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Pakistan-Paranoia or Reality?

In my article titled “Afghanistan-Pakistan’s War” I suggested that understanding Pakistan can be very difficult due to the number of diverse threads that seem to be present in virtually every issue.  Keeping that in mind, this article will take a look at  why Pakistan doesn’t seem to be able to get along with any of its neighbors and how that affects the outlook of both its policy makers and its citizens.  My focus here will be on the question of Pakistan’s territorial integrity.

When Pakistan became an independent country in 1947 it both inherited and created a number of border problems which continue to this day.  Iran represents the only country sharing a border with Pakistan which also recognizes the legality of that shared border along its entire length, and even in that case, as we shall see there are others who disagree.  I would suggest that this question of its territorial integrity, which has been present from the very genesis of the nation, contributes greatly to its tendency towards paranoia, aggressiveness in the face of perceived threats, the heightened patriotism represented by “my country, right or wrong (but never wrong)”, and the fact that most Pakistanis embrace its armed forces as a protector of Pakistan in virtually every way.

We shall see that, although religion does play a part in the drama, highlighted by the name change to “The Islamic Republic of Pakistan”, the fact of the matter is it’s major disputes happen to be with others who share the same faith, specifically Afghanistan, East Pakistan, and Baluchistan.  On the other hand, most people, including Pakistanis, seem to focus on the border disputes with India. This may be due to the number of armed conflicts which have occurred between the two countries or it may be because Pakistan was formed out of British India, but regardless of the reason, it seems that the border disputes between Pakistan and India might be the logical first area to focus our attention.

It really all begins with the British, not to absolve either the Indians or the Pakistanis of their responsibility.  At the time of independence India, and what became Pakistan, was a patchwork of different political entities with varying types of relationships between themselves and the British Crown.  Contrary to what many may believe, neither the Crown, nor the British Government, exercised full control over each and every area of “India”.  A significant portion of the landmass was the property of native rulers who retained varying degrees of autonomy from the British internally, while effectively ceding control over various governmental functions, most notably foreign policy.  In effect, they were independent states who, through various means, had been convinced to ally themselves with the British.  Their autonomous nature became a problem as it became clear that the British were leaving.  The end result, both before and after independence, was that through a series of false assurances and broken promises, followed by military action if all else failed, they were integrated, with very few exceptions, into either India and Pakistan.  Two of these areas, Kashmir and Baluchistan, continue to be sources of conflict today, with Kashmir being divided between India and Pakistan, and Baluchistan to be discussed later in this article. For a number of reasons, whether one agrees with them or not, few areas which chose to use their right to remain independent were allowed to do so, and in the several cases, with tragic results.

There remain two major areas of contention between India and Pakistan regarding their shared border, with both areas hosting military action on various occasions since 1947.  In the case of the Rann of Kutch, the conflict is a continuation of an unresolved dispute between the former British Indian State of Bombay and the Princely State of Kutch.  Based on information from the previously linked site, the precise border has yet to be finalized.  The real prize, however, lays far to the north, in the area known as Kashmir, where an official border has never been recognized and thus the line of demarcation goes by the name of the Line of Control (LOC).  Kashmir is presently divided with both India and Pakistan laying claim to the entire state, China claiming a small sliver and with the added complication of a fourth group advocating complete independence.  Until this dispute is resolved there can be no real peace between India and Pakistan.

As mentioned, in a related dispute, China also lays claim to parts of Kashmir, which it borders from the north, and thus can be counted as yet another country with which Pakistan originally had unresolved issues.  Although Pakistan and India, and, for that matter China and India, have yet to agree on a mutually satisfactory border, Pakistan and China have done so, and, as a result Pakistan and China enjoy relatively good relations.  This map provides a good visual as to the present Kashmir situation.

We now move west to Afghanistan which represents the first of three disputes that Pakistan has with countries with majority Muslim populations and thus the justifications are no longer couched in religious terms.  The British legacy is once again present with its original aims no longer relevant to the present political situation. In this case, Pakistan considers itself to be the legitimate heir to a treaty originally agreed to between the British and the rulers of the area we now know as Afghanistan which resulted in the famed Durand Line.  Afghanistan disputes this border as discussed in the link provided.  The fact that Afghanistan and Pakistan cannot agree on a mutually satisfactory border suggests a high degree of motivation on the part of the Pakistanis to control the situation.  The original trouble lies, once again, in the British insistence of integrating what had been virtually independent states under its rule, into either India or Pakistan.  A quick look at the map will tell the story as to how important it is to Pakistan to retain to land east of the Durand Line.

Grand Afghanistan after pakhtunkhwa is returned to Afghanistan


On the other hand, for Afghanistan, moving the line eastward, barring other factors, would give it access to the sea and the port of Gwadar, which is located in the present Pakistani province of Baluchistan.   One can understand why Pakistan might find this to be a bit unacceptable and thus explains why any events in Afghanistan are considered to have a significant effect on Pakistan’s vital interests.

One might think that Pakistan has quite enough to handle, and yet separatist movements continue to plague it as well.  In the case of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, the question was settled in 1971, when East Pakistan declared its independence from what had been essentially a West Pakistani Pakistan national government.  The loss of Bangladesh continues to affect the national psyche as exemplified by recent discussions in the Express Tribune, as well as other Pakistani mediaprovoked by a newly published book by Sarmila Bose entitled, Dead Reckoning: Memories of the 1971 Bangladesh War.

Bangladesh may have been lost, but no Pakistani leader wishes to be responsible for the loss of Baluchistan, a mineral rich province that is also the largest of the four Pakistani provinces.  Various measures have been taken through out the years, beginning from Partition, but at this point some Baluchis continue to agitate for an independent state. Depending on the group, the area constituting an independent Baluchistan could be made up of territory presently controlled by Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan which further confuses the issue.  Here again, Pakistan sees its relationship with Afghanistan as one of vital importance.

In writing this article, I am not attempting to take sides, nor suggest that Pakistan does not have the right to be concerned.  I have only skimmed the surface in an attempt to simply present the fact that Pakistan, regardless of fault, is essentially surrounded by neighbors who lay claim to some of what they consider to be their territory.  This reality certainly has an effect on how they view the world, and how they conduct their foreign policy.  Thank you for your interest.

Contributing sites.

1.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_integration_of_India#Princely_States_in_British_India  A great overview although I was also able to verify the information from various other sources.

2.  http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/rann-of-kutch.htm

“The dispute predates the creation of India and Pakistan and stems from a dispute between the British Indian State of Bombay and the Princely State of Kutch in the first decade of the 20th century.”

Other articles on Pakistan you may find of interest..(I will soon be moving them to this site)

“To Coup, or Not To Coup…That is the question”

“Afghanistan–Pakistan’s War?”

“Does Pakistan have the legal right to cut NATO/American supply lines to Afghanistan?”

article on “new map” without map.


Posted Previously elsewhere…2012/1/17

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