“A great civilisation is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within” — Will Durant.
Much has been written and talked about when it comes to the crisis of the state of Pakistan and the challenges it has found itself up against, from unending discussions regarding confusions surrounding its genesis to the present day split in responses to the issues of militancy and insurgencies. It seems that the discourse on all ideological fronts has become mundane, repetitive, wearisome and, more importantly, lacking in any accurate prognosis or reliable solution.
The underlining situation, however, can be explained in a broad, popular manner: extreme religious belief has gained prominence in the public sphere and the state’s ability to confront any voice that is tinted with faith has been hugely compromised. The puritanical footprint has increased manifold and an underlying sympathy exists for perpetrators of horrible crimes and mass murderers who do such things in the name of faith. As a consequence, at least partially, one of the outcomes of our society’s long experience with violence has been that radical opinions have become mainstream. A general level of tolerance has been exhibited in primary cross-sections of society where, each time, a vulnerable target suffers. While conservatism is rapidly capturing ground, the solution to this situation, at least by one school of thought, is that the successive representative regimes, through the smooth and timely transition of powers and frequent electoral experiences of the nation, will naturally lead to the eventual rooting out of chaos and bloodshed in the name of belief. This, to them, could be achieved by offering necessary social space to rigid militant groups that may then feel that the opportunity cost to relinquish weapons is higher than taking them up. It has therefore been assumed that this may be the only way to contain those who resort to the use of force. Nonetheless, it has not happened so far and is perhaps unlikely to take place at least in the foreseeable future.
An alternative viewpoint represents a different and more alarming picture: the groups and militias that have remained in the business of warfare for a long time, and have thrived financially, would feel that giving up their hard earned position and enterprise entirely when the state has been able to treat them at par would not make any logical sense. To them, it will simply mean giving up the profession and identity that has taken them this far. In a way, they have found legitimacy for their cause, something that they were so desperate to achieve. Palpably, terrorising forces would not be inclined to change their profession or give in to any sort of pressure that snatches away their advantages. So much so, to conditionally cede would not even be on the cards. The visible choice is to broker some sort of a power sharing formula by raising the ante and then settling for a chunk large enough. This is imminent and likely to happen. It will actually amount to the surrender of the state. It will be this unfortunate choice that the state would be compelled to take without any strong realisation of its consequences. The sympathetic viewpoints in traditional and emergent power centres are likely to cater to it. As a result, the struggle for modern day social freedoms and individual liberties will become laborious and far-fetched. The acceptance of cruelty against dissenting voices would further intensify. The religious tag is going to trump ethnic, social and regional identities. A failed experiment to find common ground will favour only those who hold rigid notions. The state will then cease to perform its foremost role of providing protection to the lives of the citizens, in particular those who will not follow the distinct and rigid thought process that will be patronised. More so, diversity will be difficult to maintain and the idea of a pluralistic society that believes in coexistence will remain in extreme jeopardy.