Pakistan is one of the vast number of new states which Americans, remembering almost no history, think of as old — even ancient — states. Like so many of the other vast host of Post-Colonial Victims of Western Imperialism, including Afghanistan and Iraq, Pakistan as we know it today is a very new state born in the violent throes of the disintegration of the British and other Western Empires after World War II and got caught up in the birthing pangs of the inheritor of the British Imperial Legacy, the American Global Empire.
Pakistan, like Iraq and Afghanistan and most of these Imperial Victims, is not a single NATION of people sharing a very common culture. Like Iraq, Afghanistan, and so many states born in the imperial struggles, it is a STATE made up of many different nations. It was built into a larger form of its current status when the vast religious-political civil war in India during the disintegration of British rule drove millions of Muslims out of the rest of India and the British Parliament cut the Pakistani area (mostly Punjabi and Bengali) off as a new sovereign state for the Muslims. The newly built state included huge indigenous Baluchi and Pashtun populations in the S.W. and N.W. regions. The one strong, unifying force among the many nations was Islam, with the usual sectarian divisions within that great religion, but with a strong strain of “fundamentalism” from the beginning because the most devout were most apt to flee to Pakistan (and many millions of Muslims stayed in India). Many millions (mostly Bengali) soon divided off and formed their own state of Bangladesh. But the Pashtun and Baluchi stayed in the Pakistani state — very uneasily because of the national differences. The Pashtun were especially uneasy about the arrangement because the clans in Pakistan were only half or more of the whole Pashtun nation, the other half living immediately across the border in what we know as Afghanistan, but which they have always seen as a seamless nation.
Pakistan would under the best of circumstances have had a very rocky history in the first half century of its existence as a state. (The new U.S. nation-state had far more shared culture and other similarities than the new Pakistani state, but the U.S. suffered a rebellion, continual state and regional conflicts and finally a horrific Civil War over a bit more than its first “four score and seven years.”) But its circumstances were far from the best. Its wars and lesser conflicts with India, its giant state to the South, have continually erupted. It has always lived in the shadows of the other two giants surrounding it, China and Russia, the latter of which was a very close imperialist neighbor until the dissolution of the Soviet Empire. It has been in a state of nearly continual, low-grade guerilla war with India over Kashmir which has flared up badly at times. It’s weak sense of nationhood at the state level of Pakistan combined with its intense sense of more local nationhood, internal conflicts, corrupt politics and history have led to repeated coups.
The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and near decade of intense warfare with the vast guerilla movement of the Mujahadeen, of which al-Queda was one important part, posed a continual danger to Pakistan of Soviet encirclement and subversion. The vast resurgence of fundamentalist Islam [“Islamism”] resulting from the growing conflicts of the Muslim World with the West over Israel and other forms of American Imperialism and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan has produced a state of continual, ever-growing conflict between the great majority of Pakistani citizens, who have become more and more Islamist, and the corrupt-secular military dictators. And this conflict has continually divided, probably in ever more serious ways, the Pakistani government itself. It was, after all, the Pakistani secret police and some of the military which, with the secret help of the U.S., provided great aid to the Mujahadeen fighting the Soviets, including allowing the guerillas to use Pakistan as a safe haven. When the Red Army fled in defeat and the Empire imploded, the Pakistani secret police helped to build the new Taliban Islamist state in Afghanistan, presumably for the most part to protect their own Western flank from new Russian incursions, or Iranian and other incursions in war-ravaged Afghanistan.
The U.S. annihilation and occupation of Afghanistan was another severe threat to Pakistan and especially to the latest military dictator, Pervez Musharraf, and his Junta. The U.S. immediately threatened the Junta and bribed it at the same time to provide full support for the U.S. annihilation of the Afghan Pashtun nation-state they had helped to build and which was still strongly supported by the twenty million or so Pashtun in Pakistan’s N.W. territories. The Junta adopted a Two-Faced Strategy — secular-colonial submission to the U.S. outside Pakistan and Friend of Islamism inside. The U.S. immediately tried to infiltrate the Pakistani secret police and military with FBI and, undoubtedly, CIA and other secret U.S. police and military, in the usual ways, to keep them under the American thumb. But from the beginning the Pakistanis had every reason to loathe this submission to the U.S. Empire. They dreaded having the U.S. Empire on their W. flank. The U.S. vowed it would not allow the Russian supported Northern Alliance forces, which the U.S. used as its main ground force in the attacks on the Taliban, to occupy Kabul and the regions bordering on Pakistan. The Northern Alliance seized Kabul and became the dominant group controlling the new security forces of the Karzai regime dressed up to look like a Pashtun regime with Karzai in folk costume. This was a deadly threat to the Pashtun and to Pakistan. India and Pakistan were already nuclear nations, greatly upping the risks involved in all the conflicts. The U.S., in good part out of distrust of the Pakistani Junta because of their Double Game, recently openly embraced India’s nuclear program and has become a great source of aid for that and India more generally, as India also became a major off-shore U.S. tech center for services. The U.S. did not do any of that for Pakistan, forcing Pakistan to ally more closely with the feared Chinese Giant and, apparently, trade closely with North Korea to get missile technology (possibly in exchange for nuclear technology), which led the U.S. to be more suspicious of the Triple Game they were playing. And all during this time the Islamists were rising against the Junta in every way, including making numerous attempts to murder Musharraf because of his support for the Infidels.
Life was, in short, rather a bit dicey for the Junta. Then the real troubles started. The Islamist and Narco-Lords’ revolts against the U.S. Empire in Afghanistan reached the open-conflict stage and started exploding, leading to conflicts with Pakistan all along the very long border. The Islamists became the overwhelming majority of the people and the greatest force in the political underlife allowed by the Junta. The Pashtun started fighting the government forces more and more and supporting the new Islamist guerilla forces in Afghanistan. Then the Baluchis started revolting more openly in the S.W. and the revolt spread rapidly, threatening cut-offs of gas, among other problems. The Junta decided to seek peace with the Pashtun in the N.W. by making two peace agreements with the major clans. The clans agreed to stop the flow of help to Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to keep its army out of the N.W. territories.
As we now see very openly, the U.S. does not believe the clans will stop the Pashtun guerilla movement from using Pakistan as a base. Musharraf insists the clans will keep their word. The Pashtun clans of S. Wasiristan have not kept their word and no one I know of expects those of the N. to do so. But Pakistan has no real choice, as they see it. Pakistan is now in a state of acute crisis. It is disintegrating into warring nations and political groups. Musharraf desperately needs peace with the powerful militias and guerilla forces of the West. His own security forces must be more anxious than ever to get rid of him and the U.S. Imperial forces to stop these growing civil wars and to try to deal with the growing danger of India and China and the Northern Alliance and the erupting Islamist parties everywhere.
The Islamists have won in Pakistan and it is desperately important for the government to get in step with its people and stop fighting civil wars with them. Musharraf is completely out on a very long and weak limb with the loathed Bush, FBI, CIA, Northern Alliance, India and all the rest. Musharraf is making lucrative book deals and no doubt all kinds of sub-rosa deals with the U.S. Big Corporations. He is building his Escape Nest, as all failing dictators need to do. If he is lucky, he will be able to escape the bullets and bombs coming his way.
Pakistan is making the very difficult transition to a new Islamist state with a mass Islamist movement as its foundation. It is a very dangerous transition, or they would have taken it several years ago. The U.S. has already threatened to annihilate them, probably a bit more “diplomatically” than Musharraf implies to boost his book sales and try to get some more support from the Islamists. When Pakistan becomes an Islamist state with large nuclear forces the U.S. will be faced with a real nuclearly armed Muslim, Islamist state. I suspect the Pakistanis will then vow eternal friendship and the U.S. will pretend to believe in the fairy tale because attacking a huge nation with real nuclear weapons is a wee mite more difficult than annihilating a tiny nation with no such weapons on the pretext they have them.
In any event, it will be a major new development with vast global implications for us all, none of them happy. Another Bush Catastrophe for us all.
Jack D. Douglas [send him mail] is a retired professor of sociology from the University of California at San Diego. He has published widely on all major aspects of human beings, most notably The Myth of the Welfare State.