Why Is Pakistan So Messed Up? – A Strategic Analysis

December 29, 2007

[Breaking News! Political Analysis – Pls Adjust The View Size For Your Reading Pleasure]


Benazir Butho has been assassinated. Al-Qaeda claims responsibility for bagging her. How was this tragedy allowed to happen?

Pakistan a country with a stellar economic growth (8.4%) second to only China last year. With an all-time high foreign exchange reserves close to $13.73bn and a vibrant Karachi stock exchange – a country which was even feted and held out for special praise by the IMF as a “model economic reformist regime” – which managed to score top marks in every single World Bank target.

Where did it go so wrong?

Based on a recent US think tank’s congressional report 950023 – Capitol Hill / one likely reason forwarded by Washington is

“President Musharraf is no longer able to keep domestic affairs in order”.

In diplomatic speak, it means he’s no longer in the equation, not even in a position to effectively influence the outcome of events. He’s just like one of those space monkeys blasted off to space. He’s just there for the ride – no one’s expects monkeys to design and built spaceships to go to Mars. In the same way, no one expects him to be able to control the socio-political situation in Pakistan – it’s completely out of his hands.

How did it go so wrong? How is it possible for all the levers of power to be connected to nothing?

Despite having all the righter than right ticks for democratic institutions – civil liberties and even a press that enjoys unfettered freedom – problems continue to plague Pakistan.

One reason why Pakistan is axiomatically Islamic and still suffers uncontrollable spates of terrorist inspired violence stems from the historical baggage of having being a proxy to train extremist and insert them into various theatres to support her border security. Most notable was during the heady days of Reaganism. Only then the same terrorist were referred too as “freedom fighters.” They fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. At the height of the war nearly 3 million refugees poured into the Eastern border of Pakistan, importing with them their blend of Islamic fundamentalism that the CIA nurtured as a strategic resource to fuel the war against the Soviets. In certain North East states such as Peshawar and Rawalpindi, the influx of these refugees changed irrevocably the demographics, economics and cultural attributes of the local community forever –  In the small town of Bannu, some 190 kilometers south of Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan’s rugged North-West Frontier Province, the sound semi automatic gun fire regularly rents the air.

Here weapons, including tank busting stuff such as rocket propelled grenades are produced in warrens of family owned shops and sold predominantly to Taliban extremists and militia forces fighting in tribal areas located along the North-West Frontier.

The fact that North East provinces, namely Waziristan is a tribal territory, lying outside Islamabad’s writ and beyond the ambit of Pakistani laws, has complicated the situation further. Here tribal laws mix with state laws uneasily, only for the rule of law to fritter away. Without a credible means of enforcing laws, violence seems impossible to stop, extremism flourishes despite government efforts to strike deals with the militants or to suppress them through armed action.

Tribal communities pose a real challenge to the will of the Islamabad central government. Recently Agence France-Presse estimated that this year alone at least 700 soldiers and 1,000 militants had been killed in border skirmishes.

The scale of the warfare can only be gauged but they are a stark reminder that Pakistan is no where near as monolithic a society as it’s always depicted to be. In truth, it’s demographic make up is a polyglot of assorted interest groups, interspersed with plenty of fiefdoms. Some brazen and demanding like militants in the East border of Pakistan. Others less vocal but equally dangerous such as the Kashmiri Separatist Movement – Islamabad has been secretly funding and training to consolidate it’s power over the disputed territory with India.

As each layer of intrigue gets increasingly wrapped up in statecraft, religion and sectarian interest what’s starting to emerge is the paradox of Islamabad’s inability to juggle so many interest groups yet secure it’s own hold on power – that, of course, was the issue in several Italian city states of the 15th century, where citizens had become too mercantile that they resorted wholly to militia to protect their lucrative trade routes. In such circumstances it is their employers rather than the enemy that mercenaries confront with threat; they take sides in quarrels, they lend themselves out to the highest bidder as political ballast. Is it so inconceivable that they may even be prepared to kill to further their own political agenda? That is the harvest that Pakistan reaped the moment it pursued a systematic strategy of protecting it’s territorial interest and furthering it’s geo- political agenda by resorting to militia’s when partition saw her set adrift from India in 1947.

The problem is while such a strategy may be expedient to solve short term problems in an economic way. Over reliance on the militia system brings with it, it’s own set of long term problems. 

Firstly, it fragments the power structures; accounting for why warlords and tribal chieftains are still able to exact both cultural and political mileage throughout the 1,300 kilometers of the North East border regions to even influence political events in Islamabad!This they do, to the greater detriment of the rule of law by insisting on their rights to hold on to their archaic ideals about god, family and state – it is these tribal communities who live very much by their old martial codes that continue to pose a real threat to the Musharraf  administration. Since very little has been done to osmotically integrate them into mainstream Pakistani society precisely because doing so would have the effect of nullifying their usage as militants. 

As economic growth continues to course through the social network empowering more Pakistani  urbanites with opportunities for western education and wealth creation. The divide between cosmopolitans and traditionalist will grow even wider exacerbating the already fractious nature of how communal politics is conducted. 

Recognizing the growing bedrock of extremism and how reticent it is to all forms of state inspired reform. Since 2001, Islamabad has spent over USD$3.5 billion to overcome the influence of the extremists by attempting to modernize religious seminaries under the Madrassa Reforms Programme. Measures have been introduced to stop their use as centres for inflammatory teaching, and Ulamahs have been subjected to security screening. However, despite the best efforts of the government to establish a model madrassas (religious training centers) to provide modern and useful education – this has proven to be universally unpopular. Many traditionalist see this as yet another attempt to erode their elemental rights. Others see it as simply an attempt by Islamabad to dismantle the tribal network that features so prominently in Pakistani politics, where the Ulamah is both a religious and political figure head. 

This accounts for why the pace of reform has been described as sedentary – resulting in archiac laws like the shariah laws, blasphemy laws and enacted land reforms sitting uncomfortably besides ‘new’ reformist laws in a state of perpetual limbo. 

Along with this there is also a reluctance to address anomalies within the party political coalition between bureaucrats and the establish Mullahs who still continue to exact a hold on the electorate.

As with all basket cases. The hubris lies somewhere between knowing what to do and coming heads to heads with the limits of knowing what cannot be practically accomplished – this question will continue to form the main montage whenever we speak about Pakistan now and in the foreseeable future and probably a very long time to come. Meanwhile, rest in peace Mrs Benazir Bhutto.

You’re be glad to know, we are christening a newly comissioned “Dimitri” space station after you – may you continue to beacon the murk in a happier place, faraway from a place called Pakistan.

Vollariane, Harphoon, Astroboy, Montburan, Dotty and Scholarboy – A Strategic Analysis – The Brotherhood Press 2007

What lies in Store For You In 2008? Read The Brotherhood Analysis:

Looking At The Crystal Ball For 2008

Have You Ever Wondered;

3 Responses to “Why Is Pakistan So Messed Up? – A Strategic Analysis”

  1. Jerreze said

    Fantastic analysis. Crisp, sharp and uncluttered. One constructive feed back, could have done more on the polishing of the sentencing. I felt this article had too many ppl trying to write in one way. Perhaps you would a more pro result, if it was segmented. However great, the BP comes through time and again, breaking the sound barrier with the strategic analysis.

    First in and the First out!

  2. pepe said

    very educational. btw is pakistan a classic case of what can go wrong when religion and politics mix? Or can we say it’s a case of when politics and US foreign covert policy is mixed together? Thanks and happy new year Dotty. I think you are going a marvel of a job.

  3. pepe said

    Can we say Pakistan is a classic case of what can go wrong when politics mix with US foreign policy? It seems to be the case of politics and religion may not be very accurate.

    Many thanks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: