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Wednesday, May 25, 2022
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Counterpoint

The Failed Idea Of Pakistan

Unless strong and sustained external interventions, coherently directed at re-engineering the power relations in Pakistan, and at demolishing the ideological state, are evolved, Pakistan will continue to grow into a bigger problem, both for itself an

The Failed Idea Of Pakistan
The Failed Idea Of Pakistan
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-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

This failure was evident in the very first years after the birth of the country out of the falsehood of the 'two nation theory' and the bloody slaughters of Partition. Within six year of Independence, the poet Faiz Ahmed 'Faiz' wrote, in his poignant and evocative Subh-e-Azadi (The Dawn of Freedom):

"This tainted light, this gloom-smothered dawn
This is not the dawn we had hoped for...
The despondent night still lies heavy upon us
The moment of deliverance from bondage is yet to come..."

Faiz spent years in Pakistani jails and in exile, reviled, excluded and marginalised by successive regimes, till his death in 1984. The tragic destiny of one of the greatest lights of modern Urdu literature is symbolic of all the good that may have survived the catastrophic creation of Pakistan in the crucible of communal hatred.

If anything, Mohammed Ali Jinnah's oft-quoted and pathetic perorations in Pakistan's still-born Constituent Assembly, underline Pakistan's inherent contradictions. After years of exploiting and abusing the Islamic identity and the idea of jihad to fulfil his personal ambitions, and eventually to create the world's first Islamist ideological state, Jinnah declared, on August 11, 1947:

"You may belong to any religion, caste or creed, that has nothing to do with the business of the state... in due course of time Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will cease to be Muslims�"not in a religious sense for that is the personal faith of an individual--but in a political sense as citizens of one state..."

That Jinnah was a pork-eating, whiskey-bibbing atheist does little to mitigate his cynical instrumentalisation of Islam, even as, today, Gen Pervez Musharraf's western suits, public advocacy of 'moderation' and the fact that he keeps a dog as a pet cannot alter the fact that he finds it politically expedient to support Islamist terrorist groups, and himself secured much of his support (though this may be waning) from the Islamist fundamentalist constituency.

Whatever the personal beliefs or proclivities of leaders in Pakistan, their practices have invariably played upon and reinforced extremism, producing a politics dominated by obscurantism, on the one hand, and authoritarianism, on the other. Indeed, the 'ideology of Pakistan' precludes the possibility of a secular democratic politics�"as any such movement would easily be construed as an attack on Islam itself. The purported 'threat to Islam' has been the essence of political mobilisation from pre-Partition days to the present, and there is, given the present social, political and strategic architecture of Pakistan, no possibility of its dilution in the foreseeable future. Indeed, Pakistan's intervention in Kashmir has exponentially deepened these proclivities, as Jean-Luc Racine notes, putting "incompleteness and exteriority at the heart of its national vision".

The depth to which these elements have become rooted in the institutional, political and social structures in Pakistan is seldom understood by outsiders, who think they can tweak the system here and there--a little madarsa reform, a few hundred million in 'development' aid--and secure the transformation of Pakistan's historical pathologies into a modern and functioning democracy. Unfortunately, the reality of Pakistan is that it cannot lend itself to incremental reform. For the past nearly six years, the West has pumped in billions of dollars in the hope that it can purchase reform and moderation in this country, but these years have seen nothing but a continuous expansion of both obscurantist and authoritarian tendencies.

The Pakistani identity is based on irreducible opposites, an adversarial ideology that initially saw the Hindu as the enemy, but that has thereafter added a multiplicity of 'hostile others'--Ahmedias, Shias, internal regional minorities, the West--in its expanding circle of strife. Much of the violence in the South Asian region--and indeed, a large proportion of Islamist terrorism across the world--finds its roots in this psyche, rather than in any concrete and coherent strategic objectives or interests. Unless the institutional basis of this ideology, the power structure and sections of society that have historically profited from it, are dismantled, Pakistan's pathologies will continue to compound themselves, only occasionally tempered by objective external circumstances and a loss of capacities.

Pakistan's leaders have long committed the country to a course that can only have disastrous consequences for the nation, and unfortunate consequences for the region. Snared in a self-perpetuating dynamic, Pakistan itself cannot generate the means to escape this predicament. Unless strong and sustained external interventions, coherently directed at re-engineering the power relations in Pakistan, and at demolishing the ideological state, are evolved, Pakistan will continue to grow into a bigger problem, both for itself and for the world.

Such a strategy is not directed 'against Pakistan' as a nation, or 'against the people of Pakistan'--who are the first and most helpless victims of the prevailing conditions. To understand what is being suggested, it is useful to take the analogy of another ideological state--the Soviet Union--which, at one time, sought to export its ideology across the world through movements of mass mobilisation and violence. The collapse of the Soviet Union was engineered through a slow strategy of internal erosion and unsustainable defence competition with the West. But when that collapse came, the unyielding hostility and suspicion between the so-called Eastern Bloc and the West simply evaporated, as did one of the principal sources of international tension since the Second World War.

Pakistan is no Soviet Union. The threat of global terror that currently emanates from Pakistani soil is disruptive and disturbing, but it wanes into insignificance against the threat of 'mutually assured destruction' with which the polarised Soviet and Western blocs confronted the world. 'Re-engineering' Pakistan will be a challenging task, but it is far from the impossibility that we imagine. It's time the world, and particularly Pakistan's neighbours, recognised that this, and not the various false dichotomies that we have constructed out of our own worst nightmares--Gen Musharraf or chaos; the military or the jihadis--is the real choice and strategy of resolution.


K.P.S.Gill is a former DGP, Punjab. This piece originally appeared in The Pioneer

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