Pakistan in Spirals: A Road to nowhere
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 19 May , 2023

75 Years of sham of democracy  seems to be heading towards course correction, albeit in a revolutionary format in Pakistan. Nothing surprising in a politically skewed environment with deep afflictions of religious radical mindset. A sub nationality that chose to get separated from its roots on basis of one exclusive religion had inherent conceptual contradictions. Hence, it was bound to fail sooner or later, and it is seen to be happening. A simple look at state of political stress amongst majority  of co-religious  nations  would have given enough hints to refrain from such an experiment. Whereas, the greed for power by few protagonists with myopic vision resulted in steering destiny of millions based on medieval tenets in contemporary modern times egged on by the colonialist whose power was waning.

 It is the   geography of present day Pakistan that has been a matter of strategic  interest for big powers all through ancient times that  continues even today. A frontline state for western powers, Bear hug from Mediterranean to Indian Ocean, and economic expansion of China have prompted a geo political rivalry for control of strategic space astride the Indus river. These   foreign powers have played an important role in shaping political destiny of Pakistan. Pakistan, instead of building up their internal economic structural strength, has been sustaining their economy on foreign aids. The current  political mess is a manifestation of its non viable origin, lopsided political structureand skewed priorities of the  establishment.

 It was  in early 1930s and 40s when British started working on contingencies of their possible departure from India due to rising nationalism that seemed to be irreversible. However, the British wanted to  retain their  bastion to dominate mineral rich tracks of west  and  central Asia, besides  a buffer against Russian  expansion. To do that,  a weak and pliable nation would have been  a better option instead of undivided India for their future designs. Thus came the idea of Pakistan created through an artificial and untenable concept of two nation theory.  It was conveniently agreed upon by the British, and a sub nationality of India was given tag of a nation state.The  common denominator of religious calling was invoked as the central spine of political philosophy.

The first setback to the two nation theory based on theological concept came in 1971 wherein ethno- lingual  differential was seen to dominate over religion in carving out a new nation. No lessons were drawn and no measures taken to control the similar societal schism. Pakistan  is a  house divided ready for implosion with divisive narratives of Baluch, Sindhi, Pathan and Punjabi identities.A look at the  political synthesis  is warranted to understand the fault lines that have resulted in the present state of Pakistan.

Soon after partition, thepolitical  leadership embarked upon land grab  through military meansinstead of consolidation of  institutions of governance as their top priority. The army looking at their indispensible role in shaping the political fortunes  ofnation in making assumed stature  beyond its mandate. Subsequently, having lost all the wars  against India, it became  a compulsion beyond compromise for the Pakistan army to suppress  other institutions  for their continued predominance. The army has not moved out of their self ordained power play ever since they tasted the blood in initial years. Unbridled power sans accountability is the biggest default in Pakistani system.

In a democracy, the public  is supreme that elects the government which in turn selects the heads of national institutions including army. Whereas, in Pakistan it is other way round wherein it is the army that selects the political leadership and public has no voice except to participate in  elections, a mere cosmetic exercise for democratic  makeover. The  incorrect interse equation amongst the pillars of democracy is another reason of  political imbalance. Pakistan stands politically confused and unstable with economy in mess with stigma of terror imprints.

The bluff of army as the sole benefactor of the nation has been exposed as the country stands bankrupt due to their interference in matters of state.It is the  digital exposure to the world outside that has given voice to the civil society to take matters in their hands. A section of political leadership is also seen to be rebellious seeking  to disfranchise army from the encroached political space. It appears to be difficult but a beginning has been made which is unlikely  to stop now. As per unconfirmed reports even a section of army seems to have been compromised probably sensing the future environmental realities.

Anothermajor  factor in present state of Pakistan is the role played by the foreign powers for their vested interests. The US made Pakistan as her regional ally since cold war era and provided  liberal economic and military aids. The relationship further mushroomed once Russia occupied Afghanistan in 1979. The concept of Taliban took shape in Pakistan with  US money and arms to counter Russians. The success of non state actors against a regular conventional force prompted Pakistan to replicate the Taliban model  to initiate armed insurgency in J&K in 1990 onwards.

The chickens have come back to roost, wherein use of terrorism as the state policy has turned out to be the biggest threat to  internal security impacting on political stability. The developed nations are seen to be reluctant in investment   and trade with Pakistan due to her terror tag.. Moreover, the US realizing duplicity  of Pakistan in their GWOT in Afghanistan are no longer providing economic aid as it was earlier.Apropos, the economy has been on  constant slide with no way to revive  it in absence of viable economic structures.

Pakistan, in rebound,was  seen to be moving  closer to China that sold the idea of  CPEC  as the mechanism to revive their  economy. Whereas, this scheme has been designed to suit the Chinese strategic purpose of her politico-economic expansion. It obviously is not of liking by the US due to their geo political rivalry with China-Pakistan chose to agree to Chinese scheme more for acquiring military deterrence against India than its economic benefits. The terms and conditions of the scheme have not been  made public till date. It  has faced  resistance from varied lobbies, besides security connotations due to its alignment.It was in essence a non viable project from Pakistan economic perspective, but pushed by the army for their vested interests.

 Imran Khan,sensing the adverse implications ,initiated enquiries on  contractual issues of CPEC that has put a spanner  on progress of the scheme. The army in this game plan probably did not feel comfortable fearing  exposure of  their role in the scheme. Imran a selected Prime Minister by the army was now seen to be pushing US agenda, against army interests. Hence Imran became unwanted and needed to be pushed out of power. In consequence, the political system was manipulated to dethrone Imran and install Nawaz Sharif’s brother, a proponent of CPEC consortium. Imran has publicly blamed the army and, for reasons unknown, US also for his removal.

Ever since his ouster, he has been on the streets to rebound back to power by demonstrating popularity of his party PTI. He is demanding for early elections to cash in the sympathy he has gained with his summary removal. Whereas, the government in power seems to be reluctant to hold the elections sensing overwhelming popularity of Imran Khan. There has been a fire assault on  him during a rally in Wazirabad, besides more than 100 charges imposed against him in the courts. It appears that the army and theruling  polity seem to be making all the possible efforts to weed out Imran from holding constitutional authority in future.

Consequent to arrest of Imran Khan by the Rangers on 09 May, 2023, the PTI cadres took to the streets protesting against the incumbent government sensing their sinister designs. There have been number of political rallies  in the past, but it was for the first time that selected  army installations became  targets of public fury. It is seen as a clarion call by the civil society against suppression by the army all these years. This political transformation in making can be attributed to the awakening of the civil society as regards to their power. The army hereafter would certainly be cautious in their unilateral conduct as it will not be a free run any more.

While China has become the iron brother of Pakistan, the US  would  continue  to have  substantial influence  in the  political domain. As the events have unfolded during last four years, the imprints of this rivalry are clearly seen on Pakistani political scene. Shadows of external influences   in current crisis cannot be ruled out as Imran is seen as an impediment to CPEC scheme, a matter of dislike by the China, army and Nawaz Inc. The significance of visit by the new army chief to China as his first port of call cannot be ignored as it may have some connect with  the run up to the recent  events. It is matter of interest that despite so much is upheaval  in political arena , both US as well as China are conspicuously silent in their response to the emerging situation in Pakistan.

Everyone that matters in Pakistan have been pushing their agenda sans any respects for their Constitution. The army is above Constitution and the political class is seen to be manipulated by them with impunity. The invisible foreign hand has dictatorial and divisive presence in political space of Pakistan. Add to above is the state sponsored terror machinery that seems to have become Frankenstein beyond control anymore. There are spirals within spirals in Pakistan of their own making which are complex  anddifficult to  unwind.

Everyone connected to governance in any manner all through its existence are  to be blamed for the present state of political mess. The country is  on the verge of economic collapse and the  current disturbed public order  have tell tale signs of an possible  civil war. Pakistan may cease to exist if the  pubilc passions are not addressed with appropriate political mechanism and maturity. The army an instrument of last resort, albeit in modified format as in a true  democracy probably is still the best bet.

Impartiality, transparency, non partisan approach in conduct of elections may be the immediate way out. Subsequently,  rebalancing the scope and span  of pillars of democracy should be the primary focus with army in barracks hereafter. Integration with the peer group nations may well be a better model to revive economy instead of continue subservience to the external forces. De hyphenating from terror afflictions is essential to create positive image for economic benefits. Yes, it may take time but there is no other way out.

It is a defining moment for Pakistan wherein they have to take a call to either rise above their institutionalized vested interests to usher in national synergy, or go down as a foot note in the annals of history.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Rameshwar Yadav

Former Director General Infantry, Indian Army.

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