WITH inherent qualities of self-destruction, we Pakistanis are a people whose hallmark is living on the razor’s edge.
Yet we continue to believe that we are Allah’s chosen people and have a role to play until the end of time. In a bizarre fashion, through ‘divine intervention’ we have muddled our way through many crises.
On the international scene Pakistan has oscillated between being loved and hated. Currently, it is more of the latter. With more than half our national life under military rule, the outside world sees us less inclined towards democracy; we are seen as violators of human rights and exporters of drugs, nuclear technology and international terrorism. Our economic condition is in a perpetual state of uncertainty, while politically we remain unstable. The current happenings in Pakistan’s tribal belt accentuate this sense of insecurity. Pakistan’s detractors consider it a prime candidate ‘for failed-state’ status and regard it as the ‘world’s most dangerous place’.
Many Pakistanis esoterically believe that Allah, America and the army determine their destiny. But do the three A’s work in tandem?
Pakistan’s birth was a miracle; the human endeavour dovetailed with the work of the divine. As a new nation in 1947, Pakistan sought US help to overcome its inherited problems. America was the obvious choice as its ideals of freedom and democracies were attractive to all nations wanting to break free from their colonial past. But this ‘leader of the free world’ was reluctant to come to Pakistan’s aid. To Washington, India was the better option.
The unfolding Cold War and the 1950 Korean conflict came to Pakistan’s rescue as ‘divine intervention’. To contain the Soviet threat and spread of communism, the US embarked upon a global policy of building military alliances. Pakistan’s geo-strategic location made it an obvious choice; and we were willing to join in. Thus began the United States’ very special relationship with our armed forces. Washington armed us and provided economic and political support primarily because of our military manpower. As members of Cento, Seato and through bilateral arrangements, we became beneficiaries of American largesse.
The Pakistani military acquired a special position within the Pakistani state structure and became the basis of US-Pakistan relations. Contrary to the wishes of its benefactor, Pakistan cosied up to China in 1963 and fought a major war with India in 1965. Those indiscretions cost Ayub Khan, the most allied of the allies, his power, and Pakistan its eastern half.
However, on the eve of the 1971 tragedy, Pakistan played a pivotal role in one of the biggest diplomatic coups of the 20th century when it acted as a bridge for American overtures to China.
The US forgave Pakistan its mistakes and cultivated a friendly relationship as Z.A. Bhutto picked up the pieces to build a new Pakistan. But Bhutto fell out with the Americans over his policy to build Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. In 1976 Henry Kissinger proclaimed that the United States would make a “horrible example” of Bhutto. That threat was carried out during the Carter presidency and the consequences were not just confined to the man but to the country as well. At the time of Bhutto’s hanging in 1979, the Carter administration imposed severe sanctions against Pakistan for pursuing a nuclear programme. Pakistan became an international pariah.
Divine intervention number two happened when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in December 1979. Almost overnight, Pakistan became the darling of the West. Allah smiled, America wooed and the army ruled Pakistan. Gen Ziaul Haq became America’s blue-eyed boy. Pakistan played a critical role in the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan. Then, Ziaul Haq’s importance waned and in 1988 he was sent to his heavenly abode.
Eleven years later, another western-trained general took power in Pakistan while the country was placed in the international doghouse. Pakistan had defied the world’s sole superpower by exploding its nuclear device and derailed the US supported peace process with India through an armed conflict in Kargil. Pakistan once again was a sanctioned state, while India was propelled to world power status and wooed by America as a global strategic partner.
The 9/11 attacks in America came to Pakistan’s rescue as the third ‘divine intervention’. The famous American declaration “you are with us or against us” put Pakistan firmly in the forefront of the American-led global war on terrorism. The pattern is ostensibly the same as before: America used the Pakistan military for its global designs and we were willing participants. But the current crisis in Afghanistan is far more complex and, unlike the past, has a direct bearing on Pakistan’s security and integrity. As America demands more from Pakistan in this war on terror, and it postures for possible military action against Iran, the two allies’ goals are on a collision course.
The Taliban resurgence is making Isaf’s task in Afghanistan precarious. And Pakistan is accused not only of not doing enough to contain these forces in its tribal belt, but also of its military having sympathies with these elements. Yet Pakistan itself has become a victim of these very forces.
Over the last two years, scores of suicide bombings have killed thousands of Pakistanis. The Taliban and their supporters have declared war on the state of Pakistan by attacking the settled areas of the Frontier and Balochistan. Karachi, which is considered the largest Pahktun city in the world, is seen as the next prime target. Other heavily armed and organised ethnic groups living in Karachi have vowed to face that threat.
Pakistan’s sense of insecurity has further heightened with a declining law and order situation across the country. Ongoing food and fuel shortages, rapidly depleting reserves, limited exports and increasing imports and inflation suggest that the fragile economy is headed for a meltdown.
Western media and think tanks, which usually reflect the minds of their governments, are projecting all kinds of bizarre scenarios for Pakistan; from Balkanisation to a truncated state to the complete disintegration of the country. All this is a painful reminder of East Pakistan: our own horrible déjà vu. At this juncture of our history we are not even confident of our leadership. Its past shenanigans and self-aggrandisement only exacerbate our fears about the future of this beautiful land. If there was ever a need for divine intervention, it is now. Will we Pakistanis be lucky a fourth time, or has our credit with the divine finally run out?
Source: Daily Dawn, 13/9/2008