Pakistan - A Failing State

26 Oct, 1999    ·   277

Dr. Subhash Kapila says no domestic factors seem to emerge that could revive Pakistan on a pathway towards a modern democratic state

Pakistan 's military coup on October 12, 1999, engineered by its dismissed Chief of Army Staff, General Pervez Musharraf, brings into focus the notion that Pakistan is a failing 



State. Political theorists would keep splitting hairs as to what factors really constitute a failing state. Conventional wisdom would have it that a state, which is unable to guard democracy and its political institutions, whose economy has failed; a state that lacks social development and is plagued by sectarian strife, is heading towards a failed state status.



Failure of Democracy and Political Institutions



Pakistan 's experiments with democracy can be said to have failed in the first decade of its independence, when General Ayub Khan seized political power on October 7, 1958. Rather than going into chronologies, the following pattern of political governance and developments would indicate why politically Pakistan is failing:





1. In 52 years of independence, democratically elected governments have been punctuation marks in a long reign of military and autocratic political rule.



2. Pakistan Army has had the longest spell of over 24 years of direct political rule over the country.



Pakistan 's populace presents a curious picture of impassive reactions to the fall of both civil and military Governments while welcoming each one of them at the start.



Failed Economy



In 52 years of independence, both civil and military rulers of Pakistan have been unable to put Pakistan's economy on a stable footing despite having rich resources of energy and inheriting the best irrigated portions of British India and a small population to sustain.



The economic picture today is dismal with a foreign debt of over $ 30 billion, foreign currency reserves under less than $ 1 billion alongside IMF’s refusal to release $280 million of a $ 1.6 billion aid package.The core reasons for Pakistan's failing economy are its heavy defense expenditure in a bid to reach symmetry with India and rampant corruption of Pakistan's civil and military rulers.



Provincial Divisiveness, Sectarian Strife and Lack of Social Development



The common saying is " Pakistan is Punjab and Punjab is Pakistan ." The Punjabi dominance in Pakistan 's power elite fosters provincial divisiveness and resentment of Punjabi control on the levers of power. Despite being a theocratic Islamic state, Islam has not been able to bind the various provinces of Pakistan (ethnically different) nor prevent violent sectarian strife between the two major sects of Islam-Sunnis and Shias. The social structures in Pakistan remain feudal and exploitative. Budgetary allocations for social developments especially education and health are dismal, due to heavy expenditure on defense.



Impediments in Progressing towards a Modern state 



Prospects for  re-emergence of democracy, sound political institutions and progressive political thought are dim due to the following factors:





1. Pakistan Army will not permit any dilution of its controlling role in Pakistan 's politics, even in the long run.



2. Emergence of a sizeable and strong Pakistani middle class seeking political empowerment is unlikely due to limited economic and social mobility.



3. Pakistan 's politics will continue to be dominated at the two ends of the spectrum by Pakistan 's collegium of generals and a handful of civil dynastic political elite. Both would not like a strong middle class to emerge. 



4. Emergence of a rabble-rousing, rigidly fanatic Islamic fundamentalist core at the lower ends of the social structure would seriously complicate and inhibit Pakistan 's progression a modern democracy. They are likely to have a greater political role in Pakistan facilitated by the changing pattern of Pakistan Army's social composition - the bulk of their officer and soldier intake is from the same constituency as the Islamic fundamentalists.






The foregoing analysis suggests that Pakistan is sliding into a failed state status, and that no domestic Pakistan factors, forces or structures seem to emerge that could arrest this slide and revive Pakistan on a pathway towards a modern democratic state. With a nuclear weapons armoury and an unholy governing structure of Pak Army Generals and Islamic Fundamentalists, Pakistan presents a serious danger to regional security and further afield. At this critical juncture of Pakistan 's existence its friends and allies of long standing namely USA and China need to come to its aid, not only in terms of economic resuscitation but also revival. The US advocacy of a "constructive engagement with the generals" will only add to the legitimacy of their unconstitutional existence and propel Pakistan towards a Talibanised state. The United States surely has a moral obligation to pressurize and control forces, which impede Pakistan 's progression towards a modern democratic state.