The long-lasting solution to the Afghan conflict lies in the rebuilding of region-based political consensus that may produce a political settlement among all the elements of Afghan society, including the Taliban. This requires that the Afghan government and the people, the United States and regional stakeholders agree on a negotiated framework for an inclusive peace process.
The international community for good reason is yet once again stepping up efforts to find a peaceful solution to bring Afghanistan out from the 16 years long conflict with the Taliban. This is largely because the fragile security across the country has further deteriorated, and it continues to follow a downward spiral with recurrent armed clashes between the security forces and the Taliban, fluctuating in the degree of their intensity. It reached a record high in 2016, and continued at that stride in 2017. 807 troops from Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) died just between January 1 and February 24, 2017.
The April 2017 attack in the northern Balkh province killing at least 140 soldiers of the 209 Shaheen Army Corps, responsible for providing security to most of northern Afghanistan showcases the deficient position of the 8,400 U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan, tens of thousands of defense and agency contractors and Afghan security forces in the face of the Taliban and other armed groups resistance. The Taliban are now gearing towards more bellicosity with their recently announced spring offensive titled, Operation Mansouri. The statement released by the Taliban noted, “Mansouri would be carried out in two parts, military and non-military.”
Moreover, the Afghan security apparatus, besieged by the spiraling battlefield casualties, high number of desertions and non-existent soldiers on the payroll, has hitherto failed to halt the Taliban and other militant groups’ resurrection. Afghan National Security Forces are rapidly losing ground in their own country, and if it continues to accelerate at this pace, it could cause a “domino effect” by the fall of more government controlled areas of the country to the hands of Taliban and other militant groups. During the first eight months of 2016, the Afghan forces suffered death toll of 15000, the highest since 2001.
The recent 2017 report by an official U.S. watchdog, quoting senior U.S. military officials, stated that calling Russia, Pakistan and Iran “malign actors” in Afghanistan that enable insurgents or terrorist groups in Afghanistan does not help the situation. General Nicholson also said that Russia lends public legitimacy to the Taliban, which undermines the Afghan government and NATO efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report is very damaging to the Russia’s initiative of which China and Pakistan are a part. It includes quotes from General Curtis Scaparrotti, Commander U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO Allied Command Operations and Joseph Votel, Commander United States Central Command, suggesting that Russia may be “supplying the Taliban”. The Russian government has publicly rejected such remarks.
The latest report of the SIGAR underscores that the Afghan government has actually lost control of further 5% of its territory to the Taliban since the beginning of 2017. It further claims that the area under the control or influence of the Afghan government has decreased to just 52% of the nation’s districts in 2017 with half the country either contested or under the control of the insurgents, compared to 72% in November 2015.
The Moscow-led initiative which was initially not welcomed by Afghanistan because it was not invited to the meeting, is now joined by it. India and Iran are also a part of it. In fact the Afghan spokesperson actually called Russian government “an important ally”. In April, Pakistan had also invited the U.S. to participate in the Russian sponsored initiative, calling U.S. the biggest stakeholder. However, U.S. declined it saying the purpose is unclear. In fact the statements made later are indicative of American mistrust of Russian intent.
According to the recent brief on third round of the negotiations issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry stated that: “The 12 participant countries including Afghanistan, Russia, India, China, Pakistan, Iran, and the Central Asian countries, came up with a joint narrative that there is no military solution to the Afghan crisis and that it can only be settled through the restoration of national accord by political means, in keeping with UN Security Council resolutions.”
The Conflict-matrix if perceived through the prism of the Pentagon, maintains a positive view of Afghanistan; while the ground reality contradicts it diametrically. The latest report of the SIGAR underscores that the Afghan government has actually lost control of further 5% of its territory to the Taliban since the beginning of 2017. It further claims that the area under the control or influence of the Afghan government has decreased to just 52% of the nation’s districts in 2017 with half the country either contested or under the control of the insurgents, compared to 72% in November 2015. In volatile Helmand province, the Taliban are contesting for 10 of the 14 districts. The Afghan government now roughly controls 60% of administrative districts with 29% under dispute and 11% in the hands of Taliban.
Essentially the Indian initiative and the Chinese initiative translate very differently on the ground in present day security situation. India is a cultivated protagonist in the conflict; secondly Indian government is losing ground. China has come up with a more 360 degree approach of cultivating both, the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban. Its influence on Pakistan and the growing convergence between China and Russia plus China’s neutrality of conduct helps the situation immensely.
The civilian casualties connected to the conflict were around 11,418 in 2016 and also a significant increase in internal displacement where 660,000 fled their homes due to fighting, the highest number recorded since the U.S. invasion. This is notwithstanding the spending of more than $117 billion on different development schemes by the U.S. The country still remains near the bottom of most human development indexes, largely because of the corrupt Afghan government which is incapable of effectively governing and handling the security situation of the country. According to the Transparency International report, Afghanistan stands at 166 of 168 countries in its Corruption Index and an eighth of all the money that goes to Afghanistan is lost to corruption. American spending to reconstruct Afghanistan now exceeds the amount spent to rebuild all of Western Europe under the Marshall Plan. The United States has also invested $70 billion in rebuilding Afghan security force. Afghan security forces continue to be plagued by the problem of inflated rolls and ghost soldiers with local commanders pocketing American-supplied funds to pay for non-existent soldiers. The United States has also spent $8.5 billion to battle narcotics in Afghanistan; opium production in 2016-17 has reached an all-time high. The failures of American war strategy in Afghanistan are both glaring and humiliating.
The new under-consideration strategy of the U.S. administration in Afghanistan of further deployment of between 3,000 to 5,000 additional troops would not reverse the momentum and direction of the Afghan war or American failures. In 2011, U.S. deployed 100,000 soldiers in Afghanistan at the peak of the surge. The massive surge has remained futile to control the unabated Taliban insurgency. In fact, the Taliban and other militant groups have emerged with more robust potent threat to the already beleaguered security apparatus of the country. Hence, the plan to increase the number of troops does not have the potential to end the stalemate in Afghanistan.
Any increase of several thousand American forces in Afghanistan would be well below their 2011 peak. Although U.S. military is all set to pitch a revised Afghan war plan to President Trump in mid-May, on conditions of anonymity officials concede that the situation in Afghanistan is even worse than they had expected, and that any politically palatable numbers would not be enough to turn the tide, much less create stability and security.
This longest war in the U.S. history, dating from October 2001, now appropriates over three-quarter of a billion dollars to it. The U.S. achieved nothing and has failed miserably in Afghanistan on all fronts, with the fatalities of around 2300 U.S. military personnel and over 20,000 wounded.
More recently, the U.S. again show-cased its fierce military might by dropping the 21,000-pound GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB), dubbed as the "Mother Of All Bombs” on a huge tunnel complex used by the IS-Khorasan in the Tora Bora mountains of the Nangarhar Province. Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani supported the bombing but senior state official Omar Zakhilwal, the Afghan envoy to Pakistan, criticized the strike as "reprehensible" and "counterproductive" and maintained that “If big bombs were the solution, we (Afghanistan) would be the most secure place on earth today”. Former president Karzai also tweeted against it saying Afghanistan should not be used as a testing ground for American weapons. The strike that reportedly killed 90 militants show diminutive sign that the bomb dealt a devastating blow to the militants, as the area still remains an active combat zone and the U.S. troops still have restricted access to that locality.
In addition, the strike rather than disposing of the Afghan resistance, may galvanize the dissenting Afghan insurgent groups together against a common enemy with increased support of the people, and is more likely to exacerbate the insurgency. One of the bomb’s predecessor, named the BLU-82B or “Daisy Cutter,” was also many times used against the militants during the early phase of the war but yielded only short term tactical and strategic gains. The Special Forces' dictum, that ‘if an insurgency isn't shrinking, it's succeeding’, precisely fits in the existing lattice of the Afghan imbroglio.
More failure is not an option due to growth of terrorism and expansion of the conflict spectrum, which is stimulating and brewing anxiety in the peripheral countries like Pakistan, China, Iran and Russia.
Even, in spite of budget deficits and cost over runs, members of the U.S. national security apparatus, elected and appointed officials, senior military officers, and other policy insiders, accept war as an ongoing normal way of life. Andrew J. Bacevich in his article “The never-ending war in Afghanistan”, observes war in Washington has just become more tolerable, an enterprise to be managed rather than terminated, as quickly as possible.
The conflict in Afghanistan is attracting new stakeholders to the conflict. It is rapidly becoming a strategic hub of competition and conflict among regional and global players. The U.S. is there, not ready to realize the underlying causes of the conflict in spite of monumental failures and costs. India, China and Russia are the new entrants. Russia is now looking at a regional and global role, as an active player. Its proactive role in Afghanistan is essentially driven by the expanding foothold of IS-chapter in Afghanistan and it is trying to integrate itself with China’s growing economic footprint in the region, One Belt, One Road project by improving its connectivity with the region.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s affiliate in the South and Central Asia, Wilayat Khorasan (WK); the latest emerging threat in 2015 in the country’s east, now threatens to expand its sway in the region. It has enticed various splinter factions from the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, as well as Jundallah and other local groups. Moreover, WK also draws the sympathy and recruits from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, East Turkestan Islamic Movement and Jamaat Ansarullah of Tajikistan. They attract disaffected Taliban and unemployed Afghan youth with huge economic incentives, normally $700 a month to join them. According to the U.S. military officials, the group holds 600 to 800 fighters hugely concentrated in Nangarhar and Kunar provinces of the country, whereas the Afghan officials estimate around 1,500 fighters, with twice as many ancillary helpers and up to 8,000 less active supporters.
The Russia-China-Pakistan led peace-initiative on Afghanistan is also a response to this new threat. It is to step up efforts to promote the intra-Afghan peace process while maintaining the leading role of Afghan government and integrating the armed opposition into peaceful co-existence. United States’ continued resistance to the initiative post its acceptance by the Afghan government, indicates that the U.S. is still incapable to grab the gravity of the situation and is unilaterally focusing on accentuating the military presence, a strategy that has met with nothing but failure.
The Russian led peace-initiative is now welcomed by Pakistan, Iran, China and Afghanistan itself, the direct affectees of the conflict. Iran favors the initiative as its calculus of keeping the Wilayat Khorasan at bay and competing for influence over the Afghan Taliban fit with this model. China also supports the move as the country is eagerly pursuing for stability in the region to ensure the success of its One Belt, One Road initiative.
Whilst, during the second session of this initiative, India and China did not see eye to eye and deeply came at odds with each other, especially on the latter’s demand to initiate talks with Afghan Taliban. India had confined itself to sticking to developmental support in Afghanistan to increase its influence by working on its linkages with the weak government of Afghanistan.
Essentially the Indian initiative and the Chinese initiative translate very differently on the ground in present day security situation. India is a cultivated protagonist in the conflict; secondly Indian government is losing ground. China has come up with a 360 degree approach of cultivating both, the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban. Its influence on Pakistan and the growing convergence between China and Russia plus China’s neutrality of conduct helps the situation immensely.
Since 1990s, the strategic significance of Afghanistan for China has escalated astronomically with concerns ranging from Uyghur militants posing threats in Xinjiang province to Afghanistan emerging as a key player in the “One Belt, One Road” initiative. China is now ready to play an overt role for peace in Afghanistan. China recognizes the Afghan format and wants the Taliban to join the peace process. India, on the other hand, describes Taliban as the biggest threat to Afghanistan largely because it views Afghanistan through Pakistan’s prism.
Russia provided both the diplomatic and logistical support to U.S. military in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2015. Although, over the last two years, it has been critical of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and its role to end the war. This led to significant shift, which now has become more obvious from Russia’s prior policy of neutrality to assertion in Afghanistan.
U.S., now perceives the Russian engagement and its peace negotiation moves in Afghanistan as country’s policy to expand its influence by taking advantage of the turbulence in the country to establish itself as a major player in the region and extending its foothold to the other critical parts of the world.
The long-lasting solution to the Afghan conflict lies in the rebuilding of region-based political consensus that may produce a political settlement among all the elements of Afghan society, including the Taliban. This requires that the Afghan government and the people, the United States and regional stakeholders agree on a negotiated framework for an inclusive peace process. It can only be materialized by a positive shift in varying threat perceptions, competing interests, and conflicting assessments by the actors of the conflict; hence moving beyond the “Rashomon effect” to peace cultivation. A stable Afghanistan should be the top priority of the U.S. and regional players with a paradigm shift of winning a war to reaching peace. The Russia-China-Pakistan initiative appears as a silver lining on the conflict-ridden horizon of the region.
Dr. Huma Baqai is Associate Professor at Institute of Business Administration, Karachi in the Department of Social Sciences and Liberal Arts, and, Qudsia Khaliq is Research Assistant to Dr. Huma Baqai.
West Asia continues to occupy an important position in International Relations due to its geo-political location, for the entire region acts as a link between Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, Red Sea, Atlantic Sea and Indian Ocean. The vast reserves of oil have perpetually attracted special interest from all over the world particularly from Western powers. The West Asia Policy of India had primarily been shaped by its friendly relations with the Arab countries and with a view to promote its national interests. India’s relations with Arabs were also influenced by the nature of its relations with Pakistan. India viewed that Pakistan regarded itself as closer to West Asia and projected India as anti-Islamic. It was to counter this pan-Islamic movement that India adopted a pro-Arab stance.
Even before independence, Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister of Independent India, began co-operating with the Arab nationalists, and the Indian National Congress lent its support for the Arab’s struggle. The same consideration led India to extend its support to the Palestinian issue also. The Congress leaders, while sympathetic towards the plight of Jews in Europe were unresponsive to the idea of Israel. By the time the partition of Palestine became an issue in the United Nations, India had adopted an anti-Israel attitude and it was with this view that India opposed the partition of Palestine in the UN General Assembly in November 1947. When Israel came into existence in May 1948, India opposed the creation of the Jewish State and even voted against its creation. India regarded it as a theocratic state which was set up with the backing of imperialist powers. India however accorded de jure recognition to Israel in September 1950, stating that it was recognizing an established fact and that non-recognition was not only inconsistent with the overall relationship between the two member states, but would also limit India’s role as a possible peacemaker between the Arabs and the Israelis. The relationship was, however, kept at low key and no full-fledged diplomatic relations were then established because of Arab sentiments other than allowing the opening of Israeli Consulate in Bombay in 1955.
Israel which courted non-aligned foreign policy in its early years was keen on improving relations with New Delhi, one of the NAM’s originators, but with little success. Pressure from the Arab bloc dissuaded India from accepting Israel’s overtures and led to the NAM adopting an anti-Israel policy. Israel’s gradual identification as an American ally over the 1960s further hindered good relations with India, which was highly suspicious of American foreign policy. The limited military assistance Israel rendered to India in its 1962 War with China and the India-Pakistan wars (1965 and 1971), as well as low key co-operation between their intelligence services over the years, elicited no change in New Delhi’s approach to the Jewish State. Even the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel made no dent in the formal hostility displayed by the Indian political elites against Israel from 1982 to 1988, India did not even allow full consular relations. India’s change in attitude toward Israel took place towards the end of Cold War, as it reassessed its foreign policy in view of fall of the Soviet Union. Adjusting itself in new global environments and new realities, India took a U-turn in its relations with Israel. India formally recognized Israel in January 1992 under Narasimha Rao’s premiership. The new BJP government of India was less considerate towards its largest Muslim minority who were more sympathetic towards Palestinian cause rather than Israel, likewise BJP government also neglected the Arab sentiments who were anti-Israeli in their approach. The normalization of relations left both India and Israel to explore as many avenues as possible. Since 1992, the two countries have exchanged several visits at different levels and signed several agreements, including “MoUs” to enhance their ties. Both states have been co-operating in various spheres of public policy including: intelligence, economy, culture, technology, security and military. The main interest of Israel lies in economic areas, while India’s major concern is related to military technology and security issues. The Indo-Israel equation is the emergence of a mutual equilibrium with each party deriving some advantages out of the new relationship. The smooth pace with which normalization has proceeded has rewarded Israeli’s patience and caused India to question why they had delayed completing the process for so long? The normalization has paid the Indian government well and is likely to benefit in future, too.
A flourishing Indo-Israel relationship has made a significant impact on the global politics by altering the balance of power not only in the Middle East, but also in South Asia and even in the larger Asian region. This bilateral relationship has worked to great disadvantage for Pakistan.
A flourishing Indo-Israel relationship has made a significant impact on the global politics by altering the balance of power not only in the Middle East, but also in South Asia and even in the larger Asian region. This bilateral relationship has worked to great disadvantage for Pakistan.
Pakistan essentially identifies many dangers to its national interests and security because of Indo-Israel nexus. Pakistan places Islamic ideology as the basic principle of its existence, which has always been taken by both India and Israel as a threat to their own ideologies – so-called Indian secularism and Zionism. Since 1992 both countries initiated propaganda tactics against Islamic Republic of Pakistan in which they tried to portray it as a state embodying extremism and fundamentalism. The level of cooperation and understanding between India and Israel in realm of defense and security is also a growing concern for Pakistan. The country consistently faces problems like ethnic divisions, sectarianism, suicide bombing etc., because of Indo-Israel unleashing of Forth Generation Warfare agenda. Security has become the overriding and foremost concern of Pakistan. The situation also aggravated in the past when country felt the risk of pre-emptive strike by Israel on its nuclear facilities with direct Indian assistance – by using India as a base to destroy Pakistan's nuclear facilities. Even in May 1998 before Pakistan carried out its nuclear tests, it put all its defense measures on red alert after receiving the intelligence that six modern aircraft loaded with sophisticated missiles and flown by Israeli pilots had landed on different air bases in the Indian Occupied Kashmir. The Indians in collaboration with Israel had laid electronic counter measures (ECM) frequency operated equipment network to neutralize Pakistan's electronic network at its nuclear facilities.
The country consistently faces problems like ethnic divisions, sectarianism, suicide bombing etc., because of Indo-Israel unleashing of foURth generation warfare agenda.
Besides that, Pakistan also faces a security threat because of Indo-Israel nexus in Kashmir. Both countries draw a parallel thinking on insurgencies in Kashmir and Palestine. This shared goal has led to better understanding of each other’s concerns. Both countries have been working to label the freedom fighters in Kashmir and Palestine as Islamic extremists and terrorists, which is neither in the interest of Pakistan nor in the interests of Kashmiris and Palestinians, keeping in view their fundamental right of self-determination. The Indo-Israel bilateral relations have been disturbing the regional equilibrium on the one hand and are also paving way for strong ties between U.S. and India on the other.
Similarly, India-Israel ties increased the concerns for Pakistan mainly because of the intensity of co-operation between the two states in the fields of defence. Due to this nexus, the strategic balance in the sub-continent is tilting fast against Pakistan. In coming years, it will be difficult to match the combined conventional military capability of Israel and India. Pakistan is especially concerned about the sale of Arrow anti-missilesystem that has the potential to neutralize part of nuclear ballistic missile capability. The Phalcon Airborne Early Warning, Command and Control (AEW&C) system will give India the capability to look deep into Pakistan’s territory with the result that it would be difficult for Pakistani war planes to move without being detected. The Barak Anti-missile system will gives the Indian Navy huge maneuver advantages.
To counter the threat of Indo-Israel nexus, Pakistan must frame different strategies and follow different tactics as to preserve its national interests and national security. Pakistan's policy must be multi-dimensional. Being a frontline state in war against terrorism, taking advantage from the environment Pakistan must ask U.S. for providing it with hi-tech military hardware, though U.S. may never give Pakistan a status of strategic partner as it was assured to Israel and India, however, Pakistan as a non-NATO ally, frontline state in war against terror and being a supply line state for NATO towards Afghanistan, can convince U.S. and NATO countries to pressurize India and Israel for abandoning their aggressive approach and activities against Pakistan. On the other hand, for long term benefits Pakistan must always keep the Chinese option at hand to neutralize these agendas which are a growing threat to regional peace and security. Pakistan must further cultivate its ties with Russia which can prove to be beneficial for fulfilling the need of hi-tech military hardware.
ECO will defiantly merge the interests of Pakistan,, Iran,, Turkey,, Central Asian States,, even Azerbaijan and Afghanistan with new members in shape of China and Russia. The success of ECO will minimize Indo--U.S. role in Central Asian region and Afghanistan which indirectly will block Israel''s involvement in the entire region.
Furthermore, Pakistan may also highlight the issue of Palestine between India and Israel. It will compel India to follow a single clear stance where it must choose one between the two options i.e., either to provide full fledged support to Palestinian cause or to go towards Israel. In both ways India may lose. If it supports Palestine then it will lose Israel and if it supports Israel then it may deprive itself from oil benefits of Arab world and may suffer from economic crisis. Pakistan may also highlight India’s closeness with Iran. As Iran and Israel are very hostile towards each other so India again may lose either Iran or Israel. This approach will be useful in countering India's hegemonic designs in the region. Likewise, as India takes China as a threat to security, there is a need to expose dual Indian policies and sensitise Israelis and Chinese about negative opportunist policies of India. Apart from that, Pakistan through various platforms like OIC, D8 etc., may expose India and Israel from regional and international security perspective. This will force India and Israel to review their policies towards Pakistan. Equally, Pakistan may also expose the aggressive designs and hegemonic agendas of both India and Israel which are becoming a direct threat for regional and international peace and prosperity.
In addition, the CPEC project appears to be a landmark of Pakistan-China friendly relations and CPEC is being viewed as a game changer and a path towards regional connectivity. To make CPEC more significant, Pakistan along with its allies of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) must strive for expanding the membership of ECO and for that China along with Russia must be granted its membership. With China and Russia as its members, ECO will have a new soul and it will rise as a more pragmatic paradigm towards regional connectivity.
ECO will defiantly merge the interests of Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Central Asian States, even Azerbaijan and Afghanistan with new members in shape of China and Russia. The success of ECO will minimize Indo-U.S. role in Central Asian region and Afghanistan which indirectly will block Israeli involvement in the entire region.
It is also pertinent that Israeli factor in Pakistan-India relations exacerbates the most devastating aspect of the rivalry between the two countries; an accelerated arms race. The military sales between India and Israel have proved to be detrimental for the fragile balance of power between India and Pakistan. In response Pakistan has been pursuing a policy aimed at balancing the strategic equation to ensure a credible deterrence against India and its nexus with Israel under immense strategic compulsions. The options left for Pakistan are many, however, these need to be framed and followed in pragmatic way as to achieve a favorable desired outcome. Therefore, Islamabad must employ multi-dimensional diplomacy as well as formulate effective strategies to counter the threat posed by Indo-Israel nexus.
The writer is Assistant Professor at Department of International Relations, University of Balochistan, Quetta.
Demography, along with geography, has always figured in the making of nations and in inter-state relationships. But perhaps never so critically as in the case of Pakistan. Indeed, in all the annals of its proto-history and existential career, demography and Pakistan have been interminably entwined. This may sound incredible, even inexplicable.
But for a moment consider the following. Which variable other than demography sparked the demand for Pakistan? Which variable has determined the roller coaster course of Pakistan’s history which, during her first 24 years, became hostage to East-West Pakistan tension, mutual bickering and a litany of grievances, culminating in the country’s traumatic dismemberment? Which other variable has set the nature of the political tone, tenor and discourse and triggered the political crises Pakistan has been almost continuously enmeshed in since its birth on August 14, 1947? Which other variable has fueled the acrimonious debate on resources allocation, the civil and military bureaucracy composition, power-sharing formulae and decision-making weightage between regimes and political units, administrative units, political parties and pressure groups? None else other than demography for the most part and as the core stimulant. Interminably linked with demography has, of course, been geography.
An explication of the above framework calls for a historical flashback. Of all the major countries conquered by Islam in the first, second and third waves, extending from the seventh to the 15th centuries, two countries on the periphery stood as exceptions – Spain (or Andalusia) in the west and India in the east. Muslim Spain, ascendant for some seven centuries, finally got wiped out when Boabdil handed over the keys of Granada to Ferdinand and Isabella in January 1492, a tragic event in the annals of Islam, culminating in Christian Spain’s marathon Reconquista drive.
Muslims ruled over large parts of the subcontinent for seven to eight centuries. Yet, as against the Islamic heartland, this Islamic bastion on the scattered fringe remained non-Muslim demographically. Provincial Hinduism withstood Islam, to quote Jadunath Sarkar, the famous Indian historian. Even the heartland of the Muslim Indian empire, the North Western Provinces of the 19th century and the United Provinces of the 20th century, housing the capital of the Delhi Sultanate (1206-1526) and the Mughal Empire (1526-1857), was home to barely 14 percent of the population.
In 1842, after the battle of Ghazni, Lord Ellenborough, the governor general, had put down the number of Muslims at 10 percent of the population, perhaps without counting those in northwest India, which was still outside the British realm. Yet it was undoubtedly an understatement in the census since 1990 had revealed the Muslims comprised 22.6 percent of the population of India and Burma (note Burma was included in the census in India till 1931), 22.4 percent in 1891, 23.2 percent in 1901, 23.5 percent in 1911, and 24.1 percent in 1921.
Hence, in the context of the low Muslim demography, Sir Syed’s gravest concern at this juncture, to quote his own words, was how to get “the two nations – the Mohammedans and Hindus – sit on the same throne and remain in equal power.” And he came to the ominous conclusion, “Most certainly not.. to hope that.. is to desire the impossible and the inconceivable.”
Which variable has determined the roller coaster course of Pakistan’s history which, during her first 24 years, became hostage to East-West Pakistan tension, mutual bickering and a litany of grievances, culminating in the country’s traumatic dismemberment? Which other variable has set the nature of the political tone, tenor and discourse and triggered the political crises Pakistan has been almost continuously enmeshed in since its birth on August 14, 1947? Which other variable has fueled the acrimonious debate on resources allocation, the civil and military bureaucracy composition, power-sharing formulae and decision-making weightage between regimes and political units, administrative units, political parties and pressure groups? None else other than demography for the most part and as the core stimulant.
It was impossible under the unitary Westminster model, with its credo of majority rule which the Indian National Congress was insisting on since its founding in 1885, and with the British proclivity for the introduction of representative institutions – as indicated by the Gladstonian reforms of the 1880s, the Local Board Bill (1883), and the Bradlaugh Bill (1889), eventuating in the Indian Councils Act (1892). Profoundly realistic that Sir Syed was, his worst fears were summed up in a telling information: “How can the Mohammedan guard their interests? It would be like a game of dice, in which one man had four dice and the other only one… there will be one member for us to every four for the Hindus…,” Sir Syed argued in his Lucknow address on December 28, 1887.
In order to salvage the bleak Muslim situation to the extent it could be done, Sir Syed settled for separate electorates. Thus, from the late 1880s onwards, it became the core Muslim demand. It was put in formally by a representative Muslim deputation at Shimla on October 1, 1906, and was finally conceded by the British in the Act of 1909.
Until 1920, Sir Syed’s claim of Muslim nationhood was in the religio-cultural context but not in terms of demography or dispersal of the Muslim population in the subcontinent. The Muslims, counting about 70 million, constituted the largest single bloc of Muslims in the world, yet they were no better than a “minority” in the subcontinent.
In this context, the 1921 census figures came as a blessing. They showed that as a result of a greater population increase during the previous decades, they had acquired a slight majority in two of the largest provinces – 54 percent in Bengal and 55.4 percent in the Punjab.
Punjab was adjacent to Sindh, the NWFP and Balochistan, and each of them had considerable or a preponderant majority of Muslims. Thus the Muslim “nation” had at last acquired some sort of a territorial base in two important regions.
What made the emergence of some Muslim majority provinces so significant was the Montford Reforms of 1919, which initiated the trend towards the devolution of power to the provinces. The reforms conceded greater powers to the council and for the first time the Indians were entrusted with responsibility in respect of the transferred subjects such as education, local government, agriculture, etc. Thus, the Muslim demographic dominance in Bengal and Punjab ensured them a share in the province power pie.
During the 1920s, this dominance determined the power-sharing mechanisms devised by Muslims as a basis for a Hindu-Muslim settlement, and get such a mechanism incorporated in the next installment of reforms, promised by the British 10 years after the introduction of the Montford Reforms.
Hence, four of the five basic Muslim demands which figured in Delhi Muslim Proposal (1927), the all-Parties Muslim Conference Resolution (1929) and Jinnah’s Fourteen Points (1929) were: (i) reservation of seats for Muslims in the Punjab and Bengal on population basis; (ii) residuary powers for the provinces in a federal set-up; (iii) separation of Sindh from Bombay and setting it up as a separate province; and (iv) reforms in the NWFP and Balochistan, to bring them at par with other provinces in terms of their constitutional status.
The 1935 Act conceded the demands relating to Sindh and the NWFP. This meant four (five if Balochistan was included) stable Muslim provinces to match the six Hindu provinces and a genuine federation at the centre to ensure the substance of power to Muslims in their majority provinces.
But the federal part of the 1935 Act tilted towards a unitary government, a highly centralized structure, and the Congress rule in the Hindu provinces during 1937-39 sought to give a foretaste of what to expect when it assumed power at the centre. Hence the Muslim call for the abandonment of the federal part, which the British finally did in late 1939.
And once the Muslim hopes of ensuring or enjoying the substance of power in their majority province proved to be a chimera, their demographic dominance in the north-west and the north-east was adroitly used as a launching pad for the demand of Pakistan.
In 1941, the Muslims counted 79.4 million out of a total population of 295.8 million in British India – i.e., about 25.8 percent. Had they been evenly dispersed throughout the subcontinent, without being fortuitously concentrated in the north-west and north-east, they could have been bereft of a sizeable territorial base, and the Pakistan demand, even if it had been raised, would have made little territorial justification.
Thus, in the ultimate analysis, a particular mix of Muslim demography with its concomitant Muslim population proportion in certain specific regions led to the emergence of Pakistan.
Ironically though, Pakistan, since its inception, has been hostage to its particular mix of demography. Space considerations preclude an extended discussion, but certain salient points may be noted.
East Bengal counted for one-seventh of Pakistan’s area but four-seventh of her population. It was a “rural slum” with an agriculturist economy, and little industrial infrastructure. Its representation in the services was poor – due, of course, to historical reasons – with West Pakistanis, some of them overbearing, dominating the higher echelons of administration. It had differences of race, language and temperament with West Pakistan. All this sufficed to spawn a list of grievances, tension and bickering. But consider for a moment whether all this could have acquired the proportion and the importance, and spawned the cataclysmic consequences it finally did without East Bengal’s dominance on Pakistan’s demographic landscape and its physical discontinuity with West Pakistan. Assam and Nagaland on the eastern fringes of India, though not discontinuous with the Indian mainland, have had similar problems and grievances against New Delhi, but they could not mount the sort of presence East Bengal/East Pakistan did. In the ultimate analysis then, it was its demographic dominance that provided it with the much wanted clout to set in motion traumatic events and reverse the Westphalian model in the international system, and yet induce goodwill for itself in the comity of nations.
The tragedy with Pakistan is that even in its post-Bangladesh format, it is still hostage to demography. If united Pakistan had 56 percent of Bengalis in faraway East Pakistan, the post 1971 Pakistan has some 58 percent in one province, the Punjab, and an additional four percent of the people of Punjab are scattered in the other three provinces.
Added to this demographic dominance is the fact that they are not only better educated, but are also characterized by the laissez faire attributes – initiative, industry and competition. No wonder, they command a large presence on the Pakistani bureaucratic, military, industrial, entrepreneurial, educational and economic landscape.
Of course, this gives rise to feelings of envy among the other nationalities, and given their inability to compete with accusations of the Punjabi dominance. Clearly, the people of the Punjab by themselves are not at fault. Rather, it is the particular effect of demography on Pakistan’s nationalities’ landscape that is the problem.
In any case, this demographic pattern needs to be reshaped in the interest of Pakistan. We might as well take a cue from India. The six full and two half provinces in India in 1947 have been reconstituted into some 27 full and small states for various reasons and as a result of political contingencies. The same considerations call for the creation of several small and more easily manageable provinces out of the present four provinces. Remember, they are not intrinsically historical entities. They were carved out and set up as provincial units by the British for administrative reasons. The same reasons plus the creation and cultivation of harmonious feelings between the various nationalities call for the creation of new provincial units.
The writer is HEC Distinguished National Professor, has recently co-edited Unescos History of Humanity, vol. VI, and edited In Quest of Jinnah (2007), the only oral history on Pakistan’s founding father.
جب بھی فرقہ وارانہ تنازعات کی بات ہوتی ہے تو مغربی ممالک اُسے چودہ سو سال پہلے خلفائے راشدین کے انتخاب کو بنیاد بنا کر پیش کرتے ہیں۔ حقیقت یہ ہے کہ سنی شیعہ مسلمان صدیوں تک، باوجود اجتہادی اور فقہی اختلافات کے، باہمی ہم آہنگی کے ساتھ رہتے رہے ہیں۔ لیکن بدقسمتی سے ان اختلافات نے عالمِ اسلام میں بالعموم اور رفتہ رفتہ مشرقِ وسطیٰ میں بالخصوص فرقہ واریت کی شکل اختیار کرلی جس کی مثال سولہویں صدی میں سلطنت فارس اور سلطنت عثمانیہ کی آپس میں جنگیں تھیں‘ تاہم وہ محدود تھیں۔ موجودہ شیعہ سنی تنازعات جو کہ ابتدا میں معمولی نوعیت کے ہوتے ہیں کچھ عرصہ بعد تشدد کی انتہائی شکل اختیار کر لیتے ہیں مگر ختم پھر بھی نہیں ہوتے اور بڑھے چلے جا رہے ہیں۔ان کے ختم نہ ہونے کی وجہ یہ ہے کہ وہ تنازعہ جو کسی مخصوص جگہ پر محدود لوگوں کے درمیان شروع ہوا تھااس کے بعد بیرونی عناصر کی مداخلت سے بین الاقوامی صورت اختیار کرچکا ہے۔ اس کی وجوہات اندرونی اور بیرونی مداخلت دونوں ہیں۔ اس لئے یہ ضروری ہے کہ بیرونی مداخلت سے پیشتر ہم عالمِ اسلام میں موجودہ خامیوں کا مشاہدہ کریں۔
تاریخ گواہ ہے کہ پہلی جنگِ عظیم سے ہی مشرقِ وسطیٰ میدانِ جنگ بنا ہوا ہے۔1919 کے مصری انقلاب سے لے کر ترکی کی جنگِ آزادی (1919-1923)تک، عراق کرد تنازعہ (1919-2003)، سعودی عرب یمن جنگ (1934)، عراقی شیعہ بغاوت(1935-36) اور پھر دوسری جنگِ عظیم سے لے کر عراق ایران جنگ اور اس کے بعد کے واقعات جو مسلم ممالک کے درمیان باعث تنازعات رہے ہیں اور ابھی تک یہ سلسلہ جاری ہے۔ مغربی دنیا آج بھی انہی جنگوں کا حوالہ دیتی ہے اور مسلمانوں کو موردِ الزام ٹھہراتی ہے۔ حقیقت یہ ہے کہ بیسویں صدی کے اواخر میں جبکہ امریکہ اور سوویت یونین کے درمیان سرد جنگ اختتام کو پہنچ رہی تھی‘ اس سرد جنگ میں مسلم ممالک کو دونوں طاقتوں نے اپنے مقاصد کے لئے استعمال کیا اور ان کے قدرتی وسائل سے بھرپور استفادہ کیا۔ سلیم راشد اپنی کتاب ’’تہذیبوں کا تصادم‘‘ میں لکھتے ہیں کہ اشتراکیت کے خاتمے کے بعد مغرب ایک نئے دشمن کی تلاش میں تھا جس پر وہ اپنے ہتھیاروں کا استعمال کرسکے اور ان کے لئے اسلام اور مسلم امہ سے بہتر دشمن اور کوئی نہیں ہو سکتا تھا۔ اسی بات کا اعتراف شیرین ہنٹر نے بھی اپنی کتاب’’ دی فیوچر آف اسلام اینڈ ویسٹ‘‘ میں کیا ہے کہ اشتراکیت کے خاتمے کے بعد اسلام مغرب کے لئے دشمن ہوگا۔ آج فرقہ واریت کی جب بات ہوتی ہے تو ان مذکورہ باتوں کو نظر انداز کرکے فقط مسلمانوں کے اندرونی تنازعات اور اختلافات کو ہی سبب گردانا جاتا ہے اور داعش یا اس طرح کی مسلح تنظیموں کے وجود کو انہی اختلافات کا نتیجہ قرار دیا جاتا ہے۔
9/11کے بعد امریکہ کے افغانستان پر حملے کے ساتھ ساری دنیادہشت گردی کی لپیٹ میں آجاتی ہے لیکن مٹھی بھر دہشت گردوں کا الزام سارے مسلمانوں پرلگایا گیا کیونکہ وہ مٹھی بھر لوگ’’ مسلمان‘‘ تھے۔ عراق پر حملہ ہوا۔ تیونس، لیبیا، شام، مصر، لبنان عرب سپرنگ کی لپیٹ میں آئے لیکن وہاں وہ امن قائم نہ ہو سکا جیسا کہ امریکہ کی بظاہرخواہش تھی کیونکہ امریکہ کی ڈیموکریٹک پیس تھیوری کے مطابق جہاں جمہوریت ہوگی، وہاں امن ہوگا اور جہاں حکمران مطلق العنان (Autocratic) ہیں، وہاں نا انصافی ہوگی۔ جہاں تک مذہبی اقلیتوں کا تعلق ہے چاہے وہ شیعہ سنی ہوں یا دیگر غیر مسلم ان کے ساتھ امتیازی سلوک برتا جاتا ہے اور ان کی آپس میں لڑائیاں جاری رہتی ہیں۔ مغربی ممالک نے جہاں جہاں اپنی آزاد اقدارمتعارف کرانے کے لئے مسلح جارحیت کا راستہ اپنایا ہے وہاں امن قائم نہیں ہو سکا بلکہ یہ جارحیت مزید بدامنی پھیلنے کا باعث بنی ہے۔
اگر مشرقِ وسطیٰ کا جائزہ لیا جائے تو عراق اور شام میں حکومتی اختیار ختم ہونے پر فرقہ وارانہ تنازعات کا دوبارہ ظہور ہوا جس کے نتیجے میں داعش منظم ہوئی اور عراق میں سنی صوبوں اور شام کے مشرقی علاقوں میں پھیل گئی۔ داعش نے شام میں ریاستی عملداری کے خاتمے اور عراق میں سنی برادری کو سیاسی دھارے سے علیحدہ کرنے کا بروقت اور پورا فائدہ اٹھایا ہے اور یہ ایک حقیقت ہے کہ جہاں کہیں بھی وہ علاقے جو حکومتی دسترس سے باہر رہے ہیں تو اس خلانے دہشت گرد تنظیموں کو یہ موقع فراہم کیا ہے کہ وہاں وہ اپنے مراکز قائم کریں اور وہیں سے وہ دہشت گردی کو پھیلا سکیں۔ اس کے علاوہ ریاستی عملداری کے ختم ہونے سے بیرونی عناصر فائدہ اُٹھا کر اپنے مقاصد پورا کرتے ہیں جیسا کہ عراق اور شام کی صورت حال میں ایران، سعودی عرب، ترکی، قطر، امریکہ، روس اور دیگر ممالک کی مداخلت ہے۔ جب ہم عرب سپرنگ کی بات کرتے ہیں تو یہ تیونس سے لے کر بحرین تک حکمرانوں کے خلاف بغاوت کی تحریک کا نام ہے۔ ان کا پہلا مطالبہ آزادی، انصاف اور خوشحالی تھی۔ لیکن بدقسمتی سے یہ تحریک بھی فرقہ وارانہ تنازعات کا شکار ہوگئی اور اس ناسور نے مختلف ممالک کو فوری طور پر اپنی گرفت میں لے لیا۔اس آگ نے عالمِ اسلام کو دو دھڑوں میں تقسیم کردیا اور ہر ایک فریق دوسرے فریق سے خوفزدہ ہے۔ ایک دوسرے کے خلاف شکوک و شبہات مزید مضبوط ہو رہے ہیں۔ جب شام میں سنی بشارالاسد کی حکومت سے برسرپیکارہیں تو ان کو سعودی عرب اور قطر کی معاونت حاصل ہے دوسری جانب شامی حکومت کو ایران کی بھرپور حمایت حاصل ہے جس میں مالی اور عسکری دونوں تعاون شامل ہیں۔ اسی طرح غیر ریاستی عناصر حزب اﷲ کو ایران جبکہ لیبیا کی رضاکارانہ فورس کو سعودی عرب کا تعاون حاصل ہے۔ بحرین کی شیعہ آبادی جو حکومت کے خلاف بغاوت کر رہی ہے اس کو ایران اور شام کی مدد حاصل ہے جبکہ بحرین کی حکومت کو سعودی عرب کا تعاون حاصل ہے۔ یاد رہے کہ بحرین میں شیعہ آبادی کے خلاف حکومت کا جانبدارانہ رویہ نیا نہیں ہے لیکن عرب سپرنگ ان پر بھی اثر انداز ہو اہے۔
عراق اور شام کے حالیہ تنازعے نے فرقہ وارانہ وفاداریوں کو عیاں کردیا ہے۔ عموماً سیاسی تنازعات فرقہ واریت کا روپ اختیار کرلیتے ہیں۔ مشرق وسطیٰ جیسا کہ ہم مشاہدہ کررہے ہیں ایران اور سعودی عرب کے درمیان ڈرامائی انداز میں ایک نئی سرد جنگ کی طرف جارہا ہے۔ جہاں دونوں اس خطے میں اپنی بالا دستی کے لئے کوشش کر رہے ہیں۔ اب یہ پراکسی وار کی صورت اختیار کر رہا ہے۔ ہر د و فریق فرقہ واریت کی اس جنگ میں اپنے مخالف فریق کے خلاف مکمل تعاون کر رہے ہیں۔ شام،یمن، عراق سب جگہ صفِ اول کی جنگ فرقہ وارانہ بنیادوں پر لڑی جارہی ہے یعنی شیعہ بمقابلہ سنی حالانکہ یہ ایک فیکٹر ہے جو ہمیں ہر سطح پر نظر آتا ہے۔ اِن تنازعات کی وجہ دیگر بہت سے سٹریٹیجک ایشوز بھی ہیں اور غیر ملکی مداخلت بھی۔
لبنان اور کویت میں عارضی امن تو قائم ہے لیکن فرقہ واریت کی چنگاری کو کبھی بھی ہوا لگ سکتی ہے۔ مسلم دنیا کا آپس میں اختلاف یعنی شیعہ بلاک اور سنی بلاک میں تقسیم ہونا داعش جیسی تنظیم کو پیدا کرنے کا باعث بنا ہے جو بغیر کسی تفریق کے مغرب، شیعہ سنی، ایران حتیٰ کہ سعودی عرب کو بھی اپنا دشمن سمجھتی ہے۔
ان واقعات کے تناظر میں مغربی ممالک، بالخصوص امریکہ، کے بدلتے کردار کو نظرانداز نہیں کیا جاسکتا۔ امریکہ کے صدر اوبامہ نے اعتراف کیا ہے کہ لیبیا میں کرنل قذافی کو معزول کرنے کے بعد کی صورت حال کی پیش بندی نہ کرنا ان کے عہدِ صدارت کی بدترین غلطی تھی۔ عراق پر حملے کو مغربی سکالرز تاریخ کی ایک بہت بڑی غلطی قرار دے چکے ہیں۔ اوبامہ حکومت کے ایران کے ساتھ کئی دہائیوں کے اختلافات اور پابندیوں کے بعد جوہری توانائی اور دیگر امور پر بات چیت اگرچہ امریکہ کے قومی مفاد میں ہے لیکن مذاکرات کے راستے کو اپنانا اس بات کی عکاسی کرتا ہے کہ اسلحے کا استعمال اختلافات کوحل کرنے کا طریقہ نہیں ہے۔ یہ بات بھی یاد رکھیں کہ اس خطے میں جاری بحران کو حل کئے بغیر نکلنا بھی ان پُر تشدد واقعات اور دہشت گردی کی وجہ ہے۔
المختصر یہ بات تو طے ہے کہ امتِ مسلمہ میں دیگر مذاہب کے ماننے والوں کی طرح مختلف مسالک اور فرقے موجود ہیں اور ان کے آپس میں کچھ بنیادی اور کچھ فروعی اختلافات کی وجہ سے تنازعات اور اندرونی چپقلش کا ماحول موجود رہتا ہے مگر موجودہ صورتحال میں اور بالخصوص مشرقِ وسطی میں جاری لڑائیاں کچھ اور خفیہ عوامل کی نشان دہی کرتی ہیں۔ تاہم اب ہم اپنا محاسبہ کرنے کے بجائے سارا الزام دوسروں پر ڈال کر بری الذمہ نہیں ہوسکتے۔ چہ جائیکہ ہم وہ حالات پیدا کریں کہ دوسرے ہماری مدد کے بہانے آکر معاملات کو اور خراب کریں ہمیں چاہئے کہ ہم سب مل کر فی الفور آپس میں مکالمے کا آغاز کریں۔ آپس میں مکالمہ اس نیت کے ساتھ کہ ہم نے مل کر امن و آشتی کے ساتھ رہنا ہے ایک دوسرے کے عقائد اور نظریات کا احترام کرنا ہے اور اپنی موجودہ اور آئندہ آنے والی نسلوں کو اندرونی جنگ و جدل سے ہر حال میں بچانا ہے۔ اگر ہم اپنے معاشروں میں بات کرنے کی روایت کی حوصلہ افزائی اور تشدد کی ہر شکل کی حوصلہ شکنی کریں تو امیدِ واثق ہے کہ مسلم آبادیاں آپس میں بقائے باہمی کے اصولوں پر عمل پیرا ہو کر امن و آشتی کے ساتھ رہ سکتی ہیں۔ اس بات کی بھی شدید ضرورت ہے کہ Diversity یعنی تنوع کو خدا تعالیٰ کی تخلیق کا ایک امر سمجھیں اور یک رنگی‘ یک نسلی اور یک مذہبی ایجنڈے کے بجائے ایک دوسرے کی مثبت صلاحیتوں سے فائدہ اٹھانے کی کوشش کریں۔ معاشرے مختلف طبقات اور رنگ و نسل سے مل کر ہی بنتے ہیں یہ مسلمان علماء کرام‘ دانشوروں اور حکمرانوں کا فرض بنتا ہے کہ وہ نہ صرف مسلمانوں میں موجود فرقہ بندیوں کو تشدد اور جنگ کے راستے پر جانے سے روکیں بلکہ اپنے معاشروں میں بسنے والے دیگر مذاہب کے ماننے والوں کا بھی احترام کریں۔ یاد رکھیں کہ اندرونی جنگیں باقی تمام طرح کی لڑی جانے والی جنگوں سے زیادہ تباہ کن اور ہلاکت خیز ہوتی ہیں۔ بحیثیت پاکستانی ہمیں مشرقِ وسطیٰ کی صورتِ حال اور اُس میں جاری پراکسی وارز (Porxy Wars) کا بہت گہری نظر سے تجزیہ کرنا چاہئے اور اس طرح کی جنگ کو پاکستان سے ہر حال میں دُور رکھنا چاہئے۔ پاکستان کی افواج نے ابھی تک تمام غیرریاستی دہشت گرد گروپوں کا کامیابی سے مقابلہ کیا ہے مگر اس خطرے کا سدِباب سماجی اور سیاسی سطح پر بھی نہایت ضروری ہے۔ ہمیں ایک پرامن معاشرہ درکار ہے جو صرف پُر امن بقائے باہمی کے اصولوں پرعمل سے ہی تشکیل دیا جا سکتا ہے اور مکالمہ ان تمام کوششوں کی کنجی ہے۔ ہمیں مکالمے کی طاقت سے تشدد کے رویوں کو روکنا ہو گا۔ آیئے آپس میں بات کریں اور اس موجودہ ہلاکت خیزی کے طوفان کو روکیں جس سے ہماری دشمن قوتیں مسلسل فائدہ اٹھا رہی ہیں۔
مضمون نگار یونیورسٹی آف پشاور کے ڈیپارٹمنٹ آف انٹرنیشنل ریلیشنز میں اسسٹنٹ پروفیسر ہیں۔