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Can military rule save Pakistan

now?
By
Mudassir Saeed Laghari
-
October 10, 2017
5

Mudassir Saeed Laghari |

Recently, former military dictator Pervaiz Musharraf made headlines. In an interview with BBC on Aug 2, he
lauded the rules of former military dictators, saying, Dictators set the country right.(and) military rule
always brought progress to Pakistan. Of course, he lied. But there is another trumped-up story far terrible,
told also by a former and the countrys first military dictator Ayub Khan.

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Implying in a way as if he was an experienced statesman, Ayub Khan once discredited the institution of
democracy in Pakistan. Before his impaired judgment, democracy was a luxury that Pakistan could hardly
afford. Of course, he lied too. Democracy has never been a luxury for Pakistan: given the countrys socio-
political and economic dynamics and its geopolitical sitting in a zone largely spotted with diverging and
confrontational wires of global power politics, democracy has always been an imperative and an
indispensable need of the people of Pakistan.

The major issue for Pakistan is not about the kinds of threats it faces or whether the majority of its people are poor and impoverished but
whether its people have the required institutional guarantees

Pakistan is largely a multilingual, multi-ethnic and multicultural country. The interplay of all these forces
makes it culturally rich and diverse. With the exception of some religious minorities, the majority of the
population is linked to their religion Islam. Apart from their common religion, the links that are associated
with common history and language are very weak and very often even missing among Pakistanis.

Read more: Political elites of Pakistan: Promoting or subverting democracy?

The culture of Pakistani ethnic groups have been greatly influenced by many of its neighbors, such as being
part of the Indian subcontinent, many aspects of its culture, from foods to dresses and from artifacts to
handicrafts and cuisines, present a stark resemblance to that of the other side of the Indo-Pakistan border.

On the same parameters, the culture of Pashtuns also is immensely linked historically and emotionally to
their ethnic counterparts in Afghanistan. Similarly, the Shiites, which forms a large part of Pakistans society
and the Baloch one of the most prominent ethnic communities have many cultural linkages and bases of
identification with the people of Iran.

Why did Pakistan fail to boost efficiency so critical to its survival? Why there is an alarming level of disconnect between its military and
economic might? What were the factors that made Pakistan deviate?

Language is the major basis of ethnicity in Pakistan. The languages claimed as mother tongue include Urdu,
Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi, Seraiki, Kashmiri, Brahui, Hindko and Pothwari. Each of the countrys
principal languages has a strong regional focus. The linguistic divide is so strong that even the provinces are
named after the major ethnic group.

From here emerges a great challenge for Pakistan: preserving this cultural diversity and turning it into a
factor for national unity. However, so far, all the cultural differences and variations generated systemic fault
lines and, on time and occasions, have been instrumental in impeding the process of formation of a single
distinct cultural entity. Resultantly, unity remains delusional.

Read more: Free and fair elections: Can democracy in Pakistan be resurrected?

Here it seems needless to mention that the loyalty of our successive military dictators to their own pockets
and power and their insensitiveness to ethnic fault lines played leading role in fragmentation of society and
creating cultural particularism.

Outwardly, Pakistan is a giant state. Counting it in its geopolitical and strategic terms, Pakistan can be
regarded as one of the pivotal states of the world. Pakistan holds an impressive geography. So impressive
that even its significance in the region and beyond is counted mostly not because of what it has achieved or
acquired but because where it is located. Its area stretches from the Arabian sea in the south to Greater
Himalayas in the northeast where its borders meet the Middle Kingdom China. To its west lies Afghanistan
known as the graveyard of empires and Iran and in the east, it borders India.

Its borders with other neighbors are protected, seemingly, by natural barriers but historically the presence of mountainous passes have
always served as great highways for military invasions and commercial inroads

In the center, to the eastward and south, of the country lies great plain areas of Punjab which extends into
Sindh. This distinct geographical feature serves as a great pull factor for peoples, goods, and money. The
plain is irrigated by a massive system of canal water originating from Indus Basin that is consisted of mighty
Indus river and its several tributaries.

The plain breaks in the south in Sindh at the Thar desert. The south reach of the country is made up of an
extended coastline on the Arabian Sea, one of the worlds busiest bodies of water. The coastline along with
its deep hot water ports marks another area of geographic distinction that pushes together the trade,
economic and industrial activities resultantly Karachi becoming the most populous metropolis of Pakistan.

Read more: Pakistan in the last decade: Democracy, Corruption, or Development?

Given Pakistans violent history of partition from India, and its location along with great arteries of regional
conquest and commerce, the heart of Pakistans problem has always been the same: insecurity. Along with
sprawling deserts of Cholistan and Thar and a rugged topography marked with high mountains on some
places, the country also shares a large plain area with India.

The plain breaks in the south in Sindh at the Thar desert. The south reach of the country is made up of an extended coastline on the
Arabian Sea, one of the worlds busiest bodies of water

Its major centers of population, communication and irrigation are present within the close range of Indian
armys watch. Its borders with other neighbors are protected, seemingly, by natural barriers but historically
the presence of mountainous passes have always served as great highways for military invasions and
commercial inroads. Moreover, there is another important factor that adds insecurity to the country: its
shape, which is truncated. Pakistan thus lacks strategic depth.

Being part of South Asia, sharing a reasonably long border with China and located at the junction of Central
Asia and the Middle East expose Pakistan to several vulnerabilities, thus leaving it with no other choice but
to remain extremely active. In simple and plain terms, it means that the only choice Pakistan has got is to
remain intensely watchful and hyper-efficient. In little elaborate terms, it also means that Pakistan has to
compete (economically) with everyone at every time.

However, historically it neither remained completely watchful nor efficient. Moreover, as Pakistan continues
to grow old in years, what endures with time is an unceasing perpetuation of a severe disconnect between
its economic and military developments.

The languages claimed as mother tongue include Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi, Seraiki, Kashmiri, Brahui, Hindko and
Pothwari. Each of the countrys principal languages has a strong regional focus

Hence, the questions: Why did Pakistan fail to boost efficiency so critical to its survival? Why there is an
alarming level of disconnect between its military and economic might? What were the factors that made
Pakistan deviate? And so on.

For trade, communication, and technological developments, Pakistan is a perfect place and from these
activities thus the generation and accumulation of wealth. However, the reverse is apparent in Pakistan.

Read more: Democracy in Pakistan: Preferring the Electable over the Deliverable?

But it isnt as much of a surprise. Mix features that serve as bedrocks for development and prosperity with
its history of violent political disruptions and Pakistan become what it is today: barely surviving and that too
with a marked degree of violence and intolerance.

As it has been said earlier, democracy has never been a luxury for Pakistan. It has always been the
countrys political, economic and strategic imperative.

The interplay of all these forces makes it culturally rich and diverse. With the exception of some religious minorities, the majority of the
population is linked to their religion Islam

Pakistan needs a class of vigorous, free commoners and only democracy can ensure it. Democracy extends
political liberty towards civilians that in turn leads to expansion of personal freedoms. Herein emerge the
necessity and the importance of the institutional apparatus of democracy. Without this formal and mature
machinery of democratic statecraft, personal freedoms to individuals can never be guaranteed.

The major issue for Pakistan is not about the kinds of threats it faces or whether the majority of its people
are poor and impoverished but whether its people have the required institutional guarantees toward
freedom and dignity. If yes, the society of Pakistan will become the most prolific and useful.

Mudassir Saeed Laghari is a freelance columnist. He has contributed several pieces to various magazines,
especially to Lahore-based Jahangirs World Times. He also teaches international affairs and contemporary
politics. The views expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village
Spaces editorial policy.