Strategic Foresight Group’s South Asia Security Unit held a brainstorming session to discuss ‘The Future of Pakistan’ in light of Pakistan’s newly elected government, led by Nawaz Sharif. The Unit brought together its Research Assistants Ashfaque Kazi, Khaleda Kader, Prakash Watwani, Rahman Abbas, Shaikh Samad and Zarin Husain. The discussion was moderated by Senior Programme Manager Anumita Raj.
The session focused on issues of significance and change that would primarily occur in the next five years. Several concrete themes emerged along with certain ‘out-of-the-box’ possibilities and ideas. The themes include:
(i) Economic Reforms: The present government seems to be making serious efforts toward bettering the general economy of the country, especially the energy and development sectors. However, there is speculation that that the rise in privatization might have an adverse effect on the job market and employment opportunities.
(ii) Extremist and Terrorism: This particular theme is complex in nature. The planned withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan in 2014 might greatly improve or highly deteriorate the situation in the region. The Unit theorized that either the Pakistani Army will have a stronger presence in the region orthe situation will gradually improve, as the government will indulge in peace talks and negotiations with the Taliban. However, the common Pakistani man is not in complete accordance with the Taliban, and so even if the talks are successful, there could be serious friction between the two, which might even result in conflict.
Overall, the process and act of radicalization is likely to continue to increase. However, many Unit members pointed out that it is hard to determine how this may impact the political realm and dynamics of Pakistan.
(iii) The Pakistani Army: For the most part, it appears that military takeovers concluded with the ousting of former president of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf. Despite having a history of more military than democratic rule, the Pakistani Army appears to be taking a backseat. According to Mr. Rahman Abbas, the recent sparks of revolution in the Middle East have reverberated all across the globe and people are charged for change. In that sentiment, he believes that, “The toppling of the government will not take place; otherwise there will be civil war.” However, Mr. Ashfaque Kazi opined otherwise, and stated that “if there were to be an important occurrence of some sort or if something were to go wrong, the Army would definitely step in.” Also, the revolutionary sparks in other parts of the world could not have that strong an impact because Pakistanis are used to Army rule.
(iv) Relations with India: The Unit discussed that it is too early to determine the course of the relationship with India. Also, the Indian elections in 2014 will play an important and influential role. It was estimated that overall trade and economic relations will improve and the issue of Kashmir will remain unchanged.
(v) Relations with China: Members of the South Asia Security Unit discussed various evidence that point to the fact that Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) party is pro-China. The US-India-China-Pakistan nexus is extremely interesting and strategic.
(vi) Relations with the United States: With the arrival of the new Pakistani government and the US’s plans to exit the region, Pakistan seems to be relying more on allies such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and China. Over the years, the Pakistani Army and Defence have been highly dependent on the US. However, it seems like Pakistan has benefitted more from this relationship than its counterpart, and relations are currently strained.
The ‘out-of-the-box’possibilities and ideas that emerged from the meeting include:
a) Pakistan will succeed in diffusing its power crisis.
b) Pakistan will give India the Most Favoured Nation status.
c) The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) political parties will lay low for the next five years till the ruling PML-N party is in power.
d) With regard to Balochistan, the government will enforce control either by inclusion of separatists or by bringing in the Army in a major way.