Pakistan – a failed state? – by Ahmed Iqbalabadi

As a preamble to this article, let me reiterate to all the readers that even though I am a die-heart PPP supporter, yet this article is not just related to the PPP government. It is for my beloved Pakistan which is under attack by insensitive international reports which find headline space in our country.

Pakistan's stats (Pic Source)

Every now and then a report comes out from a “renowned” international organization that mainly focuses on a negative point related to Pakistan. Be it the London School of Economics, RAND Corporation, adopted child of Transparency International or PEW Research Center, the focus is mainly on the negatives that are there in Pakistan. On top of that, our insensitive and immature media comes up with headlines and analysis that fuel the fire even further (if there was a fire!). The most recent Failed States Index by the coveted Foreign Policy Magazine has given Pakistan the rank of 10th amongst the failed states of the world. Who make up the top ten? Just look at the top names and wonder if our country deserves to be listed here? Somalia, Chad, Sudan, Zimbabwe, DR Congo (formely Zaire), Afghanistan, Iraq, Central African Republic, Guinea and Pakistan make up the top ten.

I feel that there should be questions asked as to why we are promoting this point that Pakistan is a failed state. It is sad that instead of fighting it out that we are not a failed state, we are promoting this point in our media.

Can we realize what would be the repercussions of such a debate? World’s 6th most populous nation armed with a nuclear bomb would be seen as a thorn for the world. I can imagine the Indian Lobbyists and Indian government jumping with joy when they see such opportunities of giving Pakistan a further bad name, citing such reports.

Let’s look at the 12 areas on which a country’s failure has been gauged. My points in response to those are given alongside:

  1. DEMOGRAPHICS:  Pakistan’s score: 8.1; Yes we have a big population and we are cognizant that by 2025 our population will exceed 300 million.
  2. REFUGEES: Pakistan’s score: 8.9; We had 2.3 million refugees from Malakand division who have gone back. What about the 3 million Afghans whom we have supported and provide our country to live in for last 30 years?
  3. ILLEGITIMATE GOVERNMENTS: Pakistan’s score: 8.9; Do we have illegitimate governments in our country? If yes, then PML-N’s government in Punjab is also part of the illegitimate system of government
  4. BRAIN DRAIN: Pakistan’s score: 7.9; Yes our brain drain was beginning to turn into a brain gain in mid 2000’s but the last 3-4 years terrorism has been causing a drain, yet it’s not as high as 80’s and 90’s when America and Canada were the preferred locations for people to go. Middle East has very fast overtaken as the biggest region with Pakistan Expatriates at around 3.2 million and guess what, no nationality is given in the Middle East unlike elsewhere
  5. PUBLIC SERVICES: Pakistan’s score: 7.3; Public services are available with is a lot of room to improve. At least we have government run hospitals, schools, colleges, and universities etc which are providing service in one way or the other. Some of them are providing quality services.
  6. INEQUALITY: Pakistan’s score: 8.4; Yes inequality is there, but in what areas? Gap between the rich and the poor – that will remain there till the time we remain in a mindset that the state needs to support us for each and everything. On the other hand, you don’t see warlords or drug barons running over resources in the country
  7. GROUP GRIEVANCES: Pakistan’s score: 9.4; Do we find any widespread independence movement taking place in Pakistan? Is any region trying to secede? In the last couple of years we have given rights to Gilgit-Baltistan to make them move from a federally controlled area to a province like stats while NFC award and Aghaz Huqooq Balochistan are two examples to take care of grievances of groups. The renaming of NWFP to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was also another point that reduces group grievances.
  8. HUMAN RIGHTS: Pakistan’s score: 8.9; Please name one political prisoner in the country today? Are more people being picked up by security apparatuses now than before? Yes, religious minorities are under threat which is an increasing point of worry for all of us.
  9. ECONOMIC DECLINE: Pakistan’s score: 6.2; Yes, from a 7% GDP growth, we have come down to 4.1%, but on the other hand our figures have improved substantially than what was forecasted by IMF/WB in 2008. Isn’t there a global economic down turn too? Not many people mention this, but Pakistan’s GDP has grown at a CAGR of 5.2% since inception!!!
  10. SECURITY FORCES: Pakistan’s score: 9.7; Our security forces are fighting an enemy who we don’t know who is! The terrorists are dispersed yet our law enforcement forces and army is fighting them and improvement can be seen compared to 2007-2008
  11. FACTIONALIZED ELITES: Pakistan’s score: 9.5; You very well know who is trying to destabilize the government which is some parts of the media, judicial activism and disgruntled elements who just can’t stand democracy
  12. EXTERNAL INTERVENTION:  Pakistan’s score: 9.3; External Intervention yes in fighting militants but also reinstating judiciary and bringing back exiled leaders. This point can only improve with time and also after we have learned to stand each other.

I am also pasting below the report which appeared in Daily Dawn on June 22, 2010. You can see that there is improvement in most of the indicators when compared to 2008:

WASHINGTON, June 21: Pakistan was ranked the 10th most failed state in the world, just three places below Afghanistan, in a US survey released on Monday.  Somalia tops the 2010 Failed States Index followed by Zimbabwe, Sudan, and Chad.

The index issued by the prestigious Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace, a Washington-NGO, ranks India 87th in a list of 177 countries.

Burma has been placed at 13. Sri Lanka is ranked 22 and Nepal 25. China is at 57th place.

Norway is ranked the world’s most stable country and is at the bottom of the list.The Untied States is ranked 158 but is not among the 10 most stable countries.

The report notes that Pakistan has more than once been described as the world’s most dangerous country. Its wild northern reaches remain host to various branches of the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda.

More than 3 million Pakistani civilians were displaced by “counterinsurgency” operations in 2009 — the largest single movement of people since the Rwandan genocide.

“President Asif Ali Zardari’s democratically elected government looks hapless — unable to gain any measure of civilian control over a nuclear-armed military … or an intelligence service that stands accused of abetting the Afghan Taliban,” observes the Foreign Policy magazine.

Social Indicators Pakistan is the world’s seventh-most populous country, with a population density of over 226 people per kilometre. The country has a moderate youth bulge; the average age is 21 and over 37 per cent of Pakistanis are under 15 years of age.

Pakistan has historically been home to vicious political battles between rival parties, as well as consistent conflicts within the tribal regions and in Balochistan. Pakistan suffers from a significant brain drain.

The instability of the country has pressured many students to seek education abroad; many scientists, doctors, and businesspeople who can afford to leave the country altogether.

Economic Indicators The poorest 10 per cent of Pakistanis account for 4 per cent of the national income, while the richest 10 per cent account for over 26 per cent of the income.

“Billionaire President Asif Ali Zardari is one of Pakistan’s wealthiest men.” The official unemployment rate is 7.4 per cent but it could be higher.

The country had a trade deficit of nearly $15 billion in 2008 and has an inflation rate of 20.8 per cent. The inflation rate increased dramatically due to devaluation of the Pakistani rupee under Pervez Musharraf and the rising costs of production stemming from social and political instability.

Political/Military Indicators While presidential elections in Pakistan are indirect, President Zardari’s election nevertheless represents a shift towards legitimate democratic governance.

The continuing violence in Pakistan’s poorest and most remote regions makes it extremely difficult for food and medical supplies to reach the areas that need it most. Many parts of the country go without electricity and clean water; conditions are notoriously poor in the refugee camps in northern Pakistan.

The human rights situation has improved significantly since 2008.

The security apparatus indicator has also improved. In Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan local militias exercise significant control over their communities. In the tribal areas, the government’s authority is barely recognized.

The 2008 parliamentary elections brought tensions within the political elite to a peak. However, the conclusion of the elections and the restoration of civilian government have since eased tensions.

The indicator for external intervention has worsened since 2008. Pakistan is the second-largest recipient of US foreign aid. The US is also using drone aircraft to attack Taliban and Al Qaeda sites within Pakistan.

The question remains, are we a failed state? You have all the right to question my thinking and also there is no doubt that we need to improve on a number of factors, but by branding us a failed state and at the same time propagating the story, who’s agenda are we aiding? It’s time for us to think hard and counter such reports that give a poor reflection of my beloved Pakistan.



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