Pakistan is facing multifaceted challenges both at national and international levels. Even in the neighbouring region, it is surrounded by hostile nations. On the eastern border, Pakistan has India, a state whose nationalism is defined by its enmity with Pakistan, and on the western border, it has Afghanistan that has neither settled on its own nor has accepted any foreign rulers.
India had always been in a denial regarding Pakistan’s status as an independent country. Mahatma Gandhi attributed the partition as ‘vivisection’ of an organism. For Nehru, Pakistan was nothing but a ‘fantasy’. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has become obstinately antagonistic to Pakistan. Following the Uri attack, both nations share an inimical relationship.
The decision of hanging Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav further scarred the already fractious relations. The recent alleged mutilation of Indian soldiers by Pakistan Army also added fuel to the fire. Although Islamabad denied any involvement in this act, there is simply no end to incidents hindering the normalisation of Indo-Pak relations.
Adding insult to injury, the bonhomie of India and the US has further augmented the security consciousness of Pakistan. Delhi is now a major defence partner of Washington. Both countries have signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement, which will allow them to use each other’s military facilities across the globe. Thus, in case of a war with Pakistan, India can use a military base of the US in Afghanistan.
On the other hand, Pakistan is trying to normalise its relations with Afghanistan. Islamabad invited Prime Minister Ashraf Ghani to visit the country, but the Afghan counterpart declined the invitation. Pakistan closed its border with Afghanistan on February 18th, at Chaman and Torkhum, in a reaction to a series of terrorist attacks in Pakistan that killed over 100 people. But Islamabad opened it again as a goodwill gesture. However, it seems as if no political overture can work with Kabul. Pakistan’s border at Chaman became volatile, resulting in its closure once again, as cross-border shelling from Afghan forces killed 12 civilians and injured 40. The Afghanistan conundrum is unavoidable and still unresolved.
Pakistan’s misery does not end here. On the western side, the country shares a border of 700km with Iran. The two neighbours had ‘workable’ relations, up till now. With Pakistan’s ex-chief of army heading the Saudi-led military alliance, Islamabad has irked Iran. The Iranian ambassador has expressed ‘concerns’ over this decision.
Recent threats by Iranian commander to launch cross-border attacks against the militants who are allegedly carrying out terrorist activities in Iran from the soil of Pakistan, aggravated the already existing tensions. It happened after the Iranian foreign minister’s visit to Pakistan for minimising friction between the two countries. Either there is a complete disconnect between the civilian and military leadership of Iran, or Tehran has clearly become wary of Pakistan. Nonetheless, it is now certain that Pakistan has an insecure border with Iran as well.
With the recent arrest of Noreen Leghari, the once denied traces of Islamic State within Pakistan have begun to reveal themselves. In a country where religion is being continuously ‘used’ for vested personal and political interests, the IS will not find it difficult to spread its tentacles. Pakistan risks becoming part of an unending conflict in Syria. The conflict is based on ethnicities, and ethnic wars live on as long as the ethnic identity of a community is preserved. This can stoke sectarian divisions in the country.
With external pressures of this magnitude, the internal tensions aggravated with the Supreme Court’s verdict on Panama Leaks. The opposition parties are calling for prime minister’s resignation. According to them, the Joint Investigating Team (JIT) will not be able to work independently as they are answerable to the office of the prime minister. The prime minister has refused to succumb to the pressure and rejected the idea of his resignation.
But the PML-N itself made a precedence of vacating the public office for independent investigation in the case of Dawn Leaks. Pervaiz Rashid was asked to step down from his position as information and broadcasting minister to facilitate an independent investigation. The recommendations of JIT related to Dawn Leaks have also become contentious. Tariq Fatemi, the adviser to the prime minister on foreign affairs, and Rao Tehsin, the principal information officer, rejected the allegations levelled against them. Even Rashid is upset by his removal.
The weakness of institutions in Pakistan has made domestic issues more important than the external challenges. Those who head the powerful institutions are scarcely trusted by the nation. And in Pakistan the law always tightens the noose around the weak. The institutions obey individuals. Personal interests are paramount, even more than the salvation of the country. Corruption is rampant. With money anyone can evade the law. Hence, Pakistan is badly entangled in external pressures and internal tensions with no messiah to relieve it from this ever growing anarchy. Salvation of this country lies only in the true embodiment of the law. By adhering to the law, the government of this country will be fully trusted by the masses and it would be able to concentrate on external challenges.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2017.