Pakistan is fast coming apart, existentially and in terms of thinking. The reason is the dwindling of factors that hold life together. The economy cannot be allowed to start growing through cheap money if law and order are not ensured. As people become unemployed through a shrinking of the economy, their inclination to vandalism and crime becomes not only possible but morally justified.
The state is sliding to a halt. It cannot run the facilities it has inherited. It cannot guarantee the survival of those in the private sector. The first and last signature of the state — security of property rights — is fading. The writ of the state is gone in a large part of its territory and going in what is left. If the rupee slides through dollarisation and there is hyper-inflation, the state may have to be labelled as a ‘failed state’.
What is to be done? So far, Pakistan is challenging the US on the basis of a thinking that weighs Pakistan heavier in the strategic scale, retired diplomats and generals saying America needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs America. Is Pakistan simply creating chaos just because America wants to create order?
The economists in Pakistan have finally disengaged themselves from the Pak Army and textbook thinking that India wants to occupy Pakistan and rule Muslims. They think that, while the world is suffering from economic crisis, two neighbours of Pakistan, China and India, are growing at high rates. They see Pakistan surviving only as a part of the South Asian economy.
This doesn’t mean that Pakistan should kowtow to India. It doesn’t mean Pakistan giving up Kashmir. It simply means Pakistan integrating with India and growing in tandem with it, taking in investment and benefiting from low wages at home, allowing India a land route to Central Asia, providing pipeline-fed gas to energy-starved western India and letting people cross the Indian border under a liberal visa regime. After that, Pak Army can turn around and take on the terrorists before they get to our nukes.
There are welcome signs of policy change in Pakistan that cannot be denied. In July 2011, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani went to Mingora, Swat, together with General Kayani and pledged that his government would seek normalisation of relations with India. Before the Mingora overture, the chief of the ISPR had already signalled in his statement that the army ‘won’t mind if Pakistan pursued cooperation and trade with India’, clearly hinting that the ‘conditionality’ of Kashmir was no longer so important.
India’s Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, not so soft-spoken in the post-Mumbai period of 2008, has now refused to bite the bait thrown by a New York Times story that the Pakistani military establishment was keeping in reserve an army of trained Kashmiri militants numbering 14,000 to be unleashed on India at a future date. His reaction was that it was ‘highly exaggerated’. There is no doubt that in saying this he was being statesman-like and ignoring some of the assessments made by RAW that are even more lurid than the one aired by New York Times.
The Mingora statement has been well-received in India. Mr Gilani had said: “Pakistan views India as the most important neighbour and desires sustained, substantive and result-oriented process of dialogue to resolve all outstanding issues, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir. We sincerely hope that the ongoing process of comprehensive engagement will be fruitful. However, India will have to play a more positive and accommodating role and respond to Pakistan’s legitimate security concerns.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2011.