Pakistan is on the verge of being a failing state or about to break up, are issues that have been discussed often in the past. In this article the author brings-in comparisons of other nations that brokeup and expresses his skepticism of Pakistan continuing in its current dimensions, very long. The link provided by the author to a Talk in the Carnegie Endowment would also be interesting for readers who are focused on Pakistan and dread the thought of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling in rouge hands.
Pakistan, the unnatural country, is in the ‘top ten’ list of failing countries since long. Its failure is recorded and researched. Not many people talk of Pakistan’s disintegration. However, this fragile country in perpetual failure might breakup anytime. Not many will believe this. But…who imagined that USSR will disintegrate? Who prophesized that Balkan countries would cease to exist till their Balkanization? It is relevant to examine Pakistan as it exists today and see if there is commonality with the breakup of the well-established and thriving countries. To tee off a thought process – the one common thread with Pakistan and the other broken countries is that they were all unnatural states.
The Pakistani Landscape
Fault Lines: Pakistan is crisscrossed by hydra-headed fault lines which are deepening and widening with time:
Baluch Separation: Baluch alienation and insurgency are gaining momentum. Economic exploitation, poor development indicators, abductions, extermination and forced disappearance of Baluchisis historical. Pakistan has even used PAF to bomb Baluchis. In 2014, BBC came out with a story –‘Baluchistan: The Untold Story of Pakistan’s Other War’.Things have worsened since then. It is with good reason that Baluchistan is known as the ‘weak heart of CPEC’. With time, Baluch separatism will only aggravate.
Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM): The PTM has emerged as a major challenge for the Pakistan state. It is largely, a nonviolent human rights movement of Pashtuns; disrupting the state in a big way in Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It gathered momentum the same way as the Patidar Andolan did in Gujarat. It is the Army’s Bete Noire. This unfolding story has the potential to disintegrate Pakistan.
Tehrik–i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP): The IS and Al Qaeda will like nothing better than to take over Pakistani nuclear arsenal through the TTP and establish a radical Pakistan State. TTP has no common ground with the Afghan Taliban. It has become active again. Its activities will increase once the USA quits Afghanistan. Pakistan will find it hard to contain this challenge.
Gilgit-Baltistan: Public unrest in Gilgit-Baltistan is increasing due to various issues relating to political sidelining, disenfranchisement and lately CPEC. For the first time, one sees representatives of this area appearing in international media arguing their case.
Sindh: There has been a long-simmering demand for Sindhudesh. Given the drift in Pakistan, it could reignite through a domino effect.
Muhajirs: The Muhajirs of Pakistan have never been happy. Revival of their movement in current conditions will be an issue for Pakistan.
Economy in ICU: Empty coffers, rising inflation, devaluation, food shortages, water scarcity, failing CPEC and monumental debt has put Pakistan’s economy on a ventilator. The Army is now on the national economic recovery council. It will destroy what is left of the economy like it has destroyed everything else in Pakistan.
Political Failure: Pakistan is a political failure. Internally the mainstream political system has been undermined and sidelined by the Army to a puppet show. Externally, the state continues to sponsor terrorism and stands exposed through the FATF. Its neighbours consider it as a scourge. No one wants to touch it.
Ideological Failure: Anti-India is its existential ideology. It severed its Hindustani roots searching for an elusive Arab, Persian or a Turkic identity. Rejected by all, it is now devoid of any identity. It prides itself on being a ‘frontline’ state. It has been a strategic doormat, always left to hold the unwanted baby. The ‘frontline’ concept, a military construct, has kept Pakistan in constant conflict to benefit the Army and impoverish its people. Pakistan, the land of the pure for all Muslims is on the verge of being ‘NaPak’(impure) due to sectarian and minority cleansing. Resultant – a complete ideological failure.
Summary: Each failure examined in isolation is a domino. Each failure operates at a different level on a different wavelength for a different outcome in the domino stack. All it needs is one tap and the dominos will fall to tear the country apart.
Army: The Janus-faced entity: Saviour and Destroyer
The Army is the nation. If it slips, the nation is gone. It is the sole beneficiary of Pakistan. It has secured itself financially by skimming the budget and buttressing it with its 38 billion USD business empire. People know they get diminishing leftovers. But… there is nowhere else to go. People know that the Janus-faced Army is both the saviour and destroyer of Pakistan. People have been sold a dream that the Army will wreak revenge on India by annexing Kashmir come what may. The dream shattered when people woke up to abrogation of Article 370. India has finished the Pakistani Army politically without firing a shot. The Army has not and cannot deliver on the ultimate Pakistani dream. To add insult, the ground has shifted with a political threat to POK, Gilgit and Baltistan. The Pakistani Army cannot guarantee the integrity or security of the nation anymore. The Pakistani Army stands discredited in the people’s court. That is a dangerous position to be in. For the first time since 1971, the Janus Binder is weak. The fault lines appear to be synergizing inorganically to a critical mass beyond the Army’s capability or control.
The External Interests
USA: Pakistan was always triple-A-rated – Allah, America and the Army. The USA has traditionally sought Pakistan to serve its interests in the region. The ‘Packistani’ Army always needed American oxygen to stay propped. This mutual backscratching has resulted in infectious sores for people of both nations. Future US-Pak engagement in Afghanistan, which is on the cards, will only destabilize and hasten Pakistani conditions for collapse especially along the Durand Line.
China: Pakistan facilitated China’s re-entry in world affairs. China invested heavily in CPEC. China wants Pakistan to survive – as its colony and as a Catspaw against India. But CPEC is dead (as per Pakistani strategists) and debt is ballooning. The ‘all-weather friends’ are so dissimilar that anti – Chinese sentiment is rising. China will not be able to stabilize Pakistan when the penny drops.
Gulf Countries: The Gulf countries have bailed out Pakistan repeatedly. They have had long term interests in its survival. However, with Gulf oil-based economies under the pump, Pakistan is a luxury, which they cannot afford any more.’
India: Abrogation of Article 370has ignited a political discourse in India and Pakistan about POK, Gilgit and Baltistan. Irrespective of what happens in the Srinagar Valley, if this discourse gathers steam, break up of Pakistan is implicit. Hence the view that ‘it is in India’s interests to have a stable Pakistan’ merits a revisit. We need to prepare for turmoil. Pakistan’s descent into being another Afghanistan before a breakup is real.
Nuclear Interests: The world at large should be worried about the Pakistani nuclear arsenal falling into radicals’ hands during or post-collapse. One needs to prepare for this eventuality. As Pakistan goes from bad to worse, international plans A B & C to ensure that the nukes do not go into wrong hands need to emerge. If that is not done, the world will be caught napping. On a not so fine morning, one could expect a suitcase-sized nuclear catastrophe on any Western doorstep.
A View of the Broken Countries
USSR: USSR, the superpower born out of the October Revolution, collapsed dramatically due to two main reasons – economic problems and an undermined political structure. Compare it with Pakistan whose economy is in ICU and all mainstream politicians are marginalized or in jail with the country run by a Puppet. A communist oligarchy which held USSR together was suddenly rendered powerless. Can something similar happen to the Pakistani Army cabal? USSR had a bigger nuclear arsenal than Pakistan. It was managed. Pakistan is in a state of worse chaos than USSR was at its time of the collapse.
Yugoslavia: Yugoslavia was an artificial construct which came into existence after the First World War. It was said that Yugoslavia had eight distinct peoples in six republics (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia), with five languages, three religions (Orthodox, Catholic and Muslim), and two alphabets (Roman and Cyrillic), but only one Yugoslav — Tito. Similarly, there is no Pakistani after Jinnah. In the 90sYugoslavia started disintegrating through ethnic strife. Yugoslavia and Pakistan are very comparable; including Milosevic’s genocide which is akin to Pakistani genocide in Bangladesh and the ongoing one in Baluchistan.
Czechoslovakia: Another unnatural state which came into existence in 1918 was Czechoslovakia. It was born out of the collapsing Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1993, the country disintegrated into its ethnic divisions and is now the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.
Pakistan: Current Pakistan bears a continuum to its old avatar. Punjabis have always sought domination by hook and crook over the rest. This contributed significantly to the breakup then. The Army catalyzed the break. The ‘Punjabis vs The Rest’continues. It is a country with no shared past, present or future. The rationale for its creation and existence is long gone. Current Pakistan has all the ingredients which broke other countries including itself. Another break up is imminent.
Coincidence of Existence and Collapse: Coincidentally all these ‘created’ countries thrived for the first few decades. Troubles started in 3-4 decades, festered for another 3-4 decades and then they altogether ceased to exist in their original form. External interests existed even then but could do very little about it. Fit the timelines and conditionalities of collapses into current-day Pakistan. An eerie resemblance emerges.
Break Ke Baad (After it ‘Breaks’)
Prepare for the Break: The thought which comes to everyone’s mind is – will Pakistan disintegrate? It might not, but it will slide downhill faster. As it does the probability of break up will increase by the day, event by event, corroborated by the timelines of other broken nations. As to when exactly the disintegration occurs is difficult to predict. However, when it happens and if it is a surprise and if we are unprepared, the price the World will pay will be steep. There are many formulations which have been made to outline the contours of the post-Pakistani collapse and the period of chaos which will follow. No issues with any or all of them. However, India should not covet any part of the post-collapse order. India needs to be prepared to deal with it. India and the world have the Bangladesh model to go by. That is the start point.
Parting Thought: Has the USA started already shaping the post break up contours through Selig Harrison’s talk at the Carnegie Endowment in 2016? Watch it on youtube and draw your conclusions. A plan is brewing somewhere, for sure! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1592&v=iqnnikx-NUY)
Every nation lives with a dream and a vision
USA’s is to be the sole superpower, China’s is to be the next superpower,
Russia’s is to regain superpower status, India’s is to be a $10 trillion economy,
South Africa’s is to be the rainbow nation of equality.
After 72 years Pakistan has nothing left.
Is the game up?
Lt Gen P R Shankar (Retd)
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of BharatShakti.in)