Monday, March 23, 2009

Pakistan's Demise Imminent?


"We're now reaching the point where within one to six months we could see the collapse of the Pakistani state, also because of the global financial crisis, which just exacerbates all these problems. . . . The collapse of Pakistan, al-Qaeda acquiring nuclear weapons, an extremist takeover -- that would dwarf everything we've seen in the war on terror today", said Bush Iraq adviser, David Kilcullen, on the eve of Pakistan Day commemorating Pakistan Resolution of 1940 that started the Pakistan Movement leading to the creation of the nation on August 14, 1947. Kilcullen is not alone in the belief that Pakistani state is in danger of collapse. Others, such as Shahan Mufti of the Global Post, argue that Pakistan is dying a slow death with each act of terrorism on its soil.

Appearing to give credence to the latest dire forecast of Pakistan as a "failed state" or a "proud nation" in "slow demise", Pakistan's TV channels showed live pictures of Pakistan's founders' shrine in Karachi plunged in total darkness on the evening of Pakistan Day 2009. The failure of a nation to keep the lights on at its important monuments on its National Day is symbolic of the serious crises the country faces today. But does it mean that the state is about to collapse? Let us examine this forecast in a little more depth.

While the extraordinary failures of Pakistan's ruling political-feudal-military elite are largely responsible for the multiple crises of food, water, electricity, militancy, economy, overall governance and public confidence, the last three decades (1980s, 1990s and the current decade) have been dominated by a series of disastrous foreign interventions in the region that have contributed to such failures.

In late 1970s and most of the 1980s, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan brought the United States CIA into the region, which put together a US-Saudi-Pakistani coalition to arm, train and indoctrinate an entire generation of Pashtoon men along the Pak-Afghan border. The rallying cry for Afghan resistance was Islamic Jihad against the infidels and the fighters were honored by Americans, Saudis and Pakistanis as Mujaheddin. The Islamic madrassahs in Pakistan's tribal belt rapidly multiplied as the anti-Soviet coalition invested in organizing a powerful insurgency that eventually brought down the Soviet Empire. By the end of the decade of 1980s, Afghanistan became the graveyard of the Red Army and caused the collapse of the Soviet Empire. The American-Saudi-Pakistani victory, however, could eventually turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory.

As the Americans and the Saudis ended their involvement in the region in late 1980s and early 1990s, a very large number of armed Mujahideen became unemployed. Afghanistan was left in ruins by a decade of conflict, and Pakistan was heavily sanctioned by the United States. No effort was made in rebuilding the region. The Afghan fighters had no other skills or opportunities and received no help in finding useful employment. Some of them started fighting among themselves for control of Afghanistan, while others went to Pakistan to settle and find unskilled jobs. Some were used by Pakistan's intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to support an insurgency in Indian occupied Kashmir.

As Afghanistan became increasingly chaotic and total anarchy prevailed for most of the decade in 1990s, the Afghans got tired of the lawlessness of the war lords and yearned for restoring some semblance of law and order. It was under these circumstances that, with the help of Pakistan, the Taliban emerged as a force from the remnants of the Mujahideen and their offsprings, many of whom grew up in refugee camps in Pakistan and attended madrassahs in the border region. Though they enforced draconian laws and imposed rough justice, the Taliban did succeed in bringing relative peace to the war-torn nation. Unfortunately, they also became unwitting hosts to al Qaeda, consisting of mostly Arab Mujahideen led by Osama Bin Laden, who claimed responsibility for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 (known as 911), in the United States, killing nearly 3000 Americans in New York and Washington.

In retaliation for the 911 tragic attacks, the Americans intervened yet again with deadly force, and drove the Taliban and al Qaeda into the border region of Pakistan known as Federally Administered Tribal Areas(FATA). As expected, the presence of large numbers of insurgents in Pakistan is now threatening the stability of Pakistan and the entire region. The situation has been further exacerbated by the unilateral and heavy-handed actions of the US military, causing large numbers of civilian casualties on both sides of the border. These increasing civilian casualties are fueling a rage in both Afghanistan and Pakistan against the US presence and against Pakistan government's support of it. And, according to media reports, the US is preparing to expand air strikes to Pakistan's major city of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province. Such an escalation will make Kilcullen's dire forecast more plausible. It will also increase the chances of the region becoming the graveyard of yet another empire and its military.

Is Pakistani state on the verge of collapse? Will Pakistan become a failed state within the next six months? Such dire prognoses are not new for Pakistanis. But, in the unlikely event that it does fail, Pakistani leadership's monumental failures will be the main contributors to such a catastrophic development. But the real answer to these questions will depend largely on what policy the Obama administration chooses to pursue in the region. If American military continues to be seen as a foreign occupation force by the vast majority of the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, it is destined to suffer the same fate as the Greeks, the British and Russians before it, unless President Obama changes course dramatically. Even if America does miraculously achieve a military victory in Afghanistan, it will likely be another Pyrrhic Victory in the absence of a more enlightened U.S. strategy. As Kilcullen says in his latest interview, the stakes are much higher than ever: "The collapse of Pakistan, al-Qaeda acquiring nuclear weapons, an extremist takeover -- that would dwarf everything we've seen in the war on terror today."

To quote an unknown Urdu poet, Hum to dubaiN gay sanam, tum ko bhi lay dubaiN gay.
Loosely translated, it says: As we drown, we'll take you down with us.

In other words, it's a cry for help: Please save us from ourselves.

Here's a video clip from Intelligence Squared debate about Pakistan:



Related Links:

The Accidental Guerrilla by David Kilcullen

Can President Zardari Survive?

Jinnah's Pakistan Booms Amidst Doom and Gloom

US Escalating Covert War in Pakistan?

20th Anniversary of Soviet Defeat in Afghanistan

Growing Insurgency in Swat

Afghan War and Collapse of the Soviet Union

US, NATO Fighting to Stalemate in Afghanistan?

FATA Faceoff Fears

Pakistan's Feudal-Political-Military Elite

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

These people have been dreaming about this for years and like keep doing it.

What is a "failed" state. U.S. cannot control its broder in south, is it a "failed" state?

Amit said...

As an Indian I would never ever wish for pakistan going as a failed state, I know they have lived throughout these years of their existence as a confused lot, I know that they are living on false vision and promises by their rulers, I know they can never answer how their economy has survived all these years, they can never find an answer to problems like, Islamic nation or Liberal Islamic nation, Nuclear Power or Nuclear Bomb holder, Anti-Indian or Anti-World but yet their existence is important for India as a buffer state against uncontrollable, indoctrinated and professional terrorists like Pashtuns, Afghans, etc.. It is their time to suffer for the ages to come, now they would understand what it likes to be an Islamists. They were all Hindu convert and disillusioned by their leaders for political positions post Britain period. The only solution for a peace pakistan is inclusion of Punjab and Sindh back in United India and live as a family.

housewife said...

Starting from the title "Pakistan's Demise Imminent?" its a very negative and pessimist view of the sitaution based on mere words but it does spread a message of hopelessness...I for one do believe that Allah has a master plan which no U.S. or David Kilcullen can judge.

Anonymous said...

In this all situation I agree with the fact situation. But I would like to take a moderate position for the conclusion of this article. Pakistan cannot collapse. Its is true that we have had some of the worst rulers in the history of mankind who used the country in order to get some favors from west. At this point I would say that we all must stay optimistic about the future of Pakistan. Pakistan has been fighting for the interest of the world since its existence. Initially we fought against Communism and now we are fighting against world terrorism. Pakistan is fighting a war in the interest of rest of the world, and world including India should be thankful to Pakistan for cleaning all this mess. One more thing most of Pakistanis are not converted from Hindu religion. We are Muslim nation and we take pride of being one. Also going back to India is the not a part of solution.

Finally, I must say that this situation will be much better if foreign insurgence will be at its minimum for Pakistan. I would like to add that all the NATO and US forces should be take out of Pakistan and let real Pakistanis decide whats best for them.

Pakistan is the best place in the world and INSHALLAH we will pull our selves out of this situation..WITH OUT ANY HELP FROM INDIA.. also India should look into their own issue and try to resolve the conflict between their own states... AND LEAVE PAKISTAN ALONE...

Riaz Haq said...

I do hope I am wrong but, given their high level of motivation, extraordinary commitment and readiness to die for their cause (however misguided it may be), it looks more and more likely now that the Taliban will defeat both the US and Pak military forces to assert control over the whole region after a historic bloodbath, claiming millions of innocent lives. And then they will turn back the clock by several centuries.

Only a dramatic change in US policy can avert this horrible specter. I do hope that the Obama administration's ongoing strategic review leads to fundamental changes in America's posture in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Anonymous said...

Sad news read, whats going on in Pakistan, was it robbery or just plain revenge for reporting sensitive news:
Tariq Malik: A brave struggle cut short By Osama Bin Javed
Tuesday, 24 Mar, 2009 | 10:38 PM PST | Malik was known to extract the tiniest of details in every assignment that he worked on and would always present a thorough report. —DawnNews Image Editorial

Tariq Malik Media gallery

Tariq Malik: a career in pictures Apart from being a bright, young journalist, Tariq Malik was also a son and a sibling who made his family proud – the same family that now sits deprived of their prized asset.

Malik was brutally murdered by armed robbers on Sunday as he and his friend Imran were walking towards his house in Defence, Lahore.

Held at gun-point by two robbers, Malik and Imran were asked to hand over their cell phones and cash. As Malik resisted and broke into a scuffle with one of the robbers, the accomplice shot him in the abdomen and stabbed him before they fled the scene scot-free.

Despite being rushed to the hospital by Imran, Malik’s injuries proved fatal and he was pronounced dead upon arrival.

Hours before this brutal encounter, Malik had sent a message to the DawnNews head-office in Karachi to confirm that he will be on duty for Monday. It was previously thought that he would take a few days off due to a car accident while on duty a few days earlier. The injury hampered his movements severely and made it difficult for him to stand, but Malik ensured that his work did not suffer despite the excruciating pain it put him through.

Born in 1979, Tariq Javed Malik was enthusiastic and ambitious and it seemed as if nothing could dampen his spirit.

Hailing from a village in rural Punjab, Malik held a Masters degree in English language and literature and was an International Relations graduate from the Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad.

His short-lived illustrious career included reporting live during the long march, the imposition of emergency rule, and through countless sessions of the Punjab Assembly.

Malik also made a name for himself through several exclusive reports on issues including fake law colleges in the Punjab, child abuse, the plight of nurses, old people’s homes, plagiarism, and rape among many others.

Famous for being one of those reporters who never backed down, Malik was wholly dedicated and active member of the DawnNews team that is still trying to come to terms with this tragic loss.

Malik was known to extract the tiniest of details in every assignment that he worked on and would always present a thorough report.

While Malik’s murder is being investigated by the police, no arrests have been made so far as they are still matching the initial information with existing records of similar cases.

Some experts in the police department believe that the manner, in which the bullets were fired at Malik, is not in tandem with a conventional snatch-and-run incident.

His grieving family and colleagues demand the culprits be brought to justice.

Let’s observe a moment of silence in remembrance of this dedicated journalist, son and brother.

Malik’s soyem will be held at 10 am on Wednesday, March 25, at his residence in Layyah.

Anonymous said...

... it looks more and more likely now that the Taliban will defeat both the US and Pak military forces to assert control over the whole region after a historic bloodbath, claiming millions of innocent lives.

Whoa Riaz! Now you've swung to the other extreme. We're talking a rag-tag force of a few thousand are we not? These cowards thrive on fear - beheading a dead person does not show deadly intent - it demonstrates how pathetic these guys are.

The real reason these guys are insidious is not the US presence and strategy - or lack of it. Rather, its the confusion in a large number of Pakistanis. If the State of Pakistan had a citizenry that decided that these guys were irretrievably bad, they'd be out of human ammo in a few years. The double-mindedness of apnay log is a big nail in this coffin. They're not beating the Pakistani Army on the battlefield - they're winning the mind-game against the Army and the people. No military that can win that fight.

Let's stop wailing about how the US is causing all of this. Admission that this is a Pakistani problem is the first step towards solving it.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon:

You say, "Whoa Riaz! Now you've swung to the other extreme. We're talking a rag-tag force of a few thousand are we not?"

History is filled with examples of narrow bands of fanatics defeating much larger and better organized forces arrayed against them. Just think of Muslim Spain, a tolerant, pluralistic, broad-based society that was taken over by a few thousand fanatic Catholics who took over all of Spain and started the Spanish Inquisition that wiped out all the Muslims and Jews from the land they had called their home for centuries.

Naveen KS said...

This war has to end and it has to end on the terms of the free world and the free world has the ultimate weapon to end this. The sooner the Taliban realizes this the better for Pakistan, Afghanistan and surrounding region.

Anonymous said...

Mr Riaz Haq, I really respect your sophisticated and expert views on current affairs
I request if possible and ur busy schedule permits please give me your opinion about my following comment :

Somebody convinced me recently lets say 50% convinced, there is no such thing as democracy in Islam.Further, our brothers with low literacy level only understand DUNDA.What do you think then why we in Pakistan want democracy like in India where the majority are atleast high school graduate.Compared to Pakistan 75% live in deehat under feudal system, so how can we implement democracy, do you think it is possible?

Anonymous said...

Another journalist killed who worked for The nation, besides Tariq Malik from Dawn in pretext of robbery, pakistan now sounds like western movies.

RAWALPINDI - Some unidentified persons gunned down senior reporter of daily The Nation and Waqt TV Channel, Raja Assad Hameed, on Thursday night at his residence located in the jurisdiction of Sadiqabad Police Station.
According to details, when Assad reached the gate of his home at about 10:15 pm, some unknown killers opened fire and shot him dead.
Soon after the tragic incident, the members of his family, who came out of the house after hearing thegunshots, shifted him to Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. The deceased sustained four bullet injuries, one in the neck and the rest at his face.
Later, the dead body was shifted to District Headquarter Hospital for postmortem. A large number of journalists, political leaders, high-ups of police, workers and people belonging to various walks of life reached the hospital.
The gory incident created panic among the journalist community who demanded of the government to track down the culprits and bring them to justice. Expressing their sorrow and grief over the heartrending demise of Raja Assad, the journalists condemned the cruel incident and termed it an extreme act of brutality. City Police Officer Inayatullah Farooq constituted two police teams to probe into the incident.

Anonymous said...

On march 25th I requested your feedback, about a simple question and your expert views about introduction of democracy in pakistan, but I noticed you just ignored it.Sorry But I also noticed to get an instantanoeus anwswer from Mr Riaz haq the great, you have to sound like an indian and contradict your blog comments.If somebody who appreciate your views, in return you get a silent page.That is the main reason that inspite of all the sophisticated talent in our people, we are behind very last in the que (long line)because we lack basic honorability towards each other.Its ok, thanks.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon:
You ask, "Somebody convinced me recently lets say 50% convinced, there is no such thing as democracy in Islam.Further, our brothers with low literacy level only understand DUNDA.What do you think then why we in Pakistan want democracy like in India where the majority are atleast high school graduate.Compared to Pakistan 75% live in deehat under feudal system, so how can we implement democracy, do you think it is possible?"

First of all, it makes no sense to say that Islam and democracy are incompatible. Islam is at least as compatible, if not more so, as any other religion like Christianity or Judaism. The basic principles of democracy, such as discussion and debate in decision making (Shura) and accountability (Ehtisab) are part of Islam. There are many instances from the life of prophet Muhammad and the noble khalifas (like Omar) that prove this point.

On the question of practical implementation, the issue is the efficacy of democracy in nations that have not yet made the transition from agrarian/feudal patron-client societies to industrialized societies with high literacy levels. All real democracies where the governments truly serve their people's needs are those that have already become industrialized in America, Europe and East Asia. The rest, including India and Pakistan, are just pretenders, with democracy as a fig-leaf for the incompetent, corrupt and self-serving politicians and unaccountable bureaucrats.

There are practical examples of democracy is Muslim nations such as Indonesia and Malaysia which made the successful transition from agrarian/rural to industrialized societies before they fully embraced democracy.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I really appreciate.

P S said...

No discussion in Pakistan goes without a reference to India. For all of Riaz Haq's posturing about democracy in Pakistan, he has to drag India into the discussion. It must be remembered that India has been a democracy ever since independence in 1947. Even during the dark days of emergency in the mid seventies, India never faced situations that Pakistan is so familiar with. Talking about Malyasia, the icon of Isalmic democracy, Mahatir Mohammed ruled Malyasia with an iron fist in the most undemocratic way. Even today Malaysian economy is biased towards the Bhumiputras or the locals .. Malay Muslims.
Riaz Haq is right when he says India and Pakistan are predominantly agrarian sociecties trying to transform into modern states. However, the comparison ends there. India is a vibrant democracy despite all the negetives and despites the presence of non-democratic neighbors. It is because the Indian democracy is based on the philosophy of live and let live. However, Pakistan's birth is based on the philosophy of seperateness and religious identity. A state which has its founding on theocratic principles cannot have democracy. This applies to all religions not just Islam. Western countries have thriving democracies because they relegated religion to the four walls of the individual and did not mix it up with basic human requirements, which is the cornerstone of democracy. Unless Pakistanis too learn to keep their religious identity to their homes, there is no way democracy can blossom.

Riaz Haq said...

P.S.:

As I said before, the issue is the efficacy of democracy in nations that have not yet made the transition from agrarian/feudal patron-client societies to industrialized societies with high literacy levels. All real democracies where the governments truly serve their people's needs are those that have already become industrialized in America, Europe and East Asia. The rest, including India and Pakistan, are just pretenders, with democracy as a fig-leaf for the incompetent, corrupt and self-serving politicians and unaccountable bureaucrats.

Unlike real democracies that serve the needs of their people, here's the reality of Indian democracy:

There is widespread hunger and malnutrition in all parts of India. India ranks 66th on the 2008 Global Hunger Index of 88 countries while Pakistan is slightly better at 61 and Bangladesh slightly worse at 70. The first India State Hunger Index (Ishi) report in 2008 found that Madhya Pradesh had the most severe level of hunger in India, comparable to Chad and Ethiopia. Four states — Punjab, Kerala, Haryana and Assam — fell in the 'serious' category. "Affluent" Gujarat, 13th on the Indian list is below Haiti, ranked 69. The authors said India's poor performance was primarily due to its relatively high levels of child malnutrition and under-nourishment resulting from calorie deficient diets.

Indian media's headlines about the newly-minted Indian billionaires need to bring sharper focus on the growing rich-poor gap in India. On its inside pages, The Times of India last year reported Communist Party leader Sitaram Yechury's as saying that "on the one hand, 36 Indian billionaires constituted 25% of India’s GDP while on the other, 70% of Indians had to do with Rs 20 a day". "A farmer commits suicide every 30 minutes. The gap between the two Indias is widening," he said.

And then there is the question of how Indian democracy treats its minorities. Going by the Sachar Commission report, Muslims are the new untouchables in India. They are not safe, either.
Just look at Gujarat riots of 2002 that claimed thousands of lives of minority Muslims. Tens of thousands of displaced Muslims are still languishing in refugee camps seven years after the riots, many had their homes destroyed, others are too afraid to return to their homes.

Many of the Gujarat perpetrators were caught on video, in a sting carried out in 2007 by the weekly magazine Tehelka, proudly recalling how they murdered and raped Muslims. But, as Amnesty International pointed out in its report, justice continues to evade most victims and survivors of the violence.

The realities I have laid out here do not support your arguments for Indian democracy.

Anonymous said...

PS,please dont glorify india, it is exactly as I seen India just as they show in slum dog millionaire.What kind of pathetic democracy India has, where you can predict the next primeminister(Nehru gandhi 1,2 and soon 3 and 4).Poor becomes more poor, abuse your poor to bleed them so India succeed.Its same like pakistan, nothing special.

Anonymous said...

Shall we glorify Pakistan Mr.Hero Anonymous???
Do I need to enlighten your ignorance by saying Pakistan is worlds terror capital-not a small achievement!! India can never match you no doubt!!Such is your nations reputaion!I am laughing at your comparisions to India.Keep dreaming and lying to yourselves!

Anonymous said...

Riaz,

You are comparing apples to oranges. Pakistan and India stand no comparison when it comes to democratic traditions. Pakistan has military-feudal-political clique where not a single elected government has completed his/here tenure in the office. India has done it 15 times on an unprecedented scale in a country with dizzying diversity. Not to mention its state governments and village councils. Countries such as Malaysia are not paragons of democracy (For Pakistan it may be, who knows). It's ruled with an iron fist and rights to minorities is a far cry like in many other nations.

It's Pakistan, not India, which uses pursuit of democracy as a fig leaf to get access to more aid from the West; the military calls the shots and the peasants elect the leaders chosen by their landlords. In the absence of genuine land reforms in Pakistan the transition from an agrarian economy to an industrial one is unlikely. However, anything is possible if the Pak military intervenes.

The glaring economic disparity in India exists because of the early stages of globalization - the ones who had the skills to participate in it benefitted more than others. India is moving from agrarian society to industrial one and most likely it's going to be a bumpy ride given the fact that it's being done in an electoral democracy on a large scale.

Riaz Haq said...

Spirit of Swat festival gets underway in Pakistan, reports The News:

Khyber Pakhtun-khwa Governor Masood Kausar on Saturday formally inaugurated the Spirit of Swat festival at the Grassy Ground.

Music programmes and sports competitions would be held during the festival, which had been started with the car rally from Khairabad, Attock, to Saidu Sharif in Swat.

In his speech, the governor said peace returned to the Swat valley owing to the unprecedented sacrifices of the people and security forces. Now, no one will be allowed to disturb peace of the valley, he told the gathering.

The festival started with the firework followed by musical show, which was attended by around 10,000 people including women and children. Prominent singers Rahim Shah and Zek Afridi and others mesmerised the audience. A large number of people had made it to the Grassy Ground and appreciated the forces for strict security arrangements. The purpose of the Spirit of Swat festival, which would continue till June 20, is to restore people s confidence and promote tourism in Swat.