Pakistan Engulfed in Virtual Civil War
Pakistan today presents the tragic spectacle of being at war with itself with two of the four provinces in open revolt against the nation-state. Pakistan's entire western flank border provinces are engulfed in a virtual civil war comprising Baluchistan, NWFP and FATA. In the last named two tribal regions, the Pakistan Army and the Pakistan Air Force have been now for the last couple of months employed heavy bombardment by tanks, medium artillery, attack helicopters and fighter war-planes. In scenes reminiscent of the Bangladesh Liberation War the use of indiscriminate and disproportionate military force in these contested regions has already led to internal displacement of nearly three million people.
Whether the present virtual civil war ends with another partition or fragmentation of Pakistan is difficult to predict but all the ingredients seem to be existent for a disaster. The saving grace for Pakistan is that its war in NWFP and FATA is under the overarching 'global war on terror' launched by the United States & NATO Forces against the Taliban on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border tracts. But the underlying war aims of Pakistan seem to be aimed at pre-empting the Pashtun movement for an independent state of Pashtunistan.
As former Pakistani Ambassador to Washington, Major General Durrani , himself a Pashtun, recently remarked that the real danger exists of Pashtun nationalism coalescing with Taliban ideology . The spillover effects of such an eventuality can have serious spill-over effects in Pakistan elsewhere.
Pakistan today is differentiating between the Afghan Taliban which it has safely ensconced in safe sanctuaries in Baluchistan around Quetta and what it now terms as the Pakistan Taliban operating out of NWFP and FATA. The Afghan Taliban are being nurtured by the Pakistan Army as a strategic asset to once again reclaim Afghanistan as soon as the United States tires out in Afghanistan.
The Pakistan Taliban war, however, is not against Afghanistan but is aimed at Pakistan and the Pakistan Army. They maintain that the Pakistan Army is fighting America's war in Pakistan against their own co-religionists. They also aim at the Talibanization of Pakistan and its emergence as a purely Islamic state ruled under the Sharia laws and jurispendence.
It needs to be remembered that it was the Pakistan Army under General Musharraf which on grounds of political expediency facilitated the bringing into power earlier of Islamist coalitions to govern Baluchistan and NWFP. It would be now very difficult for the Pakistan Army to explain to its citizens as to why it should now be using indiscriminate and disproportionate military power against its own prot'g's.
Pakistan has since its creation been in a constant state of political turbulence and most times violent turbulence. The root cause of all such turbulence is that Pakistan has yet to forge a common national identity. Islam in the case of Pakistan has been unable to provide the glue which could hold Pakistan together and being a force to paper over the widespread ethnic and sectarian differences that divide the Pakistani society.
The second major root cause is the Pakistan Army which has ruled Pakistan for long periods of military rule spanning nearly half of Pakistan's existence. The Pakistan Army ignored the economic and social development of Pakistan' border regions and tribal areas and they continued alienated from the so called 'Homeland for Indian Moslems'.
Pakistan today undeniably is in a virtual civil war state with real dangers of fragmentation. It remains to be seen whether the oft-repeated mantra in respect of Pakistan, namely ' Allah. America and the Army' can save Pakistan from the abyss towards which it is hurtling.
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Dr. Subhash Kapila
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