[EPW] Pakistan’s Extraordinary Turmoil


Central Idea: Oustered PM Imran Khan’s arrest has led to unprecedented attacks on army establishments in Pakistan. The transformation of Pakistan, once considered a rising star in the 1950s, into a troubled state raises questions about the reasons behind its decline.

Various challenges paralyzing Pakistan

(1) Economic Decline

  • Pakistan has struggled with economic instability, including issues such as high inflation, low GDP growth, fiscal deficits, and a reliance on external loans and aid.
  • These economic challenges have hindered development and affected the standard of living for many Pakistanis.

(2) Corruption

  • Corruption is a pervasive issue in Pakistan, with allegations of embezzlement, bribery, and nepotism prevalent in various sectors, including politics, government institutions, and the judiciary.
  • This has undermined governance, eroded public trust, and hindered economic progress.

(3) Governance Issues

  • Pakistan has grappled with governance challenges, including weak institutions, ineffective public administration, and inadequate service delivery.
  • The inefficiency and lack of transparency in governance have hindered development initiatives and undermined public confidence.

(4) Security Concerns

  • Pakistan has faced significant security challenges inculcated in its own backyard including terrorism, insurgency, and sectarian violence.
  • Militant groups and extremist ideologies have posed threats to internal stability and external security, leading to loss of lives, displacement of populations, and disruptions to economic activities.

(5) Political Instability

  • Pakistan has experienced periods of political instability, characterized by frequent changes in governments, weak democratic institutions, and power struggles between civilian and military establishments.
  • Political polarization, lack of consensus-building, and a history of military interventions have hindered the establishment of stable governance structures.

(6) Social Issues

  • Pakistan faces various social issues, such as poverty, illiteracy, gender inequality, and inadequate access to healthcare and education. False charges of blasphemy is one of the most danger miscreant.
  • These challenges have hindered human development, perpetuated social disparities, and hindered progress towards achieving social justice and inclusivity.

Indian observations

  • Prefers to remain silent: New Delhi has chosen to remain silent and observe the unfolding situation.
  • Outbursts of extremist factions: There are concerns about extremist forces spilling over from Pakistan due to the absence of stable authority.
  • Possible military takeover: Despite the concerns, there is a widespread belief that the establishment will ultimately prevail, albeit in a weakened state.

India’s Silence in current context

  • It is unlikely that the Indian government will make substantial comments on the situation in Pakistan.
  • India is closely monitoring the developments but is unlikely to issue any public statements.

External implications of Pakistan’s crisis

  • Takeover by radicalists: Actions of extremist forces are typically regulated by a strong authority, and a weakening of authority could lead to less control over these groups.
  • Immediate threat to India: The instability in Pakistan, coupled with terrorism and religious extremism, is a concern for neighboring countries like India.

Reasons for Pakistan’s grim situation

  • Constitutional grey zone: Pakistan has been in a constitutional grey zone with elections not being held as scheduled and the dissolution of provincial assemblies.
  • Polarized Polity: The deeply polarized polity complicates the search for a solution, with institutions aligned in favor of either the military establishment or Imran Khan.
  • Apathy for Army: This situation is unusual. Historically, all branches of the state were largely perceived to align with the interests of the Pakistan army.

Lessons for India

  • Religion isn’t the saviour: Pakistan’s formation as an artificial construct based solely on religious identity has led to its current challenges and potential disintegration.
  • Inequality and Infinite divisions: The diverse sects within Islam, with their hostilities and takfirism (labelling others as non-believers), have contributed to internal divisions and conflicts in Pakistan.
  • Rationality over anything: Indian society is becoming more aware of these realities, embracing reform, rationality, progress, education, and moving away from politics of appeasement.

Should India worry?

  • Potential influx of refugees: Activists have indicated that residents of Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir (POK) are expressing readiness to join India due to various grievances, including rising prices of essential commodities. If a significant influx occurs, it could lead to law and order issues in India.
  • Increase Chinese influence: Given the recent tensions between India and China at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), increased Chinese influence in Pakistan could potentially complicate the regional dynamics.


  • India should prioritize national integration, territorial integrity, and national interests over divisive identity politics.
  • The trajectory of Pakistan’s history since its establishment in 1947 as an Islamist state serves as a lesson for India to learn from.

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