Pakistan is at a critical juncture in its development as different elements within the country strive to establish dominance and control causing instability within an already fragile country. The state of affairs in Pakistan raises concern due to Pakistan’s importance in the global ‘war on terror’, especially following growing American concerns regarding Pakistan’s contribution to the campaign. Significantly, Pakistan is scheduled to hold elections (parliamentary and presidential) in 2007 and 2008 respectively and a change in leadership that ushers in an Islamist government or strengthens the Islamists would have significant implication for international peace and security. the current political situation in Pakistan centres on whether Musharraf will take off his uniform as he is legally required. Put simply, an unstable nuclear Pakistan would threaten and already volatile region, where there have been changes in government and politics (Bangladesh and Nepal), rising military spending (China), questions over economic development (India), and internal conflict brought about by rampant terrorist and counter-terrorist activity (Sri Lanka and Afghanistan).
The paper centres on the four key threats to the Pakistani state: Islamists, tribalism, ethno-nationalism and the recent legal crisis. Within the confines of the paper, the military is not seen as a direct threat to the state in the sense that it has always sought to protect the homogeneity of the Pakistani state as seen or example with the 1999 coup, which occurred because the army felt that the civilian authority was not fulfilling its role. The paper concludes that Musharraf must deal effectively with the Islamists, the provinces and their complaints of neglect, as well as amicably resolving the Chaudhary crisis, and the lack of social and economic development enshrined in his 'Enlightened Moderation'. Put simply, unless Musharraf undertakes a major charm offensive, which includes taking off his uniform, two things could happen: the Islamist and the Islamist-leaning forces in Pakistan would succeed in the 2007 and 2008 elections as they are already gathering momentum in the provinces; or Musharraf will simply postpone the election. Both these scenarios would damage Pakistan’s standing in the world and draw criticism from American circles, at a time when the United States faces one of the most critical elections in its history.
The first group threatening that viability of the Pakistani state are the religious fundamentalists or radicals, known as Islamists. These Muslims subscribe to a strict interpretation of Islam and work towards the implementation of shar’ia as the governing principle of their communities. The emergence of Islamism in Pakistan (Deobandis, Ahle Hadith and Jamaati-Islami) is attributed to General Zia’s Islamisation programme, which led to a proliferation in the number of Islamist movements (militant, educational, political and social groups) emerging in Pakistan. This is best seen with the role played by Jamaati-Islami, which Zia allowed into government – for a short period – but Jamaati-Islami continued to play apart in domestic and foreign policy through Pakistan's involvement in Kashmir and Afghanistan. Within Pakistan, one could identify two sets of Islamists, though the distinction has blurred. In the first group are the Sunni Islamists who demand that Pakistan exist as a devout Sunni (Deobandi-Wahhabi) Muslim state. When they first emerged on the scene, their focus was on combating Shia presence and influence in Pakistan. A second group of Islamists centre their focus on the imposition of shar’ia and the formation of the Caliphate. For such Islamists, Pakistan must exist as an Islamic state (a theocracy) and they operate as part of the global jihadi movement headed by al-Qa'ida. Reportedly, there are around 245 religious parties in Pakistan, of which 215 have their own seminaries, 104 focus on jihad, 82 are sectarian, 20 are oriented towards tablighe (preaching) and 28 take part in the political process. Consequently, Sectarian tensions are high within Pakistan. The International Crisis Group in one of its reports on Pakistan found that “For almost two decades, the Northern Areas have been afflicted by sectarianism; in recent years Shia-Sunni violence has increased markedly. In 2005 alone, almost 100 people died, many more were injured, and property worth millions of rupees was destroyed. Even more harmful was the long-term damage to social harmony.” Under the first set of Islamic groups, the leading group is Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (Army of the Friends of the Prophet (SSP)) and its off-shot Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). These groups subscribe to the Deobandi School and reject the Barelvi School and Shiite interpretation, which they hold as a deviation from the pure Islam and they campaign to have Shi’as declared non-Muslim. SSP is the largest sectarian organisation in Pakistan and plays a role in the political world through electioneering and its leaders have won seats at Pakistan National Assembly (Azam Tariq serves four terms). The group draws most of its strength from the Punjab province and from the city of Karachi. The SSP holds that Shiites are non-Muslims who have acquired far too much power in Pakistan. The organisation boasts 500 offices and branches in all 34 districts of Punjab, with around 100,000 registered workers in Pakistan and 17 branches in foreign countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Canada and the United Kingdom. Of growing concern is the ability of these movements especially the SSP and LeJ to resurface and continue to operate in Pakistan despite their banning. Pakistani Shiites have their own groups Tehreek-e-Jaferia Pakistan (Movement of the followers of Fiqah-e-Jaferia (TJP)) and Sipah-e-Muhamad (Army of Muhammad (SMP)) who battle Sunni-based movements with the aim of protecting Shiite interests in Pakistan, and to this end, the groups rely on support from Iran. They are the Shia equivalent to the SSP. Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATAs) have acquired a reputation for Islamism, and as one of the possible hiding places of bin Laden and leading al-Qa’ida members. In 2001, in a desire to confront the rising tide of Islamism, Musharraf dispatched more than 80,000 to battle those controlling the area (Taliban and tribal leaders) and yet Taliban influence has not only remained but also increased. The major concern however is the spread of Islamism to the urban centres especially Islamabad. Pakistani Islamists have become more brazen in their demands and their opposition to the regime, as they sense Musharraf's weakness. The most recent example of the movement of Islamism from the provinces to the centre was when students from the Jamia Hafsa madrassa in Islamabad (part of Lal Masjid (Red Mosque)) took two police officers hostage. The students demanded that the authorities release two of the school female teachers and six other detainees who involved in an attempt to shut down a brothel. The significance of the Jamia Hafsa madrassa is that it caters largely for girls (it reportedly has 2000 students) who although are taught geography and maths mainly focus on Islamic teaching, as Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the vice-president when asked about the limited curriculum stated, "Islam is enough. It is a complete code for modern life." The concern is that graduates will be than be sent to proselytise as Gul Shaida, a student of school stated, "After I graduate I want to teach all over the world and I want to tell the world what is Islam and what is Muslim." Ministers and intelligence chiefs oppose cracking down on students of Jamia Hafsa, Jamia Fareedia and the Lal Masjid administration for security and political reasons. Javed Iqbal Cheema, director general of the National Crisis Management Cell, for example stated his opposition to using force against these Islamists "because we are already confronting difficult situations in Waziristan and Balochistan” whilst Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao based his opposition because elections are nearing.
The second force threatening Musharraf and the state of Pakistan is the continuous bloodshed in the tribal/frontier areas and the growing tide of Islamic conservatism and Taliban influence. Musharraf’s controversial deal with the Waziri tribes in September 2006, did not end the troubles in Waziristan (North and South), forcing the government to impose curfew in Wana after five people were killed, following an attempt by the authorities to clamp down on Taliban recruitment in the region. Despite the curfew, the fighting has continued with hundreds dying in the clashes between the security forces and Taliban elements. More worryingly, for the government is the role played by non-Pakistani elements in the region. Most of the foreign fighters are either Chechens or Uzbeks, with suggestions that there are supported by militants from Morocco and Algeria. Interestingly, tribal leaders claim that the people responsible for the clashes with the security forces are not local but the foreigners, particularly the Uzbeks, who the locally Pashtuns accepted as visitors, following the American invasion. In one instance, local tribesmen came across a camp used by the Uzbeks, which held around 200 local tribesmen in underground dungeons (holes in the ground) and poured hot water on the prisoners. The Uzbeks have attracted considerable animosity from the locals who have come to see them as interlopers and common criminals. Pakistani military commanders say that during raids on Uzbeks hideouts in spring 2005 they acquired evidence that shows the Uzbeks were eating pork and watching pornography. Pakistani government officials appear to support the tribes whom they claim are fighting the foreigners and expelling them from the region, which gives credence to the controversial peace plan that the government signed with the tribes in September 2006. A recent development in South Waziristan saw the calling a council of trouble elders calling for a lashkar (militia) to engage the Uzbeks in a jihad. Local traditions dictate that any man of fighting age that does not join the lashkar will face a fine and have his house brunt down. The government has hailed this as a great achievement and an example of it winning over the tribal leaders, the problem however is that it is unclear whether the tribes are fighting all of the foreigner fighters or merely the troublesome Uzbeks. Also, more worrying is the lack of central government control over the area, which has allowed such high-ranking officials as Mullah Dadullah, a leading Taliban figure in Afghanistan to enter Pakistan.
The fourth group undermining the viability of the Pakistani state are the ethno-nationalists who operate across the country but are most visible in province of Balochistan, where for example on March 27, 2007 militants destroyed a power pylon station cutting off electricity to millions. The attack was symptomatic of the type of insurgency fought by the Baloch nationalists since 2002, which has seen Baloch nationalists focusing more infrastructure targets such as Sui gas plants, or a bridge near Kari-Dor. These attacks affect the province’s economy and that of Pakistan which emphasis the anger of the Balochs at Islamabad’s approach to their province. Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest province, but also the poorest with six million inhabitants of whom around half reside in the port city of Karachi. Tensions in Balochistan centre on a growing sense of Baloch nationalism fostered by anger at Islamabad which locals feels exploit Balochistan’s natural resources without ploughing investment into the province. The province importance to Pakistan arises from its natural resources (predominately gas), a deep-sea port (Gwadr) and road link with Afghanistan and Central Asia. The nationalists (Nawab Khair Baksh, Nawab Bugti and Nawab Baksh) see these projects are attempts by Islamabad to subjugate Balochistan. There is also unhappiness with the strong-arm tactics adopted by the government to quell the insurgency as seen in the way Pakistani forces killed Nawab Akbar Bugti in August 2006, whose killing raised the stakes due to respect that many had towards Bugti, but also emphasised the concern of Islamabad with the rising tide of Baloch nationalism. Pakistan’s development is very much reliant on conditions in Balochistan with its vast gas reserves and strategic location (it bridges Central, South, Southeast and East Asia on one end, and Central Asia, the Persian Gulf and the Middle East on the other). The province also hosts a deep-sea port built with the help of China and which emphasises the close relationship between China and Pakistan. However, Islamabad seems to be doing what it can to alienate the Baloch who turn to ethno-nationalism and more worryingly to the Taliban.
The current Chaudhary crisis has become a major threat to Musharraf’s rule as it raised the issue of constitutionalism, democracy and the role of the military in Pakistan as well as uniting diametrically opposing forces (lawyers, members of the secular Pakistan Peoples’ Party and Islamists) against Musharraf. The crisis occurred following Musharraf’s decision to suspend Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary. Consequently, numerous elements within Pakistan are showing growing restlessness at Musharraf’s perceived authoritarianism. Critics claim that Musharraf turned against Chaudhary because as Chief Justice, Chaudhary had ruled against the government on a number of cases (he reversed the sale of state-owned Pakistan Steel Mills and more importantly he demanded the security agencies disclose the location of missing persons who the security services denied having detained). Musharraf’s opponents claim that the suspension of Chaudhary arouse out of personal political reasons as Musharraf saw Chaudhary as a possible threat should Musharraf wish to continue as president and chief of the army, which is prohibited by the Constitution. Musharraf therefore opted to suspend the chief justice and ask the judicial council, whose composition also raised eyebrows, to examine Chaudhary’s alleged abuse of power. The demonstrations pose a major threat to Musharraf’s rule as it has also united Pakistani liberals with pro-Taliban and Islamists elements both of whom demand the restoration of the Chaudhary to the bench. Moreover, by choosing to engage in street demonstrations, the protesters emphasised their willingness to not only challenge the authority of Musharraf but also of the army, which was called to deal with the protesters. There is no doubt that there was overreaction on side of the security forces, which saw the shutting down of a private media outlet (Geo), with Kamran Khan being taken off the air. The event proved so damaging and embarrassing to Musharraf that he issued an apology.
The final threat on Pakistan and Musharraf comes from outside and is centred on Musharraf’s decision to tie Pakistan to Bush’s global ‘war on terror.’ This has meant that Pakistan must play apart in assisting the United States defeat al-Qa’ida and the Taliban. In other words, not only is Pakistan being asked to help destroy the monster that it assisted in delivering it must also fight support non-Muslim efforts to kill Muslims. Internally this has placed Musharraf in a difficult position, as the US in rarely loved or appreciated in the Muslim world. From a Washington perspective there is unhappiness with America's investment in Pakistan, a country has received billions of dollars in aid and yet the Taliban appear just as strong as they were when the campaign started. This clearly affects Pakistan’s and Musharraf’s standing in Washington and may explain Musharraf’s recent outburst on US television where he claimed in response to a question on the security issue that “Pakistan is being maligned by the West ... unfairly.” Consequently, Pakistan and Musharraf are having to re-evaluating their respective positions in South Asia, especially as the US has shown itself more open towards India as seen with the US-India nuclear bill, which led President Bush to declare that the agreement “…will strengthen the strategic relationship between America and India…”. This development coupled with India’s growing economy and burgeoning military capability, plays into the hands of the military, which regards itself as the guardian of the Pakistani state. In other words, losing US support may push the military to adopt a stronger Islamic stance as the only way to prevent perceived Indian aggression. The second foreign policy threat arises from the poor relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan linked to the poor relations between President Karzai and President Musharraf. Karazi following an increase in suicide terrorism in Afghanistan claimed that Pakistani security services were not doing enough to stem the flow of suicide terrorists from Pakistan to Afghanistan. Karzai in an interview stated, “We [Afghanistan] have almost daily reports of suicide bombers coming from there [Pakistan]… If we have better co-operation from Pakistan, a great many of these cross-border crossings would stop." More worryingly was his accusation that Pakistani security forces are sheltering Mullah Omar in Quetta. This claim raises concern as poor relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan only strengthen the al-Qa’idaists especially as there is growing evidence of a new crop of al-Qa’ida leadership. By tracking individuals such as Abu Ubaidah al-Masri, an Egyptian veteran of the Afghan wars who rose to prominence after the killing of Abu Hamza Rabia in 2005 suggest that al-Qa’ida is not as weak as some commentators believed. This is because the group is still able to plan elaborate terror plots such as the London airline plot in 2006. Conclusion The current situation in Pakistan is becoming increasingly dire, as tensions rise whilst the government appears helpless to control events. In many ways, the government is playing catch up as it tries to put out fires that undermine the viability of the Pakistani state. The government’s decision to sign a peace agreement with the Waziri tribes has brought a mix result, as on the one hand it placed law and order on tribal leaders who seem able to engage the rising influence of the Taliban in their regions. However, the agreement emphasised that the Pakistani government does not control the tribal regions, even with substantial troop deployment. The real power lies with the tribal council, and this ultimately weakens the state. In a divided country such as Pakistan and one that is constantly paranoid regarding its neighbour (India) this does not abode well to its security. In the realm of economics Pakistan has enjoyed record economic growth as the Musharraf government introduced much needed structural reforms leading to a reduction in the size of the civil service, a fall in subsidies on energy prices, and a cleaning up of the balance sheets of nationalized banks. The government has raised tax revenues and accelerated a privatization process. There has also been substantial improvement in the realm of exports with exports by value rising by $5.5 billion in the past five years to $14.5 billion, with non-textile exports registering a growth of 37.5% compared to textile export growth which only increased by 6.6%. Yet, poverty has remained a major issue in Pakistan and the country still relies on food aid. Overall, Pakistan is teetering and Musharraf and his government are very much on the back foot, and therefore major changes need to occur to ensure the survivability of Pakistan. This may explain why there negotiations supposedly were held between Pakistani military and Benazir Bhutto, the leader of Pakistan’s most popular political party, Pakistan’s People’s Party. This suggests that Musharraf is considering diversify (broadening) his power base. In 2002, Musharraf accepted the Islamic parties (Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA)) whilst he made life difficult for the more secular base parties (Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz). The secularists faced grave difficulties when it came to campaigning in the 2002 elections (both were not allowed to organise rallies), whilst the MMA had mo difficulties campaigning, which may explain its successes in the election – it won control over the Northwest Frontier Province and did very well in Balochistan. There a danger that if Musharraf is pushed too far by the secularists or by the international community he might feel compelled to continue the military’s traditional relationship with Islamist parties to ensure his survivability in Pakistani politics. Put simply as the US presidential race heats up, presidential candidates would demand substantial reform in Pakistani politics (such as allowing the return of Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif as a sign of democratic progress) which may create more difficulties for those seeking to contend with the Islamists. Moreover, if American policymakers focus too much on Pakistan and call for reforms, Islamists and other forces would use those calls to claim American arrogance and by holding that they would protect and uphold Pakistani honour, they could do well in the elections. In the 2002 elections, the Islamists in NWFP for example build on rising anti-American sentiments to gather support. There is little doubt that Pakistan requires democratic reform but pinning hopes on Bhutto and Sharif negates their failures when they were premiers and tainted past (both have been accused of corruption), not to mention raise serious questions as to how they could reign in the ever-powerful military. The hope for a viable Pakistan still rests with Musharraf who must abandon his uniform for a suit and tie. Ultimately, Musharrf must use his influence with the military to encourage it and the other security forces to remain outside of the political world. The benefit of this is that Pakistani politicians will be able to govern without worrying about military intervention; and, secondly it would reduce the power of the Islamists who clearly rely on the military for support. Ultimately, Musharraf must spend his next term as president enhancing Pakistan’s democratic tradition, and as someone who grow up in Turkey, Musharraf should model himself after Kemal Atatörk and by doing so save Pakistan and help the world deal with the Islamist scourge.
 On the inherent tensions and problems of Pakistan, see the excellent book by Stephen P. Cohen.