Pakistan is passing through the most dangerous phase of its life as a nation-state.
It faces enormous internal challenges and external pressures which need to be addressed effectively if Pakistan is to continue functioning as a state that can perform its basic obligations towards its citizenry and stay positively engaged with the international community.
Pakistan is fast losing its primacy in the territories that constitute Pakistan to non-state entities and powerful interests that want to enforce their hardline religio-political doctrines or use force to pursue their narrow Islamic-sectarian agendas or create a domain of authority for themselves at the expense of Pakistani state or engage in criminal and illicit business activities. The Pakistani state is increasingly unable or unwilling to protect ordinary citizens against these power wielders.
Pakistan’s security and intelligence establishment have not been able to come to the conclusion if the Islamic hardline and militant groups are a challenge to the sovereignty and primacy of the state. They maintain a tolerant, if not sympathetic, disposition towards selected militant Islamic groups that gives them space to function and penetrate the society. Some of the extremist religious groups are now so entrenched in the society that the state will find it difficult to effectively control them if they ever decide to do that. The current state policy is a combination of ignoring their activities, appeasement and, a selective use of force against some groups. The preferred strategy is to seek some working arrangements with these groups whereby they stay engaged in low-key activities but do not directly challenge the state authority.
The power dynamics of Islamic militancy and other groups that have ideological-political agenda make it imperative for these groups to defy the state authority from time to time. They need to demonstrate that they are independent of the state authority in order to win over support in the society. Pakistan’s security establishment should understand that these groups cannot be reliable partners for foreign policy or internal agenda.
Pakistan’s internal weaknesses have compromised its role at the international level and reduced its bargaining power in global politics. The current impasse in the US-Pakistan relations is a good example of the limited scope of diplomatic action for Pakistan. The Pakistani civilian and military authorities adopted two punitive measures to register protest against the US/NATO attack on a Pakistani border post in Salala. However, as the stalemate was allowed to fester, Pakistan’s position weakened because of internal economic pressures and troubled socio-political conditions.
There is an external dimension to Pakistan’s current predicament. However, the major causes are internal and there is an urgent need to put the internal economic and political house in order. These internal problems cannot be addressed by pursuing confrontation towards the US and other Western countries.The primary responsibility for improving internal political and economic conditions and sustaining the effectiveness of the state system is on the political leaders and activists (government and opposition) and societal elite.
They need to practice and preach respect for law and constitution in letter and spirit, fulfil civic obligations and view Pakistan as the focal point of political attachment rather than treating it as an instrument for pursuing their partisan and ideological agendas.There is little attention to these issues at the operational level. The popular culture projects a powerful person as the one on whom ordinary laws do not apply; who can defy laws at his convenience.
The most unfortunate development in Pakistan is the neglect of civic obligations. Schools hardly teach the rights and duties of citizenship to children. The school courses are focused more on making people Muslim rather than teaching them the concept of citizenship. Consequently, the young people are not focused on Pakistan as a nation state or the obligations of a citizen. This makes them less concerned about the consequences of their actions on others.
For a minor reason, the students and others people come out on the main road, block the traffic and set old vehicle tyres on fire. They may also damage public and private property. Invariably the state authorities do not take any action. As a result, urban disorder is on the rise and there is hardly any cost for those disrupting traffic or damaging public or private property.
The opposition political leaders, unable to dislodge the federal government in the National Assembly, have been attempting to dislodge the government through street agitation. In the Punjab, the chief minister and his close associates openly preach violence in order to embarrass the federal government. They do not realise that law and order is a provincial subject. It is the duty of the provincial government to maintain law and order. But the PML(N) leadership (chief minister, cabinet members and senior members of the party) not only encourage violent agitation but they also participate in street agitation on power shortages.
The PPP is no less unrestrained in its criticism of the PML(N), especially the Sharif brothers. Both parties are now holding their separate public meetings in different cities which invariably become exercises in criticism and condemnation of each other. The harsh polemics between the parties can be described as futile politics and it diverts attention from the problems that threaten the state and society.
Violence has become endemic in Karachi; four-five killings a day is a routine affair for last couple of months. Various parts of Balochistan, especially the Baloch majority districts, experience violence on a regular basis. Powerful non-state groups motivated by ethnic, Islamic-sectarian, separatist, criminal and money-making considerations engage in such activities, exposing the inability of the state to check these trends.
If the present trends continue, defiance of state authority and violence will become an integral part of Pakistan’s political culture. This will undermine the prospects of civilian democratic politics.The political and societal leaders should observe restraint in their mutual interaction and they need to make joint effort to salvage Pakistan’s economy and contain the drift towards disorder.
If the political parties an leaders continue with their restrained war of words and work to undermine each other, Pakistan may start resembling Somalia in a couple of years. This will jeopardise the future of all political and societal leaders irrespective of their political affiliations. The more Pakistan becomes disorderly, the fewer are the chances of the political and civilian leaders staying on the top of the power-pyramid. – Khaleenews