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Reports from Pakistan indicate that institutions of the state are heading for collapse.
There are powerful forces at work that may soon redraw boundaries in the region.
N.S. Rajaram
The Lawless Frontier takes over

The Indian establishment, obsessed with the insurgency in Kashmir, appears to have totally
missed the cataclysmic changes taking place across the border that may soon render the
Kashmir issue all but irrelevant. Here is the reality: Pakistan is now a state on the verge of
collapse. While world attention is focused on the so-called nuclear flashpoint of Kashmir, the


State of Pakistan is being overwhelmed by forces of history and geography. A state with less than a tenth the resources of India, Pakistan is forced to fight insurgencies on its frontiers perhaps ten times as great as in Kashmir. It is only a matter of time before the institutions of the state totally breakdown. And this is because of the fundamental irrationality of Pakistan, which is less a state than a turbulent frontier that a small Punjabi elite is attempting to hold together. This is the picture that emerges from a masterly study of the state of Pakistan written by Robert Kaplan, probably the world s leading reporter on the region ( The Lawless Frontier ,

\ufffdThe Atlantic Monthly,
September 2000).

Here is what it means in simple terms: while world attention is focused on the proxy war in
Kashmir, conflicts far more fierce and fundamental in nature are taking place in the borderlands of

in the Northwest Frontier, Baluchistan and even Sind. This has set the state of
Pakistan on a course of irreversible dissolution. Here is the crux of the problem in Kaplan s
words: "Osama bin Laden, and the fighting in Kashmir obscure the core issue of South Asia:
the institutional meltdown of Pakistan "
\ufffdAnd this is due to the "accumulation of disorder and
irrationality" that is yet to be understood. And the jihad in Kashmir is a consequence of this fear of
a crumbling state
in the hope of providing a unifying theme to unite forces of the frontier that
are implacably hostile to the Punjabi ruling establishment.

Of course border problems are nothing new, but in the case of Pakistan it is of an altogether
different dimension. The reason is simple: Pakistan is made up mostly of border regions with a
small Punjabi core. As Kaplan puts it: "PAKISTAN covers the desert frontier of the Subcontinent.
British civil administration extended only to Lahore, in the fertile Punjab, near Pakistan's eastern
border with India; its Mogul architecture, gardens, and rich bazaars give Lahore a closer
resemblance to the Indian cities of New Delhi and Calcutta than to any other place in Pakistan.
But the rest of Pakistan the rugged Afghan-border regions of Baluchistan and the North-West

Frontier Province, the alkaline wasteland of Sind, and the Hindu Kush and Karakoram Mountains
embracing Kashmir
has never been subdued by the British or anyone else." It is a small chunk
of India latched on to a huge and hostile border region. It is a total mismatch.
Disorder and irrationality

This might be an oversimplification but his basic insight is valid: Pakistan is made up of a vast
desert frontier with a small Punjabi core. This unruly desert frontier is what a Punjabi elite and a
sprinkling of Mujahirs like Genral Musharaf are trying to rule, while holding up Islam as the
unifying force. But this has not made the people on the frontier hate them any less, for Islam
always has led to divisions with each side claiming the other to be less pure. Pakistan s answer


to this encirclement was to create the Taliban through which to control Afghanistan itself. This was facilitated by the war in Afghanistan, which the CIA financed and Pakistani ISI managed. This obscured for a while the fundamental irrationality and the chaos that is inherent in the

makeup of Pakistan. The flow of foreign money, especially during the Afghan War, obscured also
its economic fragility of the small productive Punjab trying to support the vast unruly and

unproductive frontier. The Cold War and the Afghan War gave Pakistan an exaggerated sense of importance. Pakistani leaders and the elite failed to recognize that they were needed only to do a dirty job that Americans didn t want to do themselves.


To compound this folly, Pakistan has now embarked on a course of destabilization of India itself.
It is difficult to see how an unstable India helps Pakistan any more than an unstable Afghanistan
does. But today Pakistan is a state that is distinguished not by reason but dogma, beginning with
its geography. Its belief in Islam as the solution to all its problems has led it to define itself as the
Jihad state par excellence in the world today. It has made it also the most despised country in the
world. It sees spreading terror as its salvation. This bespeaks a mind stupefied by religious
dogma to a point beyond reason and logic. This is Talibanism pure and simple.

This has now come back to haunt it in the form of Afghan refugees and lawlessness on a scale
that has overwhelmed the Pakistani establishment. The problem is rooted in history and
geography of the region. Foreign aid and rescheduled payments can only prolong the agony; they
cannot alter the geo-strategic reality or the inherent irrationality of Pakistan s composition. It is
also independent of who is in power the military or a civilian government. The frontier tribes
recognize neither. Nor do they care to be ruled by plainsmen from the Punjab be they Muslim,

Hindu, Sikh or the British. This is the basic force of history that the Punjabi ruling elite calling itself
Pakistan is fighting against. The outcome of the struggle is a foregone conclusion. It follows a
historic pattern: a weak state in the Punjab has always succumbed to forces from the northwest.
A strong state of which Punjab is a part has always turned back the invader. So the only hope for

its Punjabi heartland to survive is to be part of the strong state of India.
With such mighty forces at play, it is clear that a Punjabi-Mohajir elite in a slender sliver of land
cannot hope to control a vast and lawless frontier
as Kaplan puts it. The only natural
boundary between this frontier-land and the plains is the Indus River, which leaves Pakistan with
no strategic depth. The question then becomes one of survival not exercise of authority. It also

shows the futility of India placing trust in any Pakistani leader, in the hope of achieving peace in
the region. No leader can control either geography or the forces of sectarian hate and violence
that dominate the region. It is only a matter of time before the state crumbles under the weight.
When that happens, all of Pakistan will become a lawless frontier . The only institutions left in

Pakistan will be themad ra sa s\ufffd or Islamic schools
that turn out something like half a million
students a year fit for nothing except
jihad. Their first targets will the elite at home. They are

already running the state in Afghanistan and much of Pakistan. Left unchecked, they will soon control all of Pakistan. The consequences for the region can be cataclysmic, and India should prepare for the inevitable outcome.

Jihad vs. appeasement

So here is what India will be faced with in the not too distant future. The state we now call
Pakistan will be whittled down to Punjab and the regions east of the Indus River, struggling to
protect itself from the forces of unruly frontiers controlled by warlords great and small in search of
loot. This is what institutional meltdown will amount to. By one of those coincidences of history,
this institutional meltdown in Pakistan is paralleled by a meltdown in the Indian intellectual
establishment. It is a sobering reminder of the bankruptcy of the Indian (Leftist) intellectual
establishment that this fundamental analysis of the problem of Pakistan and its consequences
comes from a Western reporter in far off America and not anyone in India.

The behavior of the Indian intelligentsia may be compared to Nero fiddling when Rome was
burning; they would rather carry candles to the Wagah border and ask for appeasing the
Pakistani establishment than inform the public with a realistic appraisal of the primal nature of the
forces of fear and hatred that are burning across the border. It is an unhappy fact that the Indian
intelligentsia has offered little more than appeasement of hostile forces in one guise or another. It
is worth recalling that Gandhiji himself failed with his appeasement policy, not once but
repeatedly, beginning with the Khilafat Movement and ending with the Partition. Kuldip Nayar, for
example, who has become the leading spokesman for appeasement, is unlikely to succeed
where Gandhiji failed. The breakdown of reason in Pakistan is paralleled by a similar breakdown
in India. The dogma of Jihad has its counterpart in the dogma of appeasement. Fortunately their
days are numbered. The meltdown in Pakistan will consume its advocates in India also. What is
needed therefore is a new way of looking at the problem one rooted in ground realities rather

than fantasy.
Geo-strategic reality

The first point to note is that Pakistan will not crumble quietly. It is too steeped in hate and
violence to disappear like the Soviet Empire. More likely, it will be like former Yugoslavia.
Eventually the land beyond the Indus will return to being the frontier that it has always been, and
the Punjabi-Mohajir colony calling itself Pakistan will be struggling for survival. Its enemy will not
be India but the Talibanized network of schools and its hate-filled students trying to


undermine and even destroy the Punjabi elite. To see what will be like, one has only to look at
what happened to the Afghan elite after the Taliban took over. And in Punjab the hostilities are
infinitely greater. They are rooted in the historic hostility of the frontier nomads towards the settled
people of the plains. Appeal to Islam will not save them, for what the Punjabis are up against is
the geo-strategic reality of the region. And this is what has shaped their history. And they have
made the situation worse by creating and sponsoring the Taliban.

Here is the historic pattern previously alluded to. Whenever there was a weak state in the Punjab
region, it has fallen before invaders from the northwest. This was the case when it was invaded
by Darius, Muhammad of Ghazni, Timur, Babar and Nadir Shah. On the other hand, whenever
the Punjab was part of a powerful state, it has turned back the invader. This is what happened
when the Greeks, the Huns and Afghans in the time of Ranjit Singh tried to invade the planes.
(Incidentally, history books are wrong in claiming that Alexander was victorious. It was as much a
disaster as Napoleon s march on Moscow. This is clear from early accounts. But British

controlled textbooks presented it otherwise, to emphasize European superiority. The correct
perspective was provided by the great Russian general Marshal Zukhov. Alexander s troops
mutinied, and he himself died a year later broken in health and spirit.)
To save Punjab
Saving Punjab is as much India s responsibility as it is Pakistan s. India cannot let these
invading forces cross the Indus and turn West Punjab into a wasteland. The only way for Punjab
to survive is to let the frontier be frontier and rejoin India its natural home. But is the Punjabi
ruling elite capable of such vision? As one Pakistani (Punjabi) journalist told Kaplan, "We have
never defined ourselves in our own right
only in relation to India. That is our tragedy." This

attitude represents a historic truth: Punjab is India or it is happy hunting ground for the frontier
tribes. If the Punjabis do not cure themselves of their hatred, it may soon lead to an even greater
tragedy of Afghanistan consuming Pakistan itself. Punjabis should see for themselves that


Pakistan is a fantasy that died the day Bangladesh broke away. They should also recognize that
the Punjabis never asked for Pakistan; the people who planted that poison seed remained in
India. And the same people

of the Deoband School of Lucknow
planted also the poison
seed that grew to be Taliban.

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