By Dr Ghayur Ayub
The fire lit by Zulfiqar Mirza's fiery press conference engulfed MQM primarily. His father, Judge Mirza, once described him as unpredictable and perfunctory. His comments came when ZM failed to attend a dinner hosted by Dr Fahmida Mirza for my wife and I in 1995. The honourable judge was my patient then. The perfunctory approach of ZM put the MQM on the back foot and for ten days the party maintained an unbelievable silence. This helped to thaw the public's fear about the alleged brutal tactics of the MQM. Then, two tit-for-tat press conferences by Faisal Sabzwari and Mustafa Kamal and a uniquely styled three hour presentation of Mr. Altaf Hussain rocked the already unstable boat.
We all know that 9/11 changed the global politics by: drawing a line between Muslim and non-Muslim worlds; converting anti-communist strategy into anti-Muslim strategy; changing the cold war into active war; making terrorism the slogan of the new war; linking terrorism with Islamic fundamentalism; changing the tactics of the war-game; and invigorating the divide between Muslim sects. Quoting the example of Lawrence of Arabia, some even call it rewriting the history of Muslim world, splitting it yet again according to the present day requirements. Pakistan, being the only Muslim nuclear power, takes centre stage in this change. Accordingly, it is believed the enemies of Pakistan want to break Pakistan as they Balkanised Yugoslavia. Hence, the fiery conference of Zulfiqar Mirza and uninhabited presentation of Altaf Hussain.
The most intriguing point in the two conferences was the allegation that America has planned to disintegrate Pakistan. It was ZM who revealed it first, alleging that Altaf Hussain had supported it. AH confirmed it by showing a map of disintegrated Pakistan, but dissociated himself from it. The map had been in cyberspace for a long time. Azam Hoti showed it to me in 2001. Irrespective of why, this allegation was highlighted now let us assess the countries which could be adversely affected by such disintegration. The list includes America, India, Afghanistan, Iran, China, Russia, and Central Asian States.
When Kabul was taken by the foreign forces, a triumphant Bush announced the liberation of Afghanistan. In reality, the fall of the Taliban government was the beginning of a guerilla war. A war which America, ten years later, is trying to give a graceful end. Though the war has taken away OBL from the scene, weakened Al-Qaeda, it still made Taliban a stronger force, damaging America both militarily and economically. America blames the stronghold of eastern Afghanistan and adjoining FATA in Pakistan for all the setbacks, fearing a new Vietnam in making. People like General (Retd) Hamid Gul see an American defeat in this war.
To avoid such an end, the Americans have been seriously thinking to bring the Taliban to negotiating table; hence letting Qatar open an office for the purpose. It was for this reason that a time frame for the troops withdrawal from July 2011 was announced by Obama in November 2009. The date was changed twice extending it first to 2014 and later to 2024. America knows that stable Afghanistan is mandatory before its fighting forces leave the country to see it's plans fully or partly achieved. Those plans were; not to keep the Central Asian States falling back into Russian fold; having control on the oil reserve of the Caspian Sea; having control on enormous mineral reserves of Afghanistan; countering Islamic insurgencies in Pakistan and Central Asian States; keeping an eye on China; and keeping a close watch on Pakistan's nuclear technology.
Stability in Afghanistan is directly linked to the stability in Pakistan and vice versa. Disintegration of Pakistan would not favour American interests as it would widen the battle field which, in the present global economic slump, America cannot afford. Some would argue that an independent Pakhtunistan and greater Baluchistan emerging from the disintegration of Pakistan would act as buffer zones between the new American-dominated Afghanistan and disintegrated Pakistan. They exemplify it with the tribal buffer zone appearing as result of Durand Line Treaty between British India and Afghanistan in 1893. There are flaws in this argument:
· Pakhtuns, according to history, have never been controlled by foreign forces. So independent Pakhtunistan under influence of America could become a bigger problem for the latter than Pakistan and Afghanistan combined.
· Baluch have always followed strict tribal codes and any system which disturbs those codes creates difficulties for the tribal chiefs. Pakistan has been facing these problems for decades. For example, only a limited number of disgruntled Baluch Sardars took arms against Pakistan on tribal codification grounds. The situation was mishandled by a few ill-informed policy makers and aggressive army generals.
· Establishment of Greater Baluchistan would mean tribal chief of one tribe governing a state that includes tribal chiefs from enemy folds. It will be a recipe for disorder from the beginning. Such an unstable state will create more problems in the region and the principle of a buffer zone to absorb shocks from neighbouring countries will be lost from the start.
· Religion, which has always been in the bones of Pakhtuns, was reinforced after a few years of Talibanisation of Afghanistan. This will always be a problem for American interests in independent Pakhtunistan.
· The nuclear installations are mainly in Punjab, which has also lately become a stronghold of the Taliban. In a chaotic scenario of the disintegration of Pakistan, the Punjabi Taliban could easily get hold of some nuclear assets with disastrous consequences. It will make the concept of having buffer zones of independent Pakhtunistan and greater Baluchistan pointless.
Disintegration of Pakistan will lead to automatic disintegration of Afghanistan as the resultant Pakhunistan will break away a huge chunk of Pakhtun regions from mainland Afghanistan. The pandemonium will spread to Panjsher, Hazajaat, Bamyan, Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat and other parts. In other words, the disintegration of Pakistan will break up Afghanistan in rogue states controlled by local warlords with a bleak outcome for America.
The Central Asian States;
The tsunami of a breakup of Afghanistan will have devastating effects on the governments of the adjoining states of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The public in these states are already fretful because of internal politico-religio-economic kerfuffle. Such a disruption will create ripples in adjacent China and nearby Russia.
China has always concentrated on economic development and wants to follow that policy. The west tried to create hurdles in this progress at the time of the breakaway of Hong Kong from Britain or when it pushed Taiwan to involve China in armed conflict. But China resisted the enticement. As a result, it has emerged the second strongest economy of the world today. To keep the progress on track, it needs internal and external stability. That stability can be affected adversely if Pakistan disintegrates and Afghanistan and Tajikistan go into deep turmoil. The fire would spread to the province of Xinjiang the largest Chinese administrative division which has already been in the news for growing Islamic fundamentalism.
Disintegration of Pakistan will have serious consequences for Iran also. Jandulla movement will become stronger creating serious problems for Iran. Also, greater Baluchistan as a result of Balkanisation of Pakistan would engulf Baluchistan of Iran and spreading to Sistan in the north where the people are feeling deprived.
Disintegration of Pakistan will have serious consequences for India. The reported twenty four ongoing separation movements especially in the north east will get stronger, leading to the country instability. The fire will expand in Kashmir and will trigger off the Khalistan movement. Soon, India will go through the stages its neighbour Pakistan went through earlier. The resultant situation will prove to be against the wishes of America which wants to see India stable and stronger economically. Its economy will take a nose dive and its plans of becoming a future economic tiger of Asia will perish. With it, America's dream to pit India against China will also die.
So whichever way one looks at it, the disintegration of Pakistan is not in the interest of America, India or any other neighbouring country. And when perfunctory Zulfiqar Mirza and risible Altaf Hussain talk of disintegration one should carefully consider the substance in their accusal. In reality the fear should arise from within rather from outside. It can only become a reality if this poor country is repeatedly ruled by dishonest, selfish, incompetent and compromising leaders. Whereas it needs fearless, honest and visionary leadership to reverse the slide from regression to progress. And those who give the example of 1971 to support their argument should know that things have changed. The world is not what it was, Pakistan is not what it was.
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