A multi-state state

Ali Hassan Bangwar June 23, 2024
The writer is a freelancer and a mentor hailing from Kandhkot, Sindh. He can be reached at alihassanb.34@gmail.com


The security, sovereignty and regulation of society, as well as the productivity and predictability of holistic social interactions, require the establishment of laws that are unanimously agreed upon, egalitarian and inclusively enforced. This necessitates the existence of an empowered sovereign authority, known as the state, to formulate and execute laws within a constitutional framework agreed upon by the people. The state functions through its institutions and functionaries, working within assigned boundaries, to ensure the implementation of laws, also known as the writ of the state. However, the sovereignty of the state is guaranteed not only by protecting it from external intervention but also from internal threats, whether from institutions or individuals. Therefore, the writ of the state can only be established when institutions commit to upholding the law and are accountable for their actions under it.

However, when state functionaries and institutions eclipse the laws they are supposed to enforce in society and on themselves, they become parallel sovereign entities or states within the state. In other words, they absolve themselves of constitutional oversight and become sovereign entities operating under customary laws, vested interests, or personal connections. Throughout its history, Pakistan has effectively been transformed into a multi-state state, with numerous parallel states operating within it with impunity. These include the security establishment, political dynasties, judicial states, religious clergy, bureaucratic states, feudal and tribal entities, and bandits. As states within a state, they operate based on their interests and intra- and interstate connections. Each of these states within the state, apart from sharing support and benefits with other states within the state, has its own unique methods for warding off threats to its outreach.

At the top of the hierarchy sits the mighty security establishment. Fortified by absolute and unquestionable impunity, it has taken the lead in overshadowing the country’s laws and installing itself into every aspect of the social fabric, rightfully earning credit for everything the country has been and is today. To guard its stakes, it uses treason, coercion, brute force, transgressions of other states within states, or exaggerated security narratives. All other states are either extensions of or sponsored by it.

The planted state of political dynasties forms another powerful state in the country and stands on falsified narratives framed around democracy, constitutionalism and civilian supremacy. In return for an ill-gotten and unpopular power share, the political state has repeatedly ceded civilian space to the security establishment. It defends itself by labelling any opposition as a threat to democracy.

The clergy stands as a parallel state that dictates its areas of influence. A product of security establishment’s financial, geostrategic and security interests and a ploy for extending or legitimising undemocratic regimes, it has spread its tentacles in all domains. It tends to shields itself with the tool of heresy.

Encouraged by impunity, the judiciary has repeatedly overstepped its bounds in the pretext of necessities and established itself as a mighty state. Contempt of court laws guards this state. The capitalist elite also forms a parallel state and runs on the connections it cultivates with states by sharing the benefits.

The bureaucratic state, instead of executing the Constitution and laws of the state, enforces its own interests and those of its patrons and defends itself through the use or threat of use of force.

Feudal and tribal warlords also own states within states and unleash barbarity to safeguard their interests and avert threats. Owned by the other states existing within the state, mafias act as states and guard themselves through agitation.

And finally, there is the encroached-upon state of Pakistan, which is struggling with unimplemented laws and a neglected Constitution. For over seven and a half decades, Pakistan has been fighting to protect itself from internal threats, namely the ‘states within a state’. The greatest dangers to the country’s sovereignty have thus come from within.


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