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#5121, 9 September 2016

Fragile States Index 2016

Fragility in Pakistan
Rana Banerji
Member, Governing Council, IPCS, & former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India

The US based non-profit organisation, Fund for Peace (FFP), which works to prevent conflict and to promote sustainable security by building relationships and trust across diverse sectors, annually prepares a Fragile States Index (FSI). It has listed Pakistan in the `High Alert’ category, evaluating key aspects of the social, economic, and political environment there over time. 

The FFP examines circumstances behind the conflict landscape worldwide. This includes a detailed study of social indicators, demographic pressures, condition of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), factors behind uneven economic development, political and military conditions, and the impact of external intervention factors, including foreign aid.

Political & Military indicators
The recent (08 August 2016) terror attack in Quetta, Balochistan, Pakistan, provides the best illustration of how the Pakistani military elite continue to remain in denial. They described it as a conspiracy for subverting the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Such obfuscation not only trivialises the death of so many and loss of the cream of Baloch intelligentsia and its legal fraternity, which has been very vocal and active in raising issues like enforced disappearances, it also reflects a muddled approach towards meeting the challenge of terrorism.

The functioning of the parliament in Pakistan continues to remain superfluous or irrelevant, at best of times a rubber stamp. In the aftermath of Quetta, when some important parliamentarians and political leaders from Balochistan questioned a possible security lapse and demanded that Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif make the heads of the security institutions accountable, they were viciously attacked from many sides, including by important members of cabinet.
Parliamentarians, particularly of non-Punjabi origin, feel they have no right to criticise the security agencies of the country on the floor of the house.As if that was not enough, high level meetings after the Quetta tragedy decided to appoint monitoring committees to oversee implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP).

These committees will be constituted from different government departments and agencies, without even any pretence of parliamentary oversight. The parliament is handy as a factory for producing draconian laws (law for controlling cyber-crime is the latest example) but it has been unable to evolve into a forum for formulating policies or overseeing their implementation.
The security apparatus should have a monopoly on use of legitimate force. The social contract is weakened where affected by competing groups. Extremist ideologies such as Salafism and Takfirism that inspire religious extremism and terrorism were mainstreamed during the Zia martial law years (1977-1988). These have yet to be fully and honestly confronted. So far, nothing seems to have changed in terms of policy of selecting between`good’ and `bad’ Taliban. The civilian facade of the security state is too weak to assert itself.While carrying this baggage, how can the state implement any consistent anti-terrorist policy?
Corruption in government has persisted, both in its civilian and military complements. The initial furore over the Panama Papers leaks’ enquiry seems to have petered into a stalemate. 

When human rights are violated or unevenly protected, the state is failing in its ultimate responsibility. In the context of the refugees’ movement to Europe, Pakistan is listed at the high end with a rating of almost 9, with only Afghanistan among regional countries figuring at a higher score.

The government’s economic policy remains largely debt-driven, with debt servicing and repayment taking increasing shares of the federal budget each year. Total public debt continues to be well above 60 per cent. Though Finance Minister Ishaq Dar announced Pakistan’s intention to bid goodbye to International Monetary Fund (IMF) assistance very soon, with the IMF programme drawing to a close and earlier debts maturing, debts from the IMF increased by 54.5 per cent.
Budgetary allocations for debt servicing and repayment have seen a steady rise over the last few years. The provision of adequate budgetary allocations for health, education, and sanitation services - key roles of the state - remain stymied due to over-emphasis on defence and debt servicing. For the fiscal year 2016-17, total debt and liabilities have increased by 12.7 per cent, now making up 73 per cent of the GDP. Compared to the previous year, there has been a 12.4 per cent increase in the total debt stock during July-March (FY16). Debt accumulation has an inflationary impact, which is adverse for short-term financial stability.

On the revenue front, while both tax and non-tax revenue targets have been reportedly achieved during the outgoing year, there has been no significant shift in direct and indirect tax shares. Instead, there has been hefty rise in the use of withholding taxes (WHT) to meet revenue needs. Little attention has been paid to expanding the tax base and alleviating poverty through a systemic shift to progressive taxation of rural and urban elites.

Though these parameters seem to justify the FFP’s evaluation, we in India, can hardly take any solace from the findings. India is listed at `Elevated Warning’ stage with a score of 79.6 compared to Pakistan’s 101.7. Sri Lanka is shown as the most improved state in 2016 under the FFP’s Conflict Assessment System Tool (CAST) rating. India is behind Bangladesh and Bhutan as well. A sobering thought!

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