Pakistan's Paranoia


This is the second article in a two-part series on Pakistan. The author attended a speech in Washington, D.C. given by former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. In Part 1, she examined Musharraf's view on the U.S.-Pakistan relationship.

Last week, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf told a crowd in Washington that his country had been a perpetual victim at the hands of the United States and India.

Calling India an “existential threat” to Pakistani security, Musharraf was self-pitying, arguing that Pakistan’s “strategy has always been one of […] deterrence” against Indian militarization. According to the former president, a self-described “man for peace and rapprochement,” Pakistan has reluctantly followed India’s lead in developing and testing nuclear bombs in the name of self-defense.  

Before we go any further, it is important to get a sense of the tempestuous relationship between India and Pakistan, and the Pakistani paranoia that largely prevents its improvement. Since Pakistan was carved out of India in 1947, the two have fought three wars leaving scores on both sides dead. The on-going dispute over Kashmir has seen hundreds of thousands killed and provided a training ground for some of the region’s most lethal militant groups.

Pakistan’s unhealthy obsession with India has given the army unrestricted power; the armed forces budget alone consumes 16 percent of the government’s budget, whereas education is allotted just 1.2 percent of spending.

It has also shaped Pakistan’s efforts in, and vision for, Afghanistan. Musharraf told his audience that he has evidence that “India is trying to create an anti-Pakistan Afghanistan” as U.S. forces prepare to disengage from the region. He might be reminded that it was Pakistan that helped create (and in many ways, promote) the Taliban in the 1990's in an effort to deter India’s allies in northern Afghanistan. India has spent over $1 billion in aid to Afghanistan, which has not only improved much-needed infrastructure, but also nurtured an increasingly friendly relationship between the two countries. Worse still for Pakistan, a number of ethnic groups in Afghanistan who are traditionally friendly with India (like the Tajiks) are in positions of power.

Musharraf warned in his talk that any efforts by India to influence events in Afghanistan “must not be allowed,” for poor Pakistan would have “to fend for itself.” Of course, Pakistan has shown how it fends for itself in the form of Lakshar-e-Taiba and Mumbai.

For a particularly thoughtful look at Pakistan’s Indian complex, Aatish Taseer’s recent piece in the Wall Street Journal is a must read. Taseer, the son of the slain Pakistani governor of Punjab, examines the hysteria behind his father’s hatred of India. Contrary to what Musharraf would tell you, Taseer says that as Pakistan has led the U.S. into thinking it is fighting the war on terror, the army has been playing a double game “in which some terror was fought and some […] actively supported.”

Musharraf did highlight the need to resolve the Kashmir dispute, which he claimed he nearly did while in office (a glimmer of truth), though he mentioned that no world leader ever lectures India on resolving the conflict, just poor Pakistan. No need to mention that the Pakistani army trained militants to fight in Kashmir in an effort to bring India to the negotiating table in the first place.

As to the widely-held belief that elements of Pakistan’s ISI are sympathetic to numerous militant groups with goals of attacking India, Musharraf said he “could not rule out” that possibility, but that he was sure the Pakistani army “will root them out” soon.

So is there hope yet for Pakistan? The answer lies, Musharraf said, in a “democratic political dispensation which breaks the political status quo. Therefore, all eyes are on the 2013 elections.” The short answer: Musharraf is the hope. To convince those (numerous) skeptics in the audience, the former president, with a hint of a smile, decided to quote the eminent Saddam Hussein.

“The next election is going to be the mother of all elections.”

Oh, brother. 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons