Anyone living in South Asia, indeed most of the third world and occasionally even in the first world, has come across stifling bureaucracies with arcane rules, riven with corruption and felt nothing but a sense of helplessness. It is therefore of special consequence in the third world when a particular institution/s seems to work well, maintains both an external and internal sense of discipline and is peopled by those with a clear sense of their own destiny and importance to the world.
Pakistan's armed forces are one such institution. Notwithstanding its recently torturous existence, the Army despite having lost 3 large scale and one smaller scale war against arch rival India is seen to be imbued with the best that Pakistan has to offer. Pakistanis shrug aside the defeats, the obvious political meddling that the army indulges in because things actually do work. Army bases stand as beacons of not only security but of order and purpose amidst the squalor and chaos of the streets. When someone says he is a commando, you can be rest assured that he is actually one. When a general commands an armored corp you know the said general has more than passing acquaintance with strategy and battlefield tactics.
Sadly for Pakistan, even this last shining pillar is being eroded by entropy. The recently successful attack on the Naval Aviation HQ only goes to prove that the armed forces as an overall set of institutions mirror acutely the degradation of this nation: from a functioning anarchy to anarchy. This then is what the world should be worried about.
The dominating narrative in the military and civil sphere is one of nihilism- of teeth gnashing desperation and heartburn. The loss of proportion reflected in the civil war on Pakistan's streets, conspiracy theories no longer limited to a fringe all mean that in Pakistan today the question is not when the country will fall but how fast and how far. If there's one thing that Pakistan's 'civil' warriors (the armed forces, the terrorists, the politicians, the columnists, TV talk show hosts- the list is long) agree upon it is that the shape of the country will change- something must end and something new begun.
This shape change will not be acquiesced to quietly. The world will be collateral in these times of denuded morale and the crumbling of a 64 year old experiment in nationhood. Whoever be the directors of this farce, the momentum of this internal upheaval will demand damage to other polities- nearby India and Afghanistan in the first instance, the US and perhaps Europe in a more indirect sense. Will the N factor be the first consequence of this nihilism and the need to go down in a blaze (not of glory necessarily) or rather the culmination of a process remains to be seen?.
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