Sajjad Ashraf: Pakistan's Three Dilemmas
By Uran Bolush
On 21 May 2012, the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy hosted a public talk “Pakistan’s Three Dilemmas” by Mr. Sajjad Ashraf, Adjunct Professor at the LKY School and Visiting Senior Research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Ashraf pointed out inter-provincial imbalances and struggles, the role of the powerful military and shaky foreign relations with India as Pakistan major challenges today.
Touching on problematic inter-provincials relations, Ashraf explained it as having roots in the country’s partition from India in 1947. Ever since, certain provinces have played a central role in governing the country as well as having broader access to the nation’s resources, thereby creating regional economic disparity. Unless appropriate policies are implemented to address the underlying causes of the issue, frictions between provinces will remain as one of the main internal destabilizing forces in Pakistan, said Ashraf.
Speaking on the role the powerful military has played in Pakistan political life, Ashraf noted that the military’s rise needs to be understood in light of series of external factors, one of which is said to be the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. During this period, Pakistan had become the key Western ally in the region whose military facilitated the transit of foreign supplies to the war zone, he said. Ashraf further elaborated that Pakistan’s military also played crucial role in training, equipping and harbouring the Afghan rebels in the process of which its prestige and power grew considerably. As a result the military began to be actively involved in Pakistan’s politics and at times have not hesitated to take over the government by force, noted Ashraf. The speaker believes that as long as feasible institutional reforms are not undertaken, the country’s political life is likely to be overshadowed by the military’s influence.
Evaluating the country’s foreign policy with regard to India, Ashraf said: “From the moment of separation Pakistan began its relations with India with the wrong foot.” For the most part Pakistan’s politicians have felt mistrust coupled with hostility towards India and bilateral relations have on several occasions been driven to the edge, where both sides were on the brink of resorting to wide scale clashes, he said. Ashraf contends that Indo-Pakistani relations have dramatically improved recently as the two parties are increasingly findings ways for closer cooperation. Ashraf concluded by stating that both nations seem to well understand the importance of their peaceful coexistence to peace and security in South Asia.
is a second-year Master of Public Policy student at the LKY School.