Pakistan: The desperate fight to save a failing state
Pakistan's new "pivot" comes as good news for all who wish us well as a nation. For the first time in 65 years the army has shifted its focus from the eastern border to our internal enemy in the northwest. Let us hope it does not mean hands free for a crackdown on the Baloch, an issue that needs a political solution while harder military measures may result in deeper tragedies. Although the army spokesman assured our "lions" and "eagles" that India remains our No 1 enemy, the admission that the enemy within is more dangerous at the moment may well prove to be a turning point in our history.
But we have to realise that the enemy within is not simply the non-state actors who have declared "holy war" on Pakistan; it is a special mindset that has created them and will continue to breed them in the future. Facts and events of our history have shown that this mindset of pathological narcissism, of self-righteous self-love, breeds a hundred tragedies until society falls into paranoia and starts hurting itself and everything around it.
What our army and government have now decided to fight is a threat not only to Pakistan but to the entire region's peace. We have to combat that mindset and the forces that promote it, if we wish to survive as a state and society, whatever the effort it may cost, however painful the sacrifices it may demand. We cannot afford to fail, because such failure may empower nations of the region to intervene, exposing our land of anarchy to immense bloodshed and misery.
Unfortunately, the enemy within is the product of our obscure ambitions since 1947. It is of critical importance for us to understand why and how our establishment fed this monster for decades. We, the people, must know the truth if we wish to survive and grow.
The dominant classes of Pakistan that demanded separation from the rest of India in 1947 were mainly the same elite who had ruled India under different Muslim dynasties. They were the landed aristocracy, pirs and ulema (religious scholars) of different levels. They lost power to the British, but never gave up their claim over India. Joining to share their ambition for power were some Muslims who served the British as civil servants, plus the army men.
Being small in number, these groups, even with the support of the entire Muslim population of India, could not hope to dominate a huge Indian population in a democratic system. Therefore they aroused the Muslim masses to support their demand for a separate homeland, appealing to their religious pride and fear of persecution.
Congress leaders and a large number of Muslims who chose to live as Indian citizens all exerted every effort to show our Muslim League leadership that a religious approach to politics in a world of diverse religions and people would initiate disaster, but the hyped-up fears of persecution decided our course; our self-image as a special community prevailed.
Faith is one thing, while a profession of faith is quite another. Like all ruling elites in medieval times, our Muslim rulers of India were down-to-earth, worldly men; they professed Islam only to win the devout support of the religious leadership. Religious leaders have also been equally great self-seekers.
These two groups of dominant professionals have colluded throughout history to rule simpler people with the tool of religious faith, not only in the Muslim kingdoms of India but everywhere else too. They were magicians and pharaohs in Egypt, Khashtris and Brahmins in India, kings and priests in Christian Europe and caliph kings and ulema of fiqh in the Arab empire.
This pattern of power sharing by the Muslim kings and ulema worked well in India. Shah Waliullah invited Abdali in that same capacity of a down-to-earth, power sharing priest. This same formula created the present day kingdom of Saud, where a tribal chief and a holy man struck a deal. A similar deal created Pakistan, where Quaid-e-Azam seems to have been just a brilliant lawyer whose job ended soon after Partition.
Independence comes as jubilation to a nation. But in 1947 it came with tragedies of separation and bloodshed for the subcontinent. India overcame many of her problems because her leaders depended not on a religious class but on democracy, where the army accepted its subordinate and supporting role, while politics and diplomacy made the main defence.
In Pakistan, medieval concepts dominated instead. We had been perpetually indoctrinated to love the mujahid religious warriors and the maulana religious scholars. The ulema and religious parties immediately demanded a decisive role. Landed gentry found the ulema and the army as their best protectors. That perhaps explains why no land reform has damaged them to this day.
These two stakeholders decided to promote each other as the champions of Islam, fighting the heretics of India as their core duty. The Kashmir problem existed only as a permanent excuse for arousing sentiment; it was never handled with the modern tools of effective diplomacy, because a liberal, democratic India always found more friends against our ever-deepening religious identity.
Only one education was allowed and available to the nation: fight India with the power of Islam. This brought absolute power to our GHQ and finally served American plans; the soldiers of Islam faithfully fought for America's global supremacy, opening Pakistan's doors to international holy warriors.
An army that assumes political power cannot remain a professional fighting force; our army gradually outsourced its fighting jobs in Kashmir and Afghanistan to civilian opportunists who were made dearer to us than our own kith and kin through Islamic sentiment. General Zia encouraged these violent hordes to make money through crime and drugs. That might have exposed them to international buyers with greater rewards than Pakistan could offer. Ambition to rule Pak-Afghania may have motivated them and, unfortunately, these non-state actors are not just a few rebels out there; they have a vast popular backing among our affluent middle classes.
With absolute lack of vision, our political and military leadership created a mindset that has no respect for systems of a modern state. The only authority that appeals to this mindset is the maulana and the mujahid. A heartbreaking struggle awaits our defenders against this tide.
Mobarak Haider is a renowned Pakistani intellectual. His books "Tehzeebi Nargisyat" and "Mubaalghe, Mughaalte" are widely regarded as the revival of critical thinking and free inquiry in Urdu non-fiction.