Our enemies within
Generally, deterioration in one field will lead to escalation of other threats. Some of these internal threats are purely indigenous while other threats enjoy foreign sponsorship. On the violence spectrum, internal threats may be military or non military. Threats may relate to political, social or economic sphere or any endeavor of human activity. Some external elements may also be supporting these pernicious causes directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly, or by design or default. On the material plane, threats may be moral or physical. Threat typology is being covered here in the form of non-military and military threats. While military threats directly target men and material, non military threats imperceptibly eat away the fabric of state over a period of time. While the tools of dealing with non military threats tend to be moral, intellectual and technocrat related, military threats may require a military response. However, superior policies and strategies apply minimum force but achieve tangible, lasting results.
Non military threats to Pakistan have diversified and grown over a period of time due to our inability to grasp the seriousness of confronting issues. This non cognitive approach has numbed our response mechanisms with adverse effects on our national life. In a tension-ridden society where the poor masses live from hand to mouth, not many can afford the luxury of indulging in analysis of these threats. Corruption, foreign intrusiveness in our legislative assemblies, appearance of foreign security networks and sidelining of state institutions can eventually lead to existential threats to state.
Long term, tangible non-military threats to Pakistan include water, food and energy resources. Dwindling water resources will create numerous urban problems, lead to shrunk agricultural growth, and slow down industrial growth which is linked with water. On the other hand, green and white revolutions related to agriculture are extremely important issues because they provide a bulwark against failed state conditions. Uneconomical energy is asphyxiating our industry, leading to increasing agricultural production costs and bringing misery to tens of millions of frustrated Pakistani citizens in summers and winters at unpredictable hours. Tired laborers and diligent students are the worst hit. The non military threat spectrum also covers widespread illiteracy, rampant diseases and feeling of despondency permeating a section of the population. Political disharmony, social turmoil and economic mayhem are serious issues meriting immediate attention. The yawning gap between the affluent elite and impoverished masses has led to a perceptual conflict between these two classes. However, our effete leadership is tarnished by credibility crisis and has choked the process of meaningful reform. Resultantly, some elements of the Pakistani society are drifting towards political activism and more violent forms of resistance to state.
With regards to military threats, Pakistan faces, firstly widespread insurgencies and lost state writ not only in FATA but also in some urban pockets. Pakistanis want justice. The masses also want a more balanced, honorable relationship with the US. However, it appears that for as long as foreign forces maintain their deployments in our region, Pakistan may continue to suffer from its downstream effect. The second problem faced by Pakistan is of foreign-sponsored Baloch insurgents who have recently acquired a higher profile. The typical Baloch separatist is gradually eroding the state writ by demolishing electric pylons, hounding the non Baloch resident population and belittling vestiges of state cohesion like the national flag and national anthem. This roadway to anarchy is littered by a litany of broken state promises, loathsome, partisan opportunism and bureaucratic inability to connect with the local population. Worse still, it is suspected that even Sistan-based Iranian insurgents occasionally cross over the porous border into Pakistan which is embittering Pak-Iranian relations. Long borders with Afghanistan and lightly guarded coastlines account for the increased vulnerability of this province.
The third major problem is of urban Karachi. This mega polis is the urban power house of the country. It is the sole port city linked with hinterland and provides jobs and living for over ten percent of Pakistanís population. Its complex ethnic mix, rampant crime gangs, growing urban problems and lack of opportunities for its educated inhabitants provide the essential explosive ingredients. Not surprisingly, Karachi erupts like a volcano frequently. When Karachi erupts, the shudders are felt all over Pakistan. Calm on the surface conceals hidden tensions which can rapidly acquire violent forms. The fourth problem is of the deprived masses of rural Sindh. Feudal oppression, poor education, rampant corruption, lack of opportunities for youth and feelings of ethnic deprivation amongst some locals has created a tinder box situation. Presently, this problem is dormant. However, it cannot be assumed that destructive forces cannot be unleashed. Sporadic, widespread destruction caused after the assassination of late Benazir Bhutto is indicative of what all can happen. However, with a Sindhi presidency, the issue is on the back burner for now. Nonetheless, territorial contiguity with India and significant Hindu population are perennial, long term vulnerabilities in this case.
The fifth serious problem is straddling the Silk Route that links Pakistan with China. In the Northern Areas, a diverse ethno-sectarian mix of local inhabitants provides exploitable ingredients for the Indians. This region also constitutes the strategic land corridor that links Pakistan with China. Whenever, the situation deteriorates, the Karakoram Highway is closed. This severs Pakistanís strategic land communications with China. The integration of this sparsely populated, resource-deficient region with Pakistan is a challenging issue which requires special treatment. The wide array of threats confronting Pakistan requires sober analysis and remedial treatment. If ignored, some of these problems can deteriorate to an alarming degree. However, the Pakistani nation has always exhibited national resilience and enterprise to emerge out of crisis-infested times. All the stake holders must rise to the occasion to overcome Pakistanís internal threats.
óBrig Abdul Rahman Bilal (SJ) (Retd), is a defence and security analyst & former Rector of the Foundation University, Islamabad.