The deluge: will Pakistan submerge or survive?
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Issue Vol 25.4 Oct-Dec 2010 | Date : 08 Dec , 2010

The Long-Term Impact

It will take five years for Pakistan to restore the situation provided the cumulative effects of the floods do not swamp the nation. Pakistanis response to this crisis will determine its future as a nation.

Will its democratic institution hold? It seems unlikely given the inept performance of its politicians in the crisis. The army may just come back in power and with a hawkish Kayani as Chief, Pakistan my go back under martial law – perhaps just a few months after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Islamic fundamentalist parties may also gain politically. In all fair elections held so far, Pakistanis have not voted for religious parties and have soundly rejected them. But the two major political parties under Zardari and Sharif have performed so poorly that we may just see a revival of these Islamic parties. That could give them the political legitimacy and a say in the government which would be disastrous both for the nation and the region.

Pakistan will undoubtedly fall back on the India card in times of crisis. Already some sections of the media are blaming the floods on India”¦

The floods will further highlight the ethnic divide in Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan and the other provinces. Even in the midst of floods, bomb blasts continued unabated across Pakistan and triggered off a wave of ethnic violence in Karachi. As internal unrest intensifies and the administration is unable to cope with it, the ethnic and religious fault lines may fracture further, especially in Sindh and Baluchistan. Water itself may compound the problem. The common complaint of the people of Sindh and Baluchistan is that they are denied water and other resources at the expense of Punjab. Much of the rehabilitation will be focused at Punjab, which may heighten the sense of alienation in other provinces. Also the floods have damaged the irrigation machinery irreversibly as canals, head-works and distributaries have been literally swept away in the onrush of the flood waters. This will effect the subsequent flow of Indus water from Punjab into Sindh and perhaps a greater quantum of water may have to be diverted into Punjab in the coming few seasons. This may take on ethnic overtones and perhaps divide the population even further.

What of its impact on India? Pakistan will undoubtedly fall back on the India card in times of crisis. Already some sections of the media are blaming the floods on India, accusing it of releasing the waters from our areas. The army and government could find it convenient to divert public attention from their economic and social problems by shifting the angst towards India. If the army and militant groups make common ground, we could see a revival of unrest in Kashmir or even a military misadventure along the borders. India could be a common enemy to unify its people.

The floods have presented a more severe threat to the economic, social and politically stability of the country than any other event in Pakistanis history (including partition and the 1971 war). The manner in which this crisis is handled will determine the future of this unstable, nuclear armed nation. If the response is cohesive and mature, it may limp back to some measure of normalcy with liberal infusions of foreign aid. If the response of the government and its agencies is weak and militant groups are allowed to exploit the situation it may find itself facing anarchy once again. How the army reacts in this situation amidst weakening democratic institutions and economic unrest will be a major determinant of its future course.

Two thousand years ago, the Indus Valley Civilization that existed along the banks of the Indus River was washed away by the angry river and the fabled civilization destroyed. The historical heritage sites of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa which were the seat of that civilization have been severely affected by this flood as well. Along the banks of the Indus, a great flood once again threatens the future of Pakistan and its people. How they cope with it will determine whether Pakistan will survive as a nation or be submerged beneath the collective weight of its problems.

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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

Col Ajay Singh

Col Ajay Singh, writes extensively on contemporary warfare and geopolitics

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