The Nation and the State of Pakistan
When security, human services, justice, and basic necessities are not provided, states fail. Because these factors are man-made, diagnosing and rectifying shortcomings is theoretically possible. The case of Pakistan, however, raises very different and more difficult questions than those generated by a study of mere state failure.
Pakistan’s most unique feature is not its potential as a failed state but the
intricate interaction between the physical/political/legal entity known as the state of Pakistan and the idea of the Pakistani nation. Few if any other nation- states are more complex than Pakistan in this respect, with the Pakistani state often operating at cross-purposes with the Pakistani nation.
The state has certainly been failing for many years, but the Pakistani nation also is a contested idea, and the tension between them is what makes Pakistan an especially important case. Pakistan has not fulfilled either its potential or the expectations of its founders, but it is too big and potentially too dangerous for the international community to allow it simply to fail.
From its very inception, the state of Pakistan was thought to be more than a physical/legal entity that provided welfare, order, and justice to its citizens. Pakistan was to be an extraordinary state—a homeland for Indian Muslims and an ideological and political leader of the Islamic world. Providing a homeland to protect Muslims—a minority community in British India— from the bigotry and intolerance of India’s Hindu majority was important; in this respect Pakistan and Israel have strong parallels.
The Pakistan movement also looked to the wider Islamic world, however, and Pakistan’s leaders have been concerned about the fate of other Muslim communities living under duress, stretching from Palestine to the Philippines. Both the history and the future of Pakistan are rooted in this duality, a complex relationship between Pakistan the state—a physically bounded territory with a legal and international personality—and Pakistan the nation—mission- bound to serve as a beacon for oppressed or backward Muslim communities elsewhere in the world. Other causes include an attempt to create a truly Islamic state within Pakistan, one that would be guided by Islamic scriptures and traditions. Citizens of different political, sectarian, and ethnic persuasions contest the identity of the state of Pakistan, which in turn— backed by a powerful, nuclear-armed capability—can present an existential challenge to its neighbors.
Pakistan One Year Ago
On September 10, 2001, many observers believed Pakistan was on the verge of failure. When the military seized power in late 1999, some Pakistanis acknowledged that their state had “failed” but noted that it had failed four or five times earlier, most notably when half of Pakistan’s population—East Pakistan— became the state of Bangladesh. The natural comparison with India reinforced this judgment. India was advancing economically, had a wide range of developed political and administrative institutions, and possessed leadership capable of dramatic foreign policy moves, including a series of nuclear tests in 1998 and the possibility of a new strategic relationship with Washington. Pakistan’s economy, by comparison, was flat or worse; its core institutions were in shambles; and it initiated a war with India in 1999, leading to heavy U.S. pressure and thereupon a humiliating withdrawal of Pakistan’s forces.
If anything, Pakistan was a case study of negatives—a state seemingly incapable of establishing a normal political system, supporting the radical Islamic Taliban, and mounting Jihadi operations into India, while its own economy and political system were collapsing and internal religious and ethnic-based violence were rising dramatically. By 2001 Pakistan’s identity was deeply contested. It had strayed far from the vision of the secular lawyer-politician Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who compelled both the British and the Indian National Congress to concede to his demand for Pakistan’s creation. Revered today as the Quaid-i-Azam, “Father of the Nation,” Jinnah was at once Pakistan’s George Washington, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson. He was the first, and the last, worldclass political figure produced by Pakistan.
The pre-1947 Jinnah was a contentious, brilliant, and divisive Indian lawyer-politician who turned the “two nation” theory—the idea that India’s Muslims and Hindus constituted two separate nations, each deserving their own, separate state—into an effective political movement. The post-1947 Jinnah, however, was a man desperately trying to assemble a modern nationstate in the aftermath of an Asian bloodbath of unprecedented proportions.
After independence, Jinnah spoke of a Pakistan that would be democratic, tolerant of religious minorities, progressive socially, and modern in the liberal Western sense. His divisive rhetoric and acceptance of extralegal procedures had disappeared. He died appalled by the hatred and bloodshed generated by partition and desperately concerned about the difficulty that
Pakistan faced in establishing a modern state.
Pakistan’s small Westernized elite preserved Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan. Its most ardent advocate is General Pervez Musharraf, whose parents migrated to Pakistan, inspired by Jinnah. Of all of Pakistan’s leaders, Musharraf has most explicitly and forcefully reiterated Jinnah’s vision of a liberal, secular, and democratic Pakistan. Jinnah’s vision, albeit watered down over the years, is also embedded in Pakistan’s constitution. Despite many years of decay in Pakistan’s courts, newspapers, and universities, trace elements of Jinnah’s secular, liberal outlook are also evident in these institutions.
The large and influential nongovernmental organization (NGO) community also hearkens back to Jinnah’s earliest dream, although its very existence testifies to the Pakistani state’s failure to fulfill its basic obligations in the fields of health, education, civil liberties, and social equality—all areas emphasized by Jinnah. Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, used systematically to persecute and punish Pakistanis who do not conform to a conservative, Sunni-dominated vision of Islam, are a particularly egregious stain on Jinnah’s vision.2 Nevertheless, although Jinnah would be disappointed in present-day Pakistan, he would recognize the struggle that continues within it to bring into being his dream of a liberal, democratic, and moderate homeland for at least some Indian Muslims.
The drift from Jinnah’s vision of a liberal state began early, even as officials constructed the state of Pakistan out of the wreckage left by partition. In 1948, after the first of its four wars with India, Pakistan plunged into political instability, culminating in military rule dominated by Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Zia-ul-Haq, and more recently Musharraf. This early militarization of Pakistani society shaped the Pakistani nation-state for 40 years.
The history of Pakistani politics is one of failure to establish enduring and credible political institutions. For 50 years, the generals alternated with political leaders: Jinnah’s most prominent political successor, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, was assassinated in 1951 and was eventually followed by the rule of Generals Ayub Khan and Yahya Khan. Yahya’s ill-fated regime, which led to the destruction of the old united Pakistan, was followed by the populist Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who tried to impose an “Islamic socialist” regime that was neither religious nor leftist. The military hung him in 1979, leading to Zia ul-Haq’s 10-year interregnum, which ended in a still-mysterious 1988 plane crash. Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif then alternated as prime minister in the 1980s and 1990s. Nawaz overreached himself, and the military deposed him in another of Pakistan’s bloodless coups. The military’s dominance will likely continue for several years, even if the forthcoming October 2002 elections lead to the creation of a nominally civilian government.
This political instability also manifested itself in Pakistan’s failed efforts to establish a functioning constitution or hold regular and consequential elections. In 55 years, Pakistan has had three constitutions—created in 1956, 1962, and 1973—and in 1985 Zia ul-Haq fundamentally altered the constitution with his introduction of the Eighth Amendment establishing a president-dominated executive. Then, in 1998 Nawaz Sharif repealed this amendment. Musharraf and his military colleagues (backed by legal advisors skilled in such endeavors) appear ready to undertake a fresh attempt to create a new constitutional order. National elections in recent years were held in 1985, 1988, 1990, 1993, and 1997, but no elected Pakistani government has succeeded another in 55 years—all have been deposed by the military or dismissed by presidential fiat.
The causes of this political instability are greater than the personal ambitions or failings of Pakistan’s leaders.4 From its inception, Pakistan has been fundamentally, internally conflicted. For Pakistan’s majority Bengali community (which dominated East Pakistan from 1947–1970), the principle of majority rule was sacrosanct, and the new country of Bangladesh eventually split with Pakistan in 1970–1971 because of this issue. Why, the Bengalis argued, should there be only one Pakistan—why not two or three homelands for different Muslim communities, especially when the principle of majority rule (which would have given them control over the center) was violated?
Today, Pakistan’s smaller ethnolinguistic groups (especially Sindhis, Baluch, and the Urdu-speaking Muhajirs) resent Punjabi domination and argue that the nation for which they fought at the time of independence is not realized in present-day Pakistan.
The Army’s Pakistan
As one military leader followed another, the army’s vision of Pakistan began to define the state. Most officers believe in the Jinnah model of the Pakistani state but believe that Pakistani politicians are unable to achieve it. Therefore, the army is obliged to set Pakistan “straight” or, as Zia used to joke, correct the politicians’ qibla (the direction of prayer). They think the periodic military interventions are regrettable but necessary. The current spell of military rule is more liberal and humane than under ul-Haq, and Musharraf and his colleagues seem eager to make social and political changes that will be good in their own right but will also make it less necessary for the armed forces to intervene in the future.
So far, the armed forces have not accepted the idea that ruling Pakistan is good for the army, even though the army has profited materially from its dominant role in politics.5 The army inherited (from the British) the notion that the landlord, the greedy merchant, the demagogic politician, and the corrupt civilian bureaucrats exploit the Pakistani peasant. Because the army draws its manpower from the peasantry, it believes that land reform and social justice in the countryside (especially the dominant central province of Punjab) are vital to the state because they are vital to the army. Indeed, the army has long equated its survival, and the health of the Punjab (which provides most of the officers and other ranks), with the health of Pakistan.
Like Ayub’s regime 30 years earlier, Musharraf’s government seeks to impress on Pakistan a political framework derived from its own experience— the army as a model. Spurred on by the belief that the army is Pakistan’s leading institution (an assertion that may be true because all other institutions have decayed), the generals seek to impose a military structure on the rest of society. That effort includes educational qualifications for officeholders, an attempt to “grow” a new generation of politicians by nonpartisan local elections, and a constitutional role for the army in the higher councils of government in the form of a national security council. The government’s model is Turkey, although without Turkey’s explicitly secular framework.
Religion, State, and Identity
Although the army has been able to impose its vision for Pakistan on the state, other ideas exist about what Pakistan should be. Because of Pakistan’s ostensible identity as an Islamic state and homeland for Indian Muslims, since the early years some have made an attempt to create a state that conformed to an abstract Islamic model, which has proven impossible to define because of competing visions of an Islamic state. Indeed, the most important conflict in Pakistan is not a civilizational clash between Muslims and non- Muslims but a clash between different concepts of Islam, particularly how the Pakistani state should implement its Islamic identity.
Most of Pakistan’s early leaders were liberal Muslims from North India and Bengal who believed in liberal democracy and did not want to create a state that dictated individual religious practices. Their influence soon waned, however, and “Islamist” movements emerged in Pakistan (some led by influential scholars who migrated from India). These groups and individuals have begun to wield considerable power and have long aspired to control the Pakistani state. They have never done well at the polls but have always been a factor in the street and through their teachings and preachings.
The Islamic parties and movements are themselves very diverse. They range from radical groups that seek to foment a global Islamic revolution to factions that would be content to introduce more “Muslim” or Islamic elements into Pakistan itself. The former would wage a jihad in India to “liberate” its 140 million Muslims. These groups have also been active in Afghanistan, and some had close ties to the Taliban and Al Qaeda. They would use the state of Pakistan as Trotsky wanted to use the Soviet Union: a base camp for global revolution.
They are bitterly angry at the military and other members of the Pakistani establishment who are reluctant to sign up for the crusade.
They are also strongly anti-American, not only because of Washington’s support for Israel but also because of its support for successive moderate Pakistani governments over the years, especially those dominated by the army. Finally, most of these groups are fervent Sunnis and anti-Shi`a. Although small in number, these radical Islamic groups have been willing to employ deadly force within Pakistan against liberals, secularists, Shi`as, and now Americans. Although these groups represent a threat to public order and are capable of assassination and murder on a wide scale, they do not have broad political support. Their vision of Pakistan is so radical that the political and military branches of the Pakistani political establishment hold them in contempt. Coping with these radical groups will be a difficult and painful task for the post–September 11 Pakistani state, but their numbers and influence are likely to shrink eventually.
The circumstances are different for those Islamic groups and parties located toward the center of Pakistan’s political spectrum. The most “moderate” Islamic party, the Jama’at-i-Islami, is also the largest and best-organized one (although it has done poorly at the polls). Its ideology has spread widely throughout the army, the bureaucracy, and in some of the universities, especially in Punjab. It has forced the two major parties, the Pakistan People’s Party and the Muslim League, to become more “Islamic” than they might have been otherwise.
The Jama’at propagates the view that Pakistan should be a modern but Islamic state and, by the party’s participation in electoral politics, acknowl edges the legitimacy of Western-derived institutions such as parliament. The Jama’at was a proponent of nuclearization but has also been a critic of the military, especially after the army withdrew its covert support for the party. The Jama’at regards Musharraf as particularly threatening because of his secular tendencies. Although bitterly critical of India, the Jama’at’s leadership craves acceptance in the international community and thus presents a moderate face to the world.
The Jama’at also sees itself as an advocate of modernity, desiring Pakistan to be a marriage of Islam and technology. Most Pakistani Muslims are devout but not particularly radical. Ethnic, linguistic, and economic issues, not religious ones, have dominated Pakistani politics. The power of the religious parties derived from the patronage of the state; from Zia’s time onward, the leaders used the religious parties to balance the secular (and more influential) Pakistan Muslim League and Pakistan People’s Party. The religious parties have never polled more than 2–3 percent in a national election, and some now question whether the parties’ street power can threaten any military regime or democratically elected government or whether they will ever have the votes to win a free election.
The Effect of the Conflict in Afghanistan
Other than Afghanistan and the United States, the aftermath of the terrorist bombings in New York City and Washington, D.C., affected no country more than Pakistan. Before September 11, Pakistan still resembled a state that had lost its way. Its economy and politics had “flatlined”—with no sign of economic growth and steady political deinstitutionalization. Pakistanis vigorously debated such problems as corruption, bad governance, poor education, weak political parties, domestic disorder, and a weak economy. They also discussed (in a press that the military regime did not censor) Pakistan’s dangerous flirtation with Islamic extremists, the lack of consensus on the purpose or identity of Pakistan, and Pakistan’s continuing and ruinous obsession with India and Kashmir. A widespread sense of despair hung about Pakistan’s future, visible in the large number of educated Pakistanis leaving the country or in those who were abroad already with no plans to return.7
The terrorist attacks caused widespread changes in Pakistani politics and potentially in the identity of Pakistan. Forced to abandon its Taliban ally completely, Pakistan provided extensive military and intelligence support to the United States, even allowing foreign forces fighting in Afghanistan to use its territory. Islamabad once again became the capital of a frontline state, and the international press corps filled its five-star hotels. Pakistan underwent careful international scrutiny by investigative reporters from a number of countries. They disseminated reports to a world that became aware of what informed Pakistanis already knew: their country was slipping into extremism and violence at a rapid rate, it had become a scourge to all of its neighbors, and it was a potential threat to friends and allies such as the United States and China.
Pakistan had been allied with the United States in earlier times. In each case, the alliance strengthened Pakistan’s central government—usually a military regime—and Washington took little interest in Pakistan’s domestic political and social order. This time, however, the logic of the U.S.-Pakistan alliance dictated changes in Pakistan’s domestic politics. If the new alliance was fighting against terrorism, then Pakistan’s relations with groups that Washington was targeting had to change, and the change had to extend to their supporters within Pakistan itself. Even more striking was the pressure put on Pakistan to reduce its support for terrorist groups operating in Indian-administered Kashmir. These groups had not usually targeted Americans directly, but the new U.S.- India relationship led the United States to
pressure Pakistan to end its support for crossborder terrorists moving across the Line of Control into Kashmir. This development in turn forced a major change in Pakistan’s relations with India.
U.S. pressure on Pakistan worked for two reasons. First, Musharraf had already banned a number of extremist Islamic groups in August 2001, although enforcement of the ban was halfhearted. When the United States and other countries stated that Pakistan would have to end its flirtation with terrorist groups, action was easier for the military leadership. Pakistan absolutely had to receive international economic support to remain viable, and the West would doubtless “crash” Pakistan’s economy if the government were not cooperative. Second, Musharraf knew that, if he did not accede to U.S. demands, Washington had alternatives in South Asia. The new U.S.- India bond, forged by the Clinton administration and extended by the Bush presidency, gave the United States new leverage over Pakistan. Musharraf promised to stop cross-border terrorism but reserved the right to support the
Kashmiri brethren—whose blood, he declared, ran through the veins of the Pakistani people—morally and politically.
Musharraf dramatically laid out these new policies to the Pakistani people in a possibly historic speech delivered in Urdu over Pakistan television on January 12, 2002.9 He bluntly set forth the goal of turning Pakistan into a moderate Muslim state—the word “secular” is still contentious. No internal extremism would be tolerated and no safe havens for terrorists operating across Pakistan’s borders provided. A joke made the rounds in Pakistan after the speech that, if the pious, Islamic Zia died in 1988, he was finally buried in 2002. Do Musharraf and his colleagues really intend to transform Pakistan? Will they back away from these commitments, or will they simply fail to realize them? Pakistanis can find no consensus on answers to these questions, but the recent events have profoundly altered estimates of Pakistan’s short term future.
Consequences for the State of Pakistan
The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the subsequent revival of U.S.-Pakistani ties had four major consequences for Pakistan’s status as a failing or prospective failed state. First, the army was able to demonstrate its powerful ability to control large-scale domestic unrest. Earlier, the army’s capabilities in this regard had been in doubt. The myth of the power of the Islamic extremists to turn out hundreds of thousands of protestors or to disrupt the operation of the state, however, in retrospect was itself a myth, partly because various government intelligence services themselves originally supported many of these groups. Further, the army is able to suppress or accommodate any ethnic or linguistic separatist movement. Even though the army is predominately Punjabi and Pathan, Musharraf has skillfully handled the dissident Baluch, Sindh, and Muhajir communities. Pakistan is not likely to experience a breakaway ethnic-group situation similar to the East Pakistan/ Bengali movement of 1970 anytime soon.
Second, the radical Islamic model for Pakistan can be safely ruled out for the foreseeable future. Without a base in Afghanistan and unable to operate freely in Pakistan or India, Islamic radicalism will decline, although terrorist incidents will likely continue in Pakistan for some time. Various Al Qaeda and Taliban elements have taken refuge in Pakistan, and some have close ties to Pakistani tribal and radical groups. The best efforts of Pakistan’s weak police forces will not be good enough to prevent the occasional assassination or terror attack on foreigners and Pakistanis alike.
Third, Pakistan’s political parties showed a surprising resiliency. They have benefited from international pressure on Pakistan to hold new elections, scheduled for October 2002. Pakistani politicians may not have made democracy work, but they would like to keep trying. Fourth, the Pakistani establishment persists as the dominant political force in the country. Musharraf has stated that Pakistani politics consists of three forces: the radical Islamic parties, the “liberals” of the left, and the moderates of the center. In fact, the system remains dominated by a political/military coalition, usually termed the establishment, which has a center-right ideology and strongly resists political or social change. Musharraf depends on this establishment; should he falter, it will find a replacement for him.
Finally, Pakistan’s new geostrategic importance, and the realization that a failing Pakistan could pose a threat to the international community, has produced substantial economic aid—$1 billion from the United States alone— but whether this money will actually rebuild key institutions remains a troubling question. Poor administration, corruption, and a completely broken system of taxation and revenue collection will continue to cripple Pakistan unless Pakistanis abandon the easy path and discipline themselves. Nor is Pakistan likely to alter its fundamental hostility toward India and ease its obsession with Kashmir. These issues lie at the heart of the “official” identity of Pakistan, as promulgated by the army and the political establishment for more than 50 years; Pakistan is unlikely to be either induced or pressured into changing these fundamental policies.
Pakistan’s failure, or success, must be described in both the language of state failure, which various objective criteria can measure, and the failure of the idea of Pakistan, which is a far more subjective and contentious matter. Pakistan is unlikely to fail as a state; the downward trend in many indicators of state failure can be temporarily halted. In the long run, however, the lack of economic opportunity, the booming birth rate (one of the world’s highest), and the weak educational system could leave Pakistan with a large, young, and poorly educated population that has few prospects for economic advancement and that sees the promise of Pakistan as a cruel joke.
Balancing this scenario, Pakistan has one important asset: it is not a trivial state. Its very size (it will soon become the world’s fifth-most-populous state); its ties to many Arab and other Islamic states, especially Iran; its nuclear capabilities; and its critical geographic location mean that many powers also believe in the importance of Pakistan not failing. Successive Pakistani governments have used this argument when approaching others for support and resources. They argue, apparently correctly, that the failure of Pakistan would be a multidimensional geostrategic calamity, generating enormous uncertainties in a world that craves order and predictability. A collapsing Pakistan would place Iran, India, and China in particular at risk.
Pakistan has been one of China’s staunchest friends over the years, as well as the recipient of considerable Chinese military and nuclear assistance; Iran would be deeply concerned about the fate of Pakistan’s large Shi‘a minority; and India would face the prospect of extreme violence and disorder on its borders, much of which would inevitably spill over into India proper. Finally, the rest of the world would be concerned about the disposition of a failing Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and fissile material, which could easily appear in the hands of other states or of terrorist groups.
Asking “Which Pakistan is likely to succeed?” provides another way of looking at Pakistani state failure. A number of possible future scenarios exist that imply the success of any one of several contending ideas of Pakistan. The breakup of Pakistan is very unlikely for the foreseeable future. The events of 2001 strengthened the hand of the center and weakened ethnic separatists. Thus, a replay of 1970 and a second partitioning
of Pakistan are unlikely.
The triumph of radical Islam in Pakistan is as improbable as dissolution. Radical Islam in Pakistan was never a mass movement, but it had street power and Kalashnikov power. The radical Islamic groups had received the support of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies, who are now burying the evidence of this cooperation. Although radical Islamic groups may stage a comeback, they are very unlikely ever to impose their radical vision on Pakistan and transform it into a nuclear-armed Afghanistan.
The only likely dramatic change in Pakistani politics would be the emergence of a demagogic or radical political movement. Pakistan never had a truly leftist political movement; the hostility of the landowners, the alliance with the United States, the dominance of the army, and the conservatism of most Pakistanis enfeebled the left. Pakistan came closest to a radical political movement with the socialist/Islamic government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who believed that only a populist movement could counter the army’s power.
Such a leftist movement could be repeated in the future, but it will always have to reckon with the military.11 If the present experiment with a mixed military/civilian regime should collapse, an increase in the appetite for authoritarianism is more likely. The full restoration of democratic government and the efficient rebuilding of the Pakistani state is a future that would fall somewhere between the improbable and the impossible. Although most “establishment” Pakistanis are formally committed to the restoration of democracy, most are also uncomfortable with the idea of mass democratic politics. In Pakistan, democracy is still the avocation of the rich and influential, seen more as a civic obligation than a career. On this issue, Pakistan is well ahead of many Arab states but far behind thoroughly politicized and democratized India or Sri Lanka, and even behind Bangladesh.
A truly democratic Pakistan is unlikely to emerge until the military and politicians broker some kind of grand accord. The mistrust by the former prevents them from giving the politicians a free hand, and the latter are so insecure that they instinctively turn to the armed forces for political support. Pakistan will continue as a state that hovers on the edge of democracy. The present arrangement of a military-led or -influenced government will prevail indefinitely but will not transform Pakistan. Various actors will repeatedly challenge the legitimacy of army rule, but not the legitimacy of the state.
Pakistan is in the ambivalent position of having an army that can neither govern nor allow civilians to rule. Thus, because the army itself is an inherently conservative institution (Musharraf may profess admiration for Ataturk but few of his colleagues share this enthusiasm), radical change is inconceivable. Whether the army has the conceptual ability to plan a strategy of incremental change that would fundamentally reform Pakistan’s ailing institutions is also questionable because of the continuing conflict with India over Kashmir, an obsession that has drained resources for civil society. All failing states have weak armies; Pakistan’s army is strong enough to prevent state failure but not imaginative enough to impose the changes that might transform Pakistan.
As for nationhood, can the army create an identity compatible with Pakistan’s multiethnic, multisectarian realities, as well as with Pakistan’s environment, especially the still-contested relationship with New Delhi? Because of its dominant position in the state, the army has a veto over any attempt to change the consensus view of Pakistan’s identity.
Implications for U.S. Policy
In the 1950s, the United States responded to the communist threat in South Asia in two ways. It forged a military alliance with Pakistan, supplemented with significant assistance to Pakistan’s economy and society. When the need for the alliance faded, however, so did U.S. assistance and influence, and Pakistan sought guidance from two illiberal states, China and Saudi Arabia. The other U.S. strategy in South Asia was to assist India. Because
New Delhi rejected a military alliance, economic development and stronger Indian civil institutions became the focus. India thus became the largest recipient of U.S. grant and loan assistance.
Despite other factors, the contrast between the alliances with India and with Pakistan is instructive when thinking of a strategy to counter the new threat of radical Islam and terrorism. A purely military relationship with Pakistan will not suffice, and the Bush administration has apparently grasped the importance of economic and technical assistance to buttress Pakistan. Should the United States focus only on resurrecting the Pakistani state, or must it also address the idea of Pakistan?
Obviously, the United States must make an effort to assist Pakistan’s tattered institutions, but content is as important as form. Any focus on schools must also include attention to the material taught in those schools, or Washington could fund Pakistani hatred against some of its closest allies, as well as countries such as India.12 Rebuilding weakened institutions is pointless if the central operating principles of the Pakistani establishment remains hatred and distrust of India and intolerance of diversity at home. The United States must also engage the idea of Pakistan and join in Pakistan’s own struggle to perfect and refine the concept of the Pakistani nation.
Washington once again believes Pakistan is a moderate Muslim state, envisioned as a role model for other Muslim states, but the idea of a moderate Muslim state must have content. The larger issue facing Pakistan is not total state failure or collapse, but an exploration of the kind of nation-state that Pakistan will become. Some alternative futures are truly frightening; others are more benign. If the end goal is a liberal, secular, modern state, functioning in the global system at peace with its neighbors, a very long road lies ahead, with no assurance that either the Pakistani state or the Pakistani nation is willing or able to traverse it.