Pakistan is passing from a difficult phase. The all-dominant Army as well as the civilian leadership should chalk out a comprehensive plan so that the country remains united and overcomes its multifarious problems
Pakistan, which was created 70 years back, was bisected when a new nation, Bangladesh emerged. However, the all-dominant Army and thoroughly corrupt political leadership over there have not taken lessons from past blunders and at present, the country is facing multifarious tribulations which include secessionist agitations by various nationalities, increasing religious intolerance, population explosion, worsening economic situation, growing water crisis, civil and military confrontation, poor education system, escalating drug addiction, rampant corruption as well as isolation in the international arena. These are only a few major issues and the list can include several more significant problems faced by the ailing country.
Pakistan was created on the name of Islam and it was the main adjoining factor of diverse nationalities that joined the new-born nation but Islamic extremists killed, converted or subdued the minorities. Hence, Islam ceased to be an adhesive factor. Punjab, being the most populous State, soon captured power and started exploiting abundant resources of the country and subjugated all other nationalities. In the 1970 general election, the Bangladesh Awami League emerged as the single largest party but the Punjabi-dominated Army refused to hand over power to Sheikh Mujeebur Rehman and the country faced its first partition.
Balochistan, which is the largest Province of Pakistan, and possess copious mineral resources, is the poorest State in the country. Balochis are fighting for independence of the State and there were several uprisings. The Pakistan Army, which is known for its brutality, killed innocent people and bombarded civilian areas but atrocities could not break the resolve of the Balochis and the secessionist movement is still continuing.
Besides, Balochis, Sindhis, Pashtuns and Kashmiris want separate nations while Muhajirs, Saraikis, Chitralis, Hindkowans assert that the federal Government is exploiting them and they want more autonomy. Pakistan, instead of blaming India should give equal rights to their diverse nationalities otherwise the country may have to undergo the trauma of more partitions.
General Zia-ul-Haq with ulterior motive radicalised the country to gain support of Islamic extremists. He created an infrastructure to produce Islamic fanatics and jihadists to fight in Afghanistan and in India. Few Middle East countries pumped money which augmented Wahhabism and it increased animosity between the Shias and the Sunnis. Sunni extremist outfits like the Sipah-e-Sahaba, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat started massacre of the Shias. There are about 35 million Shias and they also constitute organisations like the Imamia Students Organisation and the Tehrik-e-Jafaria Pakistan to take revenge from Sunnis. At present, Pakistan is undergoing a bitter sectarian war which is harmful for the country. The Islamic State, which is a Sunni terrorist outfit, is also recruiting young Pakistanis to kill the Shias and carryout terrorist activities.
Iran is recruiting young Shias from Pakistan to assist the forces of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. These battles which hardened radicalised Shia youths will be a big danger to Pakistan once they return back from Syria.
The Pakistan Army, which has not allowed civilian institutions to grow, painted itself as the guardian of the country and claimed that India wants to destroy Pakistan, and, hence, the country needs powerful Armed Forces. The Army also propagated that it will take revenge of partition of the country and will snatch Kashmir from India. Hence, the Army needs more funds. In this way, the defence forces took a lion’s share of the scarce resources which further damaged the economy.
Senior officers of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) were involved in drug smuggling in the name of financing anti-India operations but as hefty sums were involved, lot of drugs were sold within the country and it became one of the most drug addict nation.
Few terrorist outfits created by the ISI declined to obey the dictates of creepy ISI and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is an umbrella organisation of more than 13 terrorist groups, profess to fight against the Pakistani Government and it carried out several terrorist attacks in the country. The gravity of terrorism can be assessed by the fact that according to South Asia Terrorism Portal, from 2003 to 2017, more than 60,000 persons were killed because of terrorism in Pakistan.
The country is so thoroughly radicalised that it will be difficult to take it out from increasing extremism. Several anti-terrorist operations launched by security forces could not achieve the desired result, partially because security forces only want to eliminate ‘bad terrorists’ and partly because of resistance from powerful Islamic fraternity.
Pakistan is so engrossed in day-to-day problems that it has no time to sort out long term issues. There will be acute water shortage in 2025 and it will further damage the economy of the country as Pakistan’s agriculture is water dependent. Its main crops are cotton and sugarcane and both needs excessive water. Pakistan is not making any sincere efforts to conserve water and within few years the situation will be disastrous.
Pakistan’s population is increasing at the rate of more than two per cent, which is the highest in the region. According to 1951 census, West Pakistan had a population of 33.7 million, which became 194,931,848 in January this year. This unprecedented growth has shattered the economy of the country. At present, export is dwindling while imports are enhancing. The net public debt is more than Rs 18 trillion which is frightening. Pakistan’s foreign debt is Rs 6.14 trillion and it will need assistance either from the International Monetary Fund or China to repay its foreign debt in March 2018.
In the present era, technology is most important – developed countries are progressing only because of inventions and latest technology – while the backbone of Pakistan’s education system is madrassas and in these madrassas, semi literate teachers are producing jihadists instead of scientists, engineers and doctors. The present educational system if not improved soon may become a cause of collapse for the country.
Pakistan possesses nuclear warheads and there was always a danger that some international or national terrorist organisation may procure nuclear warheads by payment or by arousing jihadist feeling in some Pakistanis who have control over nuclear warheads.
In another worrisome development, Lashkar-e-Tayyeba chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed launched a political party, namely the Milli Muslim League (MML) with full support of the ISI. MML had applied to the Election Commissioner (EC) for registration, although this time, the EC has rejected the application, but soon it will have to register the party under pressure from the Army. This time, Yaqub Sheikh is contesting election as an independent candidate. Analysts feel that in the beginning, terrorists may not succeed but later they can capture power and at that time whole nuclear arsenals will be under their command. It will be a scary situation.
Pakistan is also facing acute problems in the international arena and losing friends. Recently, the US put restrictions on the use of $255 million assistance and the ninth Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (Brics) summit in the joint declaration not only condemned terrorism but also named few terrorist organisations which are operating from Pakistan. Muslim countries are also not very helpful to Pakistan because of terrorism. Pakistan is passing from a difficult phase and the all-dominant Army as well as its civilian leadership should chalk out a comprehensive plan so that the country remains united and overcomes its multifarious problems.