Balkanising Pakistan

It is time to Balkanise Pakistan, says Michael Hughes. In his article titled Balkanising Pakistan: A collective National Security Strategy the author has articulated the “Why” of his suggestion through a compelling argument. This has serious ramifications for the region, especially for India.

The basic proposal of fragmentation is to break off and allow Afghanistan to absorb Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP or Khyber Pashtunwala) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which would unite the Pashtun tribes. In addition, the provinces of Balochistan and Sindh would become independent sovereign states, leaving Punjab as a standalone entity.

Then there is this brilliant piece on Balkanisation in Daily Times of Pakistan. Again there are a host of articles on “America at War” which point towards the real and live possibility of Pakistan standing on the verge of Balkanisation. As per analyst, Yugoslavia would be a tame history when compared to this violent process of fragmentation of Pakistan.

Opinions in Pakistan, including that of Imran Khan, accuse USA, Israel and India colluding to give shape to this policy of breaking Pakistan to make it more governable. There are voices both for and against the motion for reversing the defective world order put in place while partitioning the region. Maybe, Pakistan and Afghanistan are working their way towards redrawing these boundaries.

Then there is the reality of a Baloch struggle and a Sindhi subjugation playing at the centre of the existence of Pakistan. As per Hughes it has become important to Break Pakistan to Fix It:

The argument for Balkanizing Pakistan or, more specifically, fragmenting the Islamic Republic so it’s easier to police and economically develop, has been on the table since Pakistan’s birth in 1947 when the country was spit out of a British laboratory. And lately, the concept is looking more appealing by the day, because as a result of flawed boundaries combined with the nexus between military rule and Islamic extremism, Pakistan now finds itself on a rapid descent toward certain collapse and the country’s leaders stubbornly refuse to do the things required to change course. But before allowing Pakistan to commit state suicide, self-disintegrate and further destabilize the region, the international community can beat them to the punch and deconstruct the country less violently.

It is common knowledge that Pakistan is a fast failing state. The Foreign Policy magazine has placed it at number ten and the dysfunctions imbued in a Jihadi mindset are plunging it deeper into darkness. The inherent instability borne out of its history, geography and a fast radicalising society under direct or indirect military dictatorships is accentuated by the Islamic state aspiration. A combination of these factors makes Pakistan extremely fragile.

Far from being a “Land of the Pure,” Pakistan is one of the clearest demonstrations of the futility of defining a nation by religion, and one of the textbook failures of a state and a society. Pakistan deteriorated throughout the decades because of its focus on building the military and developing Islamic extremist groups to use as weapons in their eternal obsessive struggle against India. It’s true the U.S. helped Pakistan build these groups since the beginning of the Cold War, but America learned on 9/11 they had created a Frankenstein monster that now needed to be slain.

At the heart of Michaels argument is the theory that when seen in light of its above fault lines, Pakistan’s close links with the al Qaeda are the basic recipe for disaster. He argues that Pakistan which has nurtured the Haqqani group for nearly three decades, and which Kayani is projecting as part of the solution to Afghanistan, is in effect the al Qaeda. Discerning readers need little convincing on that account.

 This would put Obama back to the starting block of this war –  to root out al Qaeda. Obama may have pre judged the situation in announcing a time table for withdrawal. This has accelerated the machinations of Pakistan Army and ISI in hedging their bets in projecting Haqqani, which in Michael’s words IS the al Qaeda. So in this game Kayani is playing, he would be able to put al Qaeda at the centre of Islamic radicalisation in Af Pak region.

A situation  worse than when Bush led America to war on terror in the region. The ripples of this demonisation of the region would be felt world wide. Pakistan, the Islamic State” would be in the eye of the storm. By then, whether the internal discord and the warring militant groups permit Pakistan to remain a country, would be a tough ask.

Pakistan has had a close relationship with the Haqqanis for over 30 years, who are still seen as a crucial anti-Indian asset. So, for nine years the Pakistanis protected the Haqqanis and claimed ignorance as to the whereabouts of Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden and the Quetta Shura. Nine years, nearly $300 billion dollars and 1900 dead coalition soldiers later, the U.S. has officially verified that the entire war effort has been focused on the wrong side of the mountains.

Then there is the deep involvement of Pakistan in spreading terror and Intifada in India. This has been a work in progress for the last three decades ever since East Pakistan revolted to de link itself from Pakistan, with Indian help. What was started by Zia Ul Haq as Operation Topac has today radicalised Pakistan to a point of no return. The mullah – military – militant nexus has speed ed up the process of Balkanisation of Pakistan. The military’s India Centric mindset has forced it to nurture a range of terror groups which over the years have gradually merged into the concept of al Qaeda. That Kayani has any real hold over these diverse groups,each with its own agenda, is a moot point. But what appears certain is the capacity of these groups to ferment trouble between India and Pakistan. An aspect deliberated in the previous post, The Larger Game.

Pakistan today is on the self destruct mode. Its stability is what most would want especially the countries in the region. However, it appears that the current masters of Pakistan’s destiny are hell bent upon proving their Islamic State status to the Islamic world. Armed with nuclear weapons, they may become the face of Political Islam but if this continues, they may be wiped off the face of the subcontinent as a country.

This post has a clear narrative – Pakistan needs to prevent destabilisation of Afghanistan to prevent its own balkanisation. If it fails to do so, the world community will have to do so.

If this is not done, India stands to lose heavily in such a division. Knowing the wounded streak of the Punjabis, a dominant force in the Army, this would radicalise the region and result in an inferno difficult to control. America, or for that matter the West, would beat a hasty retreat where South Asia would become the world’s most dangerous place to live in – ie if it isn’t  already.

Amongst all this America, which is desperately trying to prevent the collapse of Pakistan, has launched a major PR exercise to win hearts and minds in Pakistan - something which successive regimes in Pakistan have failed to achieve. However, it would be approprite to sign off with this thought

The U.S. cannot save Pakistan; only Pakistanis can do that.

Unless they accept responsibility for their own future, Pakistan will have no future.

  • pakistan-map
About the Author

A strategy and security expert on South Asia. Research and exploratory work is aimed at authoring a series of books on what makes South Asia tick.

  • Michael Hughes

    I agree that's good final thought – I wrote the Balkanization article with the intent of waking up some of the Pakistani leaders that they are on the verge of collapse and need to change policies toward terrorism. Now, what I left out, purposely for the sake of that article, is that without question the CIA created the ISI and the British and U.S. created and nurtured Islamic extremism since the mid 1800s.

    Back at the onset of the Cold War, America's crazy Manichean view of the world made them perceive Islamic fundamentalists as being on "their side" because the Islamists were against progressivism, socialism, communism, secular nationalism – at the time this all threatened U.S. national security.

    Your analysis is spot-on and needs to get out of the way but convince Pakistan to stay out of Afghanistan's affairs and let Afghanistan have peace again, like they did from the 1930s to the early 1070s.

    Michael Hughes

  • Michael Hughes

    I meant to say "The U.S. needs to get out of the way"

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  • Mahajan

    This is an extraordinary opinion piece. On wonders why responsible statesmen in USA, West or elsewhere were not prepared act? Why is the defening silence? Billions in aid money has gone into proping up a jihadi army, intelligence service and a very corrupt series of military and civilian dicators, since Pakistan came into being in 1947. US forces and some Nato forces are liklely to remain in the AF-Pak region for a long time yet. When Pakistan crumbles, which will be soon enough, they will face a blood bath. Consequences to India will be far more serious.

    • T Rama Bhat

      "When Pakistan crumbles, which will be soon enough, they will face a blood bath. Consequences to India will be far more serious." :- Nothing of that sort. If Pakistan crumbles, it will be easier for us to beef up our army on India-China border. State sponsored terrorism will come down drastically as a crumbled Pakistan will not have the resources for it.

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  • Anonymous

    The formation of Pakistan from the very outset in 1947 was laid out wrong.
    A division that the Indian Subcontinent could not had sustained and still cannot have.
    As the late Amir Abdul Rahman of Afghanistan told the British, dividing the Pashtuns and leaving the autonomous region uncontained, will neither benefit you nor me. Eight months passed and the tribal region was in chaos until the upraising was controlled.
    For NATO to have a dignified exit strategy from Afghanistan the Durand Line must be redefined and the said autonomous region of the Pashtun belt must be fully contained in order to stop the spread and export of terrorism in the region and ultimately the world. As the writer is explaining, “Pakistan cannot contemplate that she is already wearing a suicide vest and ready to be detonated anytime.”
    On the other hand, one must bear in mind that disintegration of Afghanistan is disintegration of Pakistan but not the other way around. This was proven during the Russian occupation and any regional analyst could testify to that fact.

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  • JJJackson

    Pak was never a "natural" state. This has always been fully appreciated by its rulers who have carefully nurtured a "hate-India" and "pro-Islam" ideology to counter this fact. When Pak breaks up, the only concern will be to proactively and aggressively cordon off Pakistani Punjab and then occupy it (UN Mandate) until it becomes governable. India will need to be prepared, sure, but there is no reason to be deathly afraid. Once the nuclear weapons and related radioactive materials are accounted for and removed, India all its allie can well manage the situation. It may well be that Free Balunchistan and Free Sind will seek to come under the protection of the Constitution of India.

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