Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Pakistan is not a normal State. It is the physical manifestation of the ego of Muhammad Ali Jinnah. That is a bad thing for three, you know me, connected reasons.
First because it is a bad thing based of the historical record to attempt to create a political entity to express any one individual's vanity or ambition. There have been other examples of political structures that were imposed from above to provide employment for an ambitious or troublesome princeling.
Second the character of Mr Jinnah was such as to doom the project from the start. Even by the forced analogies and condescension of the 1950s newsreels it is hard to think of him as another Washington. He was no Cincinnatus serving an established people and eager to get back to his plow. Jinnah wasn't even an observant Muslim. He merely was looking for an engine to pull the train with his name on it and found one that wasn't being used. His was happy to work within the Congress Party until he discovered that he wasn't in charge of it. His success is explained by his being more pro-British culturally and emotionally than he was pro-Indian. The role that Pakistan has played for the last 60 years, artificial construct with uncertain loyalties within and prone to serving as the agent of outside ambitions, British, Chinese, Saudi or American, seeking an advantage in the region is not an abberation but a design feature.
To that vice Pakistan adds a third form of artificiality in that it isn't simply a case of some dynamic personality hijacking a national movement. In this case the country was cobbled together by a committee to include disparate and often hostile elements. The closest European equivalent is Belgium. That country was cobbled together after the Napoleonic Wars to serve the interests of the French and Germans as a Catholic buffer state. It has never really worked and the eagerness of the Belgians to support the European project is explained by more than simple appreciation for the bountiful cream that they have been able to skim off the top.
For three generations now Pakistan has looked for some larger story to diffuse its own contradictions in. The EU can serve that purpose for the Flemings and Walloons or even it is hoped for the Irish and the Ulstermen but there is no larger identity that can serve that pupose for the tribes in Pakistan. There is nothing that can serve that role for both Pakistan and India in a regional setting and efforts to find other larger allegiances have also foundered. The Non-aligned movement proved to be a setting where India played first fiddle. More recently the Islamic community has been approached by Pakistanis, and people from other fractured countries, seeking an identity larger than the dysfunctional polity they inherited. For a host of reasons that has not proven a workable solution. Despite the motto of the Muslim Brotherhood that "Islam is the answer" it is becoming increasingly clear that to believe that means that you are asking the wrong questions.