State and non-State actors


Dr Muhammad Khan

Scholars of International Relations define state as, a political unit having centralized government which maintains a monopoly for the legitimate use of force within its geographical boundaries. Indeed, “A State is an independent, sovereign government exercising control over a certain spatially defined and bounded area, whose borders are usually clearly defined and internationally recognized by other states.” In contrast, non-state actors (NSAs) include individuals and groups which exercise influence, but are independent of state and government. These NSAs include; religious groups, media organizations, sub-nationalists organizations, business communities, aid agencies, lobbyist, IGOs, NGOs and MNCs.
They all try to influence governments for their vested interests. In most of the cases, they are part of some international force(s) and pursue its objectives covertly, unless exposed. In the wording of Kiser and Casebeer, there are violent non-state actors who “play a prominent, often destabilizing role in nearly every humanitarian and political crisis faced by the international community.” Both types of the NSAs somehow challenge the basic character of state’s sovereignty, which is a clear departure from the concept of Westphalian model of a state.
Since the sovereign states absolutely rule over their territory, therefore they have clearly demarcated borders where they defend and control its territory within those borders. Within its border, a state form a nation through tangibles factors like; national symbols, an educational system, a common ideology while listing down the national interest. A nation can be defined as a group of people, “who see themselves as a cohesive and coherent unit based on shared cultural or historical criteria.” At time, nations are socially constructed units, and their notions of unity are centred on factors like; religion, ethnicity, language, cultural or a combination of all.
Pakistan is country having the character of both a state and a nation state. It has combination of above mentioned unity factors, faith being the pre-dominant. Indeed, the founding fathers of Pakistan have clearly defined the character of Pakistani state, its federal nature, ideological basis and social bondage. Initiation of a state, the Pakistani state was clearly defined by Dr Muhammad Iqbal’s 1930 Presidential Address in the 25th Session of the All-India Muslim League at Allahabad on December 29, 1930. The subsequent agenda of its completion, the formation of an independent and sovereign Muslim state in the form of Pakistan was completed by Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The famous writer, Stanley Wolpert writes in his book, entitled, ‘Jinnah of Pakistan’ “Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. Mohammad Ali Jinnah did all three.”
Under the leadership of Jinnah, the Muslims of Subcontinent achieved what it could not be imagined before 1930 and what seemed impossible before 1940. Indeed, Muslim of this region were alienated, exploited and kept backward by ruling colonial power and the majority population of Hindus. Hindu leadership was optimistic that in any future arrangement after decolonization, they will be the legitimate rulers of subcontinent, based on majority population.
Today, there are host of challenges, facing the state and society of Pakistan. At a national level, these include the internal strife, poor economy, political instability, law and order, a directionless foreign policy and selfish ruling class. Regionally, India and Afghanistan are all set to destabilize Pakistan on various grounds, terrorism being the most significant. Globally, U.S has its own agenda of undermining Pakistani sovereignty and integrity. While all challenges are reality, there is rapid growth of the NSAs and particularly the violent non-state actors (VNSAs). In the wordings of Phil Williams, these VNSAs “have become a pervasive challenge to nation-states.” In fact,VNSAs develop out of poor state governance but also contribute towards further undermining of governance by the state. These actors and groups develop alternative patterns of affiliations, the way we see in the form of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement under Manzoor Pashteen.
These movements ultimately cause an ethnic group to become the main reference points for political action, against the state. MQM is a case in point. The question arises, where was the state and executive once such groups were forming up? All stakeholders in Pakistan kept their eyes and ears closed once these NSAs were formulating their agendas? Why the state has not redressed their grievances, if they had genuine demands. Was it an act of ignorance or wait and see, allowing them to become Monsters? In the wordings of Martin Luther King Jr, “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
“The watch-words of ‘Unity Faith and Discipline’ were the munitions which the Quaid-i-Azam gave to the nation for waging the battle for Pakistan. The most dependable powerhouse in the struggle for Pakistan was the Muslim nation’s unity.” Today, seven decades of Pakistan’s independence, we need to reassess ourselves, as a nation. If our forefathers have given us an ideological country, where did we lose sight of? Let us, trace back the historical mistakes, and put right ourselves. Let’s unite ourselves and follow true values of an Islamic brotherhood and Pakistani nationhood by shedding the mutual differences; created by our enemies. Let’s respect our sovereignty and secure this God gifted motherland by defeating the evil forces; arising domestically or forced upon us by our enemies from across the frontiers. In the process, the state, executive and all institutions must play their role with dedication and fairness. A well aware and educated future generation provided with adequate and identical opportunities of employments would definitely guarantee a stable and peaceful Pakistan, as dreamed by the philosopher and Poet Dr. Muhammad Iqbal and subsequently attained under the leadership of Quaid-i-Azam.
— The writer, Professor of Politics and International Relations, is based in Islamabad.

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