Dire warnings about the fate of Pakistan have become daily fare now. The country’s Afghan border frayed a while ago. Now the Al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents have taken the war to its heart: Swat yesterday, Buner today, will Islamabad fall too?
Possibly in one to six months, if David Kilcullen is to be believed. Kilcullen is an adviser to David Petraeus, commander of the US Central Command that oversees operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He made those controversial remarks to the Washington Post in March. He explained the rationale of his statement in an interview to Mint on Wednesday.
Pakistan is today a nation without a political gyroscope. Its political leadership is at war with itself and its army thinks India is top enemy while the Taliban steadily inch towards territorial control. In fact, its army elite is inclined in favour of the Taliban. When the radicals do take over the reins in Islamabad, it would be a unique example of a nation handing over the levers of state power to non-state actors.
This is not a vision of doom. On the ideological plane, the idea of Pakistan has ceased to be meaningful. It never was a promised land for the Muslims of South Asia. The first blow came with the secession of Bangladesh. Then came the Baloch and Sindhi insurgencies. Finally, by the time the last Soviet tanks moved out of Afghanistan in 1989, it was well on its way to turning into a powder keg of feuding ethnic groups, competing regionalisms and a heady brew of medieval Islam. Twenty years later, it is a failed state led by a reckless elite who could not care less.
The question that India and Indians need to address is: What is to be done? Any Indian help is certain to be construed as a conspiracy to dismember the country. That path should be avoided. Apart from practical arrangements (for example, occupying certain territories in a pre-emptive fashion so that the Taliban do not threaten India), there should be efforts at thinking about envisioning alternative political futures for Pakistan. Should there be a confederation of states such as Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab? Should the North-West Frontier Province and the tribal areas be merged into a greater Afghanistan? Or should the present territories remain with all powers to the states and residuary powers with a weak centre? These are questions that cannot be ignored any longer.
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