The Deep State: Undoing of Pakistan

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (L) addresses the opening ceremony of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Summit and Expo in Islamabad, Pakistan (Xinhua/Liu Tian) ****Authorized by ytfs****

The resignation of Nawaz Sharif over corruption exposed the vulnerability of the democratic systems in Pakistan. The present political turmoil that has brought another round of uncertainty to the country is no different. Whatever be the outcome, the sole beneficiary, needless to say, would be this Deep State…writes Dr Sakariya Kareem

Pakistan’s former prime minister Nawaz Sharif

Pakistan’s singular tragedy has been that the organs of the state which were tasked to safeguard the country’s interest and that of its people have transformed into a Deep State, feeding on the mass paranoia about being besieged by other countries. These organs, namely Pakistan Army and its notorious intelligence wing, ISI, have exploited fear and poverty of the people of Pakistan to corner extraordinary power, influence and riches, leaving an impoverished country for the people.

Be it the endemic terrorism or the equally pervasive corruption that is corroding the country, the thread, if pulled, would lead to the army and its long history of playing deceitful games to protect its own interest at the cost of the country and its people. The present political turmoil that has brought another round of uncertainty to the country is no different. Whatever be the outcome, the sole beneficiary, needless to say, would be this Deep State.

The formation of the Deep State was not accidental nor was it by default. This was a calculated move on the part of the army, their political supporters within and outside the country and the religious extremist groups. The army’s long term goal was, as noted scholar Stephen Cohen wrote in one of his earlier books on the army, that unlike other countries where a state has an army, in Pakistan, the army had a state!. Within months of independence, the army ensured that the political and other institutions essential for a vibrant democracy remained absent or weak. This was created by sowing seeds of suspicion and fear among the people about each other.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson with Nawaz Sharif

The army’s first move was to divide the society, by instigating violence against each other; Pakistan witnessed a bloodshed between members of minority Islamic sect, Ahmadis and others, especially Sunnis who dominated Punjab. This was when Pakistan, a country carved, with blood and violence, out of the Indian sub-continent for Muslims began to kill each other in the name of Islam. When the army was asked to restore order, it did promptly, heralding the coming of the Generals. The episode also put an end to any hope of a vibrant political process taking root in the soil.

Thereafter it was easy for the army, and their supporters, to create a Deep State which has always remained above reproach and powerful. This Deep State worked at two levels—one creating the fear of the enemy, in this case India and two against own people. This ensured that the Army remained the last bastion of stability and influence and therefore the Master. This also helped the Generals to amass ill-gotten wealth, in the name of buying weapons and fixing up military stations to fight this `enemy`, and of course to `safeguard ` Islam.

This plan, however, failed on the battlefront with the loss of East Pakistan and 90000 Pakistani soldiers captured by the `infidel` Indian soldiers. So the Generals had to save their neck and hit upon the devious plan of creating terrorist and extremist groups to act as their agents of destruction. They first trained terrorists for `East Pakistan` and then for Kashmir and for Afghanistan, and subsequently created an empire of jihadis who were for `hire`. The Americans were the first clients and then there were other clients in different parts of the world.

But all these machinations led to the society becoming violent and terrorism becoming an accepted mode of social conduct. While the Generals benefited immensely, keeping the politicians in control, people in fear and the world begging for sanity, Pakistan became hostage to violent and vicious forces. The Generals thought they could control these forces because they had created it but violent forces have a way of getting out of control and so they did, leaving the country scarred and bloody. Pakistan which exported terrorism suddenly became a `victim` of the same export material—it was an irony which was not lost on the Generals and their political cronies.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with top officers at a defence exhibition (File)

But the Deep State’s only adversary was not the one on its eastern border alone; there were dissenting elements within who need to be silenced. The Baloch wanted autonomy and freedom; the Sindhis wanted the same and there were murmurs of dissent in Gilgit Baltistan where communities had nothing in common with the Punjabi Pakistan. The Punjabi Army had no sympathy for such dissenters and wanted to crush them. The problem was that they could not be bombed as if they were enemies; they were very own citizens. The Generals, instead, let loose their “dogs of war“ on these dissenting citizens, leaving a bloody trail of abductions and killings, and tragedy.

In today’s Pakistan, there is a `million mutinies` happening—the Baloch are up in arms against the army and the state, so are many Sindhis, people of Gilgit and Baltistan are deeply suspicious of the army and the state as well; so are the Shias and Ahmadis, the Hindus and Christians….for the Army, there is a war on every front and this keeps them busy and important, and of course rich. The army no doubt is the biggest landlord in the country, one of the most influential corporates, the largest NGO, the mega transport corporate and the supplier of bread to petrol. Violence means profit for the Deep State and its Generals.

But not for the people. The people by and large live a hapless life, impoverished and often in prison in provinces like Balochistan and the tribal areas; large number of tribals and others were forced to abandon their homes and farms fearing their own army, and the pastoral communities of Gilgit and Baltistan are forced to give up their farms and home for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The minorities are fleeing their traditional and cultural moorings to unsafe cities like Karachi where they find `safety` from extremist groups.

All this makes the Deep State a powerful arbiter of destinies in Pakistan. As Pakistan would celebrate its foundation day in the coming weeks, it would not be lost on those think about their future and their country’s future as a democratic country that they are all now prisoners of their own army, the movers of a Deep State which is fast consuming the nation their founding fathers had imagined.


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