- The instability in Pakistan’s polity can be seen through the fact that no elected government has ever successfully completed its term.
- In the international community, Pakistan has always behaved like a person threatening to commit suicide if he doesn’t get his way.
- A huge population if pushed to desperate conditions will lead to mass migration and mass violence, something India has to be wary about.
- Nuclear weapons and secrets falling into the hands of the Taliban or ISIS will be the biggest nightmare for the entire world.
“One can choose friends, but not neighbours”, Vajpayee once said the same words. This has been the story of India and Pakistan. It is easy to forget that we were one nation at not so distant past, with all the drama and tension between the neighbours. 75 years is but a speck of sand in the desert of history. Pakistan was said to have been created with the sole intent that Muslims cannot have proper representation in the governance of the country, ironically Muslims of Pakistan have no say in the direction of the country and Indian Muslims are thriving in the land where they were supposed to be oppressed by the “kafirs”.
The creation of Pakistan is one of the intriguing parts of Indian history. A few English-educated lawyers, with no connection to the masses, in a room decided to create a new Muslim state by arousing emotions of jihad in the hearts of Muslims. Did the common folk of Punjab, Baluchistan vote for the creation of Muslim-dominated Pakistan in a referendum held? If one reader the history carefully, answers to this question are interesting, to say the least.
Present Pakistan is currently on the verge of disaster, with political and economic instability showing no signs of recovery. With the motive of destroying India in a thousand cuts being its primary foreign and domestic policy, it is no wonder that the government or “establishment” were too busy to concentrate on building a proper economy with a long-term vision.
“It’s the economy, stupid!”
It might be hard to believe but Pakistan’s economy in the 1960s was much stronger than that of India. When India choose the Soviet socialist system, Pakistan was more in favour of US economic policies. As a result of that Pakistan was leading India in all of the economic indicators. Although this was all the effects of the cold war, Pakistan’s choice had indeed brought benefits to its people. But then many things change, Pakistan was divided in two in 1971. Bangladesh was created and recognised as a sovereign State by the world. This had unforeseen effects in Pakistan.
Creation of Bangladesh
After realising the dubious and I will conceive dream of the creation of Pakistan, it was evident that there was no long-term vision behind the move. There were two parts of Pakistan which are not connected to one another – East Pakistan and West Pakistan. The people of both parts were neither culturally, socially, linguistically nor geographically connected to one another. East Pakistanis were mainly Bengali-speaking Muslims who had more in common with Bengali Indians than West Pakistanis who rightfully or ignorantly regarded themselves as successors of Turkey or Arabia. The legitimacy of this assumption is a whole different issue altogether.
Mohammed Ali Jinnah, regarded as the father of Pakistan, died not long after the creation of Pakistan, and there were no other prominent leaders to show direction to the newly born country. “Power hates vacuum”. As no one was able to wield it, it inevitably went to the most powerful institution, that is the Military. Since then the military has rarely let it out of their grasp. As a result, Rawalpindi which is situated in erstwhile West Pakistan became the de facto centre of policy-making rather than Islamabad.
The shift in power towards Rawalpindi created a unique phenomenon where there was institutional discrimination against Bengalis in Pakistan, which was the largest ethnic group in the country. Pakistan’s establishment failed to recognise the major part East Pakistan played in the economy of Pakistan. Eventually, this discrimination peaked to the point that the elected prime minister from East Pakistan was unacceptable to the establishment leading to protests, and then the eventual formation of Bangladesh.
Genesis of the Present Crisis
The formation of Bangladesh was a huge blow to the economy of Pakistan as it was a hub of industries and trade. Pakistani’s economic decline started with this event, but it managed it till recently through “investments” from the United States of America, which needed the help of Pakistan as a foothold to establish its influence in Afghanistan to counter the Taliban and aid from other Islamic nations. Therefore it is no surprise that although Pakistan economy was weak through the decades it somehow survived and started as crumbling as soon as the United States lost interest in Afghanistan and finally let the Taliban take over.
China has been very generous towards Pakistan. It views Pakistan as a tool to control the influence of India. But unlike the USA, China views its relationship as purely transactional. For every penny of “aid” and “investment” by China, it intends to receive two-fold, be it in the form of money or sovereignty. China has been termed as loan sharks by many international organisations and they have constantly warned the nations excited to receive to be cautious. The Sri Lankan Hambantota investment is a case and point. Be it Belt and Road Initiative or China Pakistan Economic Corridor which India has termed illegal, it is always in line with China’s grand vision of becoming the world’s number one superpower. In the long run, China will always be the sole beneficiary of these projects. Pakistan in its desperation has become solely dependent upon China and is staring at the results of these.
Politics and many other facets of Pakistan continue to be in constant turmoil. The instability in Pakistan’s polity can be seen through the fact that no elected government has ever successfully completed its term. There is always a coup détat or internal party struggle or exile for the head of government. However, recently Imran Khan’s government came closer than ever to completing a full term but was removed from power as it became too big for its (Army’s) boots. Khan’sgovernment was established with the support and blessings of the almighty military until Imran Khan assumed that he had sufficient power to deny the orders of the military. He eventually paid the price.
Relevance to India
It can be argued that with the possibility of the military and ISI also being preoccupied with the economic and political problems in Pakistan, India can take solace in that there will be a decrease in cross-border terrorism and a little less headache in the borders. But as it is in international politics, it is seldom that simple.
The huge population if pushed to enough desperation will lead to mass migration and mass violence. Hence, instead of borders becoming more peaceful, may become more of a headache with human rights and humanitarian assistance variables coming into play. 200 million people who have so much commonality with India, could invariably travel to India which shares a huge border with Pakistan and its military seeing the benefits of the same may choose to allow that.
Another important point is the nuclear missiles and technology. The army for all its flaws has refrained from using or leaking nuclear secrets to rogue and terrorist organisations, no matter how close it is to it. Imagining it falling into the hands of the Taliban or ISIS is the biggest nightmare for the whole world.
In the international community, Pakistan has always behaved like a person threatening to commit suicide if he doesn’t get his way. That has nudged many nations to help to keep it afloat from time to time. But this time it is not only economic problems but political too and the people have even for the first time pointed fingers towards the military and taken action against it. So it will be interesting to watch how the future events unfold. Will it be history repeating itself or will something change? It’s anybody’s guess at this point.
(Shreyas Goutham has an M.Sc. in Psychology and serves in NIMHANS. He writes regularly on politics, society, international affairs and technology. Opinions expressed are the author’s own)