India and Pakistan were born together but separated at birth. While India focused on secularism and growth, Pakistan embraced extremism as a state policy. Today there is no comparison between the two. Pakistan is down in dumps, while India is progressing by leaps and bounds.
If you compare India and Pakistan on the prosperity index, there is a wide gap between the two. After Independence, initially, Pakistan progressed better being a smaller country and taking advantage of its geostrategic location, while India was slowly lumbering up with democratic impediments. The downfall of Pakistan started with rising of radicalism from 1969 onwards and thereafter, its downhill slide. In the past 40 years, it’s per capita income has suffered almost a 90 per cent net deficit relative to India and the gap is rising. Unfortunately, when it comes to basic human rights and civil liberties, Pakistan is at least 100 years behind the modern world. It is a country where the citizens are left on their own, not only to struggle to stay alive but also to remain silent on the atrocities and human rights abuses in their society.
Pakistan was born as an insecure nation and grew up with a revisionist culture, feudalistic mindset, racial and lingual prejudices and ideological fault lines. Pakistan, on its partition, had over 13 per cent minorities residing within an Islamic population of 76 million. Today the minorities have declined to under 2.5 per cent within a population of over 220 million, living life virtually under seizes with Blasphemy laws, human rights violations, forced conversions, military oppression and systemic persecution. This is a country where the military is politicized and polity is militarized resulting in numerous military coups and PMs being exiled or executed. Army and Islamist Mullahs acting as the custodians of this disruptive ideology and defenders of radical Islam while ‘made by military politicians’ act as stooges. It survives on a respirator on the verge of slipping into comatose, with a fragile economy, poor human development index, alarming unemployment and now in the Chinese debt trap of CPEC. This country is also the notorious epicentre of breeding, harbouring and exporting terrorism beyond its national boundaries.
In the 50 of these since 1969, Pakistan has so lost its pre-eminence that even its Ummah prefers India than Pakistan. In the 40 years, since it embraced jihad, it has ruined its economy. But this isn’t the whole price Pakistan has paid for this permanent blood feud with India and harbouring extremism. In 50 years, Pakistan lost its pre-eminence in the Islamic world. In the past 30, it has permanently embedded jihadis in its cities and institutions. And in the last two decades, Pakistan is seen as a harbinger of terrorism. There isn’t even token disapproval of India bombing Pakistan’s Balakot in the mainland after Pulwama attack and most importantly, India and the world have called its nuclear bluff. To add to the misery, FATF has placed Pakistan in the Greylist due to its the abetment of Terrorism.
The nexus of the deep state, the ruling elite and the mullahs have turned this country into a place where only slaves to prejudice and one-sided narratives against the world are allowed to live according to the rules set by this troika. Perhaps only a society living in the medieval ages can rape children and women, kill their fellow citizens in the name of blasphemy and treason, and yet trumpet that they are the chosen nation of God.
In Pakistan, globally-oriented Islamist extremists have a population of 180 million that has been exposed to the main elements of extremist narratives for over six decades. Various extremist actors have exploited this situation to present an extremist rhetorical vision that is perceived as being analogous to the country’s self-image. Al-Qaeda, as the world’s most ambitious and arguably most successful Islamist extremist organization, has succeeded in making the country seem like an international poster child for the extremist cause. The country suffers from a certain narrative fragility, which is the result of the circumstances of its birth and the policy choices of subsequent leaders. Extremist groups, al-Qaeda chief among them, have been able to exploit this vulnerability to powerful effect, using Pakistan to make global points while expanding their influence within the country itself.
The dominance of the army
Since the independence of the Pakistani state in 1947 until now, the Army has played a pivotal role in the history of Pakistan. Although Pakistan was founded as a democracy after its independence from the British Raj, the military has remained one of the country’s most powerful institutions and has on occasion overthrown democratically elected civilian governments on the basis of self-assessed mismanagement and corruption. The political history of Pakistan can be summed up as a story of repeated coupes followed by protracted periods of the military government, briefly punctuated by the elected civilian government. Pakistan is again slipping further into a political turmoil that has characterized most of its history. There are the following factors which deserve attention in this regard:-
Pakistan has been under military rule for more than half the years of its existence. The country has witnessed three coups. The military in Pakistan has come to exercise a formidable influence in the spheres of the Pakistani political, economic and social.
Pakistan has been plagued by exceptional political turbulence since its inception and has had a poor record of democracy. The greatest significance of the equilibrium that has come to characterize civil-military relations in Pakistan. In reality, the military rulers while seeking political legitimacy have steadily entrenched their control over key sectors of the Pakistani polity.
In the recent past, the Army has found a better method to rule. They install a puppet Govt with the farce of an election and virtually run the country. The blame of ill governance or failures is often being offloaded on the doorsteps of elected Govt. If they want to take over power from any party or leader in any state, they easily do it with Prime Minister Imran Khan as the face. Now, in case there is a provincial government that Imran Khan does not like, the Army orchestrates its downfall and installs a friendlier government. This is exactly what happened in Balochistan a few years back, as highlighted by Nawaz Sharif in his televised speech.
A ‘civil war’-like situation Pakistan amid reports of clashes between the Karachi Police and the Pakistan Army in the recent past has challenged the supremacy of Pak Army for the first time… News agency ANI quoted a Pakistan based media report saying that heavy fire was exchanged between the Sindh Police in Karachi and Pakistan Army, after the latter tried to take custody of a Superintendent of Police, Md. Aftab Anwar.
Recent chaos in Pakistan
The recent revolt by top police officers against the Army in Pakistan’s Sindh province was unprecedented and shook the country’s military. In Sindh, the top brass of the police force including the province’s IG (Inspector General of Police) who is in charge of the entire region, seven DIGs (Deputy Inspector General), six senior superintendents and three SHOs sent identical applications asking for a two-month leave. This was not a protest against an elected government of Prime Minister Imran Khan, but against the Army in Pakistan, which is supreme and never challenged. The reason why the police were able to pull off such a stand-off is that the Army is displaying a façade of federalism working under the democratically elected Govt. It’s prudent to highlight that the PPP is a significantly powerful party and since law and order is a state subject, it can possibly instigate and encourage police officers to protest against the Army.
There is too much chaos in the Pakistani polity now. PM Imran Khan is a lame-duck government with the Army in full control. In the meantime, Imran Khan called Osama Bin Laden a ‘Shaheed’ (martyr) and the FATF promptly extended Pakistani presence in its grey list. The Afghan situation is only worsening. There is active collusion between TTP and Afghan Taliban. FATA is in bad shape. Pakistan is busy building a fence along the Western Border. All things considered, there is chaos in Pak polity. How long will PM Imran Khan be able to hold on to his chair is to be seen?
Military-led political dispensation of Islamabad is perpetuating the barbarism, holocaust, massacre and genocide creating dissension and unrest. Out of the four provinces of Pakistan, three are simmering and the fourth is caught in the division. Even the so-called autonomous territories of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan remain a flashpoint with oppression and fascism at the hands of Pak Army. Indeed, there are no parts of Pakistan which have remained unaffected by terrorism, discriminatory policies and ethnic or sectarian/religious induced turmoil. This is the saga of a nation which has been dismembered (East Pakistan) due to its oppressive policies and yet again awaiting an impending implosion in the country.
Manufacturing and exports have collapsed. External remittances have dried up. Locusts have hit agriculture. The recent hike in petrol cost by Rs. 26 per litre indicates rampant inflation. In all this, the Army is sitting pretty. It has got a salary hike of 20 per cent! The Pakistani economy is now below the dumps. Their combined debt to IMF, the Gulf States and China must be beyond count. Pakistan has once again turned to its all-weather friend China for help to avoid defaulting on international debt obligations. According to the Pakistani Ministry of Finance and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Pakistan has accepted a loan of $1 billion from China to repay a $1 billion loan taken from Saudi Arabia. Desperate Pakistan did so because had it defaulted the payment, Saudi Arabia would have reduced its financial support. Overall the country is steeped in debt, especially to China. It has no choice but to do Chinese bidding.
The bear hug of friendship from across its northern border is squeezing Pakistan, sparking fears that the country may be heading into a giant debt trap with China, to a point where the bonhomie could even encroach on its sovereignty. Pakistan owes China double the amount it owes to the IMF. It’s surprising how the bankrupt nation is getting submerged deeper and deeper into China’s debt trap. Pakistan is no longer a hot favourite of the USA and Saudi Arabia. Therefore, it has no choice but to fall in line with China, at the dictated terms.
The pandemic situation in Pakistan is only getting worse by the day. The pandemic has been beyond Imran Khan’s Government domain. The Army started to call the shots from the start. Soon Chinese help started pouring in to include medical teams, medicines, masks, PPE and ventilators. Without these lifelines, the situation in Pakistan would have gone totally out of control. Apart from that, the Pakistan Army has been deeply involved in relief operations.
The future of Pakistan is bleak due to its self-inflicted injuries. The condition of Pak is critical with financial bankruptcy, sectarian violence, impending Afghanistan US pull out, Saudi Arabia and several Muslim nations sidelining Pak and above all becoming a slave to China already under global backlash. It’s also time for the international community and global governance organization like UNO to take serious note of Pakistan’s atrocities and state-sponsored terrorism. Unfortunately, while the Pak Army and politicians get wealthier and bold, it’s the people who bear the suffering. It is time that the gods of this country realize that by creating fear and denying basic rights and justice to the masses they are gradually moving toward their own self-destruction. For India, having chaos in its neighborhood is not a happy situation.