Pakistan: trapped in a vicious cycle

Daily: Pakistan Observer
Date: 24.12.08

India’s inaction – physical silence – in the wake of the mayhem ravaging Mumbai portends
that something unusual and immense may crop up for Pakistan, the country which is now
the target of the raised accusing-fingers of the world.

As if it were not enough, the NATO supply-line through Peshawar is being repetitively hit by
rockets thereby bringing strain on the western flank of Pakistan as well.

One thing is common between the Mumbai carnage and the Peshawar disruption: the non-
state actors are making their presence felt.

In Pakistan, since the year 2005, the activities of the non-state actors have become
noticeable with the rise in the incidents of suicide bomb-blasts. The state continued
smothering the dissenting voices through its machinery till the Red-Mosque issue, in 2007,
ushered in the beginning of another end. In a sequel to the issue, there appeared a
conspicuous ferocity in the acts of the non-state actors devouring several precious lives
including that of late Benazir Bhutto, the fatality of who is now a major defensive argument
with the incumbent government to evade any diplomatic assault being launched by India.

It seems that the backlash of the oft-repeated ‘do more’ is about to afflict disaster of a new
sort on Pakistan. Not only has been devastated the peace process with India but also the
West’s goodwill which Pakistan had been earning – and cherishing – by sacrificing its men
and material in the war on terror. Before the President-elect of the US, Barak Obama, could
execute his electoral agenda to shift the US soldiers from Iraq to Afghanistan, Pakistan is
coming into a tightened noose crafted by the non-state actors, who seem determined to
change the ground scenario before the mid of January 2009 when Obama will formally
assume charge of the US as President. Nevertheless, the enormity of the war on terror is
now showing its symptoms in and around Pakistan. Of the war, there is no end in sight; of
the end of the war-relevant problems for Pakistan, there is no end in sight either. Perhaps,
one is reinforcing the other.

If the story – which is being shown on some TV channels – of the one of the Mumbai
attackers, Ajmal Qasab (who allegedly hails from Farid Kot, Punjab), is true, Pakistan
should embrace itself with the reality that the non-state actors are out of its control.
Pakistan has to admit that the non-state actors have sabotaged foreign relations of
Pakistan: the foreign policies are now being dictated by the new players, the non-state
actors. Hardly is there any country in the world which is ready to buy the argument that the
Pakistan will not let its land be used for attacks on the territory of any other country. If
Pakistan is failing to obviate attacks on its own land – like the attack taken place in the
recent past on the Marriot Hotel in Islamabad, the capital – can Pakistan foil an attack on
any contiguous or far soil launched by the non-state actors belonging to it, the state of
Pakistan, is the next question visiting minds of many. The apparent incapacity of Pakistan in
this regard is an opening for the foreign powers – both regional and international – to
interfere more in Pakistan’s internal affairs.

In India, if the ruling party, the Congress, is to win the next general elections approaching
next year, it has to do something significant now to assuage the voters who are being
inclined towards the Hindu extremist party, the BJP. For the sake of an honourable political
survival of the Congress in India, the incumbent government of India seems hard pressed
to inveigle the voters by resorting to a kind of belligerent stance-cum-retaliation against
Pakistan on international forums. Further, for the sake of the face-saving of India in the
world, a display of impotence is not a choice for the government either, as India has already
suffered significant economic crunch. Taken both the constraints together, the Government
of India is forced to come up with a new stance against Pakistan.

On the other hand, Pakistan is trapped in a vicious cycle of degeneration: the more the
state machinery of Pakistan falls heavy on the non-state actors, the more brutally the non-
state actors react. Each time, the non-state actors invite embarrassment for Pakistan and
expose the vulnerability of Pakistan for other co-non-state actors to take their turn;
perhaps, one is reinforcing the other.

Retrospectively, in the post-9/11 gory incident, it was one man’s decision to push Pakistan
in the war on terror, which has now being fought on the land of Pakistan whether Pakistan
requires it or not – and whether Pakistan owns it or not. It is yet unknown as to what is the
strategy (when and how) of Pakistan to disengage itself from the war and to counter the
after-effects of the war.

Neither is Pakistan ready to fend off the diplomatic offensive being launched by India at the
international level nor is Pakistan prepared when and how to disentangle itself from the war
on terror. Pakistan seems mired in a quagmire of indecisiveness of its policy-makers; the
non-state actors seem to be in the driving seat replacing the policy-makers of the state.

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