The Great Game

Will for­mer pres­i­dent Pervez Mushar­raf free him­self from the many predica­ments he is fac­ing fol­low­ing his re­turn to Pak­istan?

Southasia - - Contents - By Fakhar Ahmed

Af­ter its suc­cess­ful eco­nomic growth be­tween 2002 and 2007, Pak­istan to­day stands at the verge of col­lapse, threat­ened by eco­nomic un­cer­tain­ties, law­less­ness, wa­ter and food in­se­cu­rity, en­ergy short­age, shrink­ing of its in­dus­trial base, quasi-democ­racy, a huge mix of feu­dal and cor­rupt ele­ments com­ing to the fore, de­te­ri­o­rat­ing ed­u­ca­tion, health and so­cial wel­fare in­sti­tu­tions, grow­ing ter­ror­ism, eth­nic vi­o­lence and, more im­por­tantly, huge geopo­lit­i­cal and strate­gic risks. All this is fur­ther ac­cen­tu­ated by the emer­gence of en­e­mies of Pak­istan from within and out­side, backed by in­ter­na­tional vested in­ter­ests and an un­sta­ble Afghanistan.

There are those who credit the 2002-2007 eco­nomic growth to for­mer Pres­i­dent Pervez Mushar­raf while some view his po­lit­i­cal ac­tions as the very rea­sons for the cur­rent eco­nomic and se­cu­rity disas­ter. Some even think that oust­ing Mushar­raf from power was part of the Great Game as Pak­istan’s GDP was touch­ing 8% and the en­e­mies of Pak­istan felt that such growth was not suit­able for a Mus­lim nu­clear state. Pak­istan’s en­e­mies may also have com­prised some al­lies who cre­ated con­di­tions to make Mushar­raf re­sign as pres­i­dent and go on self­ex­ile.

Pervez Mushar­raf has been in world fo­cus for the past decade for var­i­ous rea­sons pos­i­tively, as a states­man and neg­a­tively, as a dic­ta­tor. Af­ter 4 years of self-ex­ile, he is back in Pak­istan with a pledge to save the coun­try. There is a view­point that per­haps Mushar­raf has been pushed for­ward as bait to trap the Pak­istan Army. Whether he should be tried or not for high trea­son is a mat­ter of le­gal de­bate and the ques­tion needs to be eval­u­ated un­der the pre­vail­ing laws of the land.

How­ever, in or­der to un­der­stand the dy­nam­ics of the sit­u­a­tion and for bet­ter com­pre­hen­sion, it is im­por­tant to con­sider the fol­low­ing:

Lo­cated at the cross­roads of a glob­ally strate­gic geo-po­lit­i­cal and strate­gic front, Pak­istan is the only de­clared Mus­lim nu­clear na­tion with the strong­est stand­ing army in the Mus­lim world. Pak­istan has strong ties with China, the world’s fastest grow­ing econ­omy, its ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion along the Ara­bian Sea of­fers the most promis­ing trade routes, it has a bor­der with Afghanistan which leads to fu­ture lu­cra­tive routes to the rich re­sources of cen­tral Asia and it has suf­fered from three decades of war in Afghanistan in ad­di­tion to ter­ror­ism, the Mu­ja­hedeen and the Tal­iban. Be­sides its bor­der with Iran, it is caught in the con­tin­ued quest by post-cold war Rus­sia and China to gain ac­cess to the warm wa­ters of the In­dian Ocean. The long pend­ing is­sue of the right of self-de­ter­mi­na­tion of the peo­ple of Kash­mir is also among the top strate­gic fac­tors for which a num­ber of pre­vail­ing pow­ers will not let Pak­istan live in peace

and at­tain po­lit­i­cal sovereignty.

There will be con­tin­ued ef­forts from many vested in­ter­ests and groups to un­der­mine Pak­istan in­ter­nally and ex­ter­nally. Th­ese in­ter­ests will try to achieve com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage by ex­ploit­ing is­sues in the name of po­lit­i­cal democ­racy, national se­cu­rity, eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, so­cial jus­tice, re­li­gion, etc. The fact is that Pak­istan needs to un­der­stand th­ese is­sues and pro­tect its in­ter­ests. The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity is not com­fort­able with Pak­istan’s right of min­i­mum nu­clear de­ter­rence. What is a fur­ther cause for worry is the ris­ing mil­i­tancy in the coun­try and in bor­der­ing Afghanistan. In­ter­na­tional pol­i­cy­mak­ers are cau­tious about Pak­istan’s po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary out­look and evolve their poli­cies ac­cord­ingly. The coun­try’s ail­ing in­sti­tu­tions and weak­en­ing eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion fa­vors them and they won­der how long can Pak­istan main­tain its min­i­mum nu­clear de­ter­rence and main­tain a strong mil­i­tary? Pak­istan will not give up th­ese ad­van­tages in any case but eco­nomic pres­sures are in­creas­ing by the day along with other so­cial is­sues. Th­ese pres­sures will even­tu­ally weigh down on the coun­try’s strate­gic strengths. It is a race against time - that the coun­try brings or­der to its so­cio-eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal di­men­sions which are di­rectly pro­por­tional to its strate­gic strengths. There have been maps and con­spir­acy the­o­ries and sto­ries that Pak­istan’s ge­og­ra­phy will not be the same af­ter

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