Balkanizing Pakistan: A Collective National Security Strategy


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
Balkanizing Pakistan: A Collective National Security Strategy

Breaking Pakistan to Fix It
The argument for Balkanizing Pakistan or, more specifically, fragmenting the Islamic Republic so it's easier to police and economically develop, has been on the table since Pakistan's birth in 1947 when the country was spit out of a British laboratory. And lately, the concept is looking more appealing by the day, because as a result of flawed boundaries combined with the nexus between military rule and Islamic extremism, Pakistan now finds itself on a rapid descent toward certain collapse and the country's leaders stubbornly refuse to do the things required to change course. But before allowing Pakistan to commit state suicide, self-disintegrate and further destabilize the region, the international community can beat them to the punch and deconstruct the country less violently.

To quell any doubts about Pakistan's seemingly uncontrollable spiral into darkness, just recently, Foreign Policy Magazine ranked Pakistan as the tenth most failed state on earth and it would seem its leaders are hell bent on securing the number one slot - an honor it can add to their already dubious distinction as the world's largest incubator of jihadist extremism. Afghanistan will never see peace or prosperity with a neighbor like Pakistan and the U.S. will always be threatened by terrorist plots spawned in Pakistan's lawless regions - like the most recent Times Square bombing.

The most popular approach to fragmentation is to break off and allow Afghanistan to absorb Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which would unite the Pashtun tribes. In addition, the provinces of Balochistan and Sindh would become independent sovereign states, leaving Punjab as a standalone entity.

Balkanization is based on the premise that the weak central government in Islamabad is incapable of governing Pakistan's frontiers, which have become the number one source of regional instability. The governing Punjabi elite have neglected the other three major ethnic groups - the Sindhis, Pashtuns, and Baluchis, primarily because a majority of Pakistan's budget is spent on the military rather than economic development, schooling or infrastructure. Only 2% of Pakistan's GDP, for example, is spent on education despite the fact Pakistan's literacy rate stands at 57%.

Minority groups have also been underrepresented in institutions such as Pakistan's military - which is the country's most powerful entity. Punjabis who represent 40% of the population constitute 90% of the armed forces. Pakistan's own history provides a prime case study of what happens when an ethnic group can no longer tolerate political and economic disregard. After a quarter century of strife the Bengalis rebelled, seceded and founded Bangladesh in 1971.

If the Balkanization solution is ever put in motion, accusations will surely fly that it's yet another example of U.S. imperialism and neoconservatism run amok. However, this would be a diplomatic and multilateral effort, plus, it is more about reversing the iniquities of British colonialism than it is building some new world order.

Inherent Instability
Pakistan's problems began when the British drew its boundaries haphazardly, which was primarily a product of incompetence and haste than maniacal design. According to an article in the New York Times last year, British colonial officer, Sir Cyril Radcliffe was given six weeks to carve a Muslim-majority state from British India although he had never even been there before. Radcliffe's private secretary was quoted as saying that Sir Cyril "was a bit flummoxed by the whole thing. It was a rather impossible assignment, really. To partition that subcontinent in six weeks was absurd." It would be a comical anecdote except for the fact that hundreds of thousands of people died in the ethnic cleansing that followed as a direct result of British carelessness.

Pakistan's border with Afghanistan - the poorly-marked Durand Line - had been drawn in 1893, also by the British, but it was never meant to be a long-term legally-binding boundary. The faux demarcation split the Pashtuns in half. By reinstating the original natural boundaries, Pakistan's western provinces would be returned to Afghanistan and the Pashtun tribes would be reunited. Such a move would also remove a strategic advantage for the Afghan Taliban, who can easily blend in amongst fellow Pashtuns on the Pakistani side of the border today.

The British did not only gift Pakistan with lethal boundaries, according to renowned Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, Pakistan inherited a "security state" from British rule, described by scholars as "the viceregal tradition" or "a permanent state of martial law". Intellectual Christopher Hitchens asserted Pakistan has been a fiefdom of the military for most of its short existence. As was once said of Prussia: Pakistan is not a country that has an army, but an army that has a country. Hitchens also said the country was doomed to be a dysfunctional military theocracy from day one - beginning with the very name of the country itself:

But then, there is a certain hypocrisy inscribed in the very origins and nature of "Pakistan". The name is no more than an acronym, confected in the 1930s at Cambridge University by a NW Muslim propagandist named Chaudhri Rahmat Ali. It stands for Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, and Indus-Sind, plus the suffix "-stan," meaning "land." In the Urdu tongue, the resulting word means "Land of the Pure." The country is a cobbling together of regional, religious, and ethnic nationalisms, and its founding, in 1947, resulted in Pakistan's becoming, along with Israel, one of the two "faith-based" states to emerge from the partitionist policy of a dying British colonialism. Far from being a "Land of the Pure," Pakistan is one of the clearest demonstrations of the futility of defining a nation by religion, and one of the textbook failures of a state and a society.
Pakistan deteriorated throughout the decades because of its focus on building the military and developing Islamic extremist groups to use as weapons in their eternal obsessive struggle against India. It's true the U.S. helped Pakistan build these groups since the beginning of the Cold War, but America learned on 9/11 they had created a Frankenstein monster that now needed to be slain.

Many analysts have suggested India is less of a national security threat to Pakistan than its homegrown terrorist groups, many of which have openly declared their mission to topple the state, which would allow jihadists to secure nuclear materials. Yet, based on its strategic decision to foster extremism and its recent public support for Taliban rule in Afghanistan, it appears the biggest existential threat to Pakistan is its own political and military leaders.

The Last Straw
With that being said, Balkanization does seem like an extreme step at first blush, and perhaps Pakistan should be given another chance. Yet, after considering Pakistan's historic and current relationship with Al Qaeda - it becomes much easier to justify.

Since the war began in 2001 the U.S. has asked Pakistan to root out extremists from sanctuaries in a Rhode Island-sized area called North Waziristan, chief among them being the lethal Haqqani Network. However, Pakistan's army chief General Ashfaq Kayani asserted his forces were too bogged down fighting the Pakistani Taliban elsewhere in places like South Waziristan, Orakzai Agency and various districts across the NWFP.

I contacted an Afghan intelligence analyst about this and he assessed General Kayani's claim with one single word: rubbish. The Pakistan army consists of 500,000 active duty troops and another 500,000 on reserve. If Pakistan truly wanted to capture the Haqqani Network they would be able to drag them out of their caves by their beards within a few days.

In a movement that should have floored U.S. policymakers, Kayani was brazen enough to try and inveigle Afghanistan to strike a power-sharing arrangement with the Haqqanis. And Kayani, apparently the spokesperson for the Haqqani group, said they'd be willing to split from and denounce Al Qaeda, which is President Obama's primary rationale for the war. However, there is a higher probability of General Kayani converting to Hinduism than there is of the Haqqani Network ever being decoupled from Al Qaeda.

According to the Long War Journal, Siraj Haqqani, their leader, sits on Al Qaeda's decision-making body. Haqqani's friendship with Osama bin Laden dates back to the war against the Soviets in the 1980s and it was Haqqani that ensured safe passage into Pakistan for many Al Qaeda figures after the collapse of the Taliban in 2001. An Institute for the Study of War analysis concluded that Haqqani was "irreconcilable" and negotiations with him would actually strengthen Al Qaeda and would undermine the raison d'etre for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan over the past decade.

In other words, the Haqqani Network is Al Qaeda.

Pakistan has had a close relationship with the Haqqanis for over 30 years, who are still seen as a crucial anti-Indian asset. So, for nine years the Pakistanis protected the Haqqanis and claimed ignorance as to the whereabouts of Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden and the Quetta Shura. Nine years, nearly $300 billion dollars and 1900 dead coalition soldiers later, the U.S. has officially verified that the entire war effort has been focused on the wrong side of the mountains.

A stable Afghanistan is in Pakistan's best interests, but this message has been preached time and again with little to no results, and the U.S. has waited long enough for Pakistan's leaders to uproot the extremists that orchestrated 9/11. But now, it appears as if the international community will have to do it for them.


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
Will the Pakistani state prevail? —S P Seth

The most insidious result for Pakistan has been the growth of its own Taliban movement that seeks to subvert the Pakistani state and replace it with a Pakistani version of the Taliban government in Afghanistan

Things are happening thick and fast in Pakistan, though not for the good of its people. The recent bombing in Lahore at a religious shrine was heart-rending. The sufi stream is the most heartening feature of Islam with a consensual subcontinental culture. To see this being attacked with such ferocity leaves one with a sense of utter helplessness. And coming as it does after senseless attacks on the Ahmedi community, it is felt as a terrible tragedy.

What is the agenda of these extremist elements? These are obviously disparate elements united in their common hatred for all those branded as the 'enemies' of Islam. These include domestic as well as foreign enemies. These enemies are seen everywhere by the militants. Inside the country, they constitute a majority of the people who have, by and large, stayed away from political parties aligned with religious extremism. The electoral history of Pakistan will show that these parties have always been in a minority when it comes to voting, though they have lately gained some traction because of the volatility of the situation within Pakistan.

If that is the case, why have they not been isolated and dealt with accordingly? This has to do with the country's political and economic development since its creation. Although Pakistan has made some economic progress, it has not filtered down in any appreciable way, if at all, to the mass of the people who need it the most. The feudal class still wields political power, with an added layer of industrial barons.

Indeed, a symbiotic nexus developed between them, with the new industrial class, at times, wielding the baton both as feudal lords and industrial barons. And on top are the military brass sharing power and, most often, sidelining the civilian political elite.

What this means is that the clerical establishment of the country has often felt left out of the political equation. That was not a bad thing since their electoral weight was minimal. But, as self-appointed guardians of the country's Islamic character, they believe that Pakistan has lost its way.

As Pakistan made its way into the 1980s, two things happened. First, having gotten rid of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the late 1970s, General Ziaul Haq made his political base among the country's religious orthodoxy. He promulgated ordinances to legitimise some outdated laws and won favour with the clerical establishment. This changed the character of Pakistan's polity. It also started to introduce a certain religious fervour in the lower and middle ranks of the military.

These internal developments coincided with Pakistan's induction as a US ally to beef up the Afghan mujahideen's armed struggle to expel Soviet troops from Afghanistan. Pakistan became the conduit for funnelling US arms into Afghanistan. Apart from being a national struggle, the Afghan mujaheedin's military campaign was also a crusade of sorts against the godless Soviet Union. And the US found its religious overtones quite useful as a motivating factor.

Ziaul Haq's attempts to make Pakistan into a crypto-religious state mingled with the US's anti-Soviet strategy in Afghanistan. With the US as Pakistan's major ally and the source of its large military and economic aid, such intermingling of their interests gave Zia great latitude within the country. In other words, Zia's internal and external policies were greatly influenced by the dictates of US prescriptions for Afghanistan.

The mujahideen's armed struggle against Soviet occupation in Afghanistan seemed too successful, with the Soviet Union forced to withdraw. It emphasised that it was possible to defeat a powerful enemy by the deployment of irregular and highly motivated (especially with religious overtones) forces.

For Pakistan, the results of the Afghan War, and the subsequent civil war in the country, were mixed. On the positive side, the Pakistani establishment was happy to have a friendly Taliban government in power. This was supposed to give Pakistan an edge against a military threat from India.

Pakistani intelligence had also established close contacts with the Taliban at different levels, as well as (presumably) with foreign (mostly Arab) elements that had thronged to fight with the Afghan mujahideen. Another important segment of these volunteers were some Pakistani nationals fighting on the Afghan side. With the Soviets out of the picture and the Cold War coming to an end, all these elements suddenly found themselves deprived of their moral crusade.

Not long after, the Arab volunteers (with Osama bin Laden at the helm) found refuge with the new Taliban government in Afghanistan. And they started planning a global crusade against the US, encouraged by their successes against the Soviet Union. This led to the spectacular attack on the World Trade Centre in New York. It was a dramatic announcement of a global terror campaign against the US and its allies, with the avowed purpose of eventually creating an Islamic caliphate.

Instead of providing strategic depth in Afghanistan under a friendly Taliban government, Pakistan ended up being a frontline state of the US war against the Afghan Taliban.

However, the most insidious result for Pakistan has been the growth of its own Taliban movement that seeks to subvert the Pakistani state and replace it with a Pakistani version of the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Reportedly, there are close links between the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban, as a good number of them have been the product of the madrassas in Pakistan.

By encouraging extremist religious elements as a strategic tool in Afghanistan, and against India, Pakistan spawned the Taliban and other extremist elements. When the Pakistani state sought to dissociate itself from these elements and then turned against them under US pressure, the intricate linkages between them and some state and military instrumentalities were already too deeply embedded to make a clean break. There is a sense that these elements might still be useful after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The point though is that these forces have acquired their own momentum. Through terror they seem determined to make the state do their bidding rather than the other way around. In this tug of war, the Pakistani people are increasingly becoming hostage to both sides.

Will the state prevail? The problem is that the Pakistani establishment is not only fractious, but is given to adhocism. And though many people would like some semblance of security and economic opportunities, they are not enamoured of their rulers. Indeed, many people regard them as self-serving and corrupt, engaged in their own power games. There is, therefore, widely prevailing apathy. Against this backdrop, the Taliban alternative, invoking a state based on Islamic precepts and doctrines might not seem all that bad to the common man with deep faith in his religion.

Pakistan thus finds itself in a state of flux. And the state, such as it is, lacks the willpower and the unity of purpose to go after the militants.

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