The 2017 report of the Fragile States Index places Pakistan among the first 20 failed countries, which should be worrisome for Islamabad. Instead of continuing with the low intensity war against its neighbours, Pakistan should make efforts to implement reforms in diverse fields.
Pakistan was carved out of India on the basis of the two-nation theory broadly intended to foster separation and hatred. This philosophy persists today, with greater vengeance.
With its vicious policies, Pakistan has antagonised another neighbour, Afghanistan, on its Western front while Shia Iran can never trust Sunni Pakistan, helping terrorist outfits on behalf of Wahabi Saudi Arabia. Iran recently threatened Pakistan with stringent action if it did not control non-state actors who were fomenting terror.
Pakistan earlier had cordial relations with Afghanistan and Iran. In the India-Pakistan war of 1965 & 1971, Pakistan did not need to deploy troops on the Afghan or Iranian borders as there was no danger from them. The situation has drastically changed now.
Pakistan's fourth neighbour is China. Diplomatically, both countries are "all-weather friends". China has rescued Pakistan on many occasions, but Beijing has placed severe restrictions along the China-Pakistan border, as some Islamic terrorist groups are helping Uighur Muslims fighting for a separate homeland in China's Xinjiang autonomous region.
The recently concluded BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit in China included the names of several Pakistan-based terrorist organisations in its joint declaration, indicating that Beijing is hardening its attitude towards Islamabad and terrorism.
Pakistan appears surrounded by hostile or threatening neighbours. However, the major danger to the country is from internal forces, contradictory mindsets, military domination, corrupt and inept politicians, different nationalities, rising population, depleting water resources and a worsening economic situation. Such forces may be responsible for Pakistan imploding.
The Punjabi-dominated Pakistani Army has not allowed civil institutions to strengthen and has exploited all other nationalities. In 1971, Pakistan was split and Bangladesh emerged. Now, Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Kashmir all want to be separate nations.
The people of Gilgit and Baltistan are fighting for an independent Balawaristan. The Muhajiris, Saraikis and Chitralis want more autonomy as the Punjabis are exploiting them too. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif actually stated that the country was facing the danger of disintegration.
Former President General Zia-ul-Haq decided to join the United States to evict the Soviet Union from Afghanistan. He needed jihadis to do this and proceeded to inject religion into the polity and Islamised the army and the country. Saudi Arabia and other West Asian countries pumped petro-dollars into Pakistan and helped inculcate the 'madrassa culture' in the country, which radicalised many Pakistanis. The country is still paying a heavy price for this extremism.
Pakistan has waged a low-intensity war against India and Afghanistan and created terrorist outfits like Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), Sipah-e--Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
A few of these terrorist organisations have broken free and refused to obey the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and are conducting terrorist activities within the country. Sunni outfits like SSP & ASWJ are killing Shias, thus increasing the animosity between the two prominent Muslim sects. Shias make up more than 20 per cent of Pakistan's population.
The US, earlier the country's largest economic aid donor, recently warned Pakistan to change its policies, of "harbouring" terrorists who are attacking US troops in Afghanistan. US President Donald Trump also said Pakistan provides "safe haven" to terrorists.
Pakistan is now aligning with China and expects it to invest $50 billion or more for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It is likely that Communist China will annexe several parts of Pakistan, since Islamabad will never be able to repay the huge debt.
The GDP growth rate is a poor three percent. The country must repay loans worth $73 billion and more. Exports are dwindling while imports are increasing. The education system is in disarray. Terrorists from across the world reach Pakistan to get training in exploding bombs and spreading mayhem. Pakistan's ailing education system needs a total revamp to save the country from falling apart.
The defence budget should be curtailed and more money spent on education, family planning and health. Civilian institutions must be strengthened and army must return to the barracks. The domineering Pakistan Army must allow civil institutions to grow and a civilian leadership to formulate policies.
The ISI's powers should be curtailed and Pakistan must destroy all terrorist training centres and terrorists -- without distinction. The legitimate grievances of all the nationalities should be redressed and the rights of minorities, including Shias, ensured.
Pakistan has launched several operations against terrorists but these operations have not yielded desired results as security forces differentiated between "good" and "bad" terrorists.
In August 2017, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) formed a political party, Milli Muslim League (MML) and declared its intent to contest elections. With extremism and fundamentalism at its zenith, these political parties could acquire power and control the nuclear warheads.
Pakistan is heading towards disaster. If terrorists capture the country, it will be detrimental not only for Pakistan but for the world. Pakistani rulers must chalk out a comprehensive policy to save the country from catastrophe.
# The writer is a Delhi-based strategic analyst and retired senior intelligence officer. The views expressed are personal. The article is in special arrangement with South Asia Monitor.