ISLAMABAD: 'Shifting Sands: Instability in Undefined Asia', a report released by the International Centre for Peace Initiatives ICPI) and the Strategic Foresight Group says its purpose is to analyse dynamics in the region in depth and point out various trajectories the region may take, depending on the choices made by both internal and external players in the region.
The ICPI was established in Mumbai. Though some of its analysis is questionable, the report is freshening in the manner it looks at Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the US objectives in this region. For reasons described in the report, these countries have been chosen because they consist of an "undefined Asia."
A 5-G framework consisting of Growth, Governance, God, Geopolitics and Globalisation have been used to describe these four Muslim dominated countries, which vary from monarchy, military, theocracy and dependency as in the case of Afghanistan.
Dealing with Pakistan it appears that none from the Centre actually visited Pakistan and interviewed its citizens across the length and breadth of the country. As it states itself, the whole report is solely dependent on conferences and workshops, though the use of Indian sources was limited to interaction with a few experts in the course of conferences.
Having said that, there is nothing new or startling on the chapter on Pakistan except at times there are sweeping statements and factual errors. Pakistan, says the report, can best be described as a state with a split personality. There is a section of the society, including one the all-powerful army, who would like Pakistan to emerge as a modern and progressive state, integrated in the world economy. But there is one more section, also including a faction of the army that envisages Pakistan as an orthodox theocracy. The current crisis in Pakistan epitomises serious competition between the forces of social and economic modernism and religious orthodoxy, it says. General Pervez Musharraf has accentuated the conflict with his dual approach, it added. On the surface, he supports modernism and has entered into an alliance with the United States in the war on terror, it says. Beneath the surface, however, he has been actively strengthening radical religious groups.
Many MMA leaders, says the report, feel a strong sense of loyalty to Afghanistan to the extent that they would like to rename the NWFP as Afghania. This is where the report is completely off the mark.
Pakistanis are aware of the fact that Afghania has never been proposed by the MMA, though it has been floated by certain quarters in place of Pakhtoonistan. In fact, the MMA has reminded its critics that their mode of Islamisation is not that of the Taliban.
The report feels that if Pakistan commits itself fully to a massive development agenda, focuses on improving investment climate, introduces various structural reforms, and succeeds in building an industrial and human resource base, it can hope to slowly raise its GDP growth rate.
Three kinds of crises can be foreseen in remaining decade, says the report. First, a crisis arising out of acute water shortages, second abrupt regime changes and third if Pakistan continues to engage in terrorism, inviting a war from India or the new regime in Afghanistan.
What the authors clearly forget here is that at the present moment it is not Pakistan that is inviting war from India. The recent build-up at its borders by the Indian military saw Pakistan reacting as a defensive posture and the withdrawal by New Delhi was criticised by its own people for what turned out to be a useless exercise costing both the cash-strapped nations millions.
The army, the report says, is full of contradictions. It is treading on dangerous ground by simultaneously appeasing both Americans and jihadis. But what is truly amazing is the report's assertion that Pakistan's military rulers have died an unnatural death or were imprisoned by their successors. General Musharraf, says the report, cannot be certain of being exceptional.
In fact if the authors of the report had looked into the military leadership of Pakistan it would have seen that only one military ruler, Zia ul Haq died in an air crash. Ayub Khan and Yahya Khan were forced to retire. Beg and Waheed retired after the completion of their tenure. Asif Nawaz died with his boots on after suffering a massive heart attack. Karamat resigned after a political and constitutional crisis had emerged. All enjoyed or enjoy full military benefits.
Pakistan's chances of surviving as a state, says the report, in the next five to ten years, depends on its ability to transform its people, especially youth, into able Pakistani citizens who can leave behind the conflict-ridden legacy, shun extremist mentality and create a society based on peaceful co-existence among various ethnic groups.
The report looks at Pakistan Trend, the term it uses to refer to the extrapolation of a particular phenomenon based on its previous performance. It uses Discontinuity as reflecting a sudden change or a radical shift in the movement of a variable. The Wild Card term refers to least likely, but highly influential, events. This is an unforeseen event that could cause major discontinuity or fundamental change in a phenomenon.
The coming trends, says the report, see the military remaining in control, while the elected government will provide a cosmetic democratic face. With the GDP growth rate below 4 per cent, poverty and unemployment will grow. This will result in continued supply of unemployed youth to the ranks of jihadi groups.
On Discontinuity, the report says that the US will see through Pakistan's duplicity and withdraw economic aid or encourage one of the officers to engineer a coup against Musharraf. The extremist religious forces will overthrow Musharraf and install a government of hard line army officers and MMA, it says.
In order to secure legitimacy, Musharraf will bring traditional leaders such as Bhuttos, Sharifs and Altaf Hussain back, it says. The Wild Card reads that if the influence of jihadi groups threatens the integrity of the Pakistan army, the GHQ will engineer a war with India to achieve internal consolidation.
This can be done by encouraging terrorist groups to launch a spate of attacks against India and provoke New Delhi into launching an offensive, it says. Alternatively, the Pakistan military may directly initiate a war, the report says.