Pakistan runs the risk of plunging into chaos and anarchy bordering on a civil war, says Policy Research Group (POREG), an independent, non-profit non-governmental research think-tank.
It cautions against any US exit from Afghanistan, saying that the withdrawal of American and NATO forces from Afghanistan would lead to an Islamist upsurge that could sweep Pakistan.
“A Taliban victory in Afghanistan will almost certainly embolden Islamists in Pakistan to go into an overdrive against the army; such a scenario is pregnant with several possibilities including Islamists taking over the reins of the State and ethnic nationalist groups feeling emboldened to challenge the central authority. In the event, Pakistan will be severely destabilized and a civil war like situation could engulf the country,” a study posted on the POREG web site (www.poreg.org) says.
Looking at the options before President Obama, whose AfPak policy has failed to deliver, the think tank opines ‘the US faces stark choices – one, stay the course in Afghanistan and do what it takes to clean up the place; two, cut losses and run, outsourcing Afghanistan to Pakistan’.
The prognosis is that the US may split Afghanistan along ethnic lines to limit the Taliban spread to only the Pashtun belt in Afghanistan, which the Pakistanis can then control through their Taliban proxies.
In the event President Obama exercises the option of calling it ‘quits’ from Afghanistan, the study says Islamists would be emboldened worldwide.
“The exit (of US forces) from Afghanistan is likely to give a shot in the arm to the Islamists worldwide. That would be seen as the reaffirmation that Allah is the only superpower and that the Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires -the British in the 19th Century, the Russians in the 20th Century and the Americans in the 21st Century,” Poreg report says.
Making an assessment of President Asif Ali Zardari’s one year rule in Pakistan, the Poreg experts opine that the businessman turned politician had failed to live up to people’s high expectations.
“At the end of one year, the score card is disappointing. There is continuing drift on issues of governance. Judiciary has become increasingly interventionist ….. This has come to undermine the authority of the executive. Corruption and maladministration have become rampant. Political unrest has hit the streets with government unable to address peoples’ issues’, the report titled ‘Zardari’s first year as helmsman of Pakistan’ observes.
The phrase ‘business as usual’ aptly describes the approach of Zardari government, according to the Poreg assessment.
‘One year after Asif Zardari ousted Gen. Pervez Musharraf and became President of Pakistan, certain trends have emerged which seem to indicate the basic approach that the current dispensation is likely to follow and the trajectory that the country is likely to take. The phrase ‘business as usual’ aptly describes this approach’.
Poreg experts don’t expect to any paradigm shift in Pakistan policy frame work.
‘Broadly speaking, in the short to medium term, Pakistan is unlikely see a paradigm shift in its policy framework on issues like the ideological foundations of the country, internal security, foreign policy, relations with neighbors, economic management, constitutional reforms, and prioritizing social sector.
PAK ARMY-HALF HEARTED
While on the role of Pak army, the report terms the operations against Taliban and other Islamist groups as a sort of ‘holding’ operation, and a half-hearted measure under international pressure. ‘The days ahead are unlikely to see a dent in the growing influence of the Islamists on the Pakistani society’
Pointing out the security situation is deteriorating, the report notes that Pakistan is also ‘entering a period of political volatility’ with people reeling under ‘unprecedented’ economic hardships’.
The ‘net effect’ of these developments, Poreg cautions, will be an ‘intolerable’ strain on the Pakistani State and a fresh lease to ‘fissiparous’ tendencies.
‘An inherent danger of the evolving situation is that ethnic nationalist groups could feel emboldened to challenge the central authority in Islamabad. It may or may not lead to the second requiem for the two-nation theory that gave birth to Pakistan in 1947 but will plunge Pakistan into chaos and anarchy’, Poreg report concludes.