In any analysis Pakistan can neither sink nor swim. It epitomises its ultimate failure.
You can’t keep Pakistan out. It is back with a bang. However, with a difference. The earlier Pakistan was all about the gung-ho frontline state, the key non-NATO ally of USA, the iron brother of China, bristling military adventurism, booming jihadi exports and the champion defender of the faith descending straight from the marauding empires of Arabia, Turkey or Persia. Our bête noire had us by the short hairs in Kashmir. Our visionary strategists, military leaders, politicians and all and sundry were pulling their hair out for more than three decades to get the Pakistani monkey off our back. Alas in vain.
Three things changed this scenario. Firstly, India started to rise. Secondly, China woke up from its slumber and appeared with the full malevolence of a fire spewing dragon at the LAC. Thirdly. Pakistan shot itself in the head by having the ‘same page’ government which assisted Taliban to ‘break the shackles of slavery’. Now, a shackled Pakistan, barely hobbling, is back in the news with a whimpering bang! And how? Squabbling politicians in different books, leave alone pages. A crack in the military façade. Elites enhancing their assets abroad. Forex reserves which need a microscope to spot them. PKR on the verge of a treble century. Unprecedented floods and climate change wrath. Food and water scarcity bearing down mercilessly on a teeming population. A youth bulge resembling the distended belly of a starving child under malnutrition. Jihadism back with many bangs from the Durand Line to the Makaran Coast to Karachi to Peshawar – wreaking mayhem. Most importantly the mega question – what is the future of Pakistan as a nation? How times have changed! The multifaceted banging of Pakistan evokes a weak whimper from the enfeebled state.
However, something curious is happening in India. The social media is abuzz. Tweets are chirping. WhatsApp chat groups are zinging. YouTubers have let their imagination go. Imaginative articles are popping up. Nothing like good old Pakistan to stir up Indian juices! A whimpering Pakistan – manna from heaven. Amidst this bustling energy, strategic old salts, well-oiled moustaches, unemployed Track 2 ‘Pakistani Experts’ and jaded TV anchors are the ones who are back with a bang. They are back in their comfort zone debating the future of Pakistan. The first debate. Is one Pakistan better or are 4-5 mini-Pakistans better? Arre bhai! Is one nuke deadly or are five mini nukes deadlier? After much impassioned to and fro, the verdict is ‘it does not matter’, a toxic Pakistan(s) in any form is bad news for India and the world. The second debate. Is a military or a non-military government the solution for Pakistan? After a cultured debate, the comfort zone experts again concluded that ‘it does not matter’. Pakistani governments of all varieties have only dug a hole deeper. The hole is so deep that the only way out is to dig to the other side of the earth and emerge in California. Ha. The third debate is the one between a stable and unstable Pakistan. Hey man when was Pakistan stable? Whoever saw a stable Pakistan? Since the concept of stability in Pakistan does not exist, this debate concludes again with a ‘it does not matter’. The fourth debate. What is better? Track 1 dialogue or Track 2 back channels? Wait a sec. The million-dollar question is who do you speak to in Pakistan – in either track? Hmm. Difficult question since Pakis themselves do not know! Has any track worked? Will it pull Pakistan out of its hole? This debate also ends with ‘it does not matter’.
Then there are some oft repeated wild card red herrings. India should adopt a proactive role towards Pakistan. This is as quintessential Wodehousian as it can be. I was tempted to ask this military brain – how does one go near a nuclear reactor which is melting down? Before I could do that, an all-time classic idea popped up – since the Army is the real power in Pakistan, there should be military to military talks. Ah ha! The Indian military should lead the way? Why so? Militaries understand each other better and hence there will be better outcomes. Wow! What logic. Has any one been able to understand the Generals of Pakistan? The USA failed miserably. The Chinese are learning. I am sure that they find that their fingers are missing after every handshake with a Pakistani General. Where they have failed, our Militarymen will look like fools if they tread this path. In any case who is asking them? The military in India has severe democratic limitations in opening its mouth. In any case, if our military wants to talk , it is better off to attempt to eke some meagre raises in the anemic defence budgets. Woh to hota nahin. Tangling with political generals is not the Indian Army’s cup of tea.
Overall, the depth of knowledge and commitment to debate Pakistan is astounding. Indian solutions to Pakistan’s crisis are flying off the shelves as if it is a once in a lifetime online bumper sale. I asked one wiseman? Hey! What’s the rush with all this analysis? Yaar! What if Pakistan does not exist tomorrow? I seeeee……! That is the fear. If Pakistan breaks up, this expert will have no expertise left and nothing to talk about. So, he must be taking his last stand? I rang up another friend who has been a lifelong expert on Pakistan. He said…boss…no time call me later…I must get on to the TV to debate Pakistan. Ah. I thought you had said that Pakistan does not matter, and it is China which is our main adversary. “Arre yaar. China mein Covid hai na? Xi Jinping busy hai. Usko abhi choddo. Baad mein nipat lenge. Aaj Pakistan ka baari hai. Jaane do. Call me later. Tum China mein peek karte raho. Mujhe Pakistan ko sort out karna hai.” I was left hanging on to my mobile.
I wondered. Where does all this ‘strategic vision’ go when it comes to China? Invariably when any issue with China pops up, one sees a few beat up analysts who make their feeble points. Then there are those China returned analysts who are regular on all kinds of media since they can speak a few words of mandarin. They parrot the same old lines with which they were indoctrinated when they went to China on an all-expense trip paid by their influence peddlers. Their pre covid thinking remains cemented. When the world feels that China is declining, these experts convince India that China is the next superpower, and it has the greatest comprehensive national power, and that the Chinaman is ten feet tall. Invariably their story starts at the Middle Kingdom and finishes with making us realize that we are unprepared to take on the predatory superpower. As a very wise General recently wrote something like – ‘Strong on Pakistan, Weak on China’…more appropriately ‘Vociferous on Pakistan and tonguetied on China’. We need a national rethink. But even that can wait. Pakistan here I come….
In the meanwhile, when the tide is towards Pakistan, why should I go towards China? let me put my two bits in. So what happens to Pakistan? Pakistan won’t break up like many are imagining. The Army will be out of job. More importantly the Generals will lose their fortunes which is tied to the very existence of Pakistan in whatever form it is. That is the viewpoint from where we have to imagine Pakistan’s future. The generals are clear. Pakistan’s utility as a mercenary state for international forces, especially in this critically important geopolitical region and also as a nuclear power, must be leveraged to financially bail out Pakistan. That will be the attempt. However at present the international forces are busy in Ukraine sorting each other out. Simultaneously they are ranging against each other in the Indo Pacific. No one has time for Pakistan. So this nuclear beggar is consigned to hold a perforated begging bowl in one hand and a nuclear pistol to his head with the other till some one notices him in the corner.
Till someone rises to the bait what will the Generals do? They will be forced to take up arms against the TTP and Afghan Taliban in some manner to stop the increasing violence and loss of innocent lives. As the teacher and the taught, keep at bloodletting each other, Pakistan’s strategic space will reduce. The domestic Taliban will continue to bang and Pakistan will whimper. In fact, the most appropriate description of current day Pakistan’s future is by Faisal Siddiqui who has written in Dawn that Pakistan will face continuous severe economic crises and political chaos with unending game-of-thrones battles between political parties, ever-increasing terrorism by Baloch separatist and religiously motivated extremists, international and regional semi-isolation, an extraordinarily corrupt and inefficient state, and collapsing societal institutions in the face of unchecked population explosion and unregulated urbanisation — while human development indicators get progressively even worse. Pakistan is imploding, and its future is not breakup or collapse but more violence and chaos. However, in all this, he has left out the role of the Army – the main ‘sutradhar’ of Pakistan.
What does Munirji and his Army do in this scenario? First he can take over the nation in the best and finest traditions of the Pakistan Army and ruin it further. However I doubt if he has the stomach to do so, since he has really no answers for Pakistan’s problems. One thing Pakistani Generals are clear about is that they do not want to be the Captain of a sinking ship. They do not intend to go down and forsake all their meticulously curated golden eggs. They will explore a ‘military rule’ by proxy and try to form a technocratic government. This is a different hybrid model which is being discussed in Pakistan. Something between IK’s same page experiment and the current one. It runs the greater risk of getting into an equation of Establishment plus the Techno stooge vs all the political parties. The last option is to let the current hybrid model carry on to its eventual demise and call for elections. Look at it from any point of view – it does not matter. If Pakistan is unable to do anything for itself, can India do anything for it? In any analysis Pakistan can neither sink nor swim. It epitomises its ultimate failure. Que sera sera …whatever will be…will be…its not for us to see… que sera sera.
In the meanwhile, there are signs that Xi Jinping and co are reviving their mojo. It is better that we focus northwards lest some policemen decide that we have lost some territory afresh. We might not lose territory due to Chinese actions, but due to internal policing. Watch out! Ouch!
Pakistan : Up a Long and Deep Political Creek Without a Paddle by Lt Gen P R Shankar (R)
Pakistan In Crisis: Sinbad of Modern Times
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