Pakistan is currently dealing with a Nightmare Scenario, a deadly confluence of negative internal and foreign developments that are intertwined and pose serious threats to its security and stability. Only a concerted and coordinated national effort can extract Pakistan from this grave predicament.
Pakistan’s internal divisions are at an all-time high. Even when it comes to matters of national security, there is no room for discussion or compromise. Due to the political unrest, the economy has collapsed, resulting in hyperinflation, skyrocketing debt, dwindling resources, and rising unemployment. The scenario is made considerably worse by longer-term issues like global warming, water scarcity, food shortages, and an expanding population.
Significant difficulties are posed by the rising rivalry among the main countries on the outside, particularly with relations with the US. Washington sees barriers to Indo-US strategic collaboration with China in Pakistan’s alliance with China and its disagreements with India because these things undercut India’s function as America’s “Net Security Provider.” In an effort to sour relations between Pakistan and China, Washington has also criticised CPEC, labelling it a “debt trap.”More importantly, the Americans want Pakistan to unilaterally curtail, if not reverse, its strategic capabilities. In the worst event, Pakistan’s political unrest may be used as a pretext to attempt to seize control of its nuclear assets, for which the US already has backup plans, obliging Pakistan to take the required security precautions. The American failure in Afghanistan, which Pakistan is held responsible for, has also strained the relationship. There can be no real change in bilateral ties since Pakistan will not give ground on any of these crucial concerns. This truth cannot be altered by Pakistani sycophancy or appeasement.
Similar to this, ties with India are at an impasse. A more powerful India is not in the mood to make concessions to Pakistan as it pursues regional hegemony. Instead, Modi’s revanchist India wants to further destabilise Pakistan and has aspirations to annex Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. Another sign of Modi’s aggressiveness is the government’s persecution of Indian Muslims and disparagement of Islam. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is the only thing stopping an Indian assault. No conversation, much less commerce, is a realistic prospect under these circumstances.
In the meantime, India is encouraging TTP and Baloch terrorists to destabilise Pakistan and target Chinese interests there in an effort to sabotage ties between Pakistan and China through ungoverned areas in Afghanistan. Using monetary and material incentives to reassert Indian influence while fostering rifts between Pakistan and Afghanistan, India is also making extraordinary attempts to normalise relations with the Afghan Taliban. Most likely, the US backs these Indian strategies.
Intense IMF bailout conditions, refusal of western aid, FATF grey listing, and resistance to Pakistan’s cooperation with Russia and Iran all add to the pressure being placed on that country.
Pakistan faces significant internal and foreign problems, but they are not insurmountable. Political stability is essential in order to address them. Only a government with the broadest support throughout the country can be given the authority to move on with difficult decisions on the basis of a shared national agenda. A band-aid short-term strategy based on IMF bailouts and foreign aid can only offer temporary relief on the economic front. The only option is sustainable economic growth, which can only be attained through a long-term plan of structural reforms, the dismantling of elite economic control, the closing of the revenue and expenditure gap, the expansion of the tax base by including the retail and agricultural sectors, and the cessation of tax evasion.
Rapid, open, and unbiased legal action is also necessary to combat corruption and inefficiency. Domestic energy sources, including coal, gas, hydropower, nuclear energy, and renewable energy sources, must replace energy imports. Additionally, the privatisation of the public sector’s bleeding enterprises must proceed quickly. To capitalise on the population’s youth bulge, expenditures should be made on technical and scientific education, as well as skill development.
The choice of our security and development partners must be stated clearly on the exterior. China, which is not only a significant international power but also the catalyst for future global growth, is the only nation that is both willing and able to help us. Unfortunately, Pakistan has failed to match words with actions and has been giving the Chinese conflicting signals. The protection of Chinese interests in Pakistan should be given top priority. The removal of barriers is necessary for CPEC implementation. Effective defence must be taken against malicious internal and external criticism of the Pakistan-China relationship.
Despite the Western push against such collaboration, it is now important to investigate engagement options with Russia. Despite their stance on the Ukraine war, these nations are cooperating with Russia to gain access to its oil and gas. India also buys cheaper Russian wheat and oil despite its strategic partnership with the US. There is no reason why Pakistan should not follow suit.
In order to strengthen regional connections between South, West, and Central Asia and to guarantee Afghan stability, China and Russia can work together with Pakistan. Iran has similar interests as these. Pakistan-Saudi relations shouldn’t any longer impede Pakistan’s relations with Iran because both the Saudis and the Iranians are actively pursuing peace.
There will undoubtedly be American hostility to Pakistan’s collaboration with China, Russia, and Iran, and sanctions may be implemented in retaliation. The Americans, however, are not prepared nor equipped to present workable alternatives. Pakistan’s capacity to take punitive measures is further constrained by the absence of American help.
In essence, Pakistan’s elite’s pro-American mentality has blocked a paradigm shift away from dependence on the US and towards other major powers. However, such a crucial change is necessary for the steadfast pursuit of Pakistan’s long-term national objectives. While looking for alternate alternatives for Pakistan’s security and prosperity does not always entail severing ties with the US.
Pakistan will only be able to finally withstand the perfect storm it is facing by adopting such long-term domestic and external strategies. It will be a challenging process, and significant sacrifices must be made. There is now no alternative choice available to the nation.