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September 22, 2015

French author identifies key issues defining Pakistan’s politics

Karachi

 
September 22, 2015

Karachi
Since its inception, Pakistan has mainly been engaged in three kinds of political tensions: unitary nation-state or ethno-linguistic federation, feud between the civil and military governments while the third was the debate of it being a theocratic or a non-theocratic state.
This was stated by French research scholar Christophe Jaffrelot, while addressing the media first at the Karachi Press Club and later at the Alliance Francais on Monday. He was speaking about his forthcoming book, “The Pakistan paradox: instability and resilience”.
The Pakistan movement, he said, took shape within the Urdu-speaking elite in northern India. It emerged in reaction to the apprehensions of the loss of social status and religious freedom on account of the rise of the Hindu majority after 1850.
However, Urdu was elevated to a vector of national integration which alienated many regional groups, leading to the loss of Pakistan’s eastern half in 1971.
In 2010, he said, the 18th amendment to the Constitution was passed which was meant to be a step towards democracy but it needed to be put into practice.
The second tension, he mentioned, was the civilian and military governments which succeeded one another every decade. From 1947 to1958, he said, political parties looked to put into place a democratic regime but Ayub Khan’s coup, “Put an end to that experience.”
He then mentioned the regime of General Yahya Khan who held democratic elections which brought Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to power and the subsequent break-up of 1971, and then Bhutto’s execution by Zia-ul-Haq.
Then, he said, was religion, on which there was no consensus and all sects, moderate or diehard were struggling to have their forms of religion foisted on the masses with highly divisive results.
“There were the highly orthodox Deobandis and the moderate Aligarhians and both had different agendas.” Debate on what kind of religion should rule the land had been raging

since the inception of the country.
He cited as another source of tension the feud between democratic and autocratic rule. Prime Ministers, he said, were not allowed to fully play their respective roles either by the military or by the bureaucracy.
In a democracy, he said, rulers were accountable to the voters which was not so in Pakistan, especially in the case of Benazir Bhutto. “Democratically elected leaders did not rule democratically,” he said.
Another thing that had added to Pakistan’s woes, he said, was the financial mess, including the world’s lowest tax-GDP ratio.
As for the external factors responsible for Pakistan’s resilience, he mentioned the aftermath of the Korean War and the all-out drive of the USA to prevent Communism from reaching Asia which resulted in Pakistan joining the US-contrived anti-communist military pacts like the Cento and the Seato.
In return, the US promised to give a blank cheque to Pakistan for its development projects, the writer claimed.
However, after the 1965 war, when the attitude of the US began to undergo a change, Pakistan approached China, followed by ZA Bhutto’s cozying-up to Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.
Jaffrelot’s lecture was followed by a panel discussion with The Express-Tribune Editor Kamal Siddiqui and Forman Christian College Prof Saeed Shafqat. Both the panellists lauded the book highly.