Future of Pakistan

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(1) the Pendulum continues forever,
(2) Collapse,
(3) Joining Chindia, 
(4) the Great Game, and 
(5) a South Asian Confederation. The most familiar and likely are based on the pendulum of rule by the military and rule by landlord/politicians. However, what is needed is to move from the more likely and less desirable futures to a process of anticipatory democracy where the citizens of Pakistan consider, create and commit to building their preferred future.

Deep Structures

While the assassination of Benazir Bhutto certainly plunged Pakistan into one of its works crisis in decades, the recent successful elections appear to have brought hope back again. The extremist parties did poorly, and even with a low turn out and election violence, it appears that the latest cycle of military rule is over. 

Yes, much remains unresolved. Certainly as Nathan Gardels argues in his article, "Bhutto's elimination a big boost for al-Qa'ida," the West did lose track of the prize, focusing on Iraq instead of on Islamabad. It is in Pakistan where the future of the Islamic world lies. In addition to the Afghanistan Taliban, there is now a Pakistani Taliban. Nuclearization continues. Civil society is still vulnerable to internal and external shocks. Can politicians create a secular democratic Pakistan? Or will the politics of Jihadism continue, with Kashmir returning as the battle front?

While these issues are important in understanding Pakistan's future, we often forget the deep archetypes and structures (inner symbols and external patterns) in Pakistani politics. These delimit what is possible.

Syed Abidi's Doctoral dissertation at the University of Hawaii, titled Social change and the Politics of Religion in Pakistan made the observation that Pakistan's political system can best be understood as a pendulum between civilian rule and military rule. 

The first stage was from 1947-1958 and was characterized by the Parliamentary system with the dominant class interest being the feudal land owners. The second stage was from 1958-1968. This was martial law with an American presidential system and saw the rise of the capitalist class. The third stage - from 1968-1977 - saw the end of Martial law (with a presidential and parliamentary system) and the beginning of the Bhutto era and the return of feudalism. 

With the coup by General Zia in 1977, military rule returned and the capitalist class was back in power. The fourth stage had begun. This ended with his assassination in 1988.

The fifth stage was characterized by civilian rule (Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Shariff) until Pervez Musharraf conducted his own coup in 1999 and began the sixth stage. With the events of 9/11, globalization and the rise of the internet, this phase has seen the return of the capitalist class. 

In 2008 the seventh stage of Pakistan's politics appears to have begun. The military era is about to end and the civilians will be back in power – either in the guise of Musharraf the democrat, the PPP, or Nawaz Shariff – or some power sharing formula. While the death of Benazir Bhutto is destabilizing, it does not challenge the deeper structure of Pakistan's politics. Pakistan thus swings back and forth between military and civilian rule one side and feudal and capitalist economies on the other. The archetypes are the general and politician/landlord. 

But why has Pakistan been dominated by the poles of military and civilian power - and why the pendulum between these two poles? Noted political scientist and human rights advocate, Dr. C. Inayatullah in his classic State and Democracy in Pakistan argues that one creates the conditions for the other: "As the military became more independent and powerful controlling national politics, its top brass developed an ideology and a set of perceptions to justify their political role. Politics was projected as an irrational, disorderly, inefficient and corrupt method of running the affairs of society compared with the...
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