The Death of Pakistan?

This is a watershed moment for Pakistan. Will it survive the current maelstrom of challenges that it faces – exemplified by the recent assassination of Governor Salmaan Taseer of Punjab by one of his bodyguards, an Islamic zealot – or will it founder on a theocratic path leading back centuries in time?

NEW DELHI – This is a tipping point for Pakistan. Will it survive the current maelstrom of challenges – exemplified by the recent assassination of Governor Salmaan Taseer of Punjab by one of his bodyguards, an Islamic zealot – or will it capsize? For the world, Pakistan’s fate is an urgent, perhaps even an existential, question. After all, Pakistan is a nuclear-armed, terrorist-spawning regional power.

The roots of Pakistan’s instability run deep. Following World Wars I and II, the European powers and the United States sat around distant tables and fabricated frontiers, giving birth to Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia – and thus to most of the of the Middle East’s current ills. The region’s new map was based on the assumption that the fundamentals of “Muslim Asia” could be transformed by introducing the Western nation-state system. Instead, what formed was a region of entities that have largely failed to cohere as nations.

In 1947, the Indian sub-continent, too, was vivisected in much the same way, with a religion-based entity carved out of it: Pakistan. Of course, it is pointless at this stage to re-examine that tragic folly. The consequences of partition, however, remain: Pakistan has not yet been able to evolve an administratively credible government. Indeed, if Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founding father, had been right that Muslims are a separate nation, Bangladesh would not have broken away from it, and the country’s relations with its neighbor Afghanistan would be free of intrigue and violence.

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