Unending anxiety

ByM Ali Siddiqi

writer who contributes to leading periodicals


September 11, 2023

M Ali Siddiqi describes a perennially difficult situation

It is indeed unfortunate for Pakistan that it has remained in a state of limbo since its inception. Uncertainty surrounded its creation and this state proved unending mostly because a dichotomy emerged in its governance system that with the passage of time divided its polity. The infighting between the civil political elements and the proponents of arbitrarily centralised type of control gradually became part of the national existence of Pakistan that is still keeping the country on tenterhooks. The outcome of this never-ending rivalry is frequent usage of extra-legal coercive power of the state apparatus almost decisively alienating rational sectors of the country. The arbitrary elements found it imperative to devise a permanent state of emergency that ultimately suited their hold over the country. The arbitrary elite not only inherited the centralised perception of the former colonial state but it also fell victim to the intrinsic sense of paranoia of the minority colonial rule and they consistently feared that popular dissent could escalate into an open mutiny against their control of the country leaving bare the fragility at the heart of their tenuous institutional domination mostly ensured by the use of coercion.


Treading in the footsteps of the colonial masters, the arbitrary forces continuously attempt reinforcing their devised political frameworks based upon an elaborate substructure of historical and cultural violence without realising would give way ultimately as it did in case of the colonial rule. Following the colonials, the arbitrary perception carries on exploiting the social and economic resources of the country on the pretext of preserving the moral and ideological writ of the state. There is hardly any doubt that even independence from Britain did little to uproot the colonial structures of governance. Pakistani state apparatus is now well-acknowledged to have inherited the paranoiac behaviours of the colonial rulers that has transformed Pakistan into a security state reminiscent of the garrison mentality of the colonial rule.

The consistent anxiety has resulted in an unending uncertainty that is repeated by almost all segments of governance apparatus. The drumming of the impending difficulties has created a sense of perpetual fear that has pervaded all sections of populace that is afraid of something disastrous to happen. The ever-increasing contours of influence of the security establishment are justified on the pretext that desperate times call for desperate measures without ever justifying the reasons for creating a fearful atmosphere in the country that is not only unnerving but also self-defeating and counter-productive. This corroded atmosphere has resulted in uprooting any progressive thought process and undermining any forward-looking manoeuvre.

The situation is required to be looked in the backdrop of the fact that it is a sociological reality that no class can hold state power over a long period without at the same time exercising its hegemony over a state’s ideological apparatuses. The strongly-entrenched security apparatus of Pakistan is fundamentally an ideological enterprise that frequently calls upon the people to be aware of the risky position the country is in and this stratagem is resorted to reassert its relevance in the country’s political landscape. It is widely conceded that it has established an institutional control of the state apparatus and has also made crucial inroads in the social and economic arenas of the country. Keeping an eye on its future the security apparatus ensures that the external and internal political climate remain conducive for the sustenance of the country’s elite. It also strives to keep the economy of the country floating albeit artificially through obtaining credit from international financial institutions through utilising the strategic significance of the country.

The fact is that the collaboration between the security establishment and the elite of the country is extraordinary in its content and sustenance. The representative elements of the country’s elite play its part in supporting the security apparatus by leveraging their constitutional clout and political manoeuvrability at the grassroots to create and sustain a tailor-made regulatory infrastructure that is aimed at keeping the institutional control of the security apparatus intact providing it with tremendous space to manage national affairs. Over time it has become crystal clear that the representative class owes its loyalties to their benefactors serving in non-democratic positions instead of their constituents. The representative elements however ensured that they kept a hand on the pulse of public opinion though the arbitrary quarters consistently maligned them in public eye to keep them under control. This apparently appears to be a convoluted policy but it is relentlessly pursued by the security establishment that is quite confident about its practices.

It was expected that the arbitrary forces would attempt to contort the historical realities of the past and they greatly succeeded in efforts alienating the entire Pakistani people from their historical evolution. It was instead pointed out that Pakistan was ringed by enemies and it is imperative to preserve its territorial integrity by every possible means. This fallacious narrative gave birth to a war that was never-ending giving way to the dominance of the security setup over national affairs. In the process the ideological battle was transformed into a geopolitical rivalry between Pakistan and its propounded inherent enemy India that not only poisoned the realities of the region and has made any kind of coexistence almost impossible. This antagonism was soon built into a very unspecific national interest that covered the entire national fabric as an all-encompassing umbrella. The national interest has unfortunately revolved around enmity with India on expense of socio-economic development and has decisively excluded any other element of the polity.

The cumulative outcome of the security-pedalled national priorities is that Pakistan has to consistently strive to ensure its survival instead of working for socio-economic progress. The security threat to the country has been projected as all-pervasive and consistent and any other alternative in this respect is vehemently rejected. The decisive elements in Pakistan keep on insisting on over-centralisation at the expense of simmering resentment in the federating units that often boils over further complicating the national scene. There is hardly any doubt that the history of Pakistan is a conflicting narrative: one for the elite and the other for the people. The multiplicity of issues in Pakistan has not even been recognised let alone witnessing any attempt at resolving them and this is the most complicated fact of the country’s national existence.

It is not only the India-centric orientation of the Pakistani state that has perpetuated the state of uncertainties but also a kind of megalomania that has sharpened the animosity with its other neighbour, Afghanistan. The indoctrination of the generation that was initially portrayed as freedom fighters created a monster that turned against the state itself. Ironically, this horrendous turnaround has helped in strengthening the hold of the arbitrary forces over national affairs as it conveniently projects their inevitability in the overall scheme of things. It is also projected that the country now faces an enemy that is simply not visible and is practically hydra-headed with deep tentacles that have the support of the wider world. The Pakistan’s forever war has now entered an arena that has no definable and identifiable contours and that is something that suits the arbitrary frame of mind and their megalomaniacal intentions. The effort of the arbitrary apparatus is to ward off any change that may bring some relief to the people. TW


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