Ravana had 10 heads and (presumably) one neck and one body.
Pakistan has six heads, one neck and one body.
- Heads: army, politicians, bureaucracy, jagirdars, religious groups and big business.
- Neck: middle class.
- Body: ignorant, poor masses.
No single head dominates absolutely. The army is the big boss, operating in the background, except whenever 'necessary'.
Pakistan has a unique concept—the ‘doctrine of necessity’ - which enables the army to declare martial law if it decides that the democratic system is not working. It has done so several times and has ruled Pakistan directly for half its existence.
No other head dares challenge the army.
Politicians are elected ‘democratically’ but serve at the army’s pleasure. In reality, the army ‘selects’ politicians who are then duly elected. Ex-prime minister (PM) Imran Khan is said to be one such ‘leader’.
The bureaucracy manages the administration, i.e., the machinery for theft.
Jagirdars control the land and the votes. To explain, over centuries, large tracts of land were given to families who were loyal to the ruling powers—the Mughals and later the British.
The Bhutto family, for example, owned 250,000 acres of land in Sind. This gives the jagirdars control over the rural population who vote as per their directives.
Religious groups hold the wild card. At will, they can whip up a mass frenzy, resulting in mayhem, such as shutting down Islamabad’s main highway. On this occasion, neither politicians, nor the police, could do anything and, finally, the army chief stepped in, paid the protesters, and restored normalcy.
Big business controls the markets.
All six heads have two things in common:
- They want to keep making money, and, therefore, they want to keep the system going as long as possible.
- They have foreign passports. Dual citizenship is legal in Pakistan. Even judges and generals have foreign passports.
No wonder all the six heads work together in keeping Pakistan a ‘going concern’, never mind how bad the going is. And why should they not cooperate? After all, most of them belong to the 1,300 (or so) families that form the elite, whereby the heads are connected to one another through descent and marriage.
Increasingly, Pakistan has been surviving by borrowing more and more, using new loans to service older loans. Unbelievably, the ex-chief of the army has said that he had spent more time bringing money from abroad than running the army!
What is the magic mantra that keeps the masses in line and averts any ‘Arab spring’ type revolt?
In one word - India.
For 75 years, Pakistanis have received one message—India is our dushman, intent on destroying us. This is buttressed by unending propaganda—India stole our Kashmir, India broke up our country in 1971, Kashmiris are being tortured, Indian spies are financing terrorists, etc.
The India paranoia is embedded in the Pakistani psyche, and all the six heads want to keep it that way. The Indian juju ensures that the army will remain the saviour and the other heads will tag along, and thereby prosper.
Everyone is busy making money, not just the jagirdars and the businessmen, but the army generals, ruling politicians, senior bureaucrats and even the religious leaders who take cuts from foreign donations.
Doesn’t anyone in Pakistan realise this?
Some in the middle class do, but they, too, want to join the heads and make money. The masses don’t. Two slogans—“India hai dushman” and “Allah ho akbar” keep them opiated.
The heads know that one day the system will collapse. So they have been preparing for decades, by acquiring foreign passports and moving money abroad. Estimates state that US$12bn (billion) has been going abroad every year.
If the system collapses, “Hum toh jahaz leke nikal jayenge”. (We will take a plane and get out.)
Yes, things are bad. Pakistan is bankrupt. I need not expand on the details – you know about it.
But that is just one of the problems.
The devastating floods of 2022 destroyed over 15% of the rice crop and 40% of the cotton crop. Over five crore people are near starvation. Damages are estimated to exceed US$30bn. Overseas donors are reluctant to assist because of Pakistan’s shameful track record - its officials steal foreign aid money. Yes, US$9bn has been promised by donors recently, but how much money will actually come, when it will come and what conditions will be tied to it—all these are unknowns.
Interestingly, in the middle of all this, when imported vegetables are rotting in Karachi port because there are no dollars to pay for them, Pakistan is importing 100+ Mercedes and BMW cars. Also, the PM of Punjab spent US$100,000 on a chartered plane to fly to London.
Inflation is sky-high. Rice costs over Rs250 per kg, and a single roti costs Rs30 in Peshawar today. You can imagine how ordinary people are surviving. And the food situation is getting worse every day.
Oil is nearly finished. Soon the railways will have to stop running because there is no diesel and train drivers cannot be paid a salary.
Overshadowing all these woes is the threat from TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan; Pakistan’s own creation) from across the border and now firmly entrenched within Pakistan. Soldiers and policemen are being killed every day.
Need I go on?
The question is: How does all this affect India?
Should we gloat over the dire straits of a neighbour who has fought four wars with us, sent terrorists into our land for decades, and caused our people endless misery?
I remember my boss telling me, when I expressed frustration about a belligerent union leader: “Better the devil you know. If this one goes, another will come. Who knows what he will do?”
Think of a doomsday scenario—Pakistan collapsing, jihadis out in the streets, and unguarded nuclear bombs and missiles... a doomsday scenario for India, too.
Let’s hope this does not happen and all six heads remain in place. Better for us to bear pinpricks than nuclear missiles.
For India, current-day Pakistan is a known devil, now a wounded one. We have learnt to progress, despite its efforts to harm us, to the point where we just ignore it and go about our business. We should just hope that it stays that way.
One thing is clear—no matter what eventually happens, there will be a sad ending for the poor, illiterate, misguided and exploited ‘awam’ of Pakistan.
Whichever way the cookie crumbles, the people of Pakistan will suffer, guaranteed.
Do the heads care?
(Deserting engineering after a year in a factory, Amitabha Banerjee did an MBA in the US and returned to India. Choosing work-to-live over live-to-work, he joined banking and worked for various banks in India and the Middle East. Post-retirement, he returned to his hometown Kolkata and is now spending his golden years travelling the world (until Covid, that is), playing bridge, befriending Netflix & Prime Video and writing in his wife’s travel blog.)