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Has the idea of Pakistan failed?
By Wajahat Qazi
Three news strings pertaining to Pakistan and its neighbourhood are revelatory. The first was the United States ambassador to Pakistan, Mark Olson's, statement that the United States ties with Pakistan would be predicated upon mutual respect and common interests. On a different note, Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai, on an official trip to India, has rooted for Indian investment in Afghanistan. The third was the murder and killing of Shias of the Hazara community in Mach, the provincial capital of Quetta. All these developments are interesting (the third one gory and sad).

The United States is appearing to rejig its posture and approach towards Pakistan and appears to be learning from past experience. The reference here is to the country's ditching of Pakistan after the end of the Cold war and the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. The United States this time appears to be determined to hold onto Pakistan and not allow it to drift. This is a prudent and wise approach. Pakistan is the wild card in international relations and politics and if it is ignored it can potentially drift into a spoiler state with global security implications.

The Afghan overture to India and desire to draw in investment from India is also interesting. It naturally implies and means greater Indian involvement in Afghanistan- something that Pakistan has always been uncomfortable about. And this involvement which entails an economic involvement from the Pakistani point of view can be more insidious given that it will naturally translate into influence.

The killing of Shias-almost a theme now across Pakistan- points out to the increasing sectarianism taking root in the country.

All three are related and, in combination, point out to the failure of the Idea of Pakistan. This idea predicated on the creation of a 'safe' and 'secure' homeland for South Asian Muslims has not fructified. Contemporary Pakistan is an entity where the state is at odds with society, the society is fragmented and divided along the lines of ethnicity, religious schisms and other fault lines.

The state pursues agendas-wresting Kashmir from India and meddling in Afghanistan and using extremism as a trump card- which are insalubrious and redound negatively for Pakistan. There is no consensus on the nature of the society and polity and different groups vie for ideological supremacy. Ethnic minorities are harassed and killed. And the economy is by and large dependent on aid monies. This cannot and was not the vision that Pakistan's founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, had in mind for Pakistan.

The first two conditions-America's continued involvement in Pakistan and the Afghan overture- point out to structural trends and features: Pakistan may be caught up in path dependence of institutions and may be loath to change but extraneous features may be forcing some sort of change in Pakistan. Take for, instance, Karzai's request. If India and Indian businesses get involved in Afghanistan, this will lead to an economic interdependence between India and Afghanistan wherein India will naturally have the upper hand. This then gives short shrift to Pakistan's strategic depth policy and its attempts to prop up proxies in Afghanistan. Similarly, 'common interests' between the United States and Pakistan mean that Pakistan will be a partner in the war on terror, which , in turn, means that the Pakistani state will have to take on the forces of extremism in Pakistan. This implies that the state will be increasingly at odds with society. What should be Pakistan's reaction and response?

Instead of change being foisted upon Pakistan through structural forces, Pakistan should take recourse to introspection and course correction. This can only come about if the country rejigs its conceptual and ideational dynamic. And it means a review of assumptions and ideas that undergird Pakistan. The condition of Pakistan is a clear cut example of the fact that religion cannot be the basis of a nation state. Pakistan should review its ideational dynamic and then the rest will axiomatically follow.

This would mean having normal relations with India, dropping its strategic depth obsession in Afghanistan and having normal relations with the United States. This will naturally have implications for global and regional security. It is about time that the country reviews and discards assumptions and ideologies that have been so baneful for itself, the region and the world.
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News Updated at : Wednesday, November 21, 2012
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