Pakistan is evidently passing
through the worst period of its 63-year-old history. Although
democracy never struck roots in the country, it at least had a
semblance of stability earlier. Although this was a surface
phenomenon since the long spells of military rule bred
fundamentalist elements, which remained underground till it was
time to strike, as at present, the superficial calm allowed
Pakistan to pretend that all was well.
Its close ties with the US throughout the Cold War and during the
Soviet occupation of Afghanistan also gave Pakistan a feeling of
invulnerability vis-à-vis India, its bete noire and prime military
target. The arms, dollars and warm words which the US invested in
Pakistan because of its strategic location - as Washington still
does - made it believe that it would always have an edge over
India, whose democracy was mocked by America as a "functioning
The hope in Islamabad, and perhaps also in Beijing, was that as
India gasped for breath with its manifold problems - casteism,
communalism, unrest in Kashmir and the northeast, Maoism,
corruption, demands for new and more autonomous states -
Pakistan's "stable" quasi-military regime would emerge as the
dominant force in the subcontinent.
Now, all those expectations have gone up in smoke. Pakistan has
only itself to blame for the collapse of its dreams. Its first
mistake was to believe that it could defeat India militarily
because of the self-propagated myth, which was heard mostly during
the 1965 conflict, that each Muslim soldier was equal to 10
Hindus. Hence the wars of 1947-48, 1965, 1971 and the Kargil
incursion of 1999.
When the wars resulted only in the toppling of Pakistan's own
military dictators - Ayub Khan in 1965, Yahya Khan in 1971 - it
made the second mistake of waging a proxy war in Kashmir. But its
third blunder was the most fatal one since it turned to using
terrorism as a weapon of war.
The recourse to terror is related not only to Pakistan's own
history but also to the disaffection which had afflicted Muslim
youth in general because of the American dominance over Saudi
Arabia, Egypt and, of course, Pakistan itself. Had any of these
countries been genuinely democratic, the frustration and anger of
the young men and women might have been defused through open
As George W. Bush noted, no Indian Muslim had joined the Al Qaeda
because Indian democracy gave them a voice and a stake in the
system. Since this was out of the question in the mullah-dominated
societies in Pakistan and its neighbours in the west, large
sections of indigent youth fell prey to the poisonous propaganda
of the bigoted clerics. The excessive emphasis on religion given
by dictators such as Zia-ul-Haq in order to turn them away from
the secular Western world of "infidels" also made youth
susceptible to medieval ideas like jehad.
Now Pakistan is trapped in a cul-de-sac. It might have been able
to extricate itself if democracy was given a chance. But its army
and intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), will
not allow it. The years of military rule and the absence of
popular civilian leaders had convinced the army that only it could
save Pakistan from the evil designs of India. The army's fears may
have become even greater because of India's economic buoyancy and
the admiration which it evokes in the outside world for its
Benazir Bhutto's assassination snuffed out the last chance of
peace. Only a charismatic leader like her could have restored
democracy in Pakistan and followed a policy of reconciliation with
India, for she had shed her shrill, opportunistic "azadi, azadi,
azadi" rhetoric of the past. It was precisely for these reasons
that she was killed. Her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, initially
showed an inclination to follow in her footsteps where a
betterment of relations with India was concerned.
After 26/11, he expressed a willingness to send the ISI chief to
India to allay the latter's fears of Pakistan's official
involvement. Earlier, he had ruled out the preemptive use of
nuclear weapons against India and even said that India did not
pose a threat. However, as American commentator Selig Harrison has
written in The Los Angeles Times, Zardari suspected that the
Mumbai attacks were instigated by Islamic hardliners to wreck his
peace campaign. Harrison also says that since then, the army has
generally succeeded in silencing him.
Only a civilian leadership in Pakistan could have brought peace
because it would have had a somewhat wider vision than the army's.
The military, however, not only has an obsessive hate towards
India but does not seem to realise, or care, that encouraging
terrorism is like trying to set fire to a neighbour's house when
it can spread to one's own.
The danger for India now is that the Pakistan Army will think that
it has already lost the latest round, thereby making it even more
desperate. For a start, the American support for India's inclusion
as a permanent member of the UN Security Council is the biggest
blow which Pakistan has suffered, for it irrevocably does away
with the hyphenation with India which made it claim an equal
status with its larger neighbour.
The nuclear deal was another blow, but Pakistan was hoping to
partly nullify it with a similar arrangement with China. But the
Security Council issue must have had a devastating impact on its
What is more, US President Barack Obama's announcement that not
only will America remain committed to Afghanistan in the
foreseeable future but will also welcome India playing a role in
building roads, schools and hospitals. This Indo-US presence
across the Durand Line means the Pakistan Army's hope of using
Afghanistan as a place of strategic retreat has been dashed.
There is every possibility, therefore, of, first, Pakistan's state
and non-state "actors" indulging in more acts of terror in India
and in the West. There have already been intelligence warnings of
Mumbai-style attacks in Western cities. Secondly, Pakistan is
bound to move even closer to its only remaining "all weather"
friend, China. But how far China will welcome it in the present
stormy conditions is open to question.
is a political analyst.
He can be reached at