with only resistance and not reaction. Subversion in India comes not only through bomb blasts and suicide attacks but more dangerously by neutralizing anti-terror outlook among vulnerable sections of India civil society including media.

Vote bank politics of India serves Pakistan’s interests better than they serve the interests of Indian ruling class.

In terms of Afghan war, Pakistan’s interest lies in keeping the pot boiling. The major gain for her is (a) paralysing Pukhtoonistan movement, (b) terminating Indian covert and overt support to it and (c) ensuring strategic depth westward.

Withdrawal of US-NATO forces from Afghanistan in 2014 cannot happen unless Pakistan guarantees no harm to US global interests by the Al Qaeda and Taliban combine.

In this strategic scenario though India may somehow retain her emotional attachment with Afghanistan but there seems little hope of her gaining any political space in that region. Even her earlier inroads into Tajikistan, the Central Asian underbelly, have got frustrated.

Notwithstanding the bizarre game of espionage, conspiracies, subversion and mutual leg pulling between the CIA and ISI, US’ real concern in Pakistan is the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. The grapevine has it that Washington is virtually controlling the arsenal. Its veracity cannot be ascertained. Nevertheless, Washington’s strategic perception is that Pakistan was not going to use it against Israel. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, both apparently Islamic, have not nursed animus against the Israel. Maybe there is an understanding with the US. Do not forget that during Iran-Iraq war, the Israel supplied arms and ammunition to Iran through the conduit of Pakistan.

OIC is Pakistan’s brainchild. She wants supremacy among Muslim countries. She seeks recognition as nuclear and military power among Muslim states. She uses OIC platform to push her political interests and uses it to denigrate India on Kashmir issue. However, the sessions of OIC have reflected more of divergence than convergence among its members.

But of course Pakistan’s relations with the Saudi monarchy are very special. Pakistani commandos protect Saudi monarchy and in return Saudis put oxygen into Pakistan’s chronic economic breathlessness. Saudi’s provided funds for Pakistan’s nuclear weapon.

But very significant aspect of their relationship is Pakistan’s full-blooded support to the dissemination of Sunni Wahhabi/Salafi ideology across the globe in order to cut at the roots of Shia Iran’s Khomeini ideology.

Sino-Pak relations are essentially India centric. China does not want India to rise as a military and economic rival in Asia. For Pakistan, Mao’s theory that enemy’s enemy is a friend holds well. With china spreading tentacles in the forbidding Karakorum to the north and the Bay of Bengal to the south, with Nepal going Maoist way and China and Pakistan making strategic foothold in Sri Lanka, Sino-Pak combine makes encirclement of India something very real. The US has not so far reacted to Chinese presence in Gilgit-Baltistan nor has it expressed concern on China making sporadic forays into Indian territories in Ladakh just because in US’ perception, the real threat in the Central Asian region does not emanate from Beijing but from Moscow.

Domestic scenario:

Internally Pak society is torn by ethnic and sectarian divide. The four provinces are kept together not by consensual national perception but by the threat of the ethnic Punjabi led armed forces.

The new force to be reckoned with is of jihadis who consider it their religious duty to liberate Islam from pernicious influence and impact of non-Muslim ideologies and cultures. Pakistan civil society is on the horns of dilemma. Should it revert to the millennium and half old basics of faith and social life or keep pace with the world of science and technology? Liberals in Pakistan are heavily outnumbered and mosque is the ultimate pointer.

Neither military regimes nor democratic governments can stay stable in a shredded society. People in Pakistan are at war with the state, the state is at war with its neighbours (read India and Afghanistan) and the government is at war with the country (read USA) which provides it the crutches. Pakistan is governed best when left to chaos and confusion.

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