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Monday, April 15, 2024

Pakistan to become Singapore or Syria—the choice is starker 

Jan Achakzai |

That old cliché, “Pakistan is facing worse challenges never seen before”, is more relevant today than ever before; economically failing state, dysfunction political system, corrupt political elite, unemployed youth bulge, extremism both religious and now ethnic mix with provincialism, hot but unstable western and eastern borders and a foreign hostile intend to denuclearize Pakistan, the only Muslim country to have nukes, and the list goes on.

The most worrying aspect of all is the lack of capacity of the current system to cope with these challenges.

Even worse is the agony of realizing that the current system is beyond repair. It is so rotten that any fix will take decades which we do not have to wait for.

Whereas the country is going to be on the edge not after a decade from now, not five years from today but the likely year is going to be 2019, as it will determine our direction to join the path of the countries like Singapore and Malaysia or enter the club of failed states: Syria, Iraq, and Libya.

Why Singapore or Syria? 

Because early symptoms of the contours of incremental state collapse, seeds of civil conflict, deteriorating ethnic disintegration, and multisided subtle intervention from outside make the choice obvious.

To put the proposition in concrete words, the lethal cocktail of exogenous and endogenous drivers of the above symptoms posits a new set of challenges to Pakistan’s policymakers.

Starting with the US, it is highly likely that after withdrawal from Syria, Afghanistan, and other countries, Washington will shift the focus of all its capabilities towards the containment of China. Through CPEC, Pakistan is serving as the linchpin to Beijing’s quest to develop alternative connectivity routes, assert against the US supremacy and balance India as an outpost for Washington’s dominance in the region. Pakistan’s new geopolitical positioning thus obtained, is a thorn in the eyes of the military-industrial complex of the US which is influencing various administrations’ foreign policy choices.

How this thorn manifests itself? After almost waning interest in the Middle East and West Asia, the US strategic policymakers who are clear-eyed about Pakistan’s nuclear programme, are poised to zoom in on their major long-term goal to denuclearize Islamabad under the pretext of achieving stable nuclear regime in South Asia. The time frame postulated is probably around 2020 to start with.

This objective will likely be achieved through the following ways:

  1. A) Keep political instability in the country in order to achieve the permanent status of economic paralysis. For example, this is not a mere coincidence that the two major political forces ( PPP and PML-N) will be joining hands to launch an agitation and organized chaos in the streets to neutralize all efforts of Imran Khan government aimed at bringing investment and creating the right environment for doing business.


  1. B) Fault-lines will be deepened and adversely manipulated: organizations like PTM will mushroom, and again it is not a coincidence that Muhajir Gumnam Movement has been launched.


  1. C) The 5th generation warfare (5GW) is already in full swing whereby most of the population cannot even understand its complexity yet it is the subject and the victim. 5GW is the most dangerous one as, without an enemy and with no frontiers; people indoctrinate each other through false narratives and fake news, giving in to a sophisticated campaign of propaganda to subvert anchors of stability.


  1. D) Even if Pakistan avoids being trapped in FATF in summer 2019, a danger of sanctions looms larger than ever to bring the country to its knees—obvious pretext is likely to be its alleged support for terrorism, given the Taliban and Afghan government reconciliation efforts fail. Make no mistake, Islamabad will be made scapegoat in Afghanistan.


  1. E) Pakistan’s strategic posture in West Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East, means a contest between Islamabad-led vision of the realignment of multipolar power centers like China, Russia, and GCC countries, on one hand, and India-led counter wailing vision aligned with the US, Japan, and Australia, on the other hand.

These two competing visions foresee diversion of US and China’s interests not only in West Asia, South Asia, Middle East but the entire Indo-Pacific region, (to borrow the phrase of US strategic planners).

The above scenarios will likely pan out with moderate to high probability.

How Pakistan should go about to cope with new evolving threats?

  1. Part of the answer lies in recognizing the fact that the current political system based on constituency elections, throws out only the type of leadership with skill-set of vote gaining, manipulation of voters’ psych and cashing in on their social vulnerability, hence is least equipped to step up to the plate. As such, new leadership of caliber, talent and experience is needed which can come forth with changing the rules of the game, reforming and replacing constituency based method of leadership election- a task only achievable in the medium-term-time frame.
  2. Modus operandi for creating organized chaos will be through foreign sponsored street agitations, burning down infrastructure, violence, and adverse use of social media. With the accountability of the corrupt elite of the two families and their corrupt cohorts possibly behind the bar, the main political forces will be local drivers of creating mayhem in the country with the backing of their exogenous sponsors. These agents and their ensued chaos will need a drastic political intervention: the only possible rational political course is a national emergency after imposition of economic emergency, to pave way for first-generation reforms and deter a meltdown in the first place.
  3. It leads to the next question what should be done after the political intervention?  Of-course, first-past-the-post voting system is not fit for purpose to throw a leadership with the metal to steer the course of the country towards the path of developed nations. A constitutional way has to be found to change the west- minister form of democracy to the presidential system or a hybrid one. Many options include a referendum in line with the Brexit model to transit the country.
  4. Pakistani state is in dire need of political engineering which is not possible through the stranglehold of political elites– nearly blocking any meaningful reforms with the mechanism envisaged in the 18th For example, the formation of new inclusive provinces is impossible if the current political dynasties remain at the helms. The dynastic nature of political parties has also ensured a complete disconnect between other stakeholders and the state of Pakistan e. g. youth, middle classes, women, and minorities. An inclusive democratic model should ensure positive discrimination towards these classes/section to guarantee them greater stakes.
  5. After a complete quarantine of the corrupt elite and the defeat of their foreign backers in creating organized chaos down the line in 2019, the state should launch the second and third phase of the 3D model of governance,  (Deterrence, Dialogue, and Development) at the national
  6. Contrasting Chinese and Egypt models, economic prosperity and political greatness are not divorced from each other. We need to put Pakistan on political and economic trajectories which reflect the aspirations of the people, not of a tiny elite.
  7. The year 2019 provides a rare opportunity to start paving the way from “elite captured governance” to efficient governance model and help bury the myth, “that others will be more concerned about Pakistan’s welfare then the Pakistanis themselves”. Yet there is many a slip between the cup and the lip.
  8. Pakistani nation’s Lee-Kuan-Yew-moment is around the corner to meet local and interesting challenges. Or else, be ready to become would-be-refugees taking rickety boats to Europe and making perilous journeys en-route.

Jan Achakzai is a geopolitical analyst and a politician. He served as an advisor to previous Baluchistan Government on media and strategic communication. He remained associated with BBC World Service in London covering South and West Asia. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.