Pakistan as paradox

Years ago, Pakistan was rightly defined by author Christophe Jaffrelot as a paradox. Proclaimed as an Islamic Republic in1956, some 10 years after it won Independence alongside India, Pakistan is in turmoil. Its economy has collapsed, social tensions have heightened and its future remains unpredictable. Its collapse, sooner or later, is a strong possibility with grave implications to India and others in the neighbourhood. Jaffrelot had linked the cause of reigning instability in Pakistan to three contradictions — the “tension between the unitary identity of state versus ethnic identity of regions, the complex relationship between civilian politicians and military institutions, and the role of Islam in the governance of Pakistan.”
Punjabis, Sindhis, Pashtuns and Muhajirs are among the prominent ethno-linguist groups there. Punjabis like the Sharifs and Sindhis like the Bhuttos ran Pakistan in iterations while the military the other times either directly or from behind. The Muhajirs, comprising largely of immigrants from India and the Pashtuns whose ancestry is linked to Afghanistan are largely sidelined. The conflict of interests between these segments causes the main social wedge even as all these are die-hard Muslims. The Sunni-Shia conflict is another cause of strain. Add to this the huge corruption at the political and military levels and the loot being clandestinely shipped abroad for decades. This was similar to what was witnessed in India during the UPA periods. The Modi government has sought to apply brakes to it. In the free-for-all, with the military constantly undercutting democracy and the governments tottering and failing to complete their terms and ousted by machinations, the hapless nation is at the edge of a precipice. A part of Pakistan close to Afghanistan is irrevocably under the full control of terrorists. Separatist movements are gaining steam in Gilgit Baltistan and Balochistan while, curiously, strong pro-India sentiments are evident in the ‘Azad Kashmir’ region. Islamabad blaming India for encouraging such tendencies evokes guffaws of laughter.
Faced with extreme odds, Pakistan has slowed down its play of mischief on the Indian side of Kashmir — after strong steps by the Modi government like the abrogation of Article 370 ending the special status for Jammu and Kashmir in August, 2019. The surgical strikes followed by the zooming in of IAF jets into Pakistan close to the military headquarters in Rawalpindi in February 2019 — after the Pulwama terror attack — not only silenced but also shamed Pakistan’s military brass. The tone and tenor of prime minister Shehbaz Sharif’s urgings to the UAE rulers during his visit there as also to Saudi Arabia seeking emergency financial support are proof of Pakistan’s sad plight.

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