Largely unnoticed and despite its potential for internal conflict, Pakistan has risen to become the fifth most populous country. Its position among the Big Five – plus China, India, the USA and Indonesia – is unique. Its government elites have managed to keep the two largest superpowers, the USA and China, as allies and play them off against each other. This is of the greatest benefit against arch-rival India. This backing allows Pakistan and its military direct or indirect provocation and terrorist attacks. All of this consolidates the hostility towards the great power India. It is this threat from an overpowering Hindu India that legitimizes the art state and its military, which came into being in 1947, as the sole guardians, the “Sole Guardian”. This South Asia-specific, unstable coexistence and opposition of (apart from Indonesia) four nuclear powers is not only explosive in foreign policy, but also has internal political repercussions. The nuclear power Pakistan is hardly predictable: without a clear operational doctrine, fixed chains of command and reliably secured locations. This puts the art state in a special position compared to its two allies and arch-enemy India. With a current population of 240 million and twice the area of Great Britain, a quarter of India, it is the result of a double secession: first the independence and violent partition of British India in 1947 and later, in 1971, the secession of East Pakistan as Bangladesh. The backward West Pakistani rump state would be a poor mountain and desert country without the lifeline of the Indus and its five subsidiary Punjab rivers, „five waters“. This mighty Nile system ensures the survival of this altogether poor, hardly literate and for a long time little urbanized population.
In terms of foreign policy and military policy, the country operates above its weight class, often without caution and without modesty towards the Indian opponent as well as the American forced partner. It is therefore all the more astonishing that the state, government, military and regions are shaped and even weakened by many conflicts. In contrast to the much more complex India, seven decades of precarious state and nation building have not produced a stable community, no really functioning “unity in diversity”. Pakistan remains a double curiosity: on the one hand, because of its unrestrained foreign and military policy ambitions – despite at least three lost wars and the loss of half of the state; on the other hand, because of its hitherto unfinished or improvised state structure. Even after seventy years, core questions of every new state are still open: Should the state be governed secularly or Islamically, Pakistanily or regionalistically, federally or centrally, democratically or in a military-authoritarian manner? In essence: should it be an Islamic state or a state for the majority of Indian Muslims – the latter according to the original vision of the founder of the state, Muhammad Ali Jinnah? After 75 years we find an outwardly overambitious, inwardly unfinished work of art which, despite a remarkable series of catastrophes, political murders and unresolved internal conflicts, not only exists, but also grows and functions – at least in the opinion and in the interests of its military and economic interests elites. The Pakistani paradox is difficult to explain in this way. What cannot be explained can at least be described. Therefore, in the following, seven steps will be shown that have contributed to the emergence of the current structure, i.e. a system of imbalances and antagonisms that have so far tended to support each other rather than destroy each other.
But first a step back. A joke says that the British were good colonizers but terrible decolonizers, the French vice versa. The independence of British India would be a prime example of this. After the Indian secular Congress movement under Nehru and Gandhi demanded independence from India, the British Raj promoted the Indian Muslim elite as a new party in return. The result is the All-India Muslim League, founded in 1908. In the 1930s, this notable organization is almost meaningless. She is saved as a political machine by a Karachi-born lawyer, the secular Jinnah, who wants to turn the Muslim League into a mass party. Jinnah and his followers are still concerned with adequate guarantees of participation, quotas and reserved seats in parliament for Muslims, who after all make up a quarter of the population of British India. The idea of a separate state for Muslims is still considered a quirk, a „student idea“. In fact, a student in London had designed this absurdity. Where P should stand for Punjab, A for Afghanistan, K for Kashmir, I for Sindh/Indus and Stan for Balochistan. Appropriately, Pakistan also meant “land of the pure”. This is a notable derivation from originally Brahmanic, then colloquial „pacca“, well, actually „boiled (with butterfat)“ versus „kacca“, just „boiled (with water)“ – e.g. brick-built is „pacca“, mud-built is „kacca “. What is remarkable about this new utopia is its western orientation: East Bengal, home to so many Muslims of British India and the most populous part of the coming Pakistans, is not even mentioned.
It is World War II that turns this academic gimmick “Pakistan” into a concrete demand. Gandhi and Nehru refuse to the British Viceroy to agree to an unconditional entry into the war of the Indian National Congress (Congress). The British will not be blackmailed. Overnight, Jinnah and the Muslim League now take the negotiating seat previously held by the influential Congress. A bizarre turn of events, as at this point the Muslim League leadership is in prison thanks to their new „Quit India“ campaign. Now Jinnah can bring his vision into play at the highest level. At the same time, more and more Hindu-Muslim massacres are taking place, partly encouraged by Muslim League extremists or Hindu nationalists. Jinnah’s problem, however, is that most Muslim people haven’t heard of Pakistan. Once they hear about it, they reject it. Why should they fear a future Hindu majority that is abstract to them? Jinnah, however, has got the Muslim elite residing in northern India behind it. After the end of the world war, he and the bloody waves of violence jointly exert pressure to make the partition plan a reality.
A British civil servant, Sir Radcliffe, who does not know India and has never visited, is flown in in 1947 and locked in a bungalow near New Delhi. Here he draws the new borders based on the province and district maps and statistics – through Bengal and through the Punjab. While the massacres spread, also because the British army leadership loses control over the Muslim and Hindu troops, August 1947 is hastily set as Independence Day and Partition Day. On the day of partition in Punjab, millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims are waking up on the wrong side of a previously non-existent border. There are massacres and refugee movements that were previously unimaginable. A total of twelve million people will be displaced in the west, probably a million people will be killed. In the east, the division is relatively peaceful. Jinnah and the League elite are now relocating to Jinnah’s birthplace, Karachi, which also serves as the capital. These professional officials, intellectuals, specialists and magnates call themselves Mohajir. With all Hindu officials gone from the Indus Valley and Karachi, this new League intelligentsia is attempting to build a new state amidst the expulsions and waves of murder. Jinnah himself dies of lung cancer a year after the founding of the state. By this point, the leadership of the Mulsim League had already quarreled hopelessly with the outgoing colonial power and with the new Indian Congress leadership over the appropriate division of the Anglo-Indian army, railroad logistics, gold and foreign exchange reserves, and more.
Phase 1 The 1950s: The Punjabistan are coming
Even the first step in the emergence of the current structure of Pakistan is stumbled. The first task of the hegemonic league should have been the adoption of a constitution and the holding of general and national elections – which the Indian Congress manages by 1952. Instead, the Muslim League blocks itself with intrigues and constant reshuffles of the cabinet. In nine years without elections, seven prime ministers are consumed. This self-blockade has a simple reason: the unforeseen Pakistan rests on an imbalance. Around 60 percent of the population live in densely populated East Pakistan, 1,800 kilometers away, and around 40 percent in the west. With a “one man, one vote” right to vote, power would very quickly be in East Bengal. Following a specific racism, these have been seen as unreliable, lazy and tepid believers and military weaklings for over six hundred years. But fatally enough, agriculture, raw material exports and taxes from East Pakistan feed the rather desert-like western state. For the West-oriented Muslim League and the similarly oriented elites in the new state, the question arises: How can this demographic overhang in the East be neutralized by the constitution? How to ensure control of power for the West, for the Muslim League and the Mohajir? This problem breaks the First Republic. To make matters worse, Liaquat Ali Khan, Jinnah’s pragmatic successor, was assassinated in 1951. However, the problem of integrating East Pakistan is aggravated by another ethno-political shift.
For within the West, like Matrushka, there are other imbalances, most notably those of West Punjab. It covers just a quarter of the territory, but around half of West Pakistan’s population lives here. The other provinces do not initially count in terms of power politics. To this day, the huge Balochistan is an empty, if geopolitically interesting, desert area. It is captured in a police operation in the 1950s and its nomadic population accounts for four percent of West Pakistan’s total population. The Pashtuns of the Northwest Province and the Sindh residents also do not count at first. It is the overpowering elites of the Punjab who are now challenging the less than 10 percent Mohajir for rank in government and administration. The five rivers – „Punjab“ – of the region and the Indus feed the western part of the country; the Punjab magnates, merchant houses, and peasant castes finance West Pakistan, develop its industries, and decide future elections. This Punjabi elite has imposed a new modus operandi on the Muslim League and the Karachi Mohajir since the beginning of the decade. The urban mohajir, confined to Karachi and the cities of the south, must agree to this power-sharing. Behind the construction of Pakistan now hides a Punjabi state. Its elites are uninterested in Bengalis in the East, ignore the Sindh elite, use a Balochistan, and co-opt or Punjabize the Pashtuns, mostly with the help of the military. The Punjabization of the state strengthens the West against the East. In doing so, she is putting the ethnopolitical East-West problem on the back burner and making it invisible for two decades, ultimately insoluble. But even an integration of the Punjabi elite into the Muslim League, administration and economy would not have saved the doubly asymmetrical state, its west-east and Punjab minorities gap could not have been compensated – for example through growth, industrialization and investments. Rather, the alliance with the USA, which has lasted to this day, will be decisive for the survival of the unfinished state. In the shadow of the Korean conflict, the Dulles brothers, ie the US Secretary of State and the head of the CIA, are expanding their containment strategy to curb the influence of the USSR on South Asia. They are looking for alliance partners for the Southeast Asia Pact Seato and for a Cento military alliance. Nehru and his Congress India see themselves more on the side of China. In particular, Nehru sees himself as a pioneer of decolonization, as the initiator of the non-aligned movement and teacher of a „middle way“ between capitalism and socialism. With astonishing hubris, he rejects the US offers. This clears the way for Pakistan to enter into a pact with the USA – as it did with England in 1939. The upcoming Seato and Cento alliance was brokered by Great Britain in the mid-1950s.
The US is now the ‚lender of last resort‘ to Pakistan. US loans, technology, financial injections and above all diplomacy and services save the precarious state again and again: after its wars, economic crises, coups and provocations. Right from the start, the alliance was designed in parallel, between the governments and between the military. Finally, it is also about the landing pads for the B-52 bombers loaded with nuclear weapons. The world war-tested Pakistani general Ayub Khan, a cross between Peter Ustinov and Alec Guinness, shows his best side. He is at the center of strategic negotiations. A little later he was able to convince the incapacitated Karachi government as well as Washington with a domestic political idea regarding the question: How do I solve the Bengali subordination problem? As Ayub writes in his biography „Friends, not masters“, after the military coup: In a hotel in London he came up with the solution to the state political blockade of Pakistan: „One unit“ at „50 percent to 50 percent“. The state of the Muslims of South Asia Pakistan will in future consist of two equal halves. The Bengalis count as much as the rest. A national parliament, „one unit“, therefore has one hundred and fifty MPs each from East and West, 50:50. Should the parliament or a respective government not be able to make decisions in the foreseeable future, then the national forces, the bureaucracy and the army will ensure cohesion. The heirs of the „Sole Spokesman“, the bureaucracy, and „the Sole Guardian“, the army, are the guarantors of unity – and above all: they are in the West. In 1954 Pakistan joined the Seato Pact and in 1955 the Cento Pact „One unit“ is established in 1956. The government immediately finds itself overwhelmed. Now the guarantors of unity are in demand. In consultation with parts of the Mohajir elite and with Washington, the most relaxed coup in the history of South Asia takes place. The government is dismissed and a governor President, Iskandar Mirza, is installed. At the end, martial law administrator Ayub Khan travels slowly for more than a week by train from the army barracks in the north to Karachi. The notables and their followers greet him jubilantly in the stations: Punjabistan as a military state begins.
II. The 1960s: military rule
Ayub Khan is the perfect, anglicized modernizer for these Kennedy and Johnson years, for the times of a dream of take-off, of „development dictatorship“ and the image of the military as the protective power of development and the state. Under Ayub’s jovial rule, the foundations are now being laid for what is now being described or criticized as „military incorporated“, as a military parallel economy and „state within a state“. Building on previous British projects, huge new dams and canal systems are now being built along the Indus. The World Bank and other institutions finance the projects. This enables Pakistan’s vast peasant class to take part in a future US-sponsored „green revolution,“ to feed its explosively growing population and even export food. Since the founding of the state in 1947 until today, the population of West Pakistan has increased sixfold. The military itself becomes the main beneficiary of this immense cultivation and canal development. In all new irrigation sections and „Canal Colonies“ the middle and higher military receive land and shares. The army, which has been recruited for the most part from the peasant and warrior castes of the Potowar Plateau since colonial times, uses it to support itself and, at a lower level, its peasant relatives.
But that is only part of the new military economy that is now emerging. All arms branches set up so-called „welfare trusts“ with which „housing societies“ and other investment projects are financed. Societies build, for example, model settlements, extensive neighborhoods, „gated communities“ for officers, non-commissioned officers, but also simple soldiers. With the help of its uncontrollable sources of finance, the military operates (for its own needs but often also for ordinary customers) bakery chains, airlines, transport companies, construction and cement industries, housing associations, hotel chains, travel agencies, credit institutions and shopping malls. It has its own banking systems. All of these companies have a huge competitive advantage over private industry. The military are regulars. After their retirement in their early forties, their own people work here. The army can exert pressure on all levels, on clients, simple customers, suppliers, employees. The army will finally become a state within a state, by even more upgrading its role, which has been privileged since colonial times. In all major garrison towns, the army controls one-fourth to one-third of inner-city land. It’s always green here, with water sprinklers, shady avenues, elite schools, hospitals, cricket pitches, casinos and parade grounds. All this according to Voltaire’s phrase about Prussia: „Not a state that has an army, but an army that has a state“. Built by the English as the largest garrison capital and railway junction in the west, near the Indus.
This is exactly where Ayub Khan is now planning the new capital Islamabad for his military and development state. He has always despised Karachi with its Muslim League politicians. The new capital is being planned right next to Rawalpindi. It is based on a Roman, military checkerboard pattern. A city of Islam is to be built, but it has not yet been completed. Later, the Kahuta nuclear weapons center was built nearby, appropriately close to the Indian border. The expansion of the military state with a new center, extensive self-sufficiency, highly lucrative industry, traditional recruiting area and enormous cash crop-producing land holdings is concentrated on the very region that Punjab lies closest to two strategic borders with India and the disputed Durand line Afghanistan. Ayub Khan wants to defend the country against India where Pakistan is most vulnerable and narrowest, between the Khaiber Pass and the border near Lahore. At the same time, however, the new military state is being relabeled as pseudo-democratic due to the influence of the USA. In this decade of development, Ayub Khan establishes an ostensible development democracy, called „Basic Democracies“. Over four tiers (village, district, province, nation), committees of worthy electors elect respective delegations up to Islamabad, based on top-down lists of candidates. These are put together by the army, bureaucracy represented in all districts and by reliable Muslim League remnants.
Strategically, this military modernization project was put to the test in 1965. Ayub’s ambitious and charismatic foreign minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, is able to persuade the aging field marshal to wage a war of aggression against India that Pakistan will no longer be able to win against India, which has a fivefold superiority. The plan goes wrong. Indian tank columns are approaching Lahore. De facto humiliating peace negotiations followed, brokered by the Soviet Union. The military believes the US failed Pakistan in the debacle. They are now looking for another ally beyond the Karakorum Pass, China – discreetly at first. Bhutto shows himself to be a traitor. He blames Ayub, resigns and founds the first major rival party against the much-used Muslim League, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). It is internationally Anglophone and socialist, nationally patriotic and cautiously social democratic. In Sindh, where the Bhuttos own vast amounts of land, the party acts in a regionalist manner. With the help of this new party vehicle, Bhutto is now fighting for Ayub’s resignation and for holding general elections. He does the first. Ayub Khan is now being substituted by the military for the rather weak Yahya Khan. But elections are still pending. What Bhutto manages to do is undermine the stability and legitimacy of the military. It’s like stepping across the railroad tracks: “One train can hide another”: The decisive train is now rushing in not from the west, but from the east, from Bengal. Completely clueless or unscrupulous, Bhutto initiates the collapse of the originally united Pakistan with his party and agitation.
III. The 1970s: Democratic torso state
The initially brilliant experiment of military consolidation combined with the pseudo-democratic „one unit, fifty-fifty“ formula made the subordination, exclusion and exploitation of the East Bengalis in West Pakistan forgotten for more than a decade. Now, with the agitation surrounding the general elections Bhutto is calling for, the problem is coming back. In East Pakistan, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has transformed the Awami League into a ubiquitous autonomy movement. If elections, he demands, then according to the principle „one man, one vote“. In essence, the days of a viable Pakistan on the West Pakistani Punjabi and military model are numbered. After negotiations, technical rearguard action and a terrible storm in East Bengal, elections finally take place in 1971. The result is clear. In the west, Bhutto has an absolute majority, in the east, Sheikh Mujibur and his Awami League have an almost 100 percent majority. In view of the irreconcilability of Bhutto and the West, a compromise is no longer possible: the hour for autonomy, concessions like in Spain, veto power like in Switzerland or a cooperative federalism like in India – at least in the face of a majority – is over. The uprising and civil war breaks out in East Pakistan.
The army is killing thousands of freedom fighters, students, teachers and voters of the Awami League without restraint. Huge waves of refugees are moving to West Bengal, especially Kolkata, in the middle of the monsoon. Indira Gandhi follows her sentence: „There are worse things than war.“ She lets the Indian army invade. The advance can be based on Soviet satellite information. President Nixon dispatches an aircraft carrier with nuclear weapons to the Sea of Bengal. After a few days, the Pakistani army surrendered to India for the second time in six years. This leaves the election winner in the West, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in a shambles. The military is happy to let him have it. In any case, a large part of the army in the east is now a prisoner of war. Bhutto is taking over a torso state that has lost 60 percent of its population, vital resources and tax revenue, and a good portion of its military. The founding legend, according to which Pakistan is a common country for the Muslim community, has been destroyed, as has the reputation of the military – as the protector, modernizer and state-builder of the art state. Bhutto knows how to use this opportunity for a belated democratization of the rump state. Twenty-five years late, the rest of Pakistan now has a constitution. It is based on Anglo-Saxon parliamentarism and gives the new Prime Minister Bhutto far-reaching rights. The discredited army is being held tight. Bhutto becomes their „Commander-in-Chief“, the military „Most Senior“ after him is only a „Chief of Army Staff“, COAS. Only weak and docile generals and, alas, flatterers, get to this post. This will be Bhutto’s fate.
In a decade of still unbroken social liberalism, the programmatic social democrat now relies on nationalization, (weak) unions and election gifts. The state, which is run by large landowners, industrialists and the military, cannot collect taxes. After all, the Bhuttos themselves are the largest landowners in Sindh, in the Larkana district. Bhutto must seek other sources of funding. This forces this member of the “Socialist International” to have an additional religious orientation. Bhutto opened up the country’s mosques, Koran schools, Islamic banks and private schools to Saudi Wahhabism and Islamic orthodoxy in the Gulf. These concessions to a hitherto harmless Islamization are now securing investments in petrodollars for the almost bankrupt state. After the oil price shock, the petrostates are awash with money. They invest in construction projects and in their military apparatus. Pakistan now supplies these labor markets with workers: Pashtuns as truck drivers, Mohajir as skilled workers, Punjabi as construction workers, Baloch as bricklayers. But Pakistani military personnel, officers and trainers can also find lucrative posts and careers. The later dictator Zia-ul-Haq is in the service of the Jordanian army and is involved with his troops in Black September, i.e. the murder of thousands of Palestinians, in an exemplary manner. All these measures save the Pakistani rump state, but they do not save the prime minister. He makes a fatal mistake in appointing the low-caste ‚gardener‘ Zia. Sneered at by Bhutto and humiliated in the cabinet, this COAS uses domestic unrest, protests over manifest election fraud and murder allegations, constitutional complaints against Bhutto to depose Bhutto and establish a second military rule. In a process that goes through many months and courts, Zia orchestrates a judicial murder that everyone can understand. In 1979 Bhutto was hanged. The building will then be demolished. Only now did Zia feel safe from Bhutto’s retaliation. Finally, the 1973 constitution made attempted coups punishable by death. The next decade is thus dominated by the establishment of a second quasi-constitutional dictatorship and the anti-Soviet jihad that provides Zia with US arms, Saudi funding and global recognition.
IV. The 1980s: The Islamist Frontline State
After the judicial murder of Bhutto, Zia is an international pariah. The Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan at Christmas 1979 must have seemed like a godsend to Zia. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan produces millions of refugees flowing into the Pakistani side of the Durand Line. From here the anti-Soviet jihad can be organized in the future. Since Ronald Reagan’s US presidency in 1981, billions in funds and weapons have been available for this purpose. Saudi Arabia is also involved. Both are aimed at preventing Iranian interference. Zia is an Islamic fundamentalist, but on the ‚right‘ side, on the Sunni side. He continued with conviction what Bhutto started out of necessity: with Islamic banking, with Sharia law, with the promotion of Islamist groups and even the Mohajir, against the Sindhis of the PPP. Now he has the unique opportunity of an Islamist campaign against the Soviets. He declares Pakistan a frontline state and itself the defender of Islam, as well as democracy. Above all, however, he enforces an absolute monopoly and the right to control the jihad against the financiers in Washington. Only the Pakistani military and its sinister secret service, ISI, organize the freedom fighters, the mujahideen, from the start. They take the money and arms from the US and distribute them to suitably radical, mostly Pashtun wartime leaders.
Zia becomes a warlord, taking billions of dollars over the next eight years and distributing them at will. A significant part is diverted under the nose of the Americans to their own military and used with astonishing audacity for their own nuclear armament – through espionage, smuggling, third-party deals with North Korea and cooperation with China. The military and Islamism and (amongst them) the tangled secret service are evolving into menacing size and impact, a burden that stretches well beyond Zia. As in the 1960s, the US is now demanding a constitutional facade for the COAS dictatorship. This is ensured by a constitutional amendment that turns Bhutto’s constitution into Zia’s presidential constitution. In addition, the constitutional amendment gives the dictator-turned-president comprehensive rights of intervention.
In 1988/89 the golden age of jihad ended. The withdrawal of the Soviet Union is negotiated in Geneva. The so-called „Afganskie“, the „tin soldiers“ (because of the tin coffins), withdraw to Central Asia. Zia no longer experiences the painful fall from American attention. He, several generals and the American ambassador die in a mysterious helicopter crash in 1988. In this caesura, the army is helpless. She calls on the two major parties for help. After all, thanks to the Bhuttos, there are now two major popular parties: the Muslim League, worn out by magnates and still incapable of dying, and the PPP, led by Benazir, the daughter of the martyr Bhutto. Returning to a second democratization is easy for the military. In contrast to 1971, the presidential constitution tailored for Zia now exists. As long as the military controls the presidency, nothing stands in the way of a re-democratization for the public and abroad. With these conditions conducive to recognition and credit in Washington, the 1980s ended better than they began.
V. The 1990s: The two-party state
The 1990s are reminiscent of the first lost decade of democratization. New prime ministers, governments, transitional caretaker cabinets, soon even administering caretaker presidents, follow at a rapid pace. Meanwhile, voter turnout is declining and election surprises are multiplying, albeit rarely pleasant ones. There is intimidation and murder of candidates, local civil wars between Sunna and Shia voters, falsified ballot papers, mass fraud et cetera. The key elements, actors, drivers or strata of the Pakistani political game, system or force field have long been in place. At the party level, these are the Muslim League, the Pakistan Peoples Party and three small religious-political parties and networks: a fundamentalist, an orthodox and an initially more traditionalist party. All are now becoming increasingly radical and cooperating with terrorist groups. There are also a large number of regionalist, cultural-nationalist or tribal groups limited to the provinces, most of them in the tribal fragmented, politically meaningless Balochistan. At the elite level, the actors are the powerful Punjabi elites, industrialist families, merchant houses, the Pashtun and Punjabi militaries, the Mohajir and the Sindhi „Waderos“, almost medieval landowners. In addition, there are the „Pirs“ in Sindh and Punjab: dynasties of saints, i.e. folk-religious mystics who have large pilgrimage centers, huge land holdings and often hundreds of thousands of followers. On the ideological level, these are a rabid and terrorist fundamentalism, a still predominant folk-religious Sufism and traditionalism, a liberalism and secularism limited to the big cities, Mohajir and other Anglophones, and finally multiple cultural, ethnic, linguistic or tribal regionalisms.
These organisations, interests and beliefs at the top of the state collide in ever new alliances and mixtures, apparently bundled but not really integrated: in the military and ISI, in parliament, in the government and parties, in the bureaucracy and in vast religious networks . The result, from the perspective of Western donor institutions and allies, is unreliability, instability and duplicity. From the point of view of the elite actors, the result is still satisfactory, not only until the next coup in late 1999, but essentially to this day. After four changes of government and five caretaker cabinets over ten years and after countless crises, however, the military is dissatisfied. Since 1988, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, the uncrowned king of Punjab and the Muslim League, have alternated as prime minister four times; mostly dismissed by the president and replaced by caretakers. Above all, the military reject the rapprochement policy of the last prime minister towards India. His attempts to change the constitution are seen as even worse. Because this threatens to lose the military’s control over the democratic charade. Therefore, shortly before the end of the millennium, there is another military coup.
VI. 2000 to 2010: The caretaker management
Responsible for the recent coup is the educated, slightly avuncular Parviz Musharraf, a mohajir. He spent part of his life in Turkey. There he got to know the self-empowerment of the Turkish military. He likes the idea of becoming an “Atapak”, a “father of all Pakistanis”, analogous to Atatürk. However, times have changed. Instead of a referendum on itself and basic democracies (Ayub) or presidentialism (à la Zia), military rule has recently had to be repackaged in the times of governance, civil society and the Washington Consensus. Fortunately for Musharraf, his rule coincides almost exactly with conservative George Bush Junior’s eight-year presidency. Musharraf initially opts for the formula of a „Chief Executives Presidency“. He operates as a kind of tech-savvy CEO of a hitherto miserable development company called Pakistan. It was only a few years later that he secured his position with amendments to the constitution. In addition, he ensures that he always remains the COAS, the Chief of Army Staff, to keep Generals and ISI at bay. However, two general conditions soon make him a tragic figure. More than ten years of democracy, albeit more manipulated, have not only strengthened the Islamists, but also a liberal public, the top constitutional judges, the two major parties and parliament.
Even more unpleasant, however, is the war in Afghanistan, which began after September 11th and was led by the USA and ISAF under NATO leadership. What Zia managed to do silently, the sham constitutionalization of his dictatorship, is causing constitutional and parliamentary conflicts for Musharraf. In doing so, he makes an enemy of Pakistan’s top constitutional judge. In the end, he fails because of him and a liberal public. He is also losing support from the military and ISI on this front. In terms of foreign policy, he is caught between two millstones: the USA on the one hand and the pro-Taliban forces in Pakistan on the other. In other words, all those Islamist, Pashtun and military or strategic factions that are interested in a Taliban victory, or at least in a withdrawal from the West, but who do not want the Pakistani Taliban to encroach on their own country, i.e. on the Shia minority, on Pir shrines , to secularists or even to their own army. This balancing act, combined with the loss of standing in the liberal public, weakens Musharraf. The US wants a return to democratic politics, and his own military is forcing him to resign from the COAS post. Musharraf is crying. Eventually he resigns completely. However, Benazir Bhutto, who was brought back from exile, cannot accompany the hoped-for democratic turnaround. The game between the military and the ISI with the Taliban, with their own Islamist parties, with terrorist groups and their networks has finally gotten out of control. Benazir’s triumphal march through Karachi is interrupted by a huge blast fireball, ripping apart dozens of supporters. She herself dies a little later from another bomb.
VII. 2010 to today: The discredited state
In the wake of these attacks and over the course of the next decade, discredited and corrupt PPP and Muslim League luminaries took over the government. The first is Benazir Bhutto’s widower, Zardari, who is shady, extremely rich, has repeatedly been accused and is often himself an exile. That, on the other hand, is the uncrowned kingmaker in Punjab and the Muslim League, Nawaz Sharif. But the decisive new force in the new decade is Islamist terror. Since the end of the first Afghan war in 1988, it has increasingly spread to Pakistan. In the uncontrolled Pakistani-Afghan border districts of Fata, an area the size of Switzerland, this Islamist terror has merged with a drug, weapon and ‚youth‘ problem. From here, this complex radiates out to the North-West Frontier Province, to the country’s transport networks and to the Pashtun slums of the big cities, especially the 16-million city of Karachi. This mobilization network and force field works together with Islamist parties and terrorist organizations that are small in terms of electoral politics but have a broad impact, such as the Haqqani network. The military and ISI, even fractionated, play with these groups as the occasion arises and as necessary. Since the end of the war in 1988, these groups have been sent to India, particularly to Kashmir. But internally, these Islamist parties, factions and organizations have long since become uncontrollable. They attack Shia mosques, detonate bombs in the despised major traditional pilgrimage centers, lynch Christians or implicate them in blasphemy charges. In the Swat valley, in the northern highlands, they are trying to take over entire districts. They even attack the army’s garrisons and aircraft hangars on isolated occasions. Ghosts that the ISI can’t get rid of. Ethnic and separatist violence joins Islamist violence.
Since the Punjabization of Pakistan, the Mohajir in Karachi have felt marginalized. In their last citadel they also see themselves threatened by the Sindh politicians and by the Pashtuns of the slum areas. A militant Muhajir movement, MQM, therefore emerged in the 1990s. Its leader, exiled in London, declares war on the Pakistani elite on the one hand, and on the other hand the party participates in government coalitions and post-hunting. With the help of divisions, death squads and police action, the slum area of Karachi is laboriously pacified. On the other hand, the rebellion in Baluchistan has been intensifying since the turn of the millennium, the desire to have an independent and „Greater Baluchistan“ – preferably from Iran to the Indus. Violence by individual combatants and counter-violence by the army and the secret service drive each other on. After all, this empty half of the whole state is a strategic space that China in particular has turned its attention to. The twenty years of the second Afghan war have exacerbated this spiral of violence even further. Responsible are the enormous opium trade, arms deals and cooperation between the military and the ISI. The Muslim League, weakened by corruption, and the PPP governments of Zardari were unable to contain this violent complex. The provisional result of this democracy is therefore ironic. The 2018 election will bring a change of power. A less orthodox, four-times married former cricket captain takes power in Islamabad with the help of a newly formed fan party. For a long time, President Imran Khan appeared to be acting to the satisfaction of and with the support of the military. He welcomed the Taliban’s takeover of power. At the end of this handicraft work, a puzzle and many questions remain.
The artificial state works Success or failure ratings are dependent on comparisons. Fifteen years earlier, the first prime ministers of the artificial state had ridiculed the idea of a “Pakistan”. Measured against the grotesque basic idea, the coincidental conditions of the emergence and the catastrophic starting situation of Pakistan, the state is a success. Simply because, despite its crises and often modest current account, it still exists. Completely different evaluations are shown in comparisons: for example with India (Pakistan’s trauma), with Israel (also a separate state and British product of decolonization), with Malaya/Malaysia (an ethnic conglomerate, victim of Singapore’s secession) and above all with East Pakistan/Bangladesh (1972 almost the poorest country on earth, today with a Human Development Index of 139 compared to Pakistan’s 147). Who is responsible for the survival of the art state? Its two alliance partners USA and China plus IMF and World Bank? His opponent India (even India would not be able to cope with a collapse of Pakistan); its economic elites (i.e. Karachi Mohajirs and Punjabi families); its military and its parallel state; the textile industry, its able Punjabi peasant caste and the Green Revolution; its backwardness and its traditionalism (low literacy rate of around 56 percent, high population growth of a good 2 percent and an infant mortality rate of around eight percent – compared to Bangladesh around 3.5 percent)?
„Will the center hold?“ – Despite fundamentalism, terror networks, internet and golf connections? The short diagnosis of Pakistan’s malaise has always been based on a three-pronged formula: too much large landed property, too much military, too much corruption, since Zia supplemented by too much religious fundamentalism. Is Pakistan’s preservation and development secret perhaps balanced cynicism? Religious traditionalism and social backwardness guarantee that the often unimaginable inequalities and discrimination do not usually escalate beyond the local, tribal or district level. So that the problems do not turn into all-ethnic, regional and national confrontations, civil wars or secessionist conflicts: Pashtunistan, Mohajiristan, „Greater Baluchistan“. If it happens anyway, then the army, the ISI, the death squads and the parliamentary hagglers come into their own.
However, the whole thing only works as long as the elite compromise works. At the highest level, the decisive ethnic, regional, economic, bureaucratic and military elites are closely networked: through the best colonial colleges, through the English language, through stays abroad and EU and Gulf investments. They are firmly connected to one another through specialist legal knowledge and specialist staff and through arrogance. People still don’t want to lose face with each other, with London and Washington, on the cricket pitches, universities and Commonwealth receptions. The Zias, with their low social origins, are not a moral burden here, but a social and aesthetic one. And since Ayub, this elite has joined a power configuration in which the military is the invisible hand of God, the civil bureaucracy sets the framework, the big business houses go about their business unrestrainedly, landowners own legions of serfs and sect followers, none of them pays taxes and every second or third child of the large families is sent to parliament. You all know that you can do anything with India, almost anything with the EU, a great deal with Washington, with China’s backing, and nothing with the military and the ISI.
This operational, orientation, but also identity arena also works because it plays on two levels. At the highest level in English, a shop window idiom, without barriers and without much realism, „for foreign consumption“: A language and world of self-portrayal and dreams. On the level of reality below, the state language Urdu prevails, but above all the languages of the regions and the bazaars. English is not understood by 90 percent of the population. On this everyday level, however, people also kill, bomb, mobilize, agitate and die. But the crucial question for the elite establishment and the political “business as usual” is: Is time working for or against this arrangement? Do backwardness and traditionalism protect and neutralize against the coming shocks and crises? Or are fundamentalism and Islamist networks on the one hand, and new social aspirations and democratic ambitions on the other (both amplified by the Internet) meanwhile creating new, general and nationwide confrontations? And: Can these be further postponed, crushed or suppressed as before within the framework of the old elite cooperation? The preliminary answer, with Imran Khan, was populist: a cricket captain. However, Imran Khan was the first Pakistani primeminister who was toppled by a vote of no confidence and now the Muslim League of the Sharif clan is back in power.