Pakistan is at a crossroads. Its fragmented internal and external political situation is gradually inching towards chaos. The country is facing secessionist movements in the Balochistan and Sindh provinces; religious terrorism in Punjab, the Tribal Areas, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province; war on its Afghan border; continued discontent with neighbouring India; disagreements with the US; and a distancing from Saudi Arabia. The key to understanding these current crises is in the understanding of state building and statecraft.
Ethnography of State Building
Pakistan’s foreign policy is deeply rooted in the partition of British India, and thereby in the early period of its state building.
In 1946, Pashtuns, under Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, were against the idea of Pakistan. They were considered an internal security threat by the Muhajir (refugees from India) leadership of the All India Muslim League (AIML), and as a result the NWFP (now KPK) Provincial Legislative Assembly which housed a congressional majority was dismissed in September 1947.
Sindh was treated similarly. G.M. Syed, who tabled and lobbied the historic Resolution of Pakistan in the Sindh Legislative Assembly before the partition, became an arch opponent of it in 1946 and resigned from the AIML. The Sindh government was dismissed in April 1948 due to their refusal to separate Karachi from Sindh in order to establish a capital of the newly formed country and its resistance of violence against the Hindu population of the area and their exodus.
Balochstan was neither part of the partition plan nor was it part of Pakistan in 1947. Qalat Khanate (Balochi speaking Balochistan) was an independent sovereign state with a bicameral parliament, cabinet and a head of the state. Balochistan was annexed to Pakistan in 1948.
Sindhis, Balochis and Pashtuns were perceived to be a security concern by the Punjabi-Muhajir AIML leadership, military and civil bureaucracy, and were excluded from the state building process. The foreign policy making of Pakistan, excluding Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s period of 1972-1977, was been envisioned, steered, and implemented by the ethnic-Punjabi majority army in association with Urdu Speaking the Muhajir majority bureaucracy. If analyzed on the ethnic lines, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pakistan have employed fewer ethnic Sindhis and Balochs in last sixty years then the ethnic Punjabis and Urdu speaking Muhajirs employed during last sixty months.
In 1947, the army was almost entirely Punjabi, whilst the civil bureaucracy and the AIML leadership was Muhajir. The AIML leadership being refugees did not have an electoral constituency in Pakistan, and there democracy was less aligned with their interests. Moreover, Jinnah’s practical detachment from state-building due to his deteriorated health led Pakistan towards a non-democratic political model based on a civil bureaucracy-military-aristocracy triumvirate of Punjabi and Urdu speaking refugees, which kept the other ethnicities and provinces away from the processes of state craft. Pakistan’s foreign policy towards India could be defined as a reaction of the Punjabi and Urdu-speaking refugees towards the violence occurred during the partition.
Since the formation of Pakistan, Pashtuns were sidelined to prevent their imagined annexation with Afghanistan. The NWFP region was accorded to British India under Durand Line agreement in 1893 by Afghan King Emir Amanullah Khan after Anglo-Afghan War in 1839. The inclusion of Pashtuns in the security establishment only became possible after the takeover by General Ayub Khan and General Yahya Khan, both from NWFP, with their numbers further increased by General Ziaul Haq during the “Afghan Jihad” period of the cold war.
Can Borders Alone Decide Policies?
Pakistan’s foreign policy and strategic vision consists of two basic interconnected factors – inward external security and outward internal concerns defined within the context of its relationship with Afghanistan and India. Historically, Pakistan has worked within the boundaries of alliances with the US, Saudi Arabia, and China, serving international interests that suit the Pakistani civil-military elite, and supports retrogressive Arab nationalism manifested into the extremist Islamist movements. After sixty years of the country’s existence, its foreign policy triangle has evolved into a Central Asia – China and Iran axis. Pakistan’s security in broader terms is defined by its immediate neighbours and inversely associated with internal concerns and interests, which are ironically defined by a very much non-representative establishment of the country.