For a state and society to function smoothly, some basic services must be provided to its citizens: security, decent education, access to healthcare, prospects of a reasonable job and sound economy. Participation in the political process as well as justice are other important considerations for peace and tranquility. Judged by these criteria, Pakistan falls short on each of these requirements. This is not to suggest that there is no security for anyone or that nobody is making money; a tiny minority is making huge amounts of money sharpening differences in society even further. The ruling elites will even point to the fact that only last March, the activist Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, was reinstated after an 18-month struggle led by lawyers and the civil society. So what precisely is the problem and why is Pakistan gripped by an endless series of crises the latest of which has been described by some as an “existential threat”?
Pakistan is not one but several societies in which people of diverse backgrounds, ethnicity and languages reside. This is not unique to Pakistan; neighboring India is far more diverse with a cacophony of languages spoken by people of different religions and backgrounds yet it does not face the kinds of problems confronting Pakistan. Why? Pakistan’s divisions are not merely because of ethnicity although this is a contributing factor. It is a society deeply polarized along class lines. Most privileges and facilities are reserved for the tiny ruling minority while the overwhelming majority languishes in poverty and deprivation.