Is Pakistan moving towards disability?


By S K Basu

Pakistan post independence from the British colonial rule in 1947; and after secession from the then British India, as an independent sovereign nation has been undergoing decades of power struggle until now. The socio-political and socio-economic stability of the nation has been jeopardized by poor national as well as provincial leaderships, ready interference of the military in the general administration as well judicial system, low economic growth, ethnic strife, monumental corruption and failures in establishment of rule in remote border areas. As a consequence, the nation has been undergoing a perpetual low curve in establishing strong democratic framework and been able to move towards economic prosperity.

Repeated military dictatorships and establishment of marshal laws in between weak federal democratic governments have further weakened the socio-political framework of the nation. Furthermore, Pakistan has historic love-hate relationships with all her three immediate neighbors; Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. All these nations have consistently blamed Pakistan for covertly promoting cross border terrorism and have strong antagonistic relationships with Pakistan blocking golden opportunities of regional trade, commerce and bonafide free movement across her international borders. The recent US-Pakistan spat and strong economic sanctions to block military assistance have further pushed Pakistan over the edge. The political as well as military leaderships of the nation have been perpetual conflicts with one another since independence in 1947; and have never been on the same page. The hard US sanctions have further increased the rift between the civil society, political parties in power and opposition; and the ever powerful military leaderships in jeopardy questioning the basic framework of an independent nation.

In addition to all these unfortunate political factors, one cannot undermine the challenges of social divisions of the Pakistani society. Two ethnic groups, namely the Punjabis and Sindhis are considered to be the dominant socio-political force governing the democratic powers of the nation from time to time. Other ethnic communities such as Pashtuns, Baluch, Hazaras, Ahemedias and Shias; and religious minorities such as Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians have been always kept out of the political equations of the country. Religious intolerance has reached monumental heights across the nation; where persecution of minorities across every religion has been extremely violent and disturbing to even describe in words. Significant numbers of minorities living in Pakistan since independence has been forced to move out of the country.

There is complete distrust and strong political divisions among all the provinces of Pakistan. Several small yet influential regional political parties have strongholds in different areas; and they are in constant disarray and in strong negative arguments with other provincial and federal governments. Hence, it is extremely difficult for Pakistan as a nation to build up any national consensus on any important socio-economic or socio-political issues. A constant blame game across ruling and opposition parties has seriously hampered economic growth of the nation. Most provinces feel deprived of federal funds and support; and do not actively support any federal initiatives for taking the economy forward.

The western borders across Iran and Afghanistan is obnoxiously porous; that has allowed cross border insurgent activities on either side. Both Pakistan federal and provincial governments have almost little or no control over the vast tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan. The Afghan-Pak international border (historically known as Durand Line); that was established by British colonial rulers, has never been officially accepted by Afghanistan leading to perpetual tension between the two nations. The strong dispute with India over Kashmir has cost the nation four major wars further jeopardizing the hope and opportunity for any peace in South Asia in the coming decades. Historically too, Pakistan has been isolated from central Asian nations due to socio-political and idealistic differences.

As a consequence, the nation has been becoming internationally isolated with allegations for support to various terror groups and serving as safe heavens for deadly insurgents within the nation attacking Iran, Afghanistan and India. The US split and drastic changes noted in their newly adopted South Asian policy will further isolate and alienate the nation in the not so distant future. This has cost Pakistan in terms of economic developments, blockage of foreign aids, loans and investments. Political divisions bwteen the erstwhile West and East Pakistan curved out of British India has also fallen aprt with an independent Bangladesh born out of East Pakistan in 1971.

China has been the only country that has been economically and political supporting Pakistan for her long term geostrategic goals; and in establishing their strategic one belt project and in establishing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) connecting south western China to the Arabian Sea. The imminent danger has been that Pakistan has almost subscribed to every demand of China including hard loans, high interest, business transactions in Chinese yuan in place of US dollar to name only a handful; that heavily favors the latter more than the host nation.

The CPEC project is shrouded in mystery as vast section of the people in Pakistan as well as the divergent political forces of the nation are kept in darkness regarding the deals signed and arrangements agreed between the two countries. International experts believe that CPEC will get Pakistan entangled into a vicious net of heavy loans that will choke out the final economic stake the nation has and may also compromise with her sovereignty. Under all these appalling circumstances one must be tempted to ask what is the future for this nation that has been failing in all global indices, is nuclear armed and showing strong signs of socio-economic and socio-political disruption.

A destabilized and economically bankrupt Pakistan will create a dangerous power vacuum that will negatively impact the US, Central, South and SE Asia, Middle East and China. Hence it is in the interest of all adjoining nations to work together on a common platform of cooperation and collaboration to save Pakistan from this possible historic blunder as this will seriously jeopardize regional as well international security. If the nuclear assets of Pakistan fall in wrong hands due to the socio-political, socio-economic and geostrategic chaos rising within her boundaries; it will be devastating not just for Asia, but the entire planet. Pakistan therefore stands at the cross roads of history and only time will tell now if the nation is slowing waking the tight rope towards disability. The world needs to be aware that what that will mean for the helpless ordinary citizens of the country, her nuclear assets and global security as an aftermath.