September 6, 2021

The Sick Boy of South Asia

"The name Pakistan, a twentieth-century invention, designates a country defined entirely by its Islamic religion. In every other respect, the country and people of Pakistan are—as they have been for millennia—part of India. An Afghanistan defined by its Islamic identity would be a natural ally, even a satellite, of Pakistan. An Afghanistan defined by ethnic nationality, on the other hand, could be a dangerous neighbor, advancing irredentist claims on the Pashto-speaking areas of northwestern Pakistan and perhaps even allying itself with India." - Bernard Lewis, "The Revolt of Islam" The New Yorker, November 11, 2001.

"Pakistan is like Israel, an ideological state," said then Pakistani President Zia ul-Haq in 1981. "Take out the Judaism from Israel and it will fall like a house of cards. Take Islam out of Pakistan and make it a secular state; it would collapse." - Ishaan Tharoor, "The Pakistani origins of the Israeli state" The Washington Post, December 3, 2014.

"Pakistan was born in intrigue. It was a unique product of a calculated British-Indian policy using the name of Islam. Pakistan emerged from the partitionist policy of the dying British colonialism. Pakistani elites inherited and adopted the Britain colonial model of administration with strong executives. They filled the power vacuum at the top, but failed to address the issues of democracy, meaningful political, economic, and social change in Pakistan. " - Mashal Khan Takkar: Birth And Death of Pakistan.

When the Ottoman Empire, termed the "sick man of Europe," disintegrated a century ago, the most aggrieved were not the Caliph's own subjects but Indian Muslims, who lived under British rule thousands of miles away. 

The Turks and Arabs moved on, establishing secular republics and monarchies, but Indian Muslims held onto the romantic notion of a Caliphate. 

At the end of World War One they initiated the Khilafat Movement in British India. Although it was unsuccessful, it served as a rallying cry and generated political momentum for South Asia's Muslim communities. Some of the leaders of the movement were instrumental in the creation of Pakistan in 1947.

As shown in the quotes provided above, Pakistan's creation was a violent and controversial affair. It was established primarily as a British protectorate, with little to no regard for the peoples that inhabited its territories.

Raghvendra Singh explains England's strategic reasoning for manufacturing Pakistan out of thin air, writing in the article, "What Britain gained by partitioning the subcontinent into India and Pakistan":

Maintaining oil stakes in the Middle East and securing air routes would become a major task for Britain once India was lost to it. Britain desperately needed a foothold in the Indian subcontinent where it could legitimize its presence as an ally of the newly created state of Pakistan. Leaders of the movement for Pakistan also appreciated the expediency of a British presence in the state. What could a militarily weak Pakistan do but allow British presence on its soil for a substantial period of time? It suited Britain to partition India. 

The British empire wanted Pakistan to be weak and dependent on Western aid, says retired Indian diplomat Talmiz Ahmad. He wrote in an article published last November called, "Muhammad Ali Jinnah Got Full Support for His Pakistan Project From the British":

By May 1947, the British top brass had accepted the need for partition. It was noted that West Pakistan would serve Britain’s strategic interests by providing Karachi port, air bases and Muslim manpower when required. They also insisted that this Pakistan should be weak – much weaker than India – so that it would continue to depend on western support – military, political and economic – to sustain itself.

Pakistan has compensated for its inherent weakness as a state by sponsoring terrorist groups and using them as proxies in the name of Islam.

Its military leaders use Islam as a shield for their litany of crimes. 

Under the cover of Islam Pakistan has smothered ethnic and nationalist struggles for independence within its own borders.

Pakistan's fear of a successful and democratic Afghanistan is based on the threat of Pashtun nationalism. 

Pakistan is home to 40 million Pashtuns, while 15 million of Afghanistan's population, a little more than forty percent, is made up of Pashtuns.

Author Sushant Sareen laid out Pakistan's Islamist strategy to counteract Pashtun nationalism in his article, "Pakistan’s Pashtun Problem" that was written on July 22, 2021. An excerpt:

While Afghanistan and Pakistan have always had strains in their bilateral relationship, Pashtun nationalism and the Pashtunistan movement became a big thing in the early 1970s. The rump Pakistan was still coming to terms with the separation of its eastern wing, when Pashtun nationalist movement started gaining strength. Around the same time, Baloch nationalists managed to form a government in Balochistan. It was at that stage that the Pakistanis started flirting with Islamists in Afghanistan. Islamism was seen as an antidote or an effective ideology to counter ethnic nationalism.

For 50 years, ever since it lost East Pakistan in 1971, Islamabad has tried to subjugate Afghanistan and install a client regime in Kabul. 

Its victory via the Taliban was a long time in the making. 

Pakistan attained its victory not through military conquest but diplomatic guile. 

With the West and China in its corner, Pakistan has been able to wage war by proxy against its weaker neighbour without facing any kind of international scrutiny. 

In fact, it is rewarded for its state terrorism and crimes against humanity with American aid, European diplomatic protection, and Chinese investments.

They all want to believe that Pakistan is a strong and reliable ally, capable enough to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan. 

But the truth is Pakistan is a weak and fragile state that is hated by all its neighbours as well as large segments of its own subjects. 

The trauma it is inflicting on Afghanistan will be remembered for a long time. Unlike America and Russia, Pakistan can't wake up one day and decide to leave Afghanistan for good. It is right next door. And the front gates are wide open.