Pakistan is a state deep in turmoil. Contributory causes are some historical and some current. Historical causes can be summed up as follows:
- No single overpowering identity has emerged in Pakistan since it became a country 60 years ago.
- There is still a lack of consensus on the basic structure of the state and its mode of governance.
- A self sustaining economy is not its attribute.
- The nation and its ruling elites have not been able to devise realistic goals for themselves.
Current causes are playing out in three distinct dimensions of uncertainty. The first of these places authoritarianism against urges for participatory democracy. An unpopular supreme leader, reelected President through strategies considered fraudulent, is continuing to scheme to retain his hold over power, in which, in order to succeed, he has to take the military on his side. An overwhelming majority wants him to quit and military to exit to barracks. Benazir’s assassination and postponement of general elections to Feb. 18 is causing tensions between the two (Military and polity) to sky rocket.
The onward march of Islamism can threaten the integrity of Pakistan. For the first time in 2007, terrorist caused casualties in Pakistan exceed those in India.
The second uncertainty revolves around the question of identity for the polity. The contention is between religiosity and extremism including its radical fringe, Islamism. The country seems to be moving from Islamisation to Talibanisation. These trends are responsible for the current civil war between the Pashtoons and the Central Govt. in the FATA area. Besides, there is an ongoing insurrection in Baluchistan. The Armed Forces are also infected with fundamentalism and Jihadi culture.
Musharraf’s responses to the fault lines in the religious mosaic have been halfhearted. Involvement of Islamists in J&K and India, nurtured by ISI, prevents him from being decisive. The onward march of Islamism can threaten the integrity of Pakistan. For the first time in 2007, terrorist caused casualties in Pakistan exceed those in India.
The third uncertainty is about the post election scenarios. In assessing these certain immutable characteristics of the Pakistani scene have to be kept in mind. A major one is that whatever be the results, the overarching penetration in the political and economic life of the country of the military cannot be eliminated. No doubt the mood in the country displays a shift away from Musharraf and the military and towards a civilian predominant rule, which compels the military establishment to enter into compromises with the civilian polity. Relatively free media have been highlighting issues inconvenient to the Administration and its masters. Benazir’s death has brought a semblance of unity among constantly feuding political adversaries. The military, therefore, feels that wisdom dictates it should remain backstage. How long this unity will last and military will stay in the background cannot be judged at this moment. Assuming that the elections will lead to a civilian façade, the problems it will face will be the same i.e. maintenance of coherent governance, addressing terrorism and solving issues of socio economic equity and justice.
Apart from the civil society and military a major stakeholder in Pakistan today is the US. It needs stability in Pakistan for its war on terror, neutralizing hard core Taliban in Afghanistan, access to energy rich Central Asian Republics and safeguarding of the nuclear arsenal there. Pakistan plays ball with the US in return for heavy subsidies. US will try to maintain its dominant position irrespective of who governs Pakistan but the presence of a strong military system of governance can be its preferred option if the elected government fails to establish stability.
Now that Musharaf has shed his uniform his own future has become uncertain. There have been too many examples in Pakistani history of the chosen nominee turning against his benefactor.
If civil commotion continues an Iraq like situation in Pakistan can be well within the realm of probability with Balkanisation as a distant possibility.
The much touted peace process with India can remain on track but without yielding any substantial result, as at present. Pakistan as a state finds it difficult to come to terms with India. Its problems with India are a legacy of the two nation theory. Although allegiance to this theory is weakening in Pakistan, ejecting its ghost will remain improbable for a long time.
The threat from Pakistan to India will continue. In the event of its radicalization, the scale of this threat will increase manifold. Al Qaeda is already knocking at our doors.