Dynamics of Pakistani Establishment


Pakistan is unpredictable. The two decades long world engagement with Pakistan for the essential reforms in the state-field, society and economy has failed to give results. There is no full stop to the religious extremism as well as its export, anti-democratic moves and extreme centralization of the federal governance. 




The internal ground realities of Pakistan has been the epicenter of instability in the neighboring India and Afghanistan; broader insecurity in Central-and-South Asia as well as Middle East. It has risked international interests in Asian geo-strategic regions and to certain extent internal security of the Western Europe, northern America, some African countries, Eurasia, and the East Asian countries including China. Addressing this broader cloud of insecurity would be possible only by understanding and addressing the dynamics of the Pakistan establishment and the state apparatus. 


Ethnic dynamism 

The fault lines internal and external insecurity run through the ethno-sectarian composition of Pakistan’s civil and military Establishment. No ethnic-nation out of Punjabi, Sindhi, Baloch, Pashtun and Siraiki form significant majority in Pakistan; however Punjab, as a province, forms numerical majority. The ethnic minorities are second and third generation of Urdu speaking refugee from India, Hindko linguistic group of Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa (K-P), Persian speaking Hazara of Balochistan and Potohari speaking districts of northeastern Punjab. The peculiarity of the Pakistani federalism is the dominance of ethnic and sectarian minorities over the majority. Hence, the ethno-sectarian minority’s hold of Establishment and the State apparatus is the source of internal oppression, discrimination, manipulation and violence and foundation of external policy manifestations. 


The military as well as security establishment of Pakistan is dominated by ethnic Punjabi that is majority only in 18 districts out of 36 districts of Punjab province and 106 districts of the country. Majority of soldiers in Pakistan Army are ethno-linguistic Potohari, which are majority only in four northeastern districts of Punjab. Although Potohari are ethno-linguistically separate; however the Urdu medium education in across Punjab and Punjabi majority of non-commissioned and commission officers in the military has virtually converted Potohari into Punjabi to the extent that the Potohari language has vanished. Rest of the ethnic composition of the military is Urdu speaking that form second significant ethnic group among the commissioned officers despite the fact that they are ethnic majority in only one district of Sindh – district Central Karachi – out of 23 districts of the province. Hindko of K-P that are majority in 6 districts out of 25 districts in K-P province and Hazara of Balochistan that does not form majority in any of the 32 district of Balochistan. They have higher participation in the commissioned and non-commissioned officers in the Army proportionate to their population. 


Pashtun of K-P and to certain extent Balochistan have participation in the military only because Pakistan borders with Pashtu speaking provinces of Afghanistan. Sindhi and Baloch together would hardly form one percent in the military and bellow one person of the military associated security agencies. Similar trend also dominates the civil and military security and intelligence fraternity. 


The pattern of civil establishment is slightly different; however does not break the taboo of ethnic and sectarian minorities’ dominance over the rest. Punjabi, Urdu, Hindko and Hazara are given more opportunities in civil bureaucracy against their constitutionally determined share. Punjabi and Urdu are given employment opportunities in civil-bureaucracy out of Sindhi quota in Sindh; Punjabi and Hazara out Baloch quota in Balochistan, Hindko out of Pashtun quota in K-P and Punjabi take out of Sirakis share in Punjab. Electoral governance and the Parliament are also on similar pattern. Punjab province has largest number of seats in the bicameral parliament of Pakistan therefore Sindh, K-P and Balochistan together does not form constitutionally required two-third majority to amend the Constitution of Pakistan. 


Sectarian and ideological contours 

Sunni is the overwhelming majority of Pakistani Muslim. Shia is the second significant group, whose majority resides in Sindh and Siraiki southern Punjab. Both Sunni and Shia follow the Hanafia orthodox of Islamic jurisprudence in broader terms. Salafi are below two percent of the total Muslims. Contrary to the social composition of Pakistan, the Establishment upholds and promotes Salafism. Al-Qaida, ideologically, was Salafist. In Pakistan Jamait-e-Islami, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and Jamaa’t ul Dawa (JuD) which was previously Lashkare-e-Tayyaba (LeT) are leading Salafi outfits. Since Salafis are tiniest sectarian minority among Pakistani Muslims, the Sunni majority usually becomes member of ideologically Salafi religious parties. The leadership of these outfits however remains with Salafis. 


Liberal, secular and moderate have are also in significant in the Establishment. Their majority is the second or third generation of Punjabi and Urdu refugees belonged to the pre-1947 Indian provinces in which Muslim were minority and played key role in the 1947 partition of India. Muslim nationhood, minority rule over majority, anti-Hindu, anti-Indian and anti-Afghan tilts are the by-product of this historical background. Internally anti-Christian and externally anti-West, particularly anti-American, policies are the result of Salafi dominancy and Sudaization of Pakistani state. Sufi-secular and liberal Sindh, Balochistan and Siraiki southern Punjab does not suit dominant groups’ internal power greed and external dispositions. 


External-internal nexus 

Ethnic Punjabi and sectarian Salafi dominance on Pakistan in alliance with the other minority ethnicities is the caterpillar of Pakistan’s foreign policy and strategic engagements. Therefore, the discrimination and non-inclusion of Sindhi, Baloch, Siraki and to some extent Pashtun in the decision making layers of the establishment is directly proportionate with dominant groups’ policy for India, Afghanistan, Iran, USA and EU. At one stage, the ethnicity dominates the sects, because Pakistan’s military has a history of Christian and Ahmadiya Muslim Generals. On the other hand, no Sindhi Muslim has been promoted even to the post of Brigadier General; however only one Baloch was promoted Lt. General, who was retired prematurely against his seniority of qualifying the post of Army Chief after Musharaf. 


Reforms versus Revolution There are only two options for Pakistan and the interested world: (i) undertaking higher scale reforms in the Pakistan establishment in the ethnic, sectarian, religious and ideological perspective or (ii) materialization of Sindhi and Baloch peoples’ demanded for the independent and sovereign statehood. Practically, the later is more possible than the earlier since perversion has reached the level of irreversibility. 



Article by Zulfiqar Shah, Daily Afghanistan Times, September 4, 2014