Wednesday, November 12, 2008
There is little question that an American-occupied Afghanistan has emerged as the biggest security threat to Pakistan. But you wouldn't know it watching the Pakistani ruling elite, busy in creating the world's most bloated government. The CIA is attacking Pakistani territory with impunity. Afghanistan, in effect an American base, is the main source of inspiration, funding and weapons to terrorists spreading chaos in both NWFP and Balochistan.
And now we have 40-feet wide billboards that have mysteriously sprung up on the main roads of NWFP showing the map of a new country – Pashtunistan – with meticulously defined borders that incorporate most of northwestern Pakistan. This 'billboard campaign' has to be the boldest statement of rebellion and separatism ever made in the history of nation-states anywhere in the world. Yet it's business as usual in Islamabad.
Security analysts have been warning since 2007 that Pakistan is committing a blunder by allowing Pakistani politicians to conduct their separate foreign policies with foreign countries, especially America whose massive agenda of redrawing the map of the region is a direct threat to Pakistani interests. America and Britain in particular have a history of orchestrating coups and covertly funding chaos and insurgencies and changing governments in our part of the world. In this context, it is disturbing to see how our political and military leaderships have allowed Washington, its diplomats and its spymasters to directly access political parties, invite them on secret, all-expenses-paid trips to Washington and have direct say in Pakistani affairs. The American intervention, starting late 2006 and early 2007, effectively managed to bring a regime change in Islamabad, thanks partially to the blunders of the previous regime. There is no free lunch and the Americans have specific expectations from the new rulers in Pakistan: The permission for increased American military operations inside Pakistan, meeting the American desire for clipping Pakistan's intelligence capabilities, and changing the military's orientation from a standing army into some kind of a police force focused on fighting insurgencies.
The deliberate destabilization of Pakistan will result in turning large parts of the country against the federal government and increasingly draw the military into a civil war that will bleed us for decades to come in the presence of covert support from Afghan soil. The result would be a weakened Pakistani state unable to sustain control over its territory and over its vast arsenal of nuclear and strategic assets. The Americans are also keen that Pakistan gets entangled again in the IMF cobweb, which basically means one more American control over Pakistan. Interestingly, the only thing that appears to be stopping the current government from cowing to American diktat is domestic political reaction. Apart from the IMF option, we are yet to see any real moves to deal with the economic crisis.
It is time for Pakistani commentators and civil society activists to realize that their idealism has resulted in encouraging the people to vote for the same tried, tested and failed politicians who cannot deliver. Our civil society activists need to stop viewing every call to reform our democracy and political system with an eye of suspicion. What would it take for our liberals and commentators to understand that even good ideas, like local governments, don't work under our paralyzed political system? It is time to reorient the Pakistani state and government structure.
Special interest groups cannot be allowed to have permanent monopoly over our politics. Political parties need to be forcibly democratized to allow the ascent of Pakistan's middle class in politics. Ethnic politics, the new Trojan horse of anyone who wants to meddle in our affairs, have to be ended through legislation and by creating more provinces on administrative lines and by strengthening Pakistani nationalism. The question is: Who will do this? The current crop of politicians can't. The military is not trained to do this, at least not alone. I am afraid we are soon approaching a situation where something will have to be thought of outside the box.
It's either this or more separatist billboards in the future.
The writer works for Geo TV. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org