by Zia Sarhadi (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 39, No. 7, Ramadan, 1431)
Now to the situation in Pakistan, and the inability of the government to properly address the crisis. Any subscriber of Crescent International knows that Pakistan has been the subject of numerous articles and opinion pieces, and thus this is not the place to go over a detailed history of the country and outside involvement in its internal affairs.
Now to the situation in Pakistan, and the inability of the government to properly address the crisis. Any subscriber of Crescent International knows that Pakistan has been the subject of numerous articles and opinion pieces, and thus this is not the place to go over a detailed history of the country and outside involvement in its internal affairs. Some broad historical strokes will do. First, all of Kashmir, East Punjab, and West Bengal were supposed to be part of Pakistan, as all three are majority Muslim areas; however when separation actually took place in 1947, Kashmir, Punjab, and Bengal were basically split in two, where East Punjab and West Bengal became part of India proper and Indian-occupied Kashmir became a UN protectorate, much like the partition of Palestine.
To put the boundary lines of the new countries right through Muslim majority areas to the north (Kashmir), east (Bengal), and west (Punjab) was obviously no accident, as the British hoped to create a permanent impediment to the unification of Muslims in the subcontinent, not only by separating East and West Pakistan by a 1,000 miles but also by inflaming nationalistic passions in the indigenous ethnic groups of the newly formed countries. By contrast, the Hindu majority in India was not divided into separate countries. To a large extent, after 60 years this strategy has worked, as two wars have been fought over the Kashmir problem, and East and West Pakistan ultimately separated into independent countries in 1971.
In so far as Kashmir is concerned, the political image of India has not taken a hit for routinely oppressing the Kashmiris — who are majority Muslims — for 60 years running. Just like the Israelis and their brutal dispossession of the Palestinians. This means that there is broad international (read that, American and European) support for the idea of an occupied Kashmir. In nuts and bolts, this means that despite violating the civil, natural, and human rights of the Kashmiris, the Indian government will be able to conduct its economic business as usual — opening new markets for Indian goods, inviting foreign investment and corporations, becoming a member of international treaties, joint military exercises with superpowers, etc — without necessarily being hampered by potential economic and political sanctions or similar measures. But for Pakistan, all of its efforts to militarily, politically, and economically foster the liberation of Kashmir have been labeled as terrorism, the more so recently as India has become a satellite in the Western orbit; thus Pakistan has been forced to go it alone, causing a major drain to its economy.
During the Cold War, when the US needed Pakistan and limited US subsidies were flowing Pakistan’s way, this drain might have been tolerable. But with the end of the USSR, and the new front opening up in Afghanistan, and with all its indigenous paramilitary groups dedicated to the liberation of Kashmir (such as Lashkar) being labeled as international terror organizations, Pakistan has become more and more isolated economically as well as politically (ie., it is not considered to be a good investment for foreign capital). Hence, over the last 15 years the issue of Kashmir has been relegated to political kryptonite that is tossed around between the various ruling parties and intervening military governments who collectively have abandoned the Kashmiri Muslims. But the problem has not gone away, and it is not going to go away. Why? Because Kashmir has always been, and is today being manipulated as a hot spot to drain Pakistan’s meager resources and thereby destroy its integrity.
Separation leading to the birth of Bangladesh was a major shock to the dream of the pluralistic Pakistani nation-state envisoned by the founding fathers; and it is something that neither of the two resulting independent countries ever fully recovered from, especially Pakistan. Bangladesh is basically homogeneous, and can base a national identity on top of a common language and culture; not so with Pakistan, which is an amalgamation of several ethnic identities, languages, and cultures, and to this day a distinct Pakistani national identity has never emerged. Maintaining, even symbolically, East Pakistan as part of a greater Pakistan was key to its multi-ethnic Pakistani (Islamic) identity.
Imagine if the US would have come out of its own civil war as three separate countries (with the secession of the South, the North would not have been able to hang on to the western states in the union) that were competing with each other for markets, resources, alliances, and treaties. No one today would be talking about a unified America or superpower status, and the geopolitical dynamics of the Americas would be completely different. Many say that separation was inevitable, because the Bengalis were routinely given second-class status by the West Pakistani politicians, military men, business people, and landowners; but, nonetheless, this “chipping-away” at Pakistan’s integrity, effected not only by the US/UK/India on the outside but also by their self-serving crony collaborators on the inside, set the stage for the further ethnic bantustanization of Pakistan that would come 30 years later.
Second, a crisis of leadership, not always of its own making, has burned Pakistan right from the beginning. Its founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, died of “natural” causes after several attempts on his life. The #2 man, Liaquat Ali Khan, was assassinated in 1951 — most probably by an Afghan working for the CIA — after he refused to help the US in occupying Iran’s oil fields and intimated at ordering the evacuation of US bases in Pakistan. Even though he was a secularist at the ideological level, with all the damage this has caused the Muslims over the past 80 years, Khan’s personal character was most likely sincerely dedicated to the advancement of the new nation, unlike his counterparts today. Although a wealthy man before becoming involved in public service, he passed on without any funds in his account, having put all of his fortune to the service of Pakistan, and with holes in his socks. Khan’s assassination set the stage for Ghulam Muhammad, a known CIA operative, to usher in 17 years of military rule. When military ruler Ayub Khan (in office, 1958–1969) was in the final stages of formalizing a “free-trade” zone, an economic union of sorts, between Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan, he was set up with a prostitute in London, photos of their “affair” being broadcast all over the world. He lost all credibility at home and abroad, the economic union fell through, and the reins of power were handed over to another military governor.
Civilian rule returned with the election of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1973, after Bangladesh seceded from Pakistan in 1971. Given his leftist leanings, Bhutto made overtures to the USSR at the height of the Cold War, and also started talking about the “Islamic” bomb. This was enough for US-backed strongman, General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, to depose Bhutto, have him executed after a Saddam Hussein-type trial, and bring back martial law in 1977. Haq was himself blown up by the CIA in 1988 when he tried to steer Pakistan away from US hegemony over its military and intelligence apparatus.
For a short time after Haq, civilian rule alternated between Benazir Bhutto, daughter of the elder Bhutto, and Nawaz Sharif, but it would not last long as Sharif was sacked in a coup d’etat shortly after he refused to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) on his visit to Washington in 1999. Once again, at the encouragement of the US, civilian rule in Pakistan was aborted, this time by the US-trained and approved, philandering General Perwez Musharraf, the US partner in the war on terror, who enjoys for his personal amusement decked-out women parading by him on a runway, and weekly sips of cognac and brandy. Finally, after outliving his usefulness to America, Musharraf was forced to resign, giving way to the first criminal with a record to rule Pakistan: Asif Ali Zardari. In the past, faux-criminals may have ruled Pakistan, but this is the first time that an indicted racketeer and extortionist has assumed the top spot. So much for US-inspired democracy. With this see-saw between civilian and military rule, and the US batting Pakistani governance around like a tennis ball, should anyone be surprised that the country has no stable political institutions, that it is perpetually in debt, and that its brightest people look for every opportunity to leave?
Third, and this is closely tied to unstable leadership, the economy has been severely curtailed by the development of an atomic bomb and privatization, in addition to what has been said about Kashmir. Unlike India, Pakistan had to endure 15 years of economic sanctions after it tested its first nuclear bomb; it only got some relief from this punishment after Musharraf decided to sign away Pakistan’s future by making Pakistan a card-carrying partner in the war on terror. The privatization program implemented by Shaukat Aziz has had the same impact on Pakistan as on Haiti. One case in point is Nestle, the Dutch dairy company; Nestle has basically put out of business all the local dairy producers in Pakistan, with the result that profits from the sale of dairy go to a select elite in Pakistan who are the local partners of Nestle, and Dutch corporate coffers. Most of the dairy farmers, owners as well as workers, get next to nothing. Lentils (daal), a staple of the average Pakistani’s diet, are now as expensive as meat. Many of Pakistan’s indigenous industries — steel mills, communications, sugar plantations, cotton mills, etc — are now owned either directly by investors in the Gulf Arabian countries, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and others, or in partntership with them and Pakistani businessmen who store the bulk of their assets in properties and investments outside the country.
And fourth, there is the situation in Afghanistan ever since the US occupation of that country after 9/11, which has been extensively covered in Crescent with regard to US attempts at destabilizing the entire region. When the US occupied Afghanistan in 2002, and now more recently with the shift in focus from Iraq to Afghanistan, the US has regularly dropped more ordnance in the mountains and villages of Afghanistan in one month than it did in the entire campaign of Vietnam. It has used depleted uranium as well as white phosphorus and who knows how many other banned toxic weapons. Is it not possible that all this incessant bombing could be doing some major damage to the underground earth, the effects of which could be exhibiting themselves in Pakistan? All US actions — including its support and financing of multiple secessionist movements inside of Pakistan (BLA, MQM, the Taliban, Pashtun nationalists), as well as creating an internal atmosphere of fear and insecurity with drone attacks, indiscriminate bombings of civilians in major cities, and carte blanche immunity to Blackwater and other private contractors — indicate that its policy is to break up Pakistan from the inside out.
With all this going on, how is it possible for a people to build themselves up, or build a response to a potential disaster in the future? With no chance and no luxury to plan for a brighter future in a secure and stable environment safe from war and economic upheavals, how can the people expect anything but the worst? Could it not be said that after 60 years of damming up the Chenab, Suthlege, Ravi, and Jaelum Rivers on the Indian side of the border, with the result that these rivers have dried up on the Pakistani side, the earth is trying to rebalance the loss of water by flooding the Indus?
Certainly there are no Muslims asking these types of questions. To be sure as in the case of Haiti, Pakistani leaders and other influential types (the Islamic parties of Pakistan are a good place to start) have taken a lot of wrong turns and made myriad destructive decisions, but even these cannot be divorced from the socialization/worldview that led to them. The Islamic worldview, the opposite of the limited material worldview, suggests that there is no such thing as a purely “natural” disaster; human activity, especially the undisciplined activities of those who have power, has much to do with the degree and severity of the earth’s reaction to man’s carelessness. Seismologists have indicated that repeated underground and underwater explosions of nuclear devices may have contributed to the tsunami that hit Indonesia.