Editor’s Note: As most readers know by now, we absolutely reject the notion that any regime, any country can consider itself as “Pure” people, whether in a religious or physical sense. Europe has seen what happens when one state calls itself the Master Race. No European or American will ever tolerate any society calling itself the Master Race. But they see no problem with a state calling itself the Land of the Pure people and then actually implementing that by religious cleansing of Hindus, Ahemadiya Muslims and now of Shia Muslims. We do. So we cannot and generally will not use that malevolent term. Instead we will use the neutral term NonPakistan.
The recent election is an indisputable success for the people of NonPakistan. The man best suited to lead that troubled society won and won big. And that society finally got a true Electocracy, the rule by leaders they elected of their own free will. This election has elated India which once again can dream wistfully about peace. The election has also satisfied both America and Europe. So their financial aid will keep flowing to keep that bankrupt state afloat.
The coverage in Indian and European-American media has been both congratulatory and hopeful with obvious caveats about the NonPakistani Military and ISI, the intelligence agency. Unfortunately, the discussion has been rather superficial. The glaringly obvious message of this election has been ignored by virtually all English-educated experts. And no one has discussed the impact of this election on the single most important issue facing that regime.
We will focus on these two aspects in this article.
1. Real NonPakistan Revealed?
The land of that state consists of four provinces, each with its own ethnic, linguistic, historical and social identity – Sindh of the Sindhis, Baloch-i-stan of the Baloch, Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa (KPK) of the Pakhtuns and Panjab of the Panjabis. Despite being forced together for 65 years, these provinces still identify themselves as ethnically separate than as a part of one society.
That is the most clear message of the recent election. Nawaz Sharif, the man who will be the next Prime Minister, swept Panjab in a landslide by winning 116 of 148 seats. But this next leader of the country only won a total of 8 seats in the other three provinces. The Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa was dominated by Imran Khan, the ethnic Pakhtun. But this celebrated cricket star only won 8 seats in Panjab, despite his enormous name recognition in the entire subcontinent. Sindh was swept by its two main parties, the PPP of late Benazir Bhutto and MQM which still dominates Karachi.
The good message of this election is that the new electoral map & the new Parliament mirrors the society, the test of a true Electocracy. The bad news is the rejection of the central identity. So Nawaz Sharif will become the Prime Minister despite having been totally rejected by three of four provinces of that country.
The good news is he knows it and understands he has to work with other ethnic groups, especially the Pakhtuns of Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa. That is why his first visit was to Imran Khan, the electoral leader of the Pakhtuns. These two have to work together if that society is to finally get decent governance.
It helps that both are articulate right-wingers with warm ties with the Islamic extremists in their provinces. Both understand the need to soothe the fears of both India and America. Their regime cannot improve its economy without semi-free trade with India and cannot survive without at least a billion dollars of annual US aid.
The bad news is that these two leaders are on the opposite sides of the biggest divide in their society and the region. They may have won the election, but neither leader has much sway over the real power-players in their provinces – Nawaz Sharif over the Panjabi-dominated Army and Imran Khan over the Pakhtun Taleban. The fight between the Panjabi Army & the Pakhtun Taleban and the bigger struggle between Panjabis and Pakhtuns is the biggest issue facing that society.
Will Nawaz Sharif & Imran Khan be able to navigate that struggle?
2. The Pakhtun Partition
The Pakhtuns were partitioned by the British in 1893 between today’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa (KPK) and today’s Afghanistan. KPK was occupied and administered by British-ruled India and transferred to the new breakaway NonPakistani regime in 1947. This partition was the work of one Mortimer Durand and today’s line of control between Afghanistan & NonPakistan is still called the Durand Line.
The Durand line partitioned the Pakhtun people and forced them to live under two separate regimes. They have never accepted this divide and the Pakhtuns cross this mountainous line in both directions virtually at will. The American forces could not defeat the Taleban because they could not cross the line of control while the Taleban could.
So far, the sanctuaries for the Taleban have been on the Non-Pakistani side and enabled at will crossings into Afghanistan to fight American forces.
3. Post-American withdrawal
The 2014 deadline for withdrawal of American forces is almost here. Once American forces withdraw from Afghanistan, America will not be the foreign occupier in Pakhtun land. The new occupier will now be the old foreign occupier in Pakhtun land, the Panjabis occupying Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa.
Remember Afghanistan has refused to accept the Durand line as the actual border. They claim, both on historical and legal grounds, that Khyber Pakhtunkhawa is an integral part of Afghanistan. This is one point on which the Afghan government and the Pakhtun Taleban agree.
Our basic view has been that the conflict in Afghanistan will not end until the Pakhtuns are united in their land under one regime. We expressed it in our first article on Afghanistan in September 2008. Over the past five years, this view has slowly become a part of the mainstream dialog. Ambassador Blackwill discussed the emergence of an “irredentist Pashtunistan” in January 2011.
Since 2008, we have warning of a return to the old history of Pakhtuns attacking Panjabis. This is the danger the NonPakistani Army does not see. They have forgotten their own history. Since the invasion of Pakhtun Mahmoud Ghazni in 1001 CE, Panjab has been consistently invaded by and consistently lost to Pakhtun invaders from Afghanistan.
Why shouldn’t this repeat once American forces leave Afghanistan? The Afghan government and the new Afghan Army are deeply & intensely angry with NonPakistan military for its support and encouragement of terrorism against Afghanistan. The Afghan Taleban also despise and hate the NonPakistani army.
So why wouldn’t you expect the tables to turn? Why shouldn’t we see cross-border attacks by the Taleban against the Non-Pakistani regime from sanctuaries, this time on the Afghan side of the Durand line?
4. The Coming Afghan-NonPakistan Cross-Border Conflict
This is not our title, but the title of a Stratfor article dated May 2, 2013. In their discussion of the recent clash, they write:
- “This is not the first time Afghan and Pakistani forces have clashed;
they have fought limited battles over the years. Kabul’s refusal to
recognize the Durand Line, the de facto border between the two countries
drawn by the British in the late 19th century, started the current
conflict in the 1970s.”
- “Each side accuses the other of turning a blind eye to their
respective rebels and, worse, possibly aiding them, but the presence of
NATO forces has limited the scale of fighting between Afghan and
Pakistani forces. With Western forces scheduled soon to leave the
region, these clashes are expected to intensify. Afghan forces are
weaker than those of Pakistan, but it is this very weakness that has
Pakistan worried about its own security in the post-NATO period.”
So what could happen once American forces leave Afghanistan? Stratfor writes:
- “We will therefore witness messy cross-border battles involving
government and Taliban forces on both sides. It is not clear how the
residual forces that the United States plans to leave behind will manage
such a situation, but any action by American forces is sure to further
stoke cross-border tensions.”
How would the Pakhtun residents of Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa react to this coming conflict? Would they support their current Panjabi-dominated regime or would they support their Pakhtun brothers across the artificial Durand line? That might depend on the stability of the new Afghan regime that takes power after 2014 Afghan elections. That might also depend on how much autonomy they get from the newly elected Nawaz Sharif & Imran Khan led Parliament.
Nawaz Sharif is a veteran who knows his Panjab inside out. But Imran Khan is a newcomer who is thought of as more comfortable in London than in the countryside of Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa. The big question is whether Imran Khan is able to carry the Pakhtun countryside with him as he helps Nawab Sharif govern.
5. “We are one people, one culture, one country”
Based on the above, you might think that these words are from Imran Khan addressed to the Pakhtuns of Afghanistan. No they are not. These are words of Nawaz Sharif directed at India.
Amazing, isn’t it? The Muslim Panjabis were the main force for the creation of NonPakistan and now you have Nawaz Sharif, Muslim Panjab’s leader, openly reaching out to Indians with a “one culture, one people” message. Why? Is it because he wants trade with India? Is it because he cannot govern without India’s economic support? But that doesn’t need the “one culture, one people, one country” message. Just a message of peace with India will suffice.
Does Nawaz Sharif see a greater risk to his Panjab? Is that the reason he talks of “one culture, one people, one country”? The answer may lie in the wikipedia-sourced map below:
Notice the green area. It shows the partition of the Pakhtuns between Afghanistan & NonPakistan. Assume Nawaz Sharif sees what we see in the future, a battle for reunification of the Pakhtuns. How does he handle it? Look at the map again. You will notice that the Pakhtuns are not the only partitioned, divided people in the map below.
Look at the dark grey area in the map above. You will notice that the Panjabis in grey are also partitioned, divided into NonPakistan & India.
It is easy to see that the Panjabis of NonPakistan may not able to handle the challenge of united Pakhtuns. Nawaz Sharif knows this and he also knows the history of Pakhtun control of Panjab from 1001 to 1853. So is he calling out to his own ethnic brothers, the Panjabi Indians, for an alliance based on “one people, one culture” message? We don’t know and no one does except Mr. Sharif.
Of course, what Nawaz Sharif thinks or says may not matter. Because the MIP, (the most-important player), in this game is the Panjabi-dominated Non-Pakistani Military. Peace with India is an existential danger for this MIP and its large enriched officer class. They are also arrogant to the core and oblivious to the danger from the deeply religious Pakhtun soldiers in their army, especially in the Frontier Corps, the British-created Pakhtun units that guard Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa.
How should India handle the coming Afghan-NonPakistan conflict? Should India encourage & support the Afghan-Pakhtuns against the NonPakistani Military? Or should India support Nawaz Sharif in fighting Pakhtun incursions into NonPakistani Panjab? Or should they engage in Chanakya-style realpolitik and play both sides to improve India’s sway in the Indian subcontinent?
We are not optimistic because today’s Indian leaders do not even remember Vishnu-Gupt Chanakya or his tradecraft. They remain content to fight each other and enrich themselves to the extent they can.
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