of Pakistan's Future: Possible Scenarios
For the author's latest
Article on Pakistan's Future Scenarios click
Exploring current images of Pakistan's futures is the task for this
essay. Based on a literature
review of Pakistani magazines, newspapers and journals as well as
conversations with Pakistani scholars and interviews with members of the
general public, we develop and evaluate five images or scenarios of the
future. This essay concludes
with suggestions for designing alternative futures for Pakistan.
Before we articulate these images of the future, let us first examine
the "futures approach" to the study of social reality.
A futures view focuses primarily on temporality.
Where are we going? What
are the possibilities ahead? What strategies can we use to realize our
goals? How can the image
of the future help us better understand and change today?
Who are the losers and winners in any particular articulation of
time? The futures perspective
is initially similar to traditional political analysis in that it begins
with an exploration of economic, international and social events and the
choices made by actors that make these events possible.
However, the futures view also attempts to place events and choices
within an historical dimension; that is, the larger and deeper structures
that make these discrete events intelligible, such as core-periphery,
urban-rural, gender, caste, and macro patterns of social change.
Also important in the futures view is the post-structural dimension;
the larger meaning system or the epistemological ground plan of the real as
embedded in language that constitutes events and structures.
Unfortunately, most efforts to understand the future remain in the
predictive mode. It is often
asked, what and when will a particular event occur and how can we profit or
increase our power from a specific prediction?
Economists and strategic analysts claim to excell at this task.
Our efforts here--sensitive to the richness of reality and the need
to decolonize the study of the future from narrow models of reality--is to
explore images or scenarios of the future.
Our task is not to predict and thereby make this essay political
fodder for technocrats but to use the future to create real possibilities
for change. We thus do not intend to give a familiar reading of
Pakistan's future, as might be available in a five year plan, rather we
enter into a discussion of alternative futures, of the many choices ahead as
contoured by the structure of history and the modern boundaries of knowledge
that frame our identity.
In the images or scenarios that follow it should be remembered that
these images are meant as tools for discussion and dialog; they are
intended to clarify the futures ahead not to reify social reality. Our goal
is insight not prediction. As
an initial caveat, an important failing of this essay is that the textual
sources and conversations were entirely in english--one might get different
images with local Pakistani languages.
Disciplined Capitalistic Society
The first image of Pakistan's future has many anchors, the
most version recent uses S. Korea as a compelling image of the
future. Both countries were underdeveloped thirty years ago but now
S. Korea has joined the ranks of the developed, it is become an integral
part of the "Pacific Shift."
Through state managed industrialization with strong private spin-offs
(and the economic activity caused by the Vietnam war) Korea has dramatically
raised its standard of living. Along with a strong confucian ethic (respect
for hierarchy, family, hard work, and an emphasis on education) Korea was a
strong national ethic. However,
given Pakistan's social structure perhaps North Korea is a better example of
Pakistan's possible future as both have strong militaries.
However, while North Korea has a strong totalitarian ideology,
Pakistan does not. Islam is in
many ways a legal/social doctrine and in that sense that it defies any
interpretation rather it is up for grabs by a variety of ideologies. While a
theocratic military state is possible so far this mixture has not occurred
nor has a one-man state managed to succeed. The best way of stating this
model of the future is the "disciplined capitalistic society."
The military rules directly or indirectly under the guise of
"law and order."
Not only is civil society disciplined but so is labor.
Labor exists to aid capital in its national and
transnational accumulation. The
Islam that is used is one that
aids in societal discipline at the individual and social level. The head of
the nation is then the strict father who knows what is best for the
children. The mother is in this image is apolitical, remaining at home
to take care of the nation's children so they can work for the larger good
of capitalist development.
However there is an important contradiction here.
Among the reasons of the rise of East Asia was women labor.
Females are thus essential for for export oriented strategies that
lead to capital accumulation; at the same time the Islamic
dimension of this model demands their continued "home-ization."
They are to provide care to labor.
This is the semi-proletarian existence
which in the long run cheapens the cost of labor for capital since the
informal sector helps support the formal "monied" capitalistic
sector. Females are integral to
this semi-proleterian structure.
The other obvious contradiction is the role of the military.
Besides the role of women, confucianism, the historical particular
juncture in the worldeconomy, East Asia developed because of low military
expenditures and high social expenditures.
Is Pakistan ready to put health and education before military
expansion, that is, to redefine security?
We have yet to see. In
the meantime, the hope is that through discipline and privatization Pakistan
can join the ranks of the rich.
This image is partially influenced by interpretations of Islam that
give weight to the syncretic personal dimension of Islam; that is, an Islam
that does not the become the facilitator of the mullah's rise--not rote
discipline but revelation. The rendering of Islam is populist as for example in the view
that the land is perceived as belonging to the tillers not the landlords.
This image is also partially influenced by the third world movement
which has attempted to follow an alternative development path not based on
multinational West run capitalism or on soviet party/military run communism.
This view was made
famous by Z.A. Bhutto in
Pakistan. But let us be clear:
this view is still industrial and growth oriented like the previous
model, however, it has a strong emphasis on "roti, capra, makan,"
on basic needs and distributive justice.
Nehru attempted a similar model but without the Islamic overtones as
have numerous other third world leaders.
In this model, the state softens the impact of local and transational
capital on individuals. At the macro level, import substitution and nationalization
become key strategies. However,
the larger problem of the world economic system as essentially capitalistic
and politics nation-state oriented with Pakistan near the bottom of the
global division of labor remains.
The meaning of this image, however, does not come only from the
economic as central is the religious. It
is Islam that unites, it is Islam that gives direction, it is Islam that
integrates individual, family and nation.
And although Islam is pervasive, it remains open and committed to
distributive justice and individual spiritual growth--a soft Islam, if you
will. National allies in this
image come from other third world countries with collective self-reliance
the long run goal--south/south cooperation on economic, cultural and
Among other writers, Syed Abidi's writes that these two images take
turns dominating Pakistan's politics.
Exaggeration of one leads to individual and social frustration and
then the rise of the other and visa versa.
However, revisionist historians, such as Ayesha Jalal, argue that
both are unsuccessful because of the nature of the Pakistani state, molded
along authoriatarian lines due to the circumstances of partition.
A third image, based on individual and national identity attempts to
transcend the earlier two, using the past as its gateway into the future.
The Return of the Ideal and the Search for Identity
The original image of Pakistan was that of a safe heaven and haven
for muslims: safe from both the hindus of the east and
later on from the jews
of the west (in Israeli and American
forms). It was derived--at least in its popular myth--as the territory wherein muslims would not be
oppressed by the hindus of India.
While Jinnah's intent may have been political power (a share in the
action when India was to be
divided) for the Muslim League and later the
creation of a secular state, it quickly became a state for
muslims of muslims. Pakistan's
self image was to a large degree defined by India.
India has been the enemy that gives unity.
Even after three devastating
wars, military strategists still believe that Pakistan can defeat India.
In this view, India has many
gods, is bent on destroying Pakistan (the empirical
evidence of the Bangladesh war), has nuclear weapons and is
allied with godless Russia. But
would Pakistan retain any sense of its identity without India since Pakistan
knows itself through the other of India? Indeed, is Pakistan but not-India.
India has survived thousands of years with
and without muslim domination, but Pakistan is still struggling
to complete a half-century, to imagine itself as a nation, to find a
This image exists in many ways outside our earlier
dimensions in that internal identity is more important than external
reality. The image is that we reside in the land of the Pure, the
place where there is no threat from the outside, wherein the
purity of Islam can flourish. Other
variables such as the type of
political-economy, culture and geo-politics are less important.
The moral dimension of Islam is central.
Questions that arise from this view is: has Pakistan achieved this
level of purity? Some
muslim scholars argue that each Islamic nation attempts to recover the
polity of the initial Islamic state, the ideal of the
original promise of the time of the Prophet--the revolution had occurred, prophecy had been delivered, the rightly guided
caliphs ruled, and there was social justice and economic
growth in Arabia. This
ideal is then the image of the future
for Pakistan; this is the time of partition when there was
promise in the air, a great deal had been achieved through
sacrifice, the British and the hindus had been thrown back, and the
Quaid lived. The
image of the future then is a return to a time of hope
and dreams; of victory over struggles and of purity, before the
politicians in the form of the military and the
landlords coopted the future. In
this sense this image of the future is a search for an ideal past, a mythic
But while this image may be glorious, revisionist historians point
out that the birth of Pakistan was already steeped in power politics, in
feudal domination: there was never any purity to speak of, to begin with.
If this is true then perhaps what is needed is a reimagination
of Pakistan. A
search for a new vision, a new purpose that makes sense of the last
forty years of frustration and creates real visions of the future not dreams
based on a past that is but a lie. This
reimagination task could occur through a democratic process of collective
future envisioning or it could come from the words or images of great
artists or others marginal to the present established power structure.
But while we await this reimagination of the future, in the meantime
the present disintegrates.
The End of Sovereignty
This images is the most pervasive and has many variants and levels.
The first is conquest by India leading to a greater India.
This is possible through military conquest or through
economic imperialism if the doors of trade are left wide open.
The second is more sophisticated and deals not with military
or economic imperialism but with cultural domination.
The main villain is
the West, especially the United
States. Irrespective of
US AID and other ties to Pakistan, religion and their distant locations in
the world economy make Pakistan and the USA naturally antagonistic.
Recent desires of the US to inspect Pakistan's nuclear development
exacerbate this tension. But
cultural domination comes in many
forms: technology transfer from the green revolution to
the microcomputer revolution--technology is not neutral but
has many cultural codes and messages embedded in its
hardware (the actual physical technology) and software (the
rules that make it sensible). For
example, certain technologies
might promote individualism and the expense of
family. Others might
promote mobility. Education
transfer also leads to cultural penetration, the widespread
emigration to the USA for education and then for work is the
obvious example. Electronic
technology even in the ostensibly
neutral form of CNN can but spread foreign views
of what is significant and what is unimportant; that
Pakistan is rarely covered is not inconsequential to
cultural self-images. Travel
to the West for tourism, conferences,
and medical reasons is another example.
there is a bit of cultural transfer mostly it is but one-way communication.
Sovereignty then is clearly violated;
the idea that a nation can exist given this level
of cultural penetration is highly problematic.
For instance, just as there
is a world division of labor there is a world division
of culture and news with some supplying modern culture others
providing exotic or traditional culture.
We provide the data for their theories of the traditional.
The responses to this form of penetration are obvious:
fundamentalism in its strongest forms--a return to the historic text,
a denial of physical and mental mobility, and a critique of all things
foreign even those which increase the freedom and life chances of individual
and family. This is the
famous call by the ruling elite
for a local form of "democracy" in
which basic "universal" freedoms are denied so as to save
traditional local culture. Liberals,
thus, argue that the defense of cultural sovereignty of the
nation is but the denial of the sovereignty of the
individual and the reaffirmation of the
power of the State. In
the name of tradition, all sorts of injustices can be committed and
rationalized. Other responses
to Western penetration could be further
Islamic penetration, for example, by Iran.
This could lead to a
Pakistan-Iran partnership with an increased Shia influence in Pakistan.
It would increase the power of ulema
in that they would have the power to define and narrate
legitimate cultural and political activities. Conversely the end of
sovereignty could become a positive image in that Pakistan could be forced
to become an international blend of many cultures and technologies: a place
where the future resides, a place where sovereignty finds itself renewed at
a higher plantery or spiritual or cultural levels not at a myopic national
or local level. This is then a reaffirmation of the idea of the ummah
but extended to the entire world in the form of a global community.
Pakistan could then become a compelling image for other places to
emulate. A receiver and sender of social technology and a creator of
postmodern culture. But this direction would take a great deal of daring and
courage as there are no models to follow only vague possibilities to
As problematic as cultural sovereignty is the loss of the sovereignty
of the self. The self was
previously constructed around familiar lines: heaven was above, hell below,
and God all around. One knew
what one was to do with one's life: class and caste were clear.
But with the world continuously being recreated by the science and
technology revolution and with the problem of West continuously staring at
the Pakistani "self," there no longer exists any clear cut self.
Am I Sindhi first? A
woman first? A Pakistani first? A wife first?
A muslim first? A feudal
first? Where do my loyalties
lie? Can I integrate these
often contradictory fragments of identity?
And where do these categories stand in the larger scheme of things?
Moreover, the problem of the self can but become increasingly
problematic with the feminist movement, increased exposure to the outside
world through travel and the development of an overseas Pakistani community.
Instead of one mutually agreed upon authoritative construction of
self we may see many Pakistani selves all vying for individual and national
The next layer of sovereignty that is made problematic is internal
territorial sovereignty, that is, the provinces increasingly
wanting more autonomy and in some cases secession.
The calls for an
independent Sindh is the latest case in point.
The image of this future is of all the provinces going their separate
ways with Pakistan finally only being Punjab. The north-west might join with
Afghanistan or the Phaktoons might form
their own country. In
addition, Baluchistan might join Iran, become its
own nation, or join a loose confederation with Sindh.
And in this image, Azad Kashmir would either join Punjab or unite with the rest of Kashmir to form its own nation.
While this might lead to
conquest by India most likely the same forces that would lead to end of
national integration in Pakistan would also lead to the disintegration of
India, from one India to many Indias. Also possible after a period of
disintegration is reintegration into a united states of south asia with
Punjab as the most likely center of this loose regional federation.
No Change: the Continuation of the Grand Disillusionment
The last and we would argue most pervasive image of the
future is that of the present continued or "no change."
This is a general malaise, a grand disillusionment with the
ideal of Pakistan, with the promises of the rulers, with the
intentions of politicians. In
this view, the power structure--so obviously unjust--appears unchangeable to
individuals and groups.
Given this malaise, there are then a range of strategies available.
The first is individual spiritual development, an escape from the social and material
worlds. The second is to flee
the country to brighter
horizons outside: "Dubai Chalo" or the
fabled green card. The
poor and middle class go to the Middle East and the rich and the upper
middle class leave for the United States.
Within the country the strategy is to
find a job and then use one's personal influence to help
others find work thus allowing the family as a whole to move up the economic ladder.
Of course this is more difficult
in times of contraction. During
economic expansion, movement is easier.
Another tactic is politicization in the
form of joining political parties for the purpose of social
transformation. However, this
strategy is often quickly abandoned once
the enormous weight of the historical
structures at hand are made obvious (the military, the landlords, and the
interpretive power of the ulema,
mentioned earlier). What
remains is politics as patronage.
This regression from politics as social transformation to politics as
patronage has a devastating influence on the national psyche.
Individuals are forced
into corruption and dishonesty (within their definitions of these two terms)
and must live with their own moral failures
in a land where morality is central to personal and social valuation.
Violence--individual, institutional and state--becomes routine and
disaggregate; the rich secure themselves and the rest either form separate
communities or create their own armies.
What emerges is cynicism and pessimism, a breakdown in the immune
system of the political and social body--a world ending with a whimper not a
For those in the position of leadership or responsibility
the contradictions are even stronger and inasmuch as the local,
national and international structures are too difficult to transform others
are blamed: the foreign elements, the bad local elements, or the
undisciplined youth, to name a few enemies. The oppression of the present
bares down on leader and follower alike; both lose their humanity, both lose
hope in any collective image of the future.
Worse, there is no savior ahead: all models have failed; leaders have
failed; religion has failed; capitalism has failed; socialism has failed;
political parties have failed.
The need for reimagination of purpose, of identity, of vision from
this dismal final vision is glaring. Part
of revisioning is creating alternative structures.
Among the points of departure for these new structures should be the
centrality of difference.
Pakistan has placed its strength on unity; a unity that has proved elusive. Perhaps we need to create institutions and models of change
that use difference to create strength, that celebrate our uniqueness among
each other and in the world. From an embracing of difference, a unity of
self, family and a larger group identity then might be possible.
As important as difference is decentralization,
the creation of local practices to solve local problems, that is, endogenous
development. Finally, we should
not forget democracy, not in the
trivial sense of voting--which has historically but strengthened statist
politics--but in the more important sense of individual empowerment and
community participation in the creation of preferred futures as
contextualized by the social designs of others. In any case, designing
the future at local and community and broader levels (through local and
nternational social movements, for example) might be a more promising task
than waiting for a politician or some other central authority to solve the
problems ahead. Imagination
does not mean, however, a forgetting of the material world and the real
interests--structural, institutional and individual--that impede attempts to
transform the present. The
future must then be a sight that one moves toward as well as a site wherein
the material and the creative meet. The future--like politics, economics and
culture--must be decolonized and reappropriated by each one of us.
Today. While the above
represents an initial exploration of Pakistan's
images of the future, dimensions within these images have
yet to be explored: the role of the environment, structural and
direct violence, the role of children, images of health, the possibilities
of growth and distribution, and the relative powers of various actors, such
as nation-states, political parties and social movements.
To conclude, one might ask: what is my image of the future for
myself? for my family? for my community? for my nation? for the
planet? And what am I doing to
realize my personal and social image of the future?
Inayatullah is a member of the executive council of the World Futures
Studies Federation and is currently editing a book on the Futures of South
Asia. In the preparation of
this essay, Dr. Inayatullah, the author's father, provided a wealth of
insights and made helpful editorial comments)