What’s holding Pakistan together?

By Ayaz Amir

Not Islam – this fiction was exploded in 1971, and continues to be exposed today in Balochistan. Far from being a uniting factor religion, and the uses to which it is being put, is proving to be the biggest divisive factor of all, Pakistanis killing each other in the name of sect and faith – a country created on the basis of religion floundering at the altar of religion, earnest Pakistanis forever engaged in the quest to discover what Allah’s commandments mean and what they do not.

Not democracy – which is proving to be a sham democracy, unable to sow the seeds of peace in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or lessen the anger of the aggrieved Baloch, or prove a boon to Karachi, or have any kind of relevance for the down and out, the economically disadvantaged, who constitute the vast majority of the Pakistani population.

Not a common sense of nationhood – because that is something we have not managed to create, indeed the concept of nationhood never more fractured than it is today, partly because the institutions of statehood have become so dysfunctional, partly because of the march of primitive Islam, as exemplified by the Taliban, which is testing the capacities of the Pakistani state, and leading thoughtful Pakistanis to brood about the country’s future.

Holding Pakistan together, and this is a sad admission, is what pseudo-leftists like myself had trained ourselves to demonise, and with good reason because of its long list of follies: the Pakistan Army. The army we blamed, and rightly so, for many of Pakistan’s problems – East Pakistan, the cult of militarisation, the overweening power of the ISI, the unholy intervention in Afghanistan, ‘jihad’ in Kashmir, creating the god of national security and placing it at the top of the Pakistani pantheon.

But the wheel has come full circle. New realities have emerged, new dangers have arisen. The luxury of adventurism as in Afghanistan or Kashmir has gone. Pakistan is under threat and its survival is at stake and holding the gates is just one force: not Pakistani patriotism, not Pakistani nationalism – weak concepts yet to be given the shape of stone or iron – but the army.

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