Ahmed Rashid writing in foreign policy says that Pakistan is in such a mess that even the Pakistani army doesn’t want to take over. I will leave it to Zachary and Eric Schmidt to tell us what is wrong with the doom and gloom in Ahmed Rashid’s piece. (by the way, I personally believe that the doom and gloom is not the whole story and that if the Paknationalists can be kept confined to social media and samosas.com then Pakistan can continue moving along in its own inimitable way for the foreseeable future…but that is the million dollar question; can we avoid the cleansing operation?)
But I do think that Ahmed Rashid lost the script when he started talking about the future…
“The best hope for Pakistan may be the promising growth of a young people’s movement led by poets, pop musicians, human rights groups, artists, bankers, and bureaucrats who communicate on social networks and talk constantly about the need for change.
Sixty percent of Pakistan’s 180 million people are below the age of 25, so these young people have the majority on their side. The creaking political establishment has little knowledge of this class of people or their aspirations for a better future. It is these young people who need to develop a fresh narrative about Pakistan’s history and where it is going — a narrative that does not put the army and nuclear weapons at center stage but puts Pakistani citizens first, once and for all.”
leaving aside the matter of whether the rising Punjabi middle class shows any signs of creating the kind of narrative Mr. Rashid is looking for, this is too long a time horizon. The readers of foreign policy are, or should be, looking for prescriptions that apply over the next few years not the next decades. And right now the problem and its possible solutions can be summarized as follows:
1. the conditions are ripe for a military takeover.
2. the Army would take over in the jiffy if they felt they have the approval or at least a hint of approval from the US Embassy. The treasury is nearly empty and the thought of taking all the problems of Pakistan in their lap without money from the US of the IMF is daunting even for GHQ.
3. The US Embassy is playing hardball. The army (or some of it) wants to play, but what the US is asking for is something that the Army either does not want to deliver or more likely knows it cannot deliver even if it wanted to.
4. If things continue along the current path the generals may one day convince themselves that China has suddenly hit the lottery and is throwing away cash and will subsidize any and all adventures. I know this sounds unlikely but remember, they only have to convince themselves.. they don’t have to convince anyone else.
5. Unless the US Embassy and president McEvilly Ali Zardari are such brilliant geniuses that they will find a way to square the circle, we may be in for a high jump. I know it sometimes seems that nothing is beyond the powers of Mr. Zardari, but this job may be beyond even his extraordinary abilities.
6. So here’s the bottom line: three separate miracles are needed before breakfast, or we are headed into uncharted territory
7. I continue to expect miracles. The alternatives are not pleasant.
PS: about the middle class, I think all emerging middle classes are attracted to fascism to some extent and these tendencies are accentuated in third world middle classes where the unwashed masses are always visible and “in your face”. But most human beings are not going to be original thinkers. We think (mostly) what we are told to think. These fascist tendencies are kept in check by a democratic narrative being normative in places like India (so the Indian middle class may fawn over Musharraf and dreams of finding a well dressed moron of their own, but a good number of them are programmed to approve of democracy as a good thing, so matters dont get out of hand). Our middle class is a good example of what happens when middle class pathologies (which are normative in our army’s officer corps) are unchecked and are in fact supported by Pakstudies books and Islamiyat texts….its a perfect storm. The Paknationalist faction of the middle class is not (at least in the short term) headed where Ahmed Rashid wants them headed. And in Punjab, that’s a big faction and getting bigger.
If I am wrong about that, I am happy to be corrected.