By Maj Gen CP Singh
India and Pakistan were born together and got separated at birth. While India has focused on secular credentials with “Sabka saath, sabka Vikas” and growth, Pakistan embraced extremism to keep its masses diverted from the path of economic development. Today after 73 years, there is no comparison between the two.
Pakistan is down in dumps, while India is progressing in leaps and bounds. In last 73 years, Pakistan has moved on self destruction course steadily with some leaders like President Zia giving it extra push towards death and destruction. It’s a typical “Salim-Javed” type story of Bollywood films where one brother follows the righteous path and joins police while another rebels against society, becomes a terrorist and ultimately gets shot like a criminal.
If you compare India and Pakistan on prosperity index, there is a wide gap between the two. After Independence, initially Pakistan progressed better being a smaller country and taking advantage of its geostrategic location, while India was slowly lumbering up with democratic impediments. The downfall of Pakistan started with rise of radicalism from 1969 onwards and thereafter, its downhill slide. In the past 40 years, its per capita income has suffered almost a 90 per cent net deficit relative to India and the gap is rising.
Unfortunately, when it comes to basic human rights and civil liberties, Pakistan is at least 100 years behind the modern world. It is a country where the citizens are left on their own, not only to struggle to stay alive but also to remain silent on the atrocities and human-rights abuses in their society.
Pakistan was born as an insecure nation and grew up with a revisionist culture, feudalistic mindset, racial and lingual prejudices and ideological fault lines. Pakistan, on its partition, had over 13 per cent minorities residing within an Islamic population of 76 million. Today the minorities have declined to under 2.5 per cent within a population of over 220 million, living life virtually under seize with Blasphemy laws, human rights violations, forced conversions, military oppression and systemic persecution. This is a country where the military is politicised and polity is militarised resulting in numerous military coups and Prime Ministers being exiled or executed.
Army and Islamist Mullahs acting as the custodians of this disruptive ideology and defenders of radical Islam while ‘made by military politicians’ act as stooges. It survives on a respirator on the verge of slipping into comatose, with a fragile economy, poor human development index, alarming unemployment and now in the Chinese debt trap of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This country is also the notorious epicenter of breeding, harbouring and exporting terrorism beyond its national boundaries.
In the 50 years of these since 1969, Pakistan has so lost its pre-eminence that even its Ummah prefers India than Pakistan. In the 40 years, since it embraced jihad, it has ruined its economy. But this isn’t the whole price Pakistan has paid for this permanent blood feud with India and harbouring extremism. In 50 years, Pakistan lost its pre-eminence in the Islamic world. In the past 30 years, it has permanently embedded jihadis in its cities and institutions. And in the last two decades, Pakistan is seen as harbinger of terrorism. There isn’t even a token disapproval of India bombing Pakistan’s Balakot in mainland after Pulwama attack and most importantly, India and the world have called its nuclear bluff. To add to the misery, Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has placed Pakistan in the Grey list due to its abetment of terrorism.
The nexus of the deep state, the ruling elite and the mullahs has turned this country into a place where only slaves to prejudice and one-sided narratives against the world are allowed to live according to the rules set by this troika. Perhaps only a society living in the medieval ages can rape children and women, kill their fellow citizens in the name of blasphemy and treason, and yet trumpet that they are the chosen nation of God.
In Pakistan, globally oriented Islamist extremists have a population of 180 million that have been exposed to the main elements of extremist narratives for over six decades. Various extremist actors have exploited this situation to present an extremist rhetorical vision that is perceived as being analogous to the country’s self-image. Al-Qaeda, as the world’s most ambitious and arguably most successful Islamist extremist organisation has succeeded in making the country seem like an international poster child for the extremist cause. The country suffers from a certain narrative fragility, which is the result of the circumstances of its birth and the policy choices of subsequent leaders. Extremist groups, al-Qaeda chief among them, have been able to exploit this vulnerability to powerful effect, using Pakistan to make global points while expanding their influence within the country itself.
Dominance of Army
Since the Independence of Pakistani state in 1947 until now, army has played a pivotal role in the history of Pakistan. Although Pakistan was founded as a democracy after its Independence from the British Raj, the military has remained one of the country’s most powerful institutions and has on occasion overthrown democratically elected civilian governments on the basis of self-assessed mismanagement and corruption. The political history of Pakistan can be summed up as a story of repeated coupes followed by protracted periods of military government, briefly punctuated by elected civilian government. Pakistan is again slipping further into a political turmoil that has characterized most of its history.
There are following factors which deserve attention in this regard:-
• Pakistan has been under military rule for more than half the years of its existence. The country has witnessed three coups. The military in Pakistan has come to exercise a formidable influence in the spheres of the Pakistani political, economic and social.
• Pakistan has been plagued by exceptional political turbulence since its inception and has had a poor record of democracy.
• Greatest significance of the equilibrium that has come to characterise civil military relations in Pakistan. In reality, the military rulers while seeking political legitimacy have steadily entrenched their control over key sectors of the Pakistani polity.
In the recent past, the army has found a better method to rule. They install a puppet government with the farce of an election and virtually run the country. The blame of ill governance or failures is often being offloaded on the doorsteps of elected government. If they want to take over power from any party or leader in any state, they easily do it with Prime Minister Imran Khan as the face. Now, in case there is a provincial government that Imran Khan does not like, the army orchestrates its downfall and installs a friendlier government. This is exactly what happened in Balochistan a few years ago, as highlighted by Nawaz Sharif in his televised speech.
A ‘civil war’-like situation in Pakistan amid reports of clashes between the Karachi Police and the Pakistan army in the recent past has challenged the supremacy of Pak army for the first time. News agency ANI quoted a Pakistan based media report saying that heavy fire was exchanged between the Sindh police in Karachi and Pakistan army, after the latter tried to take custody of a Superintendent of Police Md Aftab Anwar.
Recent Chaos in Pakistan
Army Police Clashes The recent revolt by top police officers against the army in Pakistan’s Sindh province was unprecedented and shook the country’s military. In Sindh, the top brass of the police force including the province’s IG (Inspector General of Police) who is in charge of the entire region, seven DIGs (Deputy Inspector Generals), six senior superintendents and three SHOs sent identical applications asking for a two-month leave. This was not a protest against an elected government or Prime Minister Imran Khan, but against the army in Pakistan, which is supreme and never challenged. The reason why the police were able to pull off such a stand-off is because the army is displaying a façade of federalism working under the democratically elected government. It’s prudent to highlight that Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is a significantly powerful party and since law and order is a state subject, it can possibly instigate and encourage police officers to protest against the army.
Political Upheaval There is too much chaos in the Pakistani polity now. PM Imran Khan is a lame-duck government with the army in full control. In the meantime, Imran Khan called Osama Bin Laden a ‘Shaheed’ (martyr) and the FATF promptly extended Pakistani presence in its grey list. The Afghan situation is only worsening. There is active collusion between Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Afghan Taliban. FATA is in bad shape. Pakistan is busy building a fence along the Western Border. All things considered, there is chaos in Pak polity. How long will PM Imran Khan be able to hold on to his chair is to be seen.
Uneven Development and Unrest Military-led political dispensation of Islamabad is perpetuating the barbarism, holocaust, massacre and genocide creating dissension and unrest. Out of the four provinces of Pakistan, three are simmering and the fourth is caught in the division. Even the so-called autonomous territories of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan remain a flashpoint with oppression and fascism at the hands of Pak army. Indeed, there are no parts of Pakistan which have remained unaffected by terrorism, discriminatory policies and ethnic or sectarian/religious induced turmoil. This is the saga of a nation which has been dismembered (East Pakistan) due to its oppressive policies and yet again awaiting an impending implosion in the country.
Economy Manufacturing and exports have collapsed. External remittances have dried up. Locusts have hit agriculture. The recent hike in petrol cost by Rs 26 per litre indicates rampant inflation. In all this, the army is sitting pretty. It has got a salary hike of 20 per cent! The Pakistani economy is now below the dumps. Their combined debt to IMF, the Gulf States and China must be beyond count. Pakistan has once again turned to its all-weather friend China for help to avoid defaulting on international debt obligations. According to the Pakistani Ministry of Finance and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Pakistan has accepted a loan of US$1 billion from China to repay a US$1 billion loan taken from Saudi Arabia. Desperate Pakistan did so because had it defaulted the payment, Saudi Arabia would have reduced its financial support. Overall the country is steeped in debt, especially to China. It has no choice but to do Chinese bidding.
Surrender to China The bear hug of friendship from across its northern border is squeezing Pakistan, sparking fears that the country may be heading into a giant debt trap with China, to a point where the bonhomie could even encroach on its sovereignty. Pakistan owes China double the amount it owes to IMF. It’s surprising how the bankrupt nation is getting submerged deeper and deeper into China’s debt trap. Pakistan is no longer hot favourite of US and Saudi Arabia. Therefore, it has no choice but to fall in line with China, at the dictated terms.
Pandemic Situation The pandemic situation in Pakistan is only getting worse by the day. The pandemic has been beyond Imran Khan’s government domain. The army started to call the shots from the start. Soon Chinese help started pouring in to include medical teams, medicines, masks, PPE and ventilators. Without these lifelines, the situation in Pakistan would have gone totally out of control. Apart from that, the Pakistan army has been deeply involved in relief operations.
The future of Pakistan is bleak due to its self-inflicted injuries. The condition of Pakistan is critical with financial bankruptcy, sectarian violence, impending Afghanistan US pull out, Saudi Arabia and several Muslim nations sidelining Pakistan and above all becoming a slave to China already under global backlash. It’s also time for the international community and global governance organisation like United Nations to take serious note of Pakistan’s atrocities and state sponsored terrorism. Unfortunately, while the Pak army and politicians get wealthier and bold, it’s the people who bear the suffering. It is time that the gods of this country realise that by creating fear and denying basic rights and justice to the masses they are gradually moving toward their own self-destruction. For India, having a chaos in its neighbourhood is not a happy situation.
-The writer is a veteran of Indian Army. Views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at www.majgencpsingh.com.