Pakistan: Illegitimate Child of Two Empires
To understand the roots of Pakistan, one has to go back at least a few centuries, to the beginnings of the British Empire in India. Robert Clive, one of the early de facto viceroys, established the standard British practice of divide and rule, playing off local princes against one another. Moving into the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this practice evolved into a more refined practice of favoring Indian Muslims against the majority Hindus in the colonized nation. While many secular-minded Hindu leaders worked hard to dissuade Muslims from falling for the British ploy, the Muslim leadership gradually started to see the seeds of the carving of their own homeland from India, in accordance to their religious beliefs of ruling by the Shariah.
The British, realizing that their imperial days were coming to an end, signed on to the Partition plan. A divided India would be less of a threat to the British. After all, by definition an empire, even a dying one, has a compulsion to ensure that no other competing power can gain strength. Thus was born Pakistan, whose sole purpose was to create an Islamic nation that would drive out kafirs and follow the Shariat path. Millions were killed and driven to homelessness, during the birth pangs of this illegitimate nation whose only identity was Islam.
The lack of identity and national purpose has bedeviled Pakistan throughout its half-century long history. The economy was in ruins but for Pakistan's taking the right side in the Cold War. Even that wasn't enough, and after waging several wars with India which turned out to be disastrous, and losing its eastern wing, the Pakistani leadership was hard-pressed to convince its various provinces that they all belonged to a nation. In order to keep the people of the land together, its leaders have repeatedly tried to invoke Islam. It was the fall into this abyss that prompted Pakistan to turn its people's focus onto Jammu and Kashmir, fomenting a terrorist rebellion and sponsoring its continuance for year after year.
With the end of the Cold War, Pakistan's significance diminished greatly to the US and NATO, and the sponsorship of terrorism by Pakistan started to tip the scales against the traditional welfare checks provided by the US to the impoverished nation. There were beginnings of hope that the artificial nation would be allowed a natural evolution towards fragmentation and end of its disruptive role in the region.
Then came 9/11. With the gun pointed to its head, Pakistan agreed to allow US forces onto its land for the goal of ousting the Taliban government and neutralizing Al Qaeda. Despite Pakistan's half-hearted help, US forces drove the Taliban and Al Qaeda out of their Afghan strongholds. It was at this point that the United States came to a crossroads. It could have finished the job by again turning its guns on Pakisan and forcing Musharraf to participate in the destruction of the Taliban and the Al Qaeda that he himself had supported and sponsored. However, this is where the newfound imperial policies of Bush advisers likely came into play. They did not want Pakistan defanged, because it served as an imperial outpost, albeit a tainted one. Officially, it could be called a "front-line ally", and it would hand over Al Qaeda types whenever the Bush administration needed a boost in the polls. This despite the realization that such a path would perpetuate the US battles with terrorists in the region.
And equally important, Pakistan would continue to keep India tied down, as it had for more than a decade, in Jammu and Kashmir. Empires, as history has shown, do not want even regional powers to raise their head. The new post 9/11 US grand strategy makes it clear that no challenging power would be tolerated. What it does not say, but does imply , is that covert policies such as using Pakistan to keep the balance in South Asia is one part of that strategy. If Americans read the fine print of this new imperial strategy, and realized that their tax dollars are financing a government in Islamabad that is recreating the Taliban and has still not revealed its extensive links to Al Qaeda, they would not be so excited about empire.
The war on Iraq conveniently distracted Americans from the goings on in the most dangerous place on earth - Pakistan. The war and its chaotic aftermath have also allowed administration officials, including Bush himself, Powell and Condoleeza Rice, to regularly praise Pakistan for its "aid" in the war on terror, without serious questions being raised in the media. The biggest problem facing the US is still not the Iraq situation, the real problem is the US grand strategy which needs to change from its imperial grip around the world, allowing and empowering nations such as India to take care of regional problems. This strategy got in the way last year, when India may have been ready to defend itself from Pakistan's increasingly bold terrorist assault. Instead, the US send its heavy hitters to extract false promises of "ending cross-border terror" from Musharraf. The strategy is also revealed by the refusal of the US to allow the Israeli sale of the Arrow anti-missile system, which could have enabled India to neutralize Pakistan's nuclear blackmail and force an end to the 13-year old terrorist invasion of Jammu and Kashmir.
The US imperial distortion of regional balance in the Indian subcontinent at great expense to the American national budget, which in turn has also allowed an Islamic nuclear nation to continue its ties to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, exemplifies how empires can not only create and perpetuate problems in far away lands, but can pave the way for disasters in their own economy and security.