Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Is Pakistan a failed state? (by Nadia Khan)

Is Pakistan a failed state?

By Nadia Khan


Yesterday, Indian interior minister Chidambaram warned the world that Pakistan is quickly becoming a failed state as many parts of NWFP are now under the control of Taliban. Foreign minister Parnab Mukherjee, during the crisis of long march has warned United Nations that due to political chaos in Pakistan there might be a chance of civil war that will lead the country to failure.


Sometime back famous magazine Newsweek named Pakistan as the most dangerous place on earth. Recently an American magazine Foreign Policy has ranked number of countries as most dangerous place and a failed state around the globe. They named Somalia as the most dangerous country whereas Pakistan is ranked 9th among top ten, surprisingly, as ninth most failed state after Somalia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Chad, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan and Ivory Coast – all fairly failed states. Central African Republic is ranked 10th and Ethiopia is ranked 16th , Liberia 34th and Malawi 29th famous of blood diamonds, child soldiers and a heaven to adopt kids without much ado – all these appeared better than Pakistan, interestingly!


They have graded the countries on indicators of instability that are as varied as economy, security, human rights, and factionalized elite among others. Their survey chart is designed with the maximum point of 10 for any of the above indicator – the more failed a state is, the higher the score would be on most of the indicators.


According to the Foreign Policy survey, out of the 12 indicators of instability, Pakistan's least worrisome performance has been in economy and public services. This is exactly contrary to what we are witnessing since last 3 years. Failing economy has given rise to inflation and hence price-hiking abruptly. Falling rupee value has brought down our exports and hence rupee-dollar ratios has exceeded 80 in last 2 years compared to 60 in last 4 years.


Group grievances, security apparatus and external intervention were among the higher scoring indicators in that survey.  Pakistan, by being a multi-ethnic country, may have high group grievances issues. Muhajir community and MQM is part of federal and provincial govts since last 10 years peacefully and probably, happy. With all due respect to Baluchistan & Baloch people, if they have any issues with the federal government about royalty of their natural resources and the fate of missing persons, it's not that big deal, even though there are number of liberation movements in action internally or externally. After all, they comprise only 4 percent of the population and are being adjusted in high offices, such as deputy chairman Senate, Chief Justice of Pakistan, and Prime Minister Portfolios as and when circumstances allowed the federal govt. Southern Punjab, Saraieki belt is also not on much confrontation with other federating units after having Yousuf Raza Gilani and Shah Mehmood Qureshi as prime minister and foreign minister respectively.


Pakistan, in that survey, is accused of being high on delegitimization of the state. This was perhaps correct in the past, but now it has been taken care. Govt has officially signed peace deals with dissident groups in FATA, Swat and Bajaur Agency and handed over districts and cities to them. Now native residents are the ones who are officially administering their areas and Pakistan as a state or government of Pakistan cannot be held responsible for the deligitimization of the state.


Similarly, security issues such as attack on Sri Lankan cricket team and similar incidents are not the indicators of our security apparatus at work. Perhaps the number of times traffic is blocked in the main cities of Pakistan to clear passage for high-ranking govt officials or dignitaries arriving at airports would be considered as security measurements indicators because in westernized civil societies all such actions are in place without any confusion. Sri Lankan team attack is now concluded as internal security failure due to number of reasons including the major reshuffle in bureaucracy after Sharif's disqualification.


External intervention, though exist virtually, but no clear sign of physical intervention like in other parts of the world – Iraq or Afghanistan. However, as a nation it is not termed as a legitimate activity among patriotic circles. If Drone attacks are termed as external intervention then for instance, it has been suggested that US Drones that are said to be flying from Afghanistan are actually taking off from our own airfields in Sind or Baluchistan. If that's the case, then the level of external intervention is not as high as it has been mentioned in that survey. Even then, there are number of political forces being opposing such attacks on Pakistan soils vehemently.


The highest scoring indicator for Pakistan is marked as factionalized elites in that chart. Contrary to that scoring, it is well known fact that Pakistani elite does not seem all that factionalized. The elite class has been quite focused, coherent and persistent in evading the taxes, availing benefits for themselves and for their relatives while piling indirect taxes on the poor people of Pakistan, such as high utility charges, extra price margin on petrol cost, and tax on salaried individuals.


I personally think that this survey and likewise statements, articles, publications or books are all biased and is part of an international conspiracy to besmirch the good name of Pakistan. By looking at the indicators one can easily identify that the main issues of Pakistan –today- are failing economy, capital flight, poor public service approach and missing social justice system rather than factionalized elites, group grievances, security apparatus failure for govt-officials and due to which Pakistan is being sidelined as failed state!

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