Senior US foreign and defence analysts have forecast the total collapse of Pakistan by 2025. It now appears that the developing ground realities across its main provinces are supportive of just such a prediction. The appeal to a common religious framework is backfiring as all and sundry now face a ruthless onslaught by Punjab’s armed forces and their sponsored Islamist proxies. As a consequence, the historically disparate federal faultlines are becoming fully exposed and are upon the brink of dissolution and will pave the way for a series of new states in one of the most geopolitically strategic parts of the world.
Pakistan’s hegemons have never relinquished absolute authoritarian control over the other provinces from their main centres of power in the Punjab. As such the terms Pakistan and Punjab have become interchangeable denoting the same oligarchy, whose elitist rulers function primarily from Islamabad and Rawalpindi. They have been the guardians of its constitutional framework from inception and have, across successive generations, perpetuated one of the most thriving kleptocracies in the modern world.
The highly dysfunctional governance structures of the Pakistani state are mired by rampant corruption, nepotism and quasi-feudal systems of patronage riddled with debilitating bureaucratic mismanagement, making any form of effective long-term fiscal planning untenable. These, in conjunction with a major energy crisis, a defence budget standing at a staggering 10% of GDP and declining life indicators across all major sectors — including literacy, health and employment — have given rise to very bleak future prospects for the majority of its inhabitants.
These conditions exist in the midst of a highly pernicious decades long propagation of the dictum ‘Islam as Nationality and Islam as State’ which resounds aloud daily in almost every school and Islamic madrassa across Pakistan. The result being that its military has become progressively infiltrated by Islamists, many of whom have merely disrobed in order to don military attire and inherit one of the largest collections of nuclear weapons in the world.
The extent of infiltration is all pervasive. Lashkar e Taiba terrorists, guided by ISI operatives using satellite phones from inside Pakistan, carried out the 2008 bombings in Mumbai. Their combatants have been operating a lucrative Islamist factory for decades on the outskirts of Rawalpindi, enjoying full Pakistani military patronage well away from any drone attacks. In fact, General Musharraf once described Lashkar e Taiba as a reserve force of the Pakistani army. Albeit, they are not the only proxy to be courted with such favours. In September 2014, just after al Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri announced that a new al Qaeda franchise had been created in the Indian sub-continent, the group led an attack on Pakistan’s naval base in Karachi. The purpose of the attack had been to hijack a Chinese built Pakistani Frigate armed with cruise missiles capable of firing several hundred kilometres against ships at sea. They had wanted to take it out into the Indian Ocean, move up to an American naval vessel and open fire. It was then discovered that the terrorists who had plotted this attack were in fact members of the Pakistani navy and had been able to mount the vessel because they possessed the correct protocol.
To make matters worse at least half of Karachi is now in the hands of the TTP – the Pakistani Taliban and their intricate network of local police informants, many of whom are situated within close vicinity of the Chinese nuclear submarines stationed at Karachi naval base.
The volatility of the situation cannot be underestimated. Pakistan is now purported to possess the fourth largest nuclear stockpile in the world, according to its eminent former Ambassador Hussain Haqqani, having overtaken both the United Kingdom and France. The contentious issue is the unregulated fissile material that Pakistan’s four Chinese built nuclear reactors produce. The plutonium waste generated can easily become weapon material.
The crux of the matter is that the joint civil and military caretaking of nuclear sights and their command and control systems can no longer be deemed secure in light of the level of Islamisation of the Pakistani armed forces, civil institutions and general populace. A state which selects ISI Director Generals such as Nadeem Taj whose fingerprints were all over the Mumbai bombing and whom would routinely warn the Pakistani Taliban before any drone strike so that they could clear the area in advance as recalled by the former CIA analyst and presidential adviser Bruce Riedel can no longer be relied upon in the war on terror.
In addition, as he went on to reveal, one can be certain that when the audacity of its rulers reaches such a level that a CIA director who visits Islamabad in good health, upon returning to the United States meets his eventual death with symptomatic signs indicative of poisoning, major alarms bells are set off. This cannot bode well for Pakistan. No doubt the US decisions to make huge military aid cuts and impose sanctions on Pakistani firms involved in nuclear trade were premised upon a host of such dire precedents.
Civilised powers are well aware that Pakistan is an Islamist time bomb with a firm commitment to trans-national jihad.
Matters have become all the more urgent as a plethora of Islamists are training under the protection of a media blackout in Balochistan hidden well away from the outside world. They will certainly be taking advantage of the high speed rail, road and maritime routes courtesy of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor for transportation of weapons, narcotics and the nuclear materials much coveted by Iran. The rail link connecting Quetta to Gwadar Free Trade Zone will provide the Taliban and ISIS with safe passage to a deep sea port and a modern industrial sector of high level technology including advanced satellite communications systems. With Chinese ascendency in the Pakistani political sphere and their de facto control of the straits of Hormuz via CPEC, cover has been granted to these Islamists from a most unlikely quarter.
Significantly Pakistan’s order of Chinese nuclear attack submarines due to be completed by 2023 and 2027, is uncomfortably close to the 2025 predicted date of collapse. The firing of its first submarine launched cruise missiles in January 2017 from an undisclosed location in the Indian Ocean and the launch of the menacingly named nuclear capable Babur 3 missile, a sea based variant of the Babur 2 land based missile should have set off major warning signals in New Delhi and Washington. Gwadar may well become the central pivot that brings down this Machiavellian edifice.
As ethnic and sectarian tensions assume gargantuan proportions and popular uprisings become larger and more frequent across the country, conditions ripen for its final dissolution.
Its first territorial loss occurred in 1971 when East Pakistan broke away. The Punjab based hegemons of West Pakistan were unwilling to concede to the democratic mandate granting the majority Bangladeshi population of East Pakistan the right to form the government for the entire federation. General Yahya’s decision to brutalise the East Pakistan uprising in 1970 and the systematic campaign of genocide and rape orchestrated by the Pakistani Army and supported by their Islamist Militias from Jamaat e Islami led to Indian intervention and the establishment of the independent people’s Republic of Bangladesh.
The very same methods have been employed in Balochistan. The long standing Baloch resentment to their illegal occupation by Pakistan on March 27th 1947 is reaching its climax as the resistance movement spreads nationwide. Pakistan has unleashed a horrifying ethnic cleansing programme tantamount to a genocide in Balochistan in which it is estimated that over 30,000 innocent civilians including men, women and children have been subject to state sponsored Enforced Disappearances with a further 10,000 falling prey to a merciless ‘Kill and Dump’ policy. In the latest escalation, in a spate of abductions of hundreds of Baloch women whom have been held in internment camps regulated by the army, harrowing reports of mass rape and torture are coming to light.
Whilst the media blackout in Balochistan has enabled the Pakistani army to contain knowledge of such happenings, reports of such abuses are now also surfacing with greater regularity across Sindh where opposition is also being mobilised against the government. Everyday life is becoming unbearable for significant portions of Sindh’s population whom must contend with atrocious levels of poverty, worse than parts of Sub-Saharan Africa in some places. Sindhi’s know full well that a state in which literacy is declining yearly whilst over half of children under 5 are born stunted, there can be little hope of any meaningful future. Pakistan is a state wherein monetary investment in nuclear warfare and Islamist proxies far exceeds spending on much needed health, education and employment. With the estimated population projection of 300 million by 2050 and severe water shortages, things can only get worse.
Balochistan has the weakest infrastructure of all the states despite a phenomenal wealth of natural resource revenues including gas, gold and a host of other minerals. It also has the highest gender, education and literacy disparities. Female literacy is 18pc compared to 45pc nationally and almost 2.5 million children are out of school. In the seven decades since occupation, resource revenues have been siphoned off by state officials and agencies at an alarming rate. Billions of dollars are unaccounted for and the province is unable to provide its residents with access to some of the most basic facilities. To make matters worse, CPEC which has been advertised as much promised development has resulted in the mass forced migration of Baloch natives from their ancestral lands in order to pave the routes for its mega-projects, most of which mainly benefit the Punjab. In fact, CPEC is responsible for having internally displaced hundreds of thousands of Baloch natives.
For Pakistani officials, the problem of Balochistan’s widespread illiteracy and poverty is nearly always blamed entirely upon the feudal system despite Islamabad being fully aware that in the Makuran region and other major cities, tribalism is barely perceptible. In actuality it is these areas which have the higher concentrations of literate Baloch that have been the main target of Pakistan’s kill and dump policy. It is such places that are witnessing the continued culling of the Baloch intelligentsia and educationists whose co-educational schools, holistic curriculum and expansive book fairs have been seen to pose the greatest threat to the state backed Islamist narrative. More Baloch secular nationalists and educationists have been killed than Taliban leaders and operatives in Pakistan as the state has been at war not with terrorism but rather any form of enlightenment activity, especially emanating from Baloch soil in keeping with long held Baloch secular values. Consequently, the army is now busy hastily building madrassas at every street corner and converting what few schools there were into Islamist barracks so as to inculcate Baloch youth into jihadi ideology, the cornerstone of Pakistani identity.
In contrast it has made every effort to support the most corrupt elements of the feudal orders in the Baloch tribal territories as part of its long standing divide and rule policy. Herein lies the root cause of the malice which fuels inter-tribal rivalries and fighting. During these decades of Pakistani occupation there has been little elevation or transformation of the tribal-feudal structures in Balochistan or indeed any semblance of proper democratic parliamentary governance with its vital attendant mechanisms of an independent judiciary, fully functioning civil service and target-oriented bureaucracy.
This is clearly visible in Pakistani state machinations and manipulations concerning the Marri tribe. It is common knowledge that Punjab’s only interest in Balochistan is its resources and what happens to its people is of no concern. Just the oil fields located in the Marri areas would have contributed to the eradication of poverty across Balochistan and instituted substantive health, education and housing projects. However, there is little sign of resource revenues or implementation of long term state fiscal planning. In reality the Marri and the majority of Baloch endure appalling levels of poverty.
Pakistan has instead concentrated its efforts upon creating and sustaining inter-tribal divisions. In the issue of the Marri succession, the imposition of their handpicked Changez Marri was a staged performance negating all democratic precedent. One can hardly expect a puppet to act beyond his puppet master’s moral compass and it is a demoralizingly poor ethical framework that Pakistan prescribes to as evidenced by the orders for the abduction, torture and rape of Marri women sanctioned directly from ISI headquarters in Punjab.
In order to negate their efforts, Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri has been deemed the last Nawab of the Marri tribe until such time after independence a tribal committee with joint leadership of its constituents, such as the Gazeni, Bijarani and Loharani, can, if indeed they wish to do so, put forth representatives to partake in a transparent and accountable voting procedure for selection of a new overseer. The democratically elected government must make sure that every single Marri is given an exact equal amount of resource revenue allocations thereby preventing any single Marri becoming subservient to another, a much favoured method of Pakistan’s Punjabi oligarchs aimed at breeding further internal strife.
The 21st century is the time of governmental systems rooted firmly in representative parliaments managed by highly qualified civil servants and guided by some utilitarianism, holding firm to the overarching principle that the greatest good of the greatest number should be the objective of all policy decisions. Regular elections, the rule of law and transparent fiscal planning are the major hallmarks of modern civilised states. One is hard pressed to find any such mechanisms in Pakistan.
If Balochistan and Sindh were already under the radar, with the rise of Manzoor Pashteen, Pakistan’s descent into chaos has gained momentum. The Pashtun nation whom have been subject to some decades long Talibanisation stratagem aimed at cementing national cohesion under a Pan Islamist umbrella, now presents the Pakistani army and state apparatus with its most disconcerting challenge. The implications of the growing Pashtun Tahafuz or protection movement now gripping formidable portions of the Pashtun population shows all the signs of developing into a major nationalist movement. It is no secret that dissension amongst the Pashtuns, cited to number between 30-40 percent of the Pakistani Army is growing as many are refusing to open fire upon their fellow Pashtuns during military encounters across their tribal belt.
The fact is that across Balochistan, Sindh and the Pashtun areas enforced disappearances and extra-judicial kill and dump has now become common practice. The Pakistani state armed forces are conducting this in such an organised fashion that many people are forced to refrain from reporting missing loved ones lest they too become victims of abductions, sexual harassment or kill and dump and also because the very casefiles of the missing persons also end up missing. There is now a head on collision course between Pakistan’s oligarchs operating mainly from the Punjab and the revived nationalist sentiments gaining ascending across all the provinces all at once. In a show of desperation recently, Pakistani bombardments of Baloch villages which is now routine occurrence were aimed at forcing Baloch natives to take part in upcoming elections in order to bolster international accountability.
Logical deduction warrants that as a tidal wave of popular uprisings grows across civil society in Balochistan, Sindh and the Pashtun heartlands, in due course accompanied by mass civil disobedience and cross country strikes, the federal structure will certainly collapse and external intervention will be required to delineate a new set of states along correct boundary lines as well as the institution of new democratic governments. Whether or not 2025 becomes the exact year of this fated collapse, let us be under no illusions that the hegemony in Punjab is now standing upon a precipice. Preparations for the break-up of Pakistan must now be given due attention by regional and world powers