Though proverbial, it is possible for a hare to hunt with hounds. The term applies to power sharing amongst nations. The stronger get the lion’s share while the weaker end with crumbs. When smaller nations over reach or break the cordon they realise their futility in the game of hounds and wolves. Yet they howl and growl like in French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit. According to Hans Joachim Morgenthau “The statesman must think in terms of the national interest, conceived as power among other powers”. This power is an exclusive cake. You only get what is permitted and not what is desired. When small countries think they have canines, they are doomed. In this living hell, coercion is employed by strong allies and enemies across the entire spectrum of policy. They ensure that any challenge collapses from external and internal attrition.

For most part of its history, Pakistan, being the hare, has toiled in the shadows to preserve and promote its interests. Yet Pakistan has achieved neither at a cost to its territorial integrity and sovereignty. It is now challenged more by its internal dynamics than its arch rival. However, the bigger threat arises from the interplay of external and internal dynamics. Pakistan’s economic vulnerabilities and dependence on its allies of convenience curtail its economic potential. The internal dynamics with international leverage keeps the pyre smouldering through terrorism, militancy, sectarianism and separatist movements. The turf is wide open for intelligence agencies of all countries.

Karachi, the port city of Pakistan is a metropolis where all such dynamics are in gridlock- terrorism, violence, extortion, sectarianism and separatism. This city, once the only port of undivided India and West Asia has been reduced to nothing in the past 60 years. Shipping lanes have since shifted to more stable and developed ports in Bombay and the Persian Gulf. All international actors know that the potential juggernaut of Pakistan can eclipse the entire Arabian Sea rim. Leaving Karachi and other potential ports of Pakistan underdeveloped ensures security and development of competitors.

Such is the awe created by the prospective development of Karachi, Port Qasim, Ormara, Gwadar and Suntser, that Iran in cooperation with India developed Bandar Abbas and Chabahar to link it by roads and railway to Europe and Central Asia. Even countries like Oman and UAE stand to lose if Pakistan’s coastline is lined with international ports.

But Pakistan is a big carcass, acting dead, poised to rise from its slumber with the right leadership at its helm. Pakistan has outlived 50 years predicted by Schuman. It has also outlived the ugly instability thesis of the RAND Corporation or the Council on Foreign Relation’s ‘Pakistan’s Road to Disintegration’, and now strives to contest RAND’s recent thesis on ‘Unfolding the Future of the Long War’.

The long war is all about maintaining and growing US influence in the Muslim world. According to RAND, it is the confluence of three problems related to the ideologies espoused by key adversaries in the conflict, those related to the use of terrorism, and those related to governance. In order to shrink the swamp, RAND had theorised eight trajectories out of which Pakistan figures in the two most dangerous i.e. a Muslim nation going bad and sectarianism.

This sectarianism is not merely Shia-Sunni conflict but also the surge of Salafi-jihadist ideologies in Pakistan linked to terrorism. The financial and moral support comes from Pakistan’s major allies in Middle East and Iran. According to the RAND report, Pakistan faces the most hazards and could become the most dangerous country if taken over by a Jihadist regime. The recommendations of this study make a conflicting mix for Pakistan. Ally with Sunni Middle Eastern countries and run the risk of; one, Salafi Jihadism; two, Iranian supported militancy; three, separatist movements in Balochistan; and finally a violent Karachi. Reject, and starve. The surge of jihadist control in Pakistan justifies the US pretext of disarming Pakistan of nukes and the separation of Balochistan that cuts Pakistan to size. This explains why Pakistan is placed in two most dangerous scenarios. Both East and West have eyed Balochistan for a very long time and the obvious line drawn now runs from Quetta to Karachi. The plan is clear but complicated. Destroy Pakistan through attrition and rid it of its fangs. Chinese aided development challenges these scenarios.

It is not without reason that General Raheel Sharif on a visit to Balochistan gave a warning to intelligence agencies of all countries to get their hands off Pakistan. This was preceded by murder of workers near Turbat and violent engagements with law enforcement agencies. Uzair Baloch of the Layari Gang vanished from the Middle East to his likely sanctuary in Iran. The countries that mattered understood the threat. The reaction was swift. Sabeen Ahmad who made the error of hosting Mama Qadeer was shot dead and a political party controlled from London erupted with anti-Pakistan army rhetoric. Brahumdagh Khan Bugti awoke from his comfortable villa in Europe to roar against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The entire geopolitics of containment and denying Eurasia access to shortest land routes to sea became the sore in the eye.

Unfortunately it is not only MQM but also some other mainstream political parties that have joined the hounds and wolves. At one hand they yearn for Chinese economic prospects and at the other indulge in activities that counter it. MQM, PPPP and sectarian parties share a common ground against operations in Karachi. The sudden rise of Zulfiqar Mirza or visits of Saudi clerics are not without reason. Whenever India and Iran wish to threaten Pakistan, they raise the Chabahar flag. Within Pakistan, there are many willing to create holes in a sinking ship with the argument of civil supremacy over the military. All political parties of Pakistan pursue this objective despite complete ignorance of statecraft while RAND warns that any military coup will disintegrate Pakistan.

General Raheel Sharif is meandering and wading through shark and alligator infested waters with scorpions riding his back. Time is running out for him.