Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Pakistan Predictions 2014?


The redoubtable Ahsan Butt has written an article about the possibility of of a "Taliban victory" in Pakistan. Since I have done two prior articles about "Pakistan predictions" (and now that even the President of the Maldives feels its unsafe to come to Pakistan), I thought I would pitch in with part three:

Just to get you up to speed, these were the predictions from 2012: 

1. Mutually Assured Corruption. This is comrade Zee’s current prediction (and he claims copyright on the term); Pakistan’s army and bureaucracy used to get first dibs on everything, but their short-sighted policies have weakened their hold over the country and they will now share power with the politicians and the judiciary in an arrangement of mutually assured corruption. This elite will continue to enrich itself and will provide limited governance at least in the core Punjabi and urban areas. The Jihadis will continue to occupy sections of FATA and the current on-again off-again peace process will alternate with tit for tat bombings and killings for the foreseeable future, but they will not be able to expand beyond the Islamic emirate. Punjabi Jihadis will remain divided between true believers and ISI-controlled assets and will continue to be used to milk the Americans and to maintain a background level of Islamism in society. Baluchistan will become Pakistan’s Kashmir, an unhappy population subject to harsh measures but unable to break away. Unlike Kashmiris, they will also be swamped by settlers and thumped by Jihadis allied with the army. In that sense, they will be worse off than Kashmir. But they cannot break away unless a foreign power (the USA and no other) acts on their behalf and that will not happen because the US has interests in Pakistan and no matter how badly the Pakistani army behaves, as a nuclear power they will get a second (and third and fourth) chance as long as they themselves remain aware of the limits of American patience.

2. Jihadi Army. Dr. A proposed this scenario in 2009 and he is sticking by his prediction. He says that that the “optimists” assume that economic self-interest or non-jihadist cultural elements will somehow dominate the hardcore Jihadist elements because economics and deep cultural roots trump fringe Jihadism in principle. But this fails to take into account the peculiar nature of the Pakistani state. Pakistan is the perfect marriage of Islamic supremacism, psychotic self-hatred (i.e. hatred for our own Indian roots) and elite incompetence. The elite may indeed regard hardcore Islamism as a step too far, but they are terminally corrupt and incompetent and every passing year brings us closer to revolution. And in Pakistan, the revolution will not be Marxist, it will be Islamist. An overwhelming majority of the population long since abandoned all “un-Islamic” identities in principle (though not in practice, yet). When the shit hits the fan, they will look towards something called “Islam” to solve their problems. And it won’t be the thinly imagined Islam of Ziauddin Sardar or Westernized Karachi socialites. It will be the real deal; Salafist-Wahabi Islam willing to kill all infidels. And they will start at home with Shias and other internal enemies.

My own prediction in 2012: More of the same. I agree with comrade Zee that the elite will hold on with “mutually assured corruption”. I think Baluchistan will remain a festering wound but it will not reach Bangladesh or Kashmir level of violence. I think some of the Jihadist militias in FATA will continue to fight the state but outside of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa the level of violence will be tolerable. And I think Imran Khan will not be able to solve corruption in 19 days or terrorism in 90 days. In fact, I think he won’t even be able to come into power. I think the US will gradually lessen its footprint in the region and will try to hand over a lot of the local imperialist duties to China, but the Chinese will prove too smart to take up the job. Through all this, economic growth and rapid cultural change will continue in Pakistan and will even accelerate. The army’s hold on the country will weaken over time. Their dream of a “Chinese model authoritarian regime with Islamic characteristics” will remain unfulfilled.  Nothing will look satisfactory to anyone, but the state will not collapse and there will be no wider war. In short, I don’t think Pakistan is about to collapse, but I don’t think it is about to undergo some magical transformation under the wise leadership of Kiyani or Imran Khan either. And I don’t think it’s going to see an “Islamic revolution” because there is no there there. The Islamists themselves have no workable plan for any such revolution. They are mouthing empty slogans and at some level most people know this.

The long term future of Pakistan is “Indianization”. Not in the sense of “Indian cultural invasion” or “Indian hegemony”, but in the simple literal sense of “becoming more like India”. Obviously not exactly like India, but close enough for government work; a corruption-ridden, imperfect third world democracy with an expanding capitalist economy and many internal divisions and stresses and the additional burden of Islamic fantasizing. And I think there is little chance of developing a unique indigenous socialist/islamist/vegetarian short-cut past all these problems, much to the dismay of the Arundhati Roys and Tariq Alis, not to speak of Hindutvadis and Islamists. Pakistan will not show the world some new path to the future. It will be a “normal” South Asian country, trying to stabilize a democratic model derived from British Indian roots while working out a modus vivendi between its ancient cultures, its “Islamic” ideals and the modern world. The economy has now become too large for even the narrow elite to be dominated by imperial mercenary duties or scams related to the same. In that sense, things will be a little better. It’s not a perfect outcome, but we do not live in a perfect world.

- See more at this link.

What about now?

1. Dr A (source of the "Jihadi Army" prediction in 2009 and 2012) says he has NOTHING to change in his prediction from 2009. Pakistan ka matlab kya, La illah a illalah (What is the meaning of Pakistan? There is no God but Allah). All has been prepared for the feast. Apostates, liberals and Shias should book their tickets while Karachi airport is still operational. The triumph of the warriors of Allah is not far. Most of the current army will switch sides. And will then discover some decidedly unpleasant facts about their more Islamic partners from Waziristan. Zaid Hamid and Hamid Gul will be hanged in Islamabad BEFORE the attack on Red Fort Delhi ever begins. Somalia will look like a walk in the park compared to the shit that will fly in the land of the pure. Eventually, warlords and mafia gangs will break up the country and foreign powers will try to establish zones of influence in the more useful/governable areas. Or it may all vaporize in a nuclear exchange.

2.  Comrade Zee's comments are awaited.

3. My prediction: I no longer feel confident of making any predictions. As Ali Minai might say, it is a complex situation and unpredictable phase transitions are the only safe prediction. It could be that there will be a stabilization of the Sharif regime and the army will gradually take action against all Jihadists in some mysterious order only they understand. But I must admit that even an eternal optimist like me now feels that it is more likely that phase one will be a continuing confused and inept response from the Sharif government, with the army simultaneously fighting the bad Taliban and undermining the elected government. When the shit has hit the fan in sufficient quantity (shit-fan contact being a process rather than a singular event in Pakistan) the people of Punjab (the only ones who really matter as a people) will be so sick of MNS that the army will be "forced to impose Martial Law". Phase two would then be a temporary stabilization under army rule. At that point the British colonial roots of the army could hold, allowing it to act as a disciplined force to suppress true believers and brazenly lie its way through to bloody and shaky stabilization of pseudo-Islamic crony capitalist Pakistan. Or it could all fall apart after that, in which case the fate of the constituents depends on how well India and Afghanistan are holding up and what China and America are pushing for (with the minor safe prediction that China will make more rational choices in that situation than America will).
Predicting everything from Sharif stabilization to Army stabilization to complete anarchy is not really a prediction, its many contradictory predictions. That is where I am right now.

Add your predictions. The more concrete the better.

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Mithun well protected as he takes cover behind a bicycle. Image courtesy of Ahsan Butt.