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Pakistan In A Chaotic Freefall

A Fragmented State

Current Upheaval

In recent times Pakistan has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. It’s not that previously it has showcased some path breaking achievements but it was never as bad. They are simply breaching their own poor standards in the global value indices. The country is going through utter chaos and upheaval with No immediate resolution in sight. Pakistan’s economy has nosedived to historical low; Pakistani rupee has crashed to record low at 207.5 to a USD. Forex reserves have evaporated to USD 16.4 billion making a balance of payment problem. Even servicing it’s previous debt is in doubt unless Pakistan secure more loan from just about anywhere, it’s that desperate at the moment. It’s Moody’s credit rating stands at B3 equivalent to Solomon Islands and unlikely to improve till it’s not getting out of FATF grey list. With No respite from worsening economic situation, tantrums of erstwhile PM Imran Khan couldn’t have come at the worst time. He is dishing out daily threats to government and Military establishment of mass demonstration with No assurance of them being peaceful. He is not faking and proved this point on 25th May 2022, when PTI workers ran mayhem in Islamabad destroying and burning everything they could. It was violent and a blatant messaging to people in power corridors to heed Mr Khan’s demand or else more of same will follow. This time round even the General doesn’t seem interested or probably has lost some grip on the situation. Although later one appear more reasonable assumption with multiple instances pointing towards it. Mr Khan’s name calling of Army, social media narrative building against establishment or a large number of former and current military officers expressing reservation about policies adopted by General Bajwa. Issues are numerous what is astounding though, not a single institution in Pakistan appear concerned enough to handle them. 

Not Even Worth The Photo

What’s Raging The Fire

Pakistan has long outsourced national policy management to it’s Generals, who publicised efforts to match their Eastern neighbour and remaining interested in their personal treasures. They fed fear of India on a daily basis and their indispensability for fighting terror in Afghanistan. The approach ensured huge funding which remained largely unaccounted. To an estimate US alone gave USD 33 billion while oil reach Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE and Iran bought the ‘Islamic Bomb’ theory and bankrolled Pakistan. Post US withdrawal from Afghanistan Pakistan stood exposed of it’s double game. It was a classic case of – running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. Pakistan at one hand took money, recognition and backing from Americans while giving intelligence, cover and diplomatic support to Taliban. It was too outrageous and had to end one day, it finally ended on 15th August 2020. It was America’s 2nd humiliating withdrawal after Vietnam. One can bet, Americans didn’t like it and they don’t forget in a hurry. In September 2021 US instituted – The Afghanistan Counterterrorism, Oversight and Accountability Act to also investigate role of Pakistani government in Afghan fiasco. The legislation specifically required “an assessment of support by state and non-state actors, including the government of Pakistan, for the Taliban between 2001 to 2020”. American dollars suddenly dried up, which mainly sustained military’s economy. Courtesy some deft Indian diplomacy a large chunk of Muslim countries got a sense of Pakistani bluff. Pakistan’s Islamic card was No longer a cash cow, they were asked accountability for funds. Pakistan was never prepared for that, they tried whatever they thought will work from negotiations to sending their General to lead military operation of Saudi coalition to their PM playing chauffeur for Saudi prince Mohammad Bin Salman. Once the money from US and rich Middle East kingdoms withered Pakistani military turned to civilian resources, groomed well to remain unaccountable and on techniques of institutional diversion of funds, they drained their own national reserves. Pakistani Military owns large credit for the current crises in the truest of sense. Pakistan has more such pearls; add Mr Khan to that who is convinced that only way forward for Pakistan’s destiny is to him become PM for life. Neither government of the day has a clue about how to handle economic condition and their ex PM nor General Bajwa’s plan of – ‘we will remain neutral’ really worked, it just exposed his incapacity and gave huge opening for the unfolding political drama.

Under Radical Seize

The Protagonists

In all this ongoing fiasco there are four key players; the politicians, the radicals, the economy & the Army. Barring the Army none have been Pakistan’s strong point ever. The economic downturn, has exposed bitter reality with each of them having a go at the other, whichever way one sees it. There’s already a war within and this one not going away without causing destruction either. Pakistan’s politics has hit a new bottom. Pakistan’s media is full of images how sitting PM was heckled by PTI supporters in Saudi Arabia, how ex National Assembly deputy speaker of PTI Qasim Suri was dragged and manhandled by PDM workers in an eatery and there are plenty of such incidents. On the other hand, enigma of radicalisation has hit the roof there, where law enforcement agencies have to plead a Kalashnikov totting maulvi to take down Taliban’s flag from his Madrasa or when ISI officers were videographed handing cash envelopes to protesting workers of Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s radical party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam to call off their protest. The situation as it is; Political leaders can’t stand together, radicals continue to cede space from politicians and Army, Army wants to continue regulating political process, while politicians like Mr Imran Khan has effectively decided it’s time to call out Army Chief. Chaos would be a gross understatement to describe what Pakistan is going through. 

Proven Distraction

Flirting With Danger

With a totally disoriented national approach; focus has shifted to individual scripts for each of the major stakeholders in Pakistan. In Pakistan it appears everything comes before nation. When the question is of survival thinking like a statesman is definitely not a priority. In the Pakistan’s political herd, each shade is only darker and murkier than other. Replacements are not available and if existing, it comes with heavy cost. How else one describe the scenario where sitting PM who supposedly replaced a previous corrupt PM is himself under investigation for multimillion corruption case. That’s Pakistan today, hopping between one crisis to another. It’s clueless polity is simply too preoccupied to pay attention to larger picture, fearing like hell that the rug may be pulled out from unexpected corner. Amidst continued criticism of military leadership and political hara-kiri; the military bureaucracy is going with templated job as usual harnessing their Kashmir dreams. Recent months have seen increased push for infiltration attempts, terror activities and targeted killings in Kashmir; which usually is an indication of heightened frustration among terror outfits and their ISI masters. There also appears an attempt by Pakistan to keep the terror activities below a certain threshold, to not gravely provoke India while it actively enjoys prime time coverage. Danger is, with the leadership crisis in Pakistan, control of events may get swiftly out of hand. In any case the ‘threshold’ is for India to decide and in all likelihood it continues its downward trajectory. The price would be costlier for Pakistan next time India makes it pay. It may cry wolf again like Kargil, that it’s government was not kept in confidence by establishment. But it should better know that onus squarely lies on state for all acts originating from it’s soil. 

Under Deep Scrutiny

The Reprisal

The projection of worst case scenario and doomsday have begun within Pakistan’s nervous intelligentsia. Lots of discussion on the issue can be seen in their national media. The economic breakdown down appears most worrisome of all. The threat of balkanization looks a bit farfetched, but a more realistic expectation suggest that Pakistan will not be allowed to go bankrupt unlike Sri Lanka. As West believes a broke Pakistan is more dangerous, so in all probability some midpoint in negotiations will be worked out with lenders. Pakistan will be willing to swallow some tough conditions imposed upon by IMF, largely because it’s black economy is too big which will keep corrupt elites afloat, poor population as usual No one there is really bothered about, for left over middle class they will be fed with fanciful issues. Issues such as – ‘Indian conspiracy’, ‘Islam Being in Danger’ and ‘Kashmir is suffering’. These seeming hashtags are like hot cakes in Pakistan, it sells well always. The drop in military economy will not only continue to put added burden on common population but will create a severe discontent among top hierarchy due to sinking financial leverage. The Pakistani Military knows funds are with the West but strategic challenge of choosing it at a cost of strict Chinese displeasure is holding them back, so much for iron brothers. Left with a choice between rock and a valley; what their leaders should be worried about is there adversary, who is observing and learning all the time. Each of their terror attempts and radical aspirations have been analysed and will face effective confrontation. They will not be allowed to get away without paying for their deeds. And if they are intelligent, they should also be thinking of how come they are in a complex web of chaos from all ends possible. Not all the troubles after all can be natural coincidences and who knows they have already begun paying for their sins of the past. Pakistan can definitely choose to continue in their self-denial & self-destruction mode for as long as they can, but with each passing day the Truth will continue coming closer home until it finally knocks the door!

Ravi Srivastava

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