“Not a red rose or a satin heart. I give you an onion. It is a moon wrapped in brown paper. It promises light like the careful undressing of love. Here. It will blind you with tears like a lover. It will make your reflection a wobbling photo of grief. Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips, possessive and faithful as we are, for as long as we are. Take it. Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring, if you like. Lethal. Its scent will cling to your fingers, cling to your knife.”

Carol Ann Duffy

It was Karl Von Clausewitz amongst the first contemporaries to emphasise the centrality of politics in warfare. There were others before him. Vishnugupta Chanakya Kautilya (Arthashastra), Thucydides (History of the Peloponnesian War), the Machiavelli (The Art of War) always linked success in warfare to factors other than violence. All three gave credence to economic, societal and idiosyncratic factors impacting the outcome of any conflict. Kautilya wrote about indirectness and reaching into the very womb, Thucydides about the behaviour of leaders and people and Clausewitz about the center of gravity and friction. Nationhood and its systems are like an onion in layers. They can be a moon wrapped in paper with pungent lethality that clings to the knife.

After the two World Wars and end of colonialism the methodology of dominance and exploitation continued through other means. Nations were vulnerable to defeat and disintegration short of war. The Middle East, Africa, South America, Balkans and South Asia are classic cases of drawing and redrawing new geographies based minimally on military defeats and more on intrigues, nationalism, tribal and religious rivalries. However, there was a common denominator; all these resource rich regions are torn by strife.

The policy prevents the rise of new centers of power. Inasmuch as big powers exploit vulnerabilities to maintain dominance over a wide spectrum, the bridgeheads are provided by the internal vulnerabilities of the exploited. Often, these kicking points are provided by the very own. Dominance can be achieved indirectly with minimum resort to selective violence.

This can be termed multi-layered potential instability. These layers over time evolve around issues and interests depending who is linked where. These intricate and intertwined linkages prevent countries from breaking free of bondage. The modern social scientists call it inter-dependence, globalisation, tied aid and trade. Stability in a region does not singularly imply the absence of violence. Instability can be social, economic, socio-economic, sub nationalist, ethnic or religious.

Pakistan’s layers of instability are as much as its vulnerabilities, intertwined with outside interests; a reason why a reasonably long run of stability and development had been evasive.

Most Pakistanis err while taking a patriotic and emotional view on nationhood. Critics are branded traitors. Within the construct, they ignore the timelines on which many notions of ideology and nationhood were redrafted and for what purpose. However, a reappraisal of these timelines, external linkages and events thereof lead to very different conclusions. Though Pakistan was created with a romantic notion of better livelihood for deprived minorities, the entire notion was immediately draped in a system that serves geopolitical interests of the West. Pakistan, in its purist sense, was never allowed to become Pakistan.

During 1940-1947, the movement of Pakistan morphed from the demand of autonomy within an Indian Union to a separate homeland. 1945-47 witnessed phenomenal pace of events from Cabinet Mission Plan to the Radcliff Award. Though independence was a great event, the Radcliff Award created fault lines that persist. British India was divided and so was the largest victorious military machine of WW II. A quarter century later, Pakistan was sub divided. Seen on the larger canvas, many other countries were redesigned in Asia, Europe and Africa. The redraw in Middle East, the coup against Mossadeq in Iran and political instability in Pakistan in the 1950s were all interlinked pointing to the same master planner.

Prime Minister Liaqat Ali was assassinated and Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy removed unceremoniously and later assassinated in Beirut. Prime Minister Liaqat Ali had refused to cooperate in US plans on Iran while Suhrawardy despite being cozy to USA had laid foundations of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, reorganisation of armed forces and the space agency. Through these eliminations, powers that be, succeeded in drafting Pakistan as an outpost of capitalism and not one that serves its people.

My hypothesis is that the romantic notion of Pakistan, and the singular leadership of Qaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, were superimposed by a layer of international geopolitics. USA and NATO needed a Muslim Pakistan to challenge godless communism and therefore, the religious primacy. The religious right had to be empowered. Gossip in intelligence circles has it that CIA created an exclusive JI desk. Now JI and Muslim Brotherhood have lost favour and Saudi Salafism has emerged as an alternative. The entire West Asia and its neighbours are in a spin.

In Pakistan, this layer put in place another layer of establishment and political culture that continues to serve outside interests. The layer ensures that Pakistan remains pliable and integral part of the global geopolitical designs of the US dominated template. The template connects Pakistan to the Middle East monarchies and helps explain why Pakistan, despite very strong Persian linkage, shied away from Iran. Between the assassinations of Prime Minister Liaqat Ali, political crises of the 1950s and the post 1973 oil crises, Pakistan made its current choice of espousing Arabs in 1975. This drift had lots to do with the falling away of the Shah of Iran as the preferred policeman. Bhutto amends were unsuccessful.

Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and induction of the Islamic Jihad found fertile soil in Pakistan. Yet to chagrin of Pakistan’s security, this proliferation was sponsored from outside with strong linkages in the establishment. One effect was Pakistan’s drift from a Persian version to an Arabized one. The drift went unchallenged till General Raheel Sharif attempted to break away from the paradigm and destroy rightist violence through military power. But a check has been applied on his adventurism. Assistance to this layer of instability and checks came from Pakistan’s two mainstream political parties who failed to supplement military operations with an all-purpose homeland security policy. Who knows what the next COAS will be like? A conformist or an out f box thinking citizen soldier?

The second layer is reinforced by successive layers. This includes self-seeking politicians and bureaucrats. It was them who for the first time drafted the military in 1954 into domestic politics. Next are the economic experts (hitmen), corporate expert who abhor capital goods, bankers looking for consumer profits and a media that plays the waltz to instability and liberals. As in past, dreams keep turning to nightmares…

To be continued…