Failed State? Yes, but for other reasons

Musharraf regime is feeling jittery since the American journal Foreign Policy has put Pakistan in the top ten failing states. Peter Preston called Pakistan a basket case in the Guardian. The minister for press at the Pakistan High Commission in U.K., Imran Gardezi’s response has become a classic example of defending the indefensible on this issue.

Pakistan, of course, is a failing state, but not based on the indicators used by the American journal Foreign Policy. It will definitely fail if the present trends continued. However, the life threatening trends have nothing to do with the criteria set for Pakistan’s failure by the Western analysts. Moreover, Musharraf is not the root cause of this failure. He is just a factor, becoming the last straw on the camel’s back. Even a successful defence of General Musharraf’s policies can hardly save Pakistan for the impending disasters.

One of the major factors of Pakistan’s failure is its straying away from the core objective and justification for its creation. Secondly, it has become a state occupied by its own armed forces, which is substantially different from ruling by armed force. Outside powers have perfectly controlled Pakistan through its own armed forced with curtailed sovereignty and limited freedoms.

Pakistan’s joining the ranks of top ten failed states is not a surprise. It is part of the grand scheme for undermining its very existence. Despite the regime’s wholehearted sacrifice of all the principles of justice, law and the norms of independent states, American analysts, such as Leon T. Hadar, consider Pakistan “with its dictatorship and failed economy” a “reluctant partner” and a “potential long term adversary” since 2002.

Pakistan is hardly different from Iraq and Afghanistan. The only difference is in the mode of occupation. Like any other occupied territory, dictatorship is in full swing in Pakistan. Hundreds of people, pointed out by the intelligence of occupation forces, are routinely rounded up in order to placate Washington.

Illegal detentions and extraditions are on the rise. FBI and CIA agents have declared open season on Pakistan, which cannot even move its own troops without prior permission from Washington. Like the attacks on occupation forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, we witness desperate suicide attacks on Pakistani armed forces.

$13bn in foreign reserve is meaningless when Pakistan cannot prepare its budgets without an approval from international lending agencies. The same must be true for other third world countries, However, the difference lies in Pakistan’s consuming every possible penny into its defense budget would have made sense if it were utilized for defending the country’s integrity, sovereignty and independence.

Gardezi argues that Pakistan is paying the price for being the front line in the war on Soviet Union and now in the ‘war on terrorism.’ In fact, Pakistan has been ensuring American “strategic interests” from implementation of American directions on religious institutions to spying on citizens and banning everything that may promote the spiritual message of Islam. The government officials work round the clock to ensure interpretation of Pakistan’s occupation as crisis management. It is rather becoming a cause of the future crisis. Just like Palestinian authorities in occupied Palestine, the US can force Pakistani government to routinely violate basic standards of decency in human behavior as expressed in international human rights law without anyone raising an eyebrow. It can now arrest, indefinitely detain, torture and even kill anyone under the pretext of destroying the Al-Qaeda network. And worse, like Israeli actions in the occupied Palestine, the US can invade and bomb any place in Pakistan any time it may like.

Al-Qaeda’s threat has been blown out of proportion to intensify occupation of what senior British diplomat Robert Cooper calls failed states in the post-modern era. The main characteristics of such occupations described by Cooper are: the breaking down of the distinction between domestic and foreign affairs of the occupied states; “mutual” interference in domestic affairs and “mutual” surveillance (the word “mutual” is used to deceive the weak as Pakistan cannot even imagine interference in the domestic affairs of

the US, let alone surveillance); and the growing irrelevance of borders when it comes to safeguarding the interest of the strong.

To remove any leftover doubts about Pakistan being a failed state, news reports from the New York Times and the Washington Post are pouring in, alleging that Al-Qaeda is regrouping in Pakistan and that ISI supports the Taliban and Kashmiri “insurgents.” As a “pre-modern” state, Pakistan is thus considered as weak enough “even to secure its home territory…but it can provide a base for non-state actors who may represent a danger to the post-modern world.”

Pakistan is in the ambivalent position of having an army that can neither govern nor allow civilians to rule. Whether the army has the conceptual ability to plan a strategy of incremental change that would fundamentally reform Pakistan’s ailing institutions is also questionable. It is not in a position to end the invisible occupation it has brought upon Pakistan due to self-centered vision of the military leadership.

All failing states have weak armies; Pakistan’s army is strong enough to prevent state failure for some time to come but not courageous enough to stand for the objective of Pakistan or imaginative enough to transform it into a model Islamic State, which are the only pragmatic ways for its sustainability and the main parameters for defense.

Indian analysts are right when they say, “With the emergence of Bangladesh, the frequently tom-tommed two-nation theory, the very raison d’être for Pakistan, stood discredited and turned on its head.”5 This was not the defeat of the Two Nations Theory. It was, in fact, a warning sign for the nation’s conduct in the aftermath of the first ever general elections held under direct universal suffrage in 1970. The results were scuttled.

A majority of disappointed Pakistanis have given up on the hopes that there can ever be an Islamic state in Pakistan. They are lost in acquiring more and more material possessions instead. Even members of the religious parties are blind followers of their respective leaders without any clear objective as to what they want and how their party can help achieve that objective in an environment where Musharraf is promoting the idea that Islam is opposed to progress and enlightenment.

Pakistan’s most unusual feature is not its potential as a failed state, but the intricate interaction between the physical/political/legal entity known as the state of Pakistan and the idea behind Pakistan and the Pakistani nation. Few if any other nation states are more complex than Pakistan in this respect, with the Pakistani state often operating at cross-purposes with the original purpose of its creation.

Regardless of all other factors, Pakistan is as much failing because of the factors from within as much as it is under attack by forces from outside. The US and UK have publicly launched a war on the very basic ideology at the foundation of Pakistan as a nation. It is akin to separating Jewish identity from Israel. Imagine the transformation in the Middle East if Israel were to stop identifying itself as a Jewish State. In that case, would it be able to justify its existence and occupation of the lands, particularly Jerusalem?

The problem in the case of any Muslim entity, however, it is not possible to have a mix of secularism and Islam and label it as Muslim. Like Israel, the state of Pakistan was thought to be more than a physical/legal entity that provided welfare, order and justice to its citizens. Pakistan was to be an extraordinary state–”a homeland for Indian Muslims and an ideological and political leader of the Muslim world. Providing a homeland to protect Muslims from the bigotry and intolerance of India’s Hindu population was important, but the real motive behind Pakistan movement was to demonstrate to the world a model of an Islamic State based on the principles of freedom, fraternity and equality of Islam. The Pakistan movement also looked to the wider Muslim world, and its leaders were concerned about the fate of other Muslim communities living under duress, stretching from Palestine to the Philippines.

This is exactly what is now considered as “political Islam” of the “Islamists.” This is what the 9/11 Commission has referred to as the “Islamic ideology” and declared a war on it. Accordingly, Pakistan has to be dismantled because its raison d’être has no place in the modern world in which a war on Islam is now officially and publicly recognized.

We observe this from the official report of the 9/11 Commission, statements from Bush, Rumsfeld and British Home Secretary Charles Clark within the span of just one week in October 2005.[1] Islamic ideology is the threat and a war on it has been declared. In his speech on October 06, 2005, Bush equated all resistance against the US occupation of Iraq, which was made possible through a series of many lies and distortion of facts, to fighting on the part of “terrorists” for the creation of “an Islamic Empire.”[2]

Now think about the following words and comments by the founding fathers of Pakistan. Imagine any nation under occupation or any Muslim leader now saying the following words. They would perfectly fit the well-defined category on which a war has officially been declared. Also note Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s reference to the Qur’an, Mujahids, Islam and giving protection to neighbors in the following 247 words at a rally on October 30, 1947: “If we take our inspiration and guidance from the Holy Qur’an, the final victory, I once again say, will be ours… Do not be overwhelmed by the enormity of the task… You only have to develop the spirit of the Mujahids. You are a nation whose history is replete with people of wonderful character and heroism. Live up to your traditions and add to another chapter of glory. All I require of you now is that everyone… must vow to himself and be prepared to sacrifice his all… in building up Pakistan as a bulwark of Islam and as one of the greatest nations whose ideal is peace within and peace without… Islam enjoins on every Mussulman to give protection to his neighbors and to minorities regardless of caste and creed.”[3]

The same is true today. However, just a vow to make Pakistan, or any country for that matter, into a “bulwark of Islam,” taking “inspiration and guidance from the Holy Qur’an,” are now sufficient today to instantly declare anyone an “Islamist” preaching “Islamism” at which the US has declared a war. If Jinnah were living today and had uttered these same words he would most certainly have been labeled as an extremist, demonized in the media, hunted down by the US and prosecuted.

At the time of the creation of Pakistan, when the Muslim League adopted the Pakistan resolution on March 23, 1940 calling for the establishment of a sovereign and independent Islamic country, Lord Zetland, Secretary of State for colonial India, wrote of his apprehensions regarding this proposition to Lord Linlithgow, the British viceroy in New Delhi, saying: “[T]he call of Islam is one which transcends the bounds of country. It may have lost some force as a result of the abolition of Caliphate by Mustafa Kamal Pasha, but it still has a very considerable appeal as witness for example Jinnah’s insistence on our giving undertaking that Indian troops should never be employed against any Muslim state, and the solicitude which he has constantly expressed for the Arabs of Palestine.”[4]

These apprehensions were ignored for other reasons in 1947. However, the creation of Pakistan on these grounds would have been impossible in the 21s t century. So, its survival is at stake today when for the most powerful man in Pakistan, words of its founders and the motive behind the Pakistan movement are no more than a mere joke that can be completely ignored and cast aside.

Both the history and the future of Pakistan are rooted in a complex relationship between Pakistan the “Islamic” state–”a physically bounded territory with an Islamic legal and international personality that would be guided by Islamic scriptures and traditions–”and Pakistan the nation–”mission-bound to serve as a beacon for oppressed or backward communities elsewhere in the world. Pakistan has bitterly failed at both the state and the national level. The rot that started at the top has trickled to the roots and the nation as a whole is as oblivious of its responsibilities as are its leaders.

On the other hand, the forces that undermine Pakistan are nevertheless alive and well focused. Reports on the failure of Pakistan are part of the broader campaign to undermine the existence of Pakistan. The above summary may not reflect the extent to which Pakistanis as a whole have undermined Pakistan. What is undeniable and known is that ideologically Pakistan has long been dead. If there are any traces of its still lingering on invisibly, the US war on it will deal with it appropriately.

Its leftover physical existence neither makes a difference, nor is likely to survive without its soul for too long. A combination of factors will therefore ensure that total pacification and ultimate softening of Pakistan remains a priority while it keeps on acquiring the characteristics of a place in which the ghosts of all legendary dictators would feel at home. That is how the collapse of the present structure and form of Pakistan will take place simultaneously with the emergence of a new order in south Asia. It won’t be a time for its neighbours to sit back and peacefully watch Pakistan disappearing in the dustbin of history.


[1]. One: “Those voters are demonstrating again today that there exists no
conflict between Western values and Muslim values. What exists is a conflict within the Muslim faith–”between majorities in every country who desire freedom, and a lethal minority intent on denying freedom
to others and re-establishing a caliphate.” Rumsfeld September 30, 2005.

Two: “Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant Jihadism; still others, Islamo-fascism. Whatever it’s called, this ideology
is very different from the religion of Islam. This form of radicalism exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision: the establishment, by terrorism and subversion and insurgency, of a totalitarian empire
that denies all political and religious freedom. These extremists distort the idea of jihad into a call for terrorist murder against Christians and Jews and Hindus–”and also against Muslims from other traditions, who they regard as heretics.” George Bush October 06, 2005.

Three: “What drives these people on is ideas. And unlike the liberation movements of the post World War II era in many parts of the world, these are not in pursuit of political ideas like national independence from colonial rule, or equality for all citizens without regard for race or creed, or freedom of expression without totalitarian repression. Such ambitions are, at least in principle, negotiable and in many cases have actually been negotiated. However there can be no negotiation about the re-creation of the Caliphate; there can be no
negotiation about the imposition of Shari’ah law; there can be no negotiation about the suppression of equality between the sexes; there can be no negotiation about the ending of free speech. These values are fundamental to our civilization and are simply not up for negotiation.”

The British Home Secretary, Charles Clarke on the 5th October 2005.

[2]. “President Discusses War on Terror at National Endowment for Democracy” Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, Washington, D.C.White House, October 06, 2005. http://www.whitehouse.

[3]. Speech by Jinnah [I assume]at a rally at the University Stadium, Lahore, October 30, 1947.

[4]. India Office Library, Document No. 609, and others, cited in Speeches and statements of His Excellency Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada, Organization of the Islamic Conference, 1988.13 “For 2nd year, Israelis top tourist list in Kashmir,” Haaretz, 19 August 2004.