The painful processes of state collapse lead to the emergence of precisely such quasi-governmental set-ups. It is rule by the most ruthless and violent, to which the ordinary people are obliged to acquiesce in the absence of available alternativesMy last article in these pages described the region of Swat, along with various other parts of FATA and the NWFP, as effectively lost to the state of Pakistan. I suggested that this was an example of localised state failure. Over the derelict remnants of Swat’s former administration and judiciary, alienated as it was from the people by reasons of incompetence and corruption, a makeshift and semi-barbarous revolutionary regime has been erected.Do the people of Swat ‘approve’ of this new regime? Would they vote for it if they could? It does not matter, since Maulana Raidwa (‘Radio’), as Maulvi Fazlullah is called, and his colleagues are clearly not interested in winning any beauty competitions, popularity contests or elections. Quite vocal about considering democracy to be anathema to Islam, they believe in brute force, in terror and in power.Is it possible for a non-representative regime, one perhaps hated by its subjects, to endure? It would be nice to think that it could not. But consider only the fact that the longest-lasting Pakistani regime to date was the seemingly endless nightmare of the usurper Zia-ul Haq, which sowed the furrows that Maulvi Fazlullah and his ilk harvest today.Moreover, it was no popular movement that eventually removed that satanic dictator, but the secretive conspiracy of a band of still unknown assassins. No, dear reader, unpopular dictators can and do continue in power and twist and warp the societies they rule, provided they are effective rulers. And, as I also suggested in my last article, the TNSM has indeed been effective in establishing its administration and courts, according to its own brutal ideology.The painful processes of state collapse (such as have been permitted — indeed, fostered and encouraged — in Pakistan’s north-west) lead to the emergence of precisely such quasi-governmental set-ups. It is rule by the most ruthless and violent, to which the ordinary people are obliged to acquiesce in the absence of available alternatives.Could the kind of state failure that we see in FATA and Swat spread through the breadth of the poverty-stricken, multiethnic country of Pakistan, with its violent history and its many fault lines? Could the horrors attendant on state failure afflict all of us?Let us recall that, at the very beginning of our national existence, in what is now our largest province, the state did in fact fail for a time. There were three specific issues in Punjab in 1947, beyond those in the rest of the country.First, there was the Radcliffe Award that irrationally sliced through the province. Second, in the hiatus following the resignation of the Unionist Party government of Khizar Hayat Tiwana and before the appointment of Iftikhar Hussain Mamdot of the Muslim League, all governance and law and order totally disintegrated under the Governor’s Rule of Sir Francis Mudie. Third, and too little examined, was the social tinder of more than three million recently demobilised soldiers, the Punjabi Muslim and Sikh soldiers who had fought World War II in North Africa, Italy, the Middle East and Burma.The result was that independence brought to Punjab the very worst kind of communal violence and massacres and the largest forced migrations of refugees in human history. Is it far-fetched to regard the Punjab upheavals of 1947 as an example of state failure?I believe not. That order was restored and a functioning state machinery became effective quite quickly speaks volumes for the political leadership and the indefatigable administrative services of those times.Fast-forwarding to 1971, we see that the 'Islamic ideology' trumpeted by the state establishment proved a failure as a binding cement against the realities of ethnic and linguistic differences, geographic separation, denial of democratic and provincial rights, capped by naked exploitation, arrogance and discrimination.Taking advantage of the political ferment engendered by the standoff between Mujibur Rahman and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the army staged its now infamous action in Dhaka on March 25, 1971, almost simultaneously with the Mukti Bahini's atrocities in Chittagong. The region of what had been East Pakistan descended into civil war and state collapse for a prolonged period. The trauma of the military defeat that terminated the Yahya regime in December 1971 threatened to cause anarchy in West Pakistan as well.Again, it took political skills of a high order — those of Bhutto here (remember the “pieces, the very small pieces, from which we must rebuild”?) and of Mujib in Bangladesh — to permit the regeneration of organised states. (It is interesting that both these institution-building leaders were eventually assassinated by military putschists.)As the examples of 1947 and 1971 show, state failure on a still larger scale than what has already occurred in Swat, Bajaur and FATA, is certainly a possibility in Pakistan. A failing state is defined by the Fund for Peace as having such qualitative attributes as loss of physical control of its territory or losing the state’s monopoly on the legitimate use of force.Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It includes erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions; inability to provide reasonable public services. Look around you, dear reader.How does the country in fact score on these counts?Well, in 2008, the Failed States Index (FSI) of the Fund for Peace judged five countries — Somalia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Chad and Iraq — as the most failing states, with an FSI of over 110. Next among the Top Ten, with an FSI of over 103, were the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, the Ivory Coast, Pakistan and the Central African Republic. Pakistan had in fact ‘risen’ by three positions to attain this ranking as the ninth most failing state in the world. Where we will be adjudged to be in 2009, I do not know.The FSI rankings are based on twelve indicators of state vulnerability — four social, two economic and six political. The social indicators are: (a) Demographic pressures, including high population density relative to food supply and other resources; (b) massive movement of refugees and internally displaced peoples, both within and between countries; (c) legacy of vengeance-seeking group grievances, including atrocities committed with impunity against communal groups and/or specific groups singled out by state authorities or dominant groups; and (d) chronic and sustained human flight, the ‘brain drain’ of professionals, intellectuals and political dissidents and voluntary emigration of the middle class.The economic indicators are: (a) Uneven economic development along group or regional lines, determined by group-based inequality in education, jobs, and economic status; and (b) sharp and/or severe economic decline, measured by a progressive economic decline of the society as a whole (using per capita income, GNP, debt, child mortality rates, poverty levels, business failures) and the growth of hidden economies, including the drug trade, smuggling and capital flight.The six political indicators are: (a) criminalisation of the state, endemic corruption of ruling elites and resistance to transparency, accountability and political representation; (b) deterioration of public services, including failure to protect citizens from crime, terrorism and violence, and collapse of essential services like health, education, sanitation and public transportation; (c) disregard for and widespread violation of human rights, emergence of authoritarian, dictatorial or military rule in which constitutional and democratic processes are suspended or manipulated, public repression of political opponents, religious or cultural persecution; (d) security apparatus as a ‘state within a state’ that operates with impunity; (e) use of nationalistic political rhetoric by ruling elites in terms of communal irredentism or of communal solidarity, e.g. “defending the faith”; and (f) intervention of other states or external actors, military or paramilitary, in the internal affairs of the state.These indicators are like milestones along, what we can sadly call, the Road to Swat. At a national level, we have crossed almost all of them. And this has not been the ‘achievement’ of one or the other party or government. All have made their contributions in bringing us to this pass. Worst of all has been the role of our supposedly educated elite that continues to place self before principle.Does the shoe fit, dear reader? Then, what should we do about it, other than wave our Green Cards on the way to the airport?
By Salman Tarik Kureshi The writer is a marketing consultant based in Karachi. He is also a poet