The Legatum Institute released a report on the situation in Pakistan and its future in near 2-3 years. The report discussed 8 topics regarding Pakistan: Economy, Civilian-Military Issues, Islamic Trends, Pashtun Nationalism, Pakistani Taliban, India-Pakistan Relationship, Pakistan-China Relationship and Pakistan-US Relationship.
The report mentioned 5 main challenges:
[1.] Threat of fragmentation and the loss of state control over various territories that undermine the integrity, sovereignty and solidarity of the country; [2.] Security and terrorism throughout the country; [3.] Economy; [4.] Governance issues including corruption; and [5.] Rebuilding the Pakistan Brand. (intro)
I will skip the Economy and Military chapters of the report and get into the Chapter 3 “Islamic Trends” of the report.
Islamic Trends: Islamists, Islamisation and the threat of Taliban:
The report focuses on two main Islamic parties: Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Pakistan (JUI), their role in Pakistani politics as “Islamist Parties” and their effectiveness in the Pakistani legal system and influence in Pakistan.
The report rightfully states that these parties will be unable to win popular support and elections and their role as a coalition partner, especially with Muslim League-Nawaz group (PML-N) would continue. Muslim League is rival to Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and is viewed as a conservative party (although not Islamist).
Participation in the JI requires high commitment, and many sympathisers choose instead to join right-of-centre parties such as the PML-N which have a better chance of electoral success and follow-on benefits from patronage. (pg 28).
The priority for these parties would remain to oppose the United States’s drones attack, which has caused a popular backlash towards the US. Safeguarding the Blasphemy law will remain the priority because through this law, the Qadianis/ Ahmadis have been declared outside the fold of Islam.
The report ignored the role of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and more importantly of Imran Khan’s Tehreek-i-Insaf (TI) what is vocal against the drones attack and the Pakistani military’s operations in the North Western region. Although not a Islamic or Islamist party, it surely attracts the “conservative” or non-secular youth of Pakistan.
The ground reality of Islamization:
The Islamisation of Pakistan should not be a threat to any one because it is not going to happen anytime soon. The masses are not literate, nor are they educated about Islam. PPP has a strong base in the rural Sindh, which is mostly Shia and they can’t think of anyone else besides Benazir Bhutto and her father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. In the province of Punjab; ML-N is dominant, which has no aspirations of Islamizing the state; the province of Baluchistan is far from the religious parties of Pakistan, military is busy in controlling the Baloch insurgents and Islamic parties are almost non-existent in Baluchistan. The Province of Sarhad (NWFP) will remain the military operation zone for coming years as the Pakistani Military fights the so-called Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The unpopularity of Islamic Parties- JI and JUI will remain so as long as the Pakistani military stays there and reconstruct the destroyed district. If Pakistani government and military fails to reconstruct the region, the villagers can out of despair support the radical elements and Islamic Parties instead of ANP (a secular Pashtun political party).
The Ground Reality of Taliban Take over:
The report justly states:
Speculation of a Taliban takeover dramatically overestimates the willingness of the political and military elites to surrender power to the Taliban. Even if there is tacit support for the anti-American agenda of the Taliban, these worst case scenarios overstate the ability of a few thousand tribal militants who, by and large, are not popular with the population, to forcibly wrest control of a state with one of the world’s largest standing armies. (Pg 29.)
So the government might face a control of a village or a district by TTP, have parallel courts to the Pakistani Judiciary but it is incapable of taking over the State by defeating the established, discipline Pakistani Army and the mass unpopularity, which is beyond the politically fragmented society.
Two policies that have greatly jeopardized the alliance between the United States and Pakistan in this so-called War Against Terrorism are the Drones Attacks in the Tribal Regions of Pakistan and the Kerry-Lugar Bill.
Drones Attacks has resulted in hundreds of innocent civilian casualty and has accelerated the Anti American sentiments among the masses. Each drone attack revives the support of Islamist and Non-Secular Parties (PML-N & TI) of Pakistan. Kerry Lugar Bill, however, created uproar in the Pakistani Blogosphere. Series of Articles by various Pakistani online forums, Facebook Groups, and Blogs started a campaign against the Lugar Bill. The opposition was so strong that the government and the military had to reject the first proposal, creating confusion in the Washington. Although with closed doors meetings, the Bill has been approved and all is well for Washington and Islamabad.
The rising Anti-Americanism in Pakistan is due to the foreign policy of the United States and the incompetent government of Pakistan that is seen as élite in alliance with the US, waging war on Pakistanis and fellow Muslims in Afghanistan. Corruption in this allied Pakistani government is still rampant, the economy of Pakistan is very low, the division between the rich and poor, the privileges and the masses has become wide and it’s getting wider. All time inflation and inability for even the lower Middle Class to conveniently buy the everyday food items has increased the unpopularity of the Pakistani government, which in return, has also contributed to the anti- Amercian sentiments.
The near future of Pakistan is of months of struggle, and using the wordings from the report, Pakistan would “muddle through” the challenges.