Pakistani Instability: Too Much Ideology, Too Little Compromise

Applying the behavioral model laid out earlier suggests that political instability in Pakistan is aggravated by high levels of ideological commitment and a propensity to resolve disagreement through force

The level of half-informed rhetoric on Pakistan suggests that we need to pull back from facile and frequently unstated assumptions to take a careful look without biasing the analysis by jumping to conclusions about what constitutes good or evil, dangerous or safe, beneficial or harmful. Using a model as the basis for such an evaluation is designed to facilitate reaching practical conclusions for ameliorating the situation, as free as possible from investigator bias. Consider Pakistan in light of the model of political behavior below.
The process will of course be subject to the biases built into the model, but at least the biases will be clearly defined up front. Moreover, the very essence of a model is to simplify reality, test the simplification, and then improve the model.

Can we usefully analyze Pakistan’s current political situation and future political evolution by viewing it in terms of the degree of challenge in the political environment, the degree to which major actors adopt a conflict resolution strategy based on force rather than compromise, and the degree of ideological commitment of major actors?

The model illustrates eight alternative modes of behavior, or scenarios, as shown in
more detail to the left. The only differences between this diagram and the preceeding one are that 1) the eight cubes representing the eight alternative scenarios have been separated and 2) each has been named. This discussion rests on the assumption that violence is most likely at the extremes: i.e., conflict resolution based on force, high commitment to ideology, and a challenging political environment (red octant).

Applying the model to Pakistan

Pakistan’s political environment is extremely challenging:

  • Consensus on basic issues of how to set up government (elections or coups or terrorism or revolution) and type of government (military dictatorship, Islamist rule, or democracy) absent;
  • Secular parties cannot form a united front even on such basic issues as whether or not to participate in an election and to jointly insist that all leaders be allowed to participate.

[“Benazir Bhutto’s…popular appeal incurs the wrath of militant Islamic groups and the leadership of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PMLQ). Both view her as a threat to their respective agendas”– Dr. Hasan-Askari Rizvi]

The conflict resolution strategy of key players puts considerable emphasis on force:

  • Islamists –
  • are fighting India in Kashmir,
  • are fighting the U.S. in Afghanistan,
  • and now are even fighting their own Pakistani military sponsors inside Pakistan;
  • The military –
  • Has played a game of brinkmanship against India,
  • In February 1999, Sharif had invited Indian prime minister Vajpayee to Lahore.…Simultaneously, thousands of Pakistani soldiers disguised as insurgents slipped across Kashmir’s line of control….By May 1999,
    Pakistan dominated the heights above Kargil….India threatened to cross the border, raising the doomsday scenario of two nuclear powers going head to
    head
    .” – Levy & Scott-Clark, Deception, p. 287

    • Is using force versus peaceful, democratic opponents
      (judiciary);

    • Civil society –
    • Lawyers demonstrated a willingness to put not only their careers but their
      lives on the line to defend the democratic principle of an independent
      judiciary.

    • In protests over Bhutto’s murder, the Pakistani masses have attacked not only symbols of the PLMQ party supporting Musharraf but also organizations that have in recent years been particularly exploitative of the poor (private bus lines, car companies, banks).

    The level of ideological commitment seems mixed but rising. Moreover, the ideologies themselves are multiple and mutually contradictory.

    • The military seems captivated by a highly dangerous form of supernationalism featuring terrorist attacks on the much stronger India combined with nuclear brinkmanship that has nearly resulted in nuclear war several times.
    • Sunni militants are increasingly uncompromising toward Pakistani Shia, the West, India, and recently even their Pakistani military sponsors.
    • Democratic elements, e.g., the judiciary and elements of the populace, have become committed to the point of risking their lives.

    Thus, even at this general level, the model offers an explanation of current Pakistani instability: Pakistani political instability results from the tendency of political actors to prefer force rather than reason to achieve their goals and the actors’ intense ideological commitment operating in a highly challenging environment that further aggravates the tensions resulting from the actors’ attributes.

    Future posts will continue exploring this model of Pakistani instability…

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