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Pakistan Besieged Within

On 14 Aug 1947, Pakistan became an independent country based on the two-nations theory. Though India moved away from communal thinking and focused on the development agenda, Pakistan didn’t move away from its two-nations theory. Pakistan adopted its tunnel vision and never looked beyond the Kashmir issue, which became its disparaging fascination. Kashmir policy has not helped Pakistan in any way, but it has drained out Pakistan’s vital energy, which otherwise could have been utilized to develop human resources.

“As you sow, so shall you reap” is a well-known proverb. It has great importance in our life. It means that as the action is, so is the result. Our actions determine the outcomes. This has deep meaning that whatever you do comes back to you. If you do good things to people, you will be rewarded with good things; if you do evil to others, bad things will come back to you. This proverb fits well for Pakistan, which is suffering internal strife. The challenges faced by Pakistan are numerous such as poverty, illiteracy, energy crisis, corruption and political instability, Chinese interference, terrorism, overpopulation, inflation, unemployment, and economic crisis.

Pakistan’s economic predicament deteriorates as the country fights to cope with ever-increasing debt, extravagant energy import costs, deteriorating forex reserves, global inflation, political instability and a sustained drop in GDP growth. For the government, it is now a race against time to prevent the nation from a complete economic collapse, which could severely impact millions of its people (India Today, 05 Jan 2023). Today, Pakistan’s GDP is the same as India’s in 1975.

Human Reports Watch 2022 shows that in 2021, the Pakistan government exaggerated its actions to control the media and restrict the opposition. Government authorities beleaguered and, at times, imprisoned journalists and other civil society members for condemning the government’s policies. Fierce attacks on members of the media continued. The authorities extended their use of harsh sedition and counterterrorism laws to smother dissent and strictly regulated civil society groups critical of govt. Women, religious minorities, and transgender people face violence, discrimination, and persecution, with authorities incapable of providing adequate protection. The government does little to hold law enforcement agencies answerable for torture and other serious abuses.

But the major problem Pakistan is facing now is sectarian violence. According to the sources, Pakistan witnessed a 28% spike in terror activities in 2022. According to the reports of the Pakistan Institute of Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS), militants carried out 376 terror attacks last year, 533 people were killed, and 832 people were injured, reports Xinhua News agency. According to the report, these militant attacks in the year 2022 are the highest militant attacks during the last five years. (Bussiness Standard, 6 Jan 2023).

All developing societies confront the problem of accommodation of aspirations of the different societal groups. Though Pakistan is not an exception, what distinguishes Pakistan from other South Asian nations is the availability of weapons and warlike stores, the domination of the Punjabi-Mohjir elite of Pakistan society, failure of economic growth. All these factors have made a nation like Pakistan more dependent on religious identity, which, unfortunately, is the binding force for society and polity. This ultimately affected the cultural and nationalist agendas of Pakistan. The movements in Sind and Baluchistan are the results of disparities meted out to these people, and successive governments failed to address their issues.

Failing to fulfill the development agendas, successive governments starting with Z A Bhutto invoked the agenda of religion. Gen Zia took it forward and even promoted and supported in Pakistan Army, which was somewhat secular in nature.

Thus, the Islamisation and USSR intervention in Afghanistan and the US fight against USSR through Pakistan were the major turning points in the history of Pakistan. Islamic orthodoxy seeped into Pak society, which made Pakistan a more codified and stricter follower of Wahabi Islam in Pakistan. The role of Pakistan as a ground zero state, helping the US interests in the war against USSR, led to a significant fallout for Pakistan and its society. The US ignored checking the growth and export of drugs and weapons, keeping in view more significant strategic interests, which had a disastrous impact on Pakistani society. Today, the number of drug users in Pakistan stands at more than 3. 2 million. This was one of the major offshoots of active involvement in the Afghanistan crisis and the state’s decision, in the early eighties, to be a conduit for Western weapons bound for the war in Afghanistan. (South Asian Terrorism Portal, New Delhi).

The consequences of Pakistan’s involvement in Afghanistan were the migration of Afghan refugees to Pakistan, recognzsed as a pro-Islamic state, establishment of a network of Madrassas, and a substantial increase in drug trafficking. Pakistan officially backed militants.

One can easily make out that religious and ethnic organization, on behalf of their respective communities, are increasingly using violent methods, such as terrorism. Even democratic and legal tools are manipulated to achieve their ends. Its consequences include the growth of numerous Islamic groups caught up in the running feuds between the Sunni and Shia organizations and the drug Mafia operating in Pakistan.

Since the 1980s, Pakistan has been a base of operations and a target for numerous armed, non-state militant groups. Broadly these terrorists could be divided into five categories: globally oriented, Afghanistan oriented, India- and Kashmir-oriented, domestically oriented, and sectarian (anti-Shia) oriented. Twelve groups have been designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) under US law. Pakistan has suffered considerably from domestic terrorism since 2003. Many observers predicted a resurgence of regional terrorism and militancy in the wake of the Afghan Taliban’s August 2021 takeover. Since 2019, terrorism has again picked up in Pakistan. (Congressional Research Service, USA).

Conclusion:

Since its breakaway from India in 1947, Pakistan has been divided along ethnic, religious, and sectarian lines, which internal and external forces have exploited to promote extremism and terrorism. Religious fundamentalists and extremists have taken over Pakistan society. Pakistan has exploited Islamic extremism as a strategic tool to fulfill its interests. Pakistan has even supported groups which operate in Afghanistan to refute Indian influence.

There are mixed reactions to extremism in Pakistan. Many people of Pakistan condemn violence, but some support the extremist ideology, primarily when based on religion. Still, many Pakistanis trust the country’s religious teachers and faith-based networks, which significantly influence shaping public opinion.

Oxymoronically, Pakistan has become a promoter of terrorism and, sadly, an epicenter of terror, where, regrettably, religion has a substantial role to play. Today Pakistan, while fighting terrorists, has stated that neighboring countries (without naming Afghanistan) will not be allowed to use its soil to foster terrorism against Pakistan. And since 1947, Pakistan has used its territory to spread terrorism against India.

It is high time that Pakistan society must realize the importance of the words of former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she said, “You can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbor.”

The people of Pakistan, its political leadership, and the Army must stand on the same side to fight terrorism and set priorities clearly. The military and allied intelligence agencies’ persistent discouragement of civilian authority remains a significant challenge for the country. It prevents any meaningful step towards social reforms in the country.

A change in policy and broad consent on terrorism have become requisites for the country’s integrity, future and survival. An absolute change in tactic shall prove helpful to the people of Pakistan, the stakeholders in this country.

About the Author
Colonel Balwan Nagial retired from the Indian Army in 2019 after serving for thirty years. Managed administration, security, project mgt throughout his service. He loves writing and contributing in newspapers and magazines in India. He loves Israeli culture.
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