Story Of A Failed State
Seemingly from its birth, Pakistan has been struggling to build a proper democracy and a secure state. Today it ranks 133rd out of 148 countries in global competitiveness. Its economy is as dysfunctional as its political system is corrupt; it relies heavily on international aid for the existence. Pakistan and Anarchy should be synonyms. Pakistani authorities have long ties to domestic militant groups that help advance the country’s core foreign policy interests, namely in connection with Afghanistan and India. Since Islamabad joined Washington as an ally in the post-9/11 “war on terror,” analysts have accused Pakistan’s security and intelligence services of playing a “double game,” tolerating if not outright aiding militant groups killing NATO troops in Afghanistan. Taliban forces occupy many key areas of the country and engage in random violence. It possesses over a hundred of nuclear weapons that could fall into terrorists’ hands. In 2010 world, the US set out its strategy for Pakistan in the Council for Foreign Relations Task Force report writing that “the US objective in Pakistan is to degrade and defeat terrorist groups that threaten American interests from its territory and to prevent turmoil that would imperil Pakistan state and risk the security of Pakistan’s nuclear programme”. The goal was to “prevail on Pakistan to stop providing support to the Afghan, Taliban and Pakistani terrorist organisations.”
But this goal is far from achievable. Pakistan continues to be the hub of Islamic terrorist organisations and faces many social and economic challenges—such as illiteracy, gender inequality and poverty which only serve to exacerbate the possibility of breeding further terrorist activity. Pakistan has appeared for many consecutive years on the Failed State Index. It tops the list of bomb blasts per year. It is consistently among the worst offenders in terms of its human rights record, its record on women’s rights and the rights of its religious minorities, including Shia Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs.
Why, in an era when countries across the developing world are experiencing impressive economic growth and building democratic institutions, has Pakistan been such a conspicuously weak state?
In The Warrior State, noted international relations and South Asia scholar T.V. Paul untangles this fascinating riddle. Paul argues that the “geostrategic curse”—akin to the “resource curse” that plagues oil-rich autocracies—is at the root of Pakistan’s unique inability to progress. Since its founding in 1947, Pakistan has been at the centre of major geopolitical struggles: the US-Soviet rivalry; the conflict with India; and most recently the post 9/11 wars. No matter how ineffective the regime is, massive foreign aid keeps pouring in from major powers, their allies and global financial institutions with a stake in the region. The reliability of such aid defuses any pressure on political elites to launch the far-reaching domestic reforms necessary to promote sustained growth, higher standards of living, and more stable democratic institutions. Paul shows that excessive war-making efforts have drained Pakistan’s limited economic resources without making the country safer or more stable. Indeed, despite the regime’s emphasis on security, the country continues to be beset by widespread of violence and terrorism.
In an age of transnational terrorism and nuclear proliferation, understanding Pakistan’s development, particularly the negative effects of foreign aid and geopolitical centrality, is more important than ever. Painstakingly researched and brilliantly argued, The Warrior State tackles what may be the world’s most dangerous powder keg and uncovers the true causes of Pakistan’s enormously consequential failure.
By Nilabh Krishna