Experts say that the recent Lal Masjid mess was just the tip of an iceberg as far as problems staring the Pakistani establishment is concerned. Since many of Pakistan’s problems can occur here too, it would pay to study our neighbour!
An year and a half ago, an American intelligence think-tank had predicted that Pakistan would be a failed state by the year 2013. It sounded, and still sounds, nothing more than a fantastical statement from a big-budget Hollywood film.
Pakistan, in all probability, would not break up in 2013. And for India’s sake, it should NOT either. Simply because, it is far easier to handle one big monster than tackle infinite small reptiles. Not the most charitable of all terms for a neighbour that we are destined to live for life. But if it makes the sensitive people feel any better, let’s accept that the adjectives coming from that side for us are similar in nature and greater in number.
Anyway, coming back to the topic: The 2013 scenario was mentioned at the beginning of this write-up because the way things are moving on ground at the moment in Pakistan, one can be excused for a moment to find the 2013 prediction coming true. Yes, quite like India, Pakistan has a million problems at hand. But unlike those in India, many of Pakistan’s problems were DIRECTLY given birth by the state of Pakistan itself.
The biggest example of a home-grown Frankenstein having a go at the master is the recent stand-off between Islamabad’s Lal Masjid radicals and the Pakistani armed forces. While more than a 100 people (just the official figure) died in the clash within the Mosque / Madarssa premises itself, the retaliatory attacks by the Lal Masjid Cleric sympathisers in the Waziristan area of Pakistan (see the map on the adjacent page) have claimed more than that (103) in suicide bombings in a matter of one week. Anyone who knows the area and its operations knows that there is more to come. And more scarily for ordinary Pakistanis, the suicide bombers are now ready to target Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore – and not just on the issue of Lal Masjid.
The fact of the matter is that there are areas within Pakistan that were NEVER under complete administration of the Pakistani state. And those areas – largely at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border – are becoming increasingly to control. Tribal warlords not only have the best of weapons but have an increasing army of brainwashed and military-style trained young men who are quite willing to blow themselves up for their ‘cause’.
The biggest proof of the Pakistan state’s inability to penetrate these areas was the ‘Peace Accord’ signed between the tribal leaders and the Pakistan state in the Waziristan area. The accord made it mandatory for Pakistan government to move out all its armed forces from the area and also remove all the check-points put by the security agency. In return, the Waziristan ‘warriors’ would stop attacking Pakistani army and also not blow up any oil or water lines traversing across the area!
The accord had drawn sharp reactions from the American and British media – which dubbed this as ‘surrender of Pakistan to Al-Qaida’. And their fear seems to have come true – what with Taliban regrouping itself in the ‘lawless’ areas around the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. It is also the area where Osama Bin Laden (if alive), his deputy Mullah Omar and other hardened Al-Quaida seems to have found a safe haven.
The attacks on the NATO forces in Afghanistan have increased manifold in the recent times. Simultaneously, the authority of the state of Pakistan has diminished to such an extent that it has almost given the local tribal leaders around the Federally Administered Areas (see the map) the status of an equal partner in dialogue for peace. What’s next, agreeing to independence of that area?
Funnily, they are not even demanding independence. Probably because how different would things be anyway, if they were to get official independence!
The people (some of them anyway) who are demanding independence, however, are those from Baluchistan, the biggest province / state of Pakistan in terms of land area.
“We have been Baloch for more than 7000 years. We became Muslim some 1400 years ago, and have been Pakistanis for just 60 years”, said an unnamed tribal chief in Balochistan, (cited in Himal South Asian, May 2007). With most of Pakistan’s natural resources coming from the province and the presence of a strategically important port, built by China (almost directly, including Chinese labourers), lying in Baluchistan, this is one trouble that Pakistan can do without.
And yet, again, the problem is just a tip of the iceberg! With 3 out of 4 provinces (states) in the middle of one major trouble or the other and about one to two thousand Madrassas (out of the estimated total of more than 20,000 Madrassas across Pakistan) said to be the breeding ground for Islamist militancy, the country seems to be in a real deep pit.
Add to that the fact that instances of nuclear proliferation by the likes of A Q Khan and links of terrorists arrested in Western countries with camps in Pakistan, the country is already in a state of serious credibility loss across most of the world – notwithstanding USA’s occasional pat on the back.
Whether it makes us happy or whether it should make us jittery is for the security agencies to decide. For the moment, the truth is, we need to be watchful. For, our neighbour is in a fix.