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27.03.2009 Feature Article

The same old question: Can Pakistan survive?

Last Monday Pakistan observed the 69 th Pakistan Day and the president of the Country called for national reconciliation in a message released marking the day. The word RECONCILIATION has an implied meaning that obviously there are some problems those need to be reconciled.

Now, the question is: Where are the problems? Answer is very difficult in many senses. It would not be wrong if anyone says that problems are deep rooted with the birth of the country. That is why a question was raised before decades: Can Pakistan Survive? In elaboration, now again it could be asked, Can Pakistan survive as a functioning nation-state?

Along with the people of Pakistan, all logical people including Indian leadership want the survival of Pakistan as a stable nation, at least as a functional civil governed peaceful state, which is very essential for the stability of the region i.e. the South Asia . But who can assure the stability?

The last political crisis of Pakistan surfaced while President Asif Ali Zardari refused to reinstate Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhury, who was fired by the military president general Pervez Musharraf. This issue is not the end or not the beginning of crisis in Pakistan . Truly, the problems facing by the country are deep rooted in its history.

Baluchistan was not intending to join Pakistan when the country, along with neighbour India , was created in 1947. East Bengal of British India joined with Pakistan federation by a referendum, and disillusioned only after one year in 1948 to go for a struggle of emancipation from the semi-colonial rule of Pakistan and achieved independence in 1971 by sacrificing lives of millions.

Then unwilling Baluchistan is yet the part of Pakistan . Sindh and Punjab are the key players of Pakistani politics and administration. North-west Frontier Province (NWFP) has a particular type of social structure and the anthropological groups are closer to the Afghans than Punjabis or Sinds. As of the said types of complex ethnicities, the state Pakistan could be an ideal federal state for its survival. In paper it is federal in nature, but in the name of religion Pakistan was always in a try to be a unicentric nation state. By analyzing the character, before decades, one political thinker Tariq Ali raised the question, "Can Pakistan survive?"

In this regards, a South Asian civil society personality I. A. Rehman said in a recent article that, "The question of survival is not equally relevant to all the three components of Pakistan's identity - the land, the people, and the state. There can be no fear of the demise of the land of Pakistan. It has survived the ravages of time since antiquity and it will survive whatever may befall the state of Pakistan. Even if some parts of this land, or even the whole of it, get covered by water, it will only be submerged but will not disappear. Similarly, the people will survive as they have survived countless convulsions over thousands of years. It is only the state of Pakistan that can be subject to the laws of life and death.

The Pakistan state has been vulnerable all along because it was born with several serious internal contradictions that required extraordinary political engineering. First, it adopted the ideal of a modern, democratic and apparently secular polity, although the demand for its creation had been based on the religious identity of the subcontinent's Muslims. Secondly, it upheld a federal structure in theory and followed the colonial model of a unitary state in practice. Thirdly, it assumed that a democratic system could flourish in a society steeped in feudal culture. Fourthly, a larger part of its population was in the disadvantaged eastern wing while the mantle of power was assumed by the privileged western wing with a smaller population. And, fifthly, the events attending the birth of Pakistan and the global environment during its formative years led it to develop an obsession with security to the neglect of many other requisites of a democratic state of contented citizens.

The accumulated failures of the controllers of Pakistan 's destiny in the different phases of its life have generated an unprecedented sense of despair among the people today. But before trying to figure out what the future holds for Pakistan it may be useful to examine how grave and complex the challenges stemming from the contradictions mentioned have become."

In present day Pakistan, a mass of NWFP people have a very little attention about the political game and changes in the centre. Though People of Baluchistan are not that much of indifferent and uninterested about the central politics, they are also not involved in central political process like the intense have from the people of Punjab and Sindh. It is told that Sindh gave birth to maximum politicians for Pakistan and Punjab gave birth to Generals. May be it was a truth for the 40s of last century; presently it is not the total truth.

Every ethnicity has its contribution in creating political leadership for Pakistan . Rather there are competitions among politicians for supremacy that reflects in intra and inter party tug of war in present time Pakistan . On the other hand, Pakistan politics is also experiencing conflict, may be antagonistic or non-antagonistic, on the basis of community belonging; in terms of landlords, businessmen etc. The multidimensional conflict and lack of democratic governance made the administration, society and grassroots institutions aggressive that is unable to uphold the inner desire of mass. Thus the politics become a game for the urban elites. This characteristic of the Pakistan politics, where military is also a key player - making gap between the centre and periphery, politicians and people - again giving the chance to ask the same question: Can Pakistan Survive?

It must be considered that Pakistan is a nuclear power with war standard arsenal; and of course, one of the major economies of the region. Any non-functionality of Pakistan as a state always welcomes instability in terms of security concern and economic hindrance. Moreover, instability in Pakistan pushes the region in another kind of vulnerability as the country possessing nuclear arsenal. So, people of South Asia have no alternative but to pray the almighty for a stable unified Pakistan.

Once again, the pleasure has been taken to quote I. A. Rehman for the conclusion of this writing. "A serious and sincerely mounted effort to remove the federating units' grievances can still restore the federation to health. What needs to be done is largely known. The provinces deserve maximum autonomy, a fair NFC award, an effective Council of Common Interest, stoppage of all military operations that are objected to by the populations concerned, and abandonment of what are perceived as plans and measures to grab land and other natural resources. The federation will become stronger and more viable if the provinces are allowed due freedom to develop themselves and to enjoy their due share in the running of the centre as well."

Here should be mentioned that there is separate perspective of each province of Pakistan on National Finance Commission (NFC) award; as Punjab wants to emphasize on population, Sindh intending to give importance on revenue collection, Baluchistan and NWFP want to highlight poverty. Accommodating these perspectives and developing a balance policy in this regards could be the safe guard of federative Pakistan, should be mentioned once more.

Mohoshin Abbas
Mohoshin Abbas, © 2009

The author has 26 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: MohoshinAbbas

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