Islamabad, Feb 7: The collapse of the Musharraf regime could lead to an implosion of Pakistan, with grave repercussions on regional and international security, the Texas-based private intelligence group Stratfor has said in a report.
It further said that Pakistanis themselves are very much concerned about a disaster of national proportions, particularly if the February 18 elections go awry. Stratfor said that state breakdown is an extreme outcome that would require the fracturing of the military over the core of the country, which is not about to happen.
It added that the periphery of the country, especially the northwestern border regions, could become an increasing challenge to the writ of the state.
"We have said on many occasions that Islamabad is unlikely to restore stability and security any time soon, largely because of structural issues. In other words, the existing situation is likely to persist for some time - and could even deteriorate further," Stratfor commented.
Stratfor recently pointed out that the army is the force that holds the state together. Therefore, the collapse of the state would come about only if the military establishment were to fracture. For several reasons, this is extremely unlikely.
Pakistan's army is a highly disciplined organization made up of roughly half a million personnel.
Moreover, and unlike in the Arab world, the Pakistan Army has largely remained free of coups from within. The generals know their personal wellbeing is only as good as their collective ability to function as a unified and disciplined force - one that can guarantee the security of the state.
The Pakistani military sees itself as the protector of the state's Islamic identity, which leaves very little room for the officer corps to be attracted to radical Islamist prescriptions.
Thus, it is extremely unlikely that jihadism - despite the presence of jihadist sympathizers within the junior and mid-level ranks - will cause fissures within the army.
Although a collapse of the state is unlikely, the military is having a hard time running the country. This is not simply because of political instability, which is hardwired into Pakistan's hybrid political system, but rather because of the unprecedented jihadi insurgency.
On a tactical level, while the Pakistan Army has a history of supporting insurgencies, it is ill equipped to fight them.
Even worse, despite the deployment of some 100,000 soldiers in the region, the bulk of security operations have involved paramilitary forces such as the Frontier Corps, which is mostly made up of locals who have little incentive to fight their brethren.
Furthermore, Pakistan's intelligence capabilities already are compromised because of militant penetration of the agencies.
President Pervez Musharraf, by stepping down as army chief and becoming a civilian president, did not resolve his survival issues. In fact, it has led to a bifurcation of power, with Musharraf sharing authority with his successor in the military General Ashfaq Kiyani.
With the army's successful retaking of the district of Swat from militants loyal to Mullah Fazlullah, Kayani has demonstrated General Kiyani's abilities as a military leader.
But the problem is that there is an utter lack of national consensus on what needs to be done to defeat the forces of jihadism, beyond the simplistic view that the emphasis should be on dialogue and force should be used sparingly.
Most people believe the situation has deteriorated because the Musharraf regime was more concerned with meeting US demands than with finding solutions that took into consideration the realities on the ground.
Moreover, regardless of the election outcome (assuming the process is not derailed over cries of foul play), the prospects for a national policy on dealing with the Islamist militancy are slim.
Having led the Inter-Services Intelligence General Kiyani is all too aware of the need to overhaul the country's intelligence system and root out militant sympathisers. This is the principal way to reduce the jihadists' ability to stage attacks in the core areas of the country, where they have limited support structure.
Imposing a military solution is not an option for the Pakistanis or for the West. Negotiations with the Taliban in the short term are not a viable alternative either.
Therefore, a long-term insurgency, which is confined to the Pashtun areas on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border, is perhaps the best outcome that can be expected at this time, Stratfor concluded.