An analysis of opinions in Pakistan indicates that Imran Khan’s ‘Naya Pakistan’ has emerged anew to take shape as a state — failed and adrift. It does not know where to go, how to go and why to go. It also does not know who will take it wherever it eventually goes. The Army wants a state to rule and make money. The politicians want power. The elites exploit the masses. The clerics radicalize them. The bureaucracy has its goodies. The international community uses it. The people manage to survive on their own. Terrorism is just another profession for survival. If ever there is a nation without a collective reason to exist, it is Pakistan.
72 years back, Pakistan’s factor binding was ‘Not Being India’. As Naya Pakistan – nuclear, radical and impoverished – enters uncharted waters, its survival staple is ‘Hate India’. Externalizing failures and blaming India will be the norm. Imran Khan’s statement in an interview with Der Spiegel says it all – ‘India is a threat to its neighbours, to China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and to us. It has the most extremist, racist government on the subcontinent. It is a fascist state, inspired by the Nazis in the 1920s and 30s’. This warped thought is the guiding principle of Naya Pakistan’s politics, economics and international relations. The ‘Pulwama admission’ on the floor of the house nails Pakistani nefarious plans and obsession with India. It makes Pakistan an uncertain and neurotic neighbour.
At the grassroots, the common Pakistanis are suffering. They pay Rs 115/litre of milk as against Rs72/litre (exchange rate adjusted) in Chennai. Food insecurity is high. Pakistan traditionally exports wheat and sugar. This year even these items have seen unprecedented imports. Jobs are scarce with rising unemployment. People cannot even afford basics. Poverty is rising. The prospects ahead are also poor as per FAO. At a macro level, growth rate is negative. Exports non-existent. Inflation hovering around double digits. Manufacturing sector is struggling. This is the third year of low growth and high inflation. Pakistan is plumbing new depths of stagflation. Circular debt is spiralling. Roll over of debts is the norm. The latest one being 3 Billion USD from China. Another repayment of 4 Billion USD from Gulf states is looming ahead. It will run to China again. The Chinese Virus has put Pakistan’s economy on a ventilator. There is no end or a solution to this downward viral. Things will only worsen from hereon. That is the combined forecast of IMF and World Bank.
For 72 years, the Pakistani Army ruled the state. During civilian rule, it did backseat driving as the ‘Deep State’, thriving on deniability and unaccountability. That’s gone. Pakistanis now talk openly of a ‘State above a State’ and the Army is now termed the ‘Establishment’. It is being asked as to why it supports Imran Khan. Questions are being asked about missing persons in Balochistan. Politicians are demanding accountability. All these were red lines till recently. In the now famous ‘pair kamp raha tha aur mathe par pasina tha’ revelation, what has emerged is that Imran Khan refused to attend the crisis meeting prior to releasing Abhinandan. He also refused to get involved in the ‘Karachi Incident’. Imran Khan is emerging as a defunct coward who passes everything to the Army! The Army on its part will continue to back such weak-kneed politicians since it suits them. The Pakistani Army with its vast business empire, hitherto unaccountable, is being asked uncomfortable questions. Another red line. Very soon questions on the economy will dominate. Simultaneously one has to realise that people have no other choice. The politicians are corrupt, divided and incapable. The Army will continue to destroy Pakistan under the garb of saving it. Pakistan will only lurch from one state of instability to another until complete anarchy sets in. If more than 30% of the civilian pilots hold “fake” licences and 262 out of the 860 active pilots in Pakistan did not take the exam themselves and had paid someone else to appear on their behalf, surely anarchy is setting in! More such issues will surface.
The complex terrorism and militant landscape of Pakistan is back in action. Militants are manoeuvring in the political voids. TTP’s operational strength has increased manifold with some deft and forced mergers. Much like a business conglomerate. TTP, operating from Afghanistan, has regularly carried out attacks in the tribal districts. The threat from Al Qaeda and the Islamic State is present in shadows. Communal and sectarian violence is on the rise. State sponsored terrorists are hale and hearty under state protection. The FATF retaining Pakistan on the grey list tells another story. Pakistan must be the only country to celebrate being on a grey list. Their Kashmir agenda is temporarily on hold, but will restart as soon as they get into some comfort zone or on being cornered. Kashmir is a release valve from internal troubles. Of course Balochistan rebels are upping their ante. The Pashtun problem has not run away. All their provinces are witnessing some protest or the other. Very strangely, Pakistan has even gone to the extent of filing an FIR against their so called PM of PoK for Treason! All in all a very volatile situation.
Pakistan is also lurching towards Afghanistan like an addict. It clearly wants to control the dispensation post US withdrawal. It is once again seeking strategic space in the Graveyard of Empires. It will also attempt to facilitate Chinese entry into Afghanistan for an alternative route to CPEC as it also gets its share of the booty. However, with the sustained levels of violence in Afghanistan and the radicalised intransigence of Taliban, it will be difficult for Pakistan to control the situation. The unrest in Afghanistan, increased activities of TTP and the ongoing PTM will make the Western Border very unstable and violent. It will only add to the overall anarchy.
Pakistan is going through its periodic identity crisis. Pakistan has traditionally seen itself as a leader of the Islamic world since the days it peddled the Islamic Bomb theory. That era is over. Then, for long, it identified itself as an Arab nation and got close to the Gulf and Saudi Arabia to sponge off them financially. When Saudis did not toe its Kashmir agenda, it publicly spurned Saudis and switched allegiance to Turkey. So Pakistanis have become Turks. This alternation between identities is going to have fiscal and political ramifications. Inward remittances through Gulf employment will get hit. The Turkey- Malaysia axis is no financial or political substitute for the Gulf. Pakistan’s peace overture to the Saudi monarchy failed when its COAS was kept waiting and sent back empty handed. As things were drifting it has got fresh winds to reinvent itself through religious attacks on France. That will only add pain to its existence since some Pakistani will blow up something somewhere and its status as a state sponsor of terror will get reinforced. In the meantime, its economy will continue to haemorrhage. Pakistanis will soon be denied entry into the West. The inevitable anarchy will accelerate.
As much as Pakistan and the USA want to get away from each other, they cannot. Their interests in Afghanistan, despite being mutually exclusive, tie them together. Strange but true. The USA remains the foremost military power and Pakistan knows it too well. US drift to India is a cause of consternation in Pakistani military minds. Pakistan needs the USA to access the IMF and World Bank if it wants its economy to revive. Very importantly, Pakistani elite send their children to the USA and not China. The USA still remains the second biggest trading partner and is the main export destination with a favourable trade balance. P&G, Pepsi, Coke, Facebook, Google, Uber, ExxonMobil, TRG, Citi, Bayer and Abbott are active in Pakistan. If the USA quits, Pakistan might just collapse. On the other hand, the USA will not walk away from Pakistan and cede ground to China. In fact, Pakistan will be the proxy battle ground to bleed China. Also, the West is paranoid about Pakistani nukes and will not allow it to go down. The relationship will continue with a lot of ups and downs. Hot and cold. Sour not sweet. We should not forget that the Pakistani military is tied in with Papa John’s financially.
The Sino-Pak relationship is blossoming. As much as the Army is a ‘State above the State’ in Pakistan, the CCP is also a State above the Chinese State. Hence there is terrific commonality. A lot has been written and said about the CPEC. It is economically unviable and a debt trap. Over and above that, China has been either rolling over loans or is part of refinancing loans to Pakistan. Pakistan can never repay China. Hence it would be more than fair to say that Pakistani sovereignty is permanently compromised and it will be a vassal state of China to do the latter’s bidding. Pakistan will be a permanent geo-strategic catspaw in Chinese hands. Delving back into the CPEC. The scope and concept of CPEC has changed significantly. From being a transaction between Pakistan and China, it is now a transaction between two organisations – Pakistan Army and the CCP. The cat got out of the bag when the Diamer Bhasha Dam deal was signed. It was signed between the CCP controlled banks and a business organisation of the Pakistan Army in Indian territory. It is now a strategic corridor which serves their mutual and multiple interests. The strategies of this corridor are simple. Enable China get direct access to the Gulf waters to establish military bases and thereby control this part of the world. Enable China to access the mineral resources of Afghanistan. Enable the Pakistan Army stay relevant and in control forever. Pose a joint and collusive threat to India. Polemics aside, in India we should not have any doubt about this. I have always maintained that the CPEC is the third and most vulnerable front of Pakistan to be targeted. As days go by, disaffection in Pakistan will increase. Targeting CPEC will be more viable then. Targeting CPEC is killing two birds with one stone. At the same time India must prepare for a collusive two front situation hereafter. Any skirmish with one is a skirmish with the other.
Overall, Pakistan is slowly sliding deeper into anarchy. Will it implode? I doubt. Internally, the Army is too strong and greedy to allow it to happen. The politicians are too greedy to put up a joint fight beyond a point. There is no social or political movement for a break up. ‘Hate India’ binds them. Will Pakistan revive? I doubt. My doubt is reinforced by the Chinese Virus periodically. The social contract between the militants, the Army, its institutions and its people will inhibit revival. The US and China will not allow it to implode or revive. Both have interests to ensure that Pakistan remains where it is. India will have to deal with a Naya Pakistan in a state of Naya Anarchy. Naya Pakistan will remain China backed. It will be aligned with the new ideological Islamic thinking from the Turkey and Malaysia axis.
Finally, Pakistan will remain what it was. A state to be used and discarded. Uncle Sam used it for long for a few dollars and cast it aside. It is now being used by China for a few Yuan onlooked by the USA and the Saudis. In time it will be cast aside. The Naya Anarchy of being Naya Pakistan!
Lt Gen P.R. Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the modernisation and indigenisation of Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved in applied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read on his blog www.gunnersshot.com