Monday, 18 June 2012

What's wrong with Pakistan?

extract from: Robert D. Kaplan, " Whats Wrong with Pakistan?", Foreign Policy, July-August 2012.,0

[Points of particular interest and relevance have been highlighted in bold font. This can have relevance also in public administration. I recommend reading the article in full at the link above. Spurthi.]

"Jinnah envisioned Pakistan as a federalized state in which the various ethnically based provinces retained a high degree of autonomy. With such freedom, the angst of domination by Punjabis -- and by each other -- would not have existed, allowing for a civil society to emerge and, with that, a state with vibrant institutional capacity. Indeed, history shows that central authority can only be effective if it is strictly delimited. Regrettably, Pakistan has been what 20th-century European scholars Ernest Gellner and Robert Montagne call a "segmentary" society. Hovering between centralization and anarchy, such a society, in Montagne's words, is typified by a regime that "drains the life from a region," even though, "because of its own fragility," it fails to establish lasting institutions. This is the byproduct of a landscape riven by mountains and desert, a place where tribes are strong and the central government is comparatively weak. Put another way, Pakistan, as King's College London scholar Anatol Lieven notes, is a weak state with strong societies.

"India is the counterfactual to Pakistan's dilemma. India's individual states are linguistically based and thus have confident identities: Kannada-speaking Karnataka, Marathi-speaking Maharashtra, Telugu-speaking Andhra Pradesh, Bengali-speaking West Bengal, Hindi-speaking Uttar Pradesh, and so forth. This might, in some scenarios, lead to local nationalism and irredentist movements, as is the case with Pakistan. Because central authority in New Delhi is restricted, however, diversity is celebrated and has become, in turn, a healthy basis for a pan-Indian national identity.
"If India were less diverse and consisted of only the "cow belt" of Hindi-speaking northern India, observes Lieven, it might not have become a democracy but rather "some form of impoverished Hindu-nationalist dictatorship." Instead, India is like Indonesia: a geographically sprawling and diverse democracy united by a common language that does not threaten the use of local tongues and dialects.
"Kashmir, the contested region over which India and Pakistan have fought for decades, is where the two countries' different personalities are most in evidence. According to Indiana University's Sumit Ganguly, India requires the Muslim-dominated Himalayan territory to substantiate its claim as a multiconfessional democracy, rather than as a Hindu-dominated state, whereas Pakistan requires Kashmir to substantiate its claim as the chief remnant of Muslim al-Hind.
And so we come to the core reason for Pakistan's perversity. The fact that Pakistan is historically and geographically well-rooted is only partially a justification for statehood. Although a Muslim frontier state between mountains and plains has often existed in the subcontinent's history, that past belonged to a world not of fixed borders, but rather of perpetually moving spheres of control as determined by the movements of armies -- such was the medieval world. The Ghaznavids, the Delhi Sultanate, and the Mughal dynasty all controlled the subcontinent's northwestern frontier, but their boundaries were all vague and somewhat different from one another -- all of which means Pakistan cannot claim its borders are legitimate by history alone. It requires something else: the legitimacy that comes with good governance and strong institutions. Without that, we are back to the medieval map, which is what we have now -- known in Washington bureaucratic parlance as "AfPak."
"The term AfPak itself, popularized by the late diplomat Richard Holbrooke, indicates two failed states -- otherwise, they would share a strong border and would not have to be conjoined in one word. Let me provide the real meaning of AfPak, as defined by geography and history: It is a rump Islamic greater Punjab -- the tip of the demographic spear of the Indian subcontinent toward which all trade routes between southern Central Asia and the Indus Valley are drawn -- exerting its power over Pashtunistan and Baluchistan, just as Punjab has since time immemorial.
"This is a world where ethnic boundaries do not configure with national ones. Pashtunistan and Baluchistan overlap with Afghanistan and less so with Iran. About half of the world's 40-plus million Pashtuns live on the Pakistani side of the border. The majority of the more than 8 million Baluchis live within Pakistan, the rest in neighboring Afghanistan and Iran.
"In recent decades, the age-old pathways in this region have been used by Islamic terrorists, as well as by traditional traders. The link between Pakistan's premier spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and the so-called Haqqani network tied to al Qaeda merely replicates the arteries of commerce emanating from Punjab outward to southern Central Asia. Punjabis dominate the ISI, and the Afghan Pashtun Haqqani network is both an Islamic terrorist outfit and a vast trade and smuggling operation, unto the Amu Darya River to the northwest and unto Iran to the west.
"Because al-Hind has historically been so rich in cultural and commercial connections, when modern states do not sink deep roots into the land, the result is a reversion to traditional patterns, albeit with contemporary ideological characteristics. The U.S. State Department and many policy analysts in Washington have proposed a new silk route that could emerge in the event of a peace treaty in Afghanistan. What they fail to recognize is that a silk route is already flourishing outward from Punjab -- it is just not oriented to Western purposes.
The longer the fighting goes on in Afghanistan and along the Afghanistan-Pakistan borderland, the weaker Pakistan as a modern state will become. As that occurs, the medieval map will come into even greater focus. Jakub Grygiel, a professor at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, points out that when states or empires involve themselves in irregular, decentralized warfare, central control weakens. A state only grows strong when it faces a concentrated and conventional ground threat, creating the need to match it in organizational capabilities and thus bolstering central authority. But the opposite kind of threat leads to the opposite result. Pakistan's very obsession with the ground threat posed by India is a sign of how it requires a conventional enemy to hold it together, even as its answer to India in the contested ground of Central Asia -- supporting decentralized Islamic terrorism from Afghanistan to Kashmir -- is having the ironic effect of pulling Pakistan itself apart. It is unclear whether invigorated civilian control in Pakistan can arrest this long-term process.
"This process could even quicken. With the Soviets abandoning Afghanistan in the late 1980s and the Americans on their way out in coming years, India will attempt to fill the void partially by building infrastructure projects and providing support to the Afghan security services. This will mark the beginning of the real battle between the Indus state and the Gangetic state for domination of southern Central Asia.
"At the same time, as Pakistan is primarily interested in southern and eastern Afghanistan, the part of Afghanistan north of the Hindu Kush mountains may, if current trends continue, become more peaceful and drift into the economic orbit of the former Soviet Central Asian republics, especially given that Uzbeks and Tajiks live astride northern Afghanistan's border with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. This new formation would closely approximate the borders of ancient Bactria, with which Alexander the Great was so familiar.
"Indeed, the past may hold the key to the future of al-Hind."

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