Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
It’s the start of a year and there is some path-breaking thinking going on in Pakistan as it seeks to get back on track. This article takes on the so-called “military-jihadi nexus” that some blame for pushing a modern nation of 170 million people with a strong middle class to the edge. Dr Manzur Ejaz writing in the Daily Times says this may be the year the military takes on the demons within and goes after each and every militant group including those closely nurtured by it. Not because it has had a change of heart, but because circumstances will force it .
The chief is that the state of Pakistan – where the military enjoys immense privileges – is itself under threat. And it was to safeguard the state, that the military moved against the Taliban and other militant organisations in 2009, not just under U.S. pressure, he argues.
“The military may have realised that if it goes on the same old path, the state may be faced with bigger disasters. Lawlessness and a collapsing economy may affect the military’s viability and its own privileges,” he says, adding that the military has concluded that a democratic discourse and rehabilitation of the state’s basic institutions may be the only way to save the country.
And above all, looming large is the rise of India as an economic power which some in Delhi see as a game-changer in the region just as China’s rise is shaking up the world. Not even India’s incompetent politicians and deathly bureaucracy can stop it growing at 8-9 percent for the next few years, a government official told me, only half-in-jest. It may not be enough to pull up all of India’s poor, but the sheer rise of a nation of a billion people will be enough to set off waves in its immediate neighbourhood.
Pakistan is likely to drift further away from the west in the years ahead as pressure from Islamist groups and anti-Americanism undermine the traditional moorings of the secular pro-western elite, according to a report just released by the Legatum Institute.
The report rules out the possibility of a Taliban takeover or of Pakistan becoming a failed state, predicting it is most likely to ”muddle through” with the army continuing to play a powerful role behind the scenes in setting foreign and security policy. “Rather than an Islamist takeover, you should look at a subtle power shift from a secular pro-Western society to an Islamist anti-American one,” said Jonathan Paris, the author of the report.
Dawn columnist Irfan Husain has drawn attention to a fairly revolutionary article by Pakistani academic Farhat Taj in defence of drone attacks in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
By way of introduction, start with what Husain writes in his column:
“Many of us in the punditry profession are guilty of making generalisations about what is happening in the tribal areas without having visited them in recent times. Thus, when we hear about the anger and outrage supposedly sweeping though the people of Fata over the frequent drone attacks, we tend to accept this as the gospel truth,” he writes.
A nearly 24-hour gunbattle this week between militants and Indian security forces in the centre of Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, is a powerful reminder of the tensions in the region at the heart of enmity between India and Pakistan. Two people were killed along with the two militants - one of whom was described by police as a Pakistani - in the biggest attack in Srinagar in two years. Hundreds of people, who had become accustomed to relative calm after years of separatist violence, had to be rescued from nearby buildings.
The attack itself might or might not turn out to be an isolated incident. But what is troubling is that it took place within the context of a deterioration in relations between India and Pakistan.
Last week’s suicide bomb attack on a base in Afghanistan which killed seven CIA officers and a Jordanian spy is raising fears in Pakistan that it could encourage an intensified drone bombing campaign to target those who planned the assault.
Although it is too early to say for certain who ordered the attack, possibilities include the Pakistani Taliban who claimed responsibility; the Afghan Taliban who had earlier said the bomber was an Afghan army officer; the Haqqani network; al Qaeda; or a combination of different groups working together.