The End of Pakistan?

Although it is wracked by floods, violence, and other tragedies, this small story from rural Pakistan caught my eye recently:

SHIKARPUR: Ten people were killed in an armed clash between Magsi and Qambrani tribes in the jurisdiction of Golodaro police station on Thursday evening.

According to sources, the gunbattle followed a brawl over irrigation of paddy crops near Kuddan village.

The sources said the Qambrani tribe lost seven men while the Magsi tribe lost three.

Sanaullah Abbasi, a senior police official, told Dawn five bodies had been recovered.

A big police contingent stormed the village late in the evening and brought the situation under control.

According to a letter to Pakistan’s excellent daily The Dawn this incident was by no means exceptional.

This story encapsulates several important realities about Pakistan: declining resources, the increasing violence over the declining resources and the inability of the government to control this violence.

This is a miniature of the violence that has recently wracked Karachi – also fundamentally a conflict over land and resources. These riots are unfortunately endemic to Pakistan’s commercial capital. Just two years ago, on the weekend that the world watched as Mumbai suffered from an overflow of Pakistan’s internal disorder, Karachi was suffering its own outbreak of violence in which at least 40 people were killed, not unlike the recent fighting.

The great fear of the West is Pakistan falling under the control of radical Islamists. The great fear of Pakistan’s leadership is the state fracturing (this is probably #2 for the West – a nuclear Yugoslavia.) But the endemic low level violence suggests another possibility, the state dissolving – a nuclear Somalia.

Medium and Long-Term Dangers
Meanwhile the terrible flooding is testing the capabilities of Pakistan’s institutions and they are failing. Their record at providing immediate relief is mediocre. But the floods have destroyed Pakistan’s crops, so that the country (which is already broke) will be forced to buy or beg food abroad. It will be several years before Pakistan’s agricultural production will return to their previous levels – so food shortages will be an ongoing problem. Even without the crisis food security was a problem in Pakistan. In addition, cotton crops, essential to Pakistan’s major export industry – textiles – have also been devastated. All of this can only further weaken an already precarious economy.

Assuming the floods and their aftermath do not lead to state dissolution it certainly weakens Pakistan for facing its longer-term crises. The flooding is linked to the deterioration of Pakistan’s extensive irrigation system. Pakistan is facing a long-term water shortage (discussed in some detail in a series of articles here.) Even if Pakistan recovers quickly from the current disaster, this longer-term trend is ominous. Worse, it dovetails with another serious long-term problem – Pakistan’s rapidly growing population. The current population of about 180 million could easily double in about forty years. This means that a country that is already straining to feed itself and possessing declining water resources will face an enormous number of additional mouths to feed. The potential international ramifications are dark indeed – water wars with India, enormous refugee crises, Islamist run mini-states, and of course loose nukes.

Policy Option: Encourage Reforms
It is possible that this crisis offers Western donors one last great chance to help stabilize Pakistan and prevent these worst-case scenarios from coming to pass. With its utter dependence on foreign assistance, in theory, donor nations should have tremendous leverage to press for reforms – reconstruction of the irrigation system, increasing women’s literacy, reforming Pakistan’s tax collection, and perhaps even pressing for improved relations with India. If the floods can help sweep away Pakistan’s corrupt civilian elites (starting with the Bhutto family) then some good will have come with this tragedy.

There are three enormous problems with this plan. The first is that donor nations may simply be unwilling to fund these projects. Pakistan has long been a recipient of international aid and it has been very good at parleying its prime geopolitical real estate into international support. The second problem is leverage – it is very hard to get other governments of other countries to do things. So far efforts to press Pakistan to embrace reforms have been stymied by its embedded interests. The feudal landholders and businesspeople oppose economic reforms, the military opposes reforms in security policies, and Islamists oppose social reforms.

Finally there is the question of implementation. Even if resources and good will exist, actually implementing necessary reforms – such as improving women’s literacy (which is heavily correlated with lower birth rates) – is an enormous challenge. Efforts to put girls in school will face entrenched local customs. Rebuilding the irrigation canals will have to be done against the wishes of local rent-seeking leaders and reforming Pakistan’s tax collection has been the recommendation of every single survey of Pakistan’s economy for the past several decades.

Endgames
Even if everything were done right there is a good chance that it would not work and Pakistan would become unsustainable. Policy-makers and analysts should begin thinking about what happens if Pakistan dissolves. Naturally, Pakistani leaders will assume that such planning is in fact a plot to dismantle their country.

Thinking through these worst-case scenarios allows planning for them. This is essential since it may be a reality that occurs no matter what Western donors attempt to do. It also permits a cost-benefit analysis. It is possible, that all things considered, a Pakistan held together by duct tape and Western aid is the least bad option. But other possibilities should be considered as well.

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15 Responses

  1. Very interesting. I think the confluence of dwindling resources, huge population growth, Islamic governance and tribalism all spell bad news.

    But at least it's not Yemen 😉

    Thanks for this post. Very astute. Linked to it over at my blog where I conclude that they can all relocate to the UK. This will not solve any problems, but simply make the UK resemble Pakistan, ie, no rule of law, nepotism, lack of religious freedom and freedom of expression, etc.

  2. Thanks for your comment and for reading. Your blogs looks like fascinating stuff and I expect I'll visit often.

    That's my fear – Pakistan is only a few steps behind Yemen – but with nukes.

    Maybe a change of scenery to that sceptered isle would do the long-suffering Pakistanis some good.

  3. The answer to Pakistan's problems, and the world's problems for that matter, lies in the precedents and practice of a global peacebuilding initiative. This initiative would ask nations questions re: the end of war, the end of disease, the efficient use of energy and the adaptation to climate change. This initiative would begin with the basic needs of people i.e. food and water, shelter, transportation and security. A global peacebuilding initiative is not without precedent e.g. UN Resolution 1373 has produced a survey of member nations re: counterterrorism efforts and so, why not a survey of efforts to end a future of resource wars before they start to flourish?

  4. The answer to Pakistan's problems, and the world's problems for that matter, lies in the precedents and practice of a global peacebuilding initiative. This initiative would ask nations questions re: the end of war, the end of disease, the efficient use of energy and the adaptation to climate change. This initiative would begin with the basic needs of people i.e. food and water, shelter, transportation and security. A global peacebuilding initiative is not without precedent e.g. UN Resolution 1373 has produced a survey of member nations re: counterterrorism efforts and so, why not a survey of efforts to end a future of resource wars before they start to flourish?

  5. Dear Friend,
    Please let us know how much you have been paid by Indian intelligence RAW to write such an anti-Pakistan story. We Pakistanis know that people like you can turn the world into a getto and devastations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

  6. Philip –

    Always happy to have you join the conversation. I don't object to anything you've written in principle. However, I a practical issues. The first is that the record of international development programs is not a strong one. Saying that basic needs will be provided for and actually providing them are different issues.

    Also, providing for basic needs is a critical first step, but not adequate. States need decent governance – this has been woefully lacking in Pakistan.

    Finally, the reality is that you can try your best, but what if the state of Pakistan simply isn't viable anymore?

  7. To my suspicious friends –

    Thanks for your comments.

    I have had no contact with RAW (that I know of – I could have been approached by agents without knowing they were agents – I have me KGB guys that way, only finding out later.) I cannot imagine that RAW would waste its resources paying off a minor blogger such as myself.

    That being said, I don't know if I am a friend of Pakistan, but I am also not unfriendly. I would very much like to see a prosperous Pakistan, at peace internally and with its neighbors.

    Just as I feared, you read my thoughts as an intention (I mention this possibility in the conclusion.)

    My concerns are based on hard objective analysis. I cannot imagine anyone arguing that Pakistan has been blessed with good governance. States do collapse and Pakistan seems a potential candidate.

    You can also interpret this piece as a wake-up call. Provide real aid to Pakistan or this is the potential result. BTW – I don't think a collapse is in India's interests. It would bring refugee crises, possible plagues, and Islamic mini-states on its border. I wouldn't want that and I can't imagine RAW would either.

    Finally, states have to carry-out contingency planning. This is a possibility that simply shouldn't be ignored, no matter how unpleasant.

  8. As some one said – no hardship should be wasted. It's time to look for what is the fundamental change that would deliver people of Pakistan from this pathetic and miserable life. It's the people we want to save and uplift not the Paki State. Paki State has proven beyond doubt a miserable state for the last 63 years: promotes religious intolerance in school books, the first line of the Pakistan constitution says it is a Islamic Nation, attacked and still occupies Baluchistan, attacked and still occupies part of Kashmir, sold part of Kashmir to China, still occupies land mass (Durand line) that belongs to Afghanistan, begs $3 billion in aid from US and very same week signs $2 billion deal with China to build nuclear plants, has over $53 billion in loan form international community, protects Mumbai attackers and planners, butchered Bangladeshi in 1971, sells nuclear knowhow to rogue countries and on and on…

    May be it is time that international community, especially United States, consider international efforts of dividing Pakistan into rational naturally homogenic smaller countries where people can be helped, uplifted and brought to 21st century. This country is falling apart any way. What is the benefit of propping a corrupt Islamic State? Falling apart may be the better solution.

    Unites States has done many favors to Paki State; the biggest one is saving Pakistan from Russian invasion. Pakistan was in no position to defend itself against Russian invasion. How ungrateful?

    If tax dollars of hard working US workers has to be given away to terrorist sponsoring and exporting nation, United States must help people not the corrupt State by asking at least following changes: 1) Purge all your school books of religious intolerance and hatred towards other religions, 2) Change constitution from Islamic to secular nation, if you desire help from secular countries, 3) Capture Osama bin laden and present him to US forces 4) Get out of Pakistan tortured portion of Kashmir and stop protecting terrorist breeding organizations, 6) Dismantle ISI now.

    It’s a shame that United States with thousand of nukes has to bribe corrupt state —- for nothing, and it is the biggest disservice to Pakistani people. John Kerry needs to understand American values: help unfortunate people not zealot and corrupt Paki State institution. Please call your senators in DC and let them know: no more support for corrupt and terrorism exporting state institutions.

  9. As some one said – no hardship should be wasted. It's time to look for what is the fundamental change that would deliver people of Pakistan from this pathetic and miserable life. It's the people we want to save and uplift not the Paki State. Paki State has proven beyond doubt a miserable state for the last 63 years: promotes religious intolerance in school books, the first line of the Pakistan constitution says it is a Islamic Nation, attacked and still occupies Baluchistan, attacked and still occupies part of Kashmir, sold part of Kashmir to China, still occupies land mass (Durand line) that belongs to Afghanistan, begs $3 billion in aid from US and very same week signs $2 billion deal with China to build nuclear plants, has over $53 billion in loan form international community, protects Mumbai attackers and planners, butchered Bangladeshi in 1971, sells nuclear knowhow to rogue countries and on and on…

    May be it is time that international community, especially United States should consider international efforts of dividing Pakistan into rational naturally homogenic smaller countries where people can be helped, uplifted and brought to 21st century. This country is falling apart any way. What is the benefit of propping a corrupt constitutionally Islamic State? Falling apart may be the better solution. It’s the Paki people we American want to see helped. Is it too much to ask, Mrs. Clinton? Be visionary. Mrs. Clinton, here you have a chance to write history and emancipate millions of unfortunate Paki people from the clutches of a feudalistic terrorist sponsoring Paki State institutions. Let the Paki people breath dawn of new era.

    Unites States has done many favors to Paki State; apart from the financial help, the biggest favor is saving Pakistan from Russian invasion. Pakistan was in no position to defend itself against Russian invasion. How ungrateful are Pakis?

    If tax dollars of hard working US workers has to be given away to terrorist sponsoring and exporting nation because of humanity and suffering of Paki people, United States must help people not the corrupt State by asking at least a few changes: 1) Purge all your school books of religious intolerance and hatred towards other religions and culture, 2) Change constitution from Islamic to secular nation, if you desire help from secular countries, 3) Capture Osama bin laden and present him to US forces, 4) Get out of Pakistan tortured portion of Kashmir and Baluchistan, 5) Stop protecting terrorist breeding organizations, 6) Dismantle ISI now.

    It’s a shame that United States with thousand of nukes has to bribe corrupt state —- for nothing, and it is the biggest disservice to Pakistani people. John Kerry needs to understand American values: help unfortunate people not zealot and corrupt Paki State institution. Please call your senators in DC and let them know: no more support for corrupt and terrorism exporting state institutions.

  10. Aaron:

    Thanks much for your reply.

    There has been some impetus (1,2) and yet very little media attention for a 'global peacebuilding initiative' i.e. there is not a UN Resolution that sends a delegation to member nations for an objective assessment of their efforts to end war, end disease, use energy efficiently and adapt to climate change. However, UN Resolution 1373 has sent a delegation to the 55 member nations for an objective assessment of counterterrorism efforts. I see this approach as precedent and practice for the putative global peacebuilding initiative.

    I wanted to answer some your points.

    First, governments have not been the drivers for a global peacebuilding initiative. Rather, it has been communites like Marjah (1) i.e. I have looked for community spokesman such as Azizullah Khan. Azizullah Khan basically asked for attention paid by Karzai for services which address the basic needs of the Marjah communites. The thinking here is that there needs to be an effort to keep the Taliban from a return and that this effort would, hopefully direct Marjah's community members toward a future other than terrorism.

    Right now, the Pakistan military is not at war with anyone i.e. 60,000 troops have been directed for flood relief. Apparently, the Taliban have been affected by the flood i.e. they are "regrouping" and this potential threat apparently deserves more media attention than the flood itself. I do not think it is a stretch to conclude that the world's most effective terrorist is actually Mother Nature with help via climate change.

    The four basic needs are in the spotlight, for me anyway, for several reasons. For one, in a global recession, more folks approach the poverty line and needs replace wants. Two, waging war in a time of recession only increases the cost of war and, even though Obama justifies war as a fight against evil in his Nobel Prize speech, war only functions to create more enemies and foment more evil.

    Now, I am not saying to simply lay down arms and walk away from war but I do think there need to be a graduated change in the role the US military plays in other countries e.g. training and intelligence. This is actually happening. Eventually, with the end of war, the military will be used solely for disaster relief.

    (1) Afghanistan: Winning in Marjah, Winning Beyond?

    Posted by Scott Lucas in Afghanistan

    http://enduringamerica.com/2010/03/12/afghanistan-winning-in-marjah-winning-beyond/

    (2) SECRECY NEWS
    from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
    Volume 2010, Issue No. 66
    August 18, 2010

    Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/

    SECURITY AND ENVIRONMENT IN PAKISTAN (CRS)

    http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/2010/08/pakistan_environment.html#respond

  11. Aaron:
    Thanks much for your reply.

    There has been some impetus (1,2) and yet very little media attention for a 'global peacebuilding initiative' i.e. there is not a UN Resolution that sends a delegation to member nations for an objective assessment of their efforts to end war, end disease, use energy efficiently and adapt to climate change. However, UN Resolution 1373 has sent a delegation to the 55 member nations for an objective assessment of counterterrorism efforts. I see this approach as precedent and practice for the putative global peacebuilding initiative.

    I wanted to answer some your points.

    First, governments have not been the drivers for a global peacebuilding initiative. Rather, it has been communites like Marjah (1) i.e. I have looked for community spokesman such as Azizullah Khan. Azizullah Khan basically asked for attention paid by Karzai for services which address the basic needs of the Marjah communites. The thinking here is that there needs to be an effort to keep the Taliban from a return and that this effort would, hopefully direct Marjah's community members toward a future other than terrorism.

    Right now, the Pakistan military is not at war with anyone i.e. 60,000 troops have been directed for flood relief. Apparently, the Taliban have been affected by the flood i.e. they are "regrouping" and this potential threat apparently deserves more media attention than the flood itself. I do not think it is a stretch to conclude that the world's most effective terrorist is actually Mother Nature with help via climate change.

    The four basic needs are in the spotlight, for me anyway, for several reasons. For one, in a global recession, more folks approach the poverty line and needs replace wants. Two, waging war in a time of recession only increases the cost of war and, even though Obama justifies war as a fight against evil in his Nobel Prize speech, war only functions to create more enemies and foment more evil.

    Now, I am not saying to simply lay down arms and walk away from war but I do think there need to be a graduated change in the role the US military plays in other countries e.g. training and intelligence. This is actually happening. Eventually, with the end of war, the military will be used solely for disaster relief.

    (1) Afghanistan: Winning in Marjah, Winning Beyond?

    Posted by Scott Lucas in Afghanistan

    http://enduringamerica.com/2010/03/12/afghanistan-winning-in-marjah-winning-beyond/

    (2) SECRECY NEWS
    from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
    Volume 2010, Issue No. 66
    August 18, 2010

    Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/

    SECURITY AND ENVIRONMENT IN PAKISTAN (CRS)

    http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/2010/08/pakistan_environment.html#respond

  12. Aaron,
    an excellent analysis…I may not agree with part of it but that should not take away the sheen from your in depth probe in the future of Pakistan…

    Lets hope and pray that there still is some way to deliver and salvage the poor citizens of Pakistan from their Elites…Army, ISI, Politicians and the Landlords..
    Abu

  13. I read the summary of the CRS report (posted by Steven Aftergood – link above) on security in the wake of the floods in Pakistan and its conclusion was that radical groups will benefit and the threat of terrorism will grow as a result of this natural disaster. The CRS report apparently did not treat the null hypothesis that the terrorism threat will not grow. So, how could radical groups not grow in this situation? The first indications are based on US, India and Pakistan emergency relief i.e pro-American, pro-Pakistan, pro-India sentiment has a chance to evolve and, from what I gather from news reports, that is what is actually happening. Pakistan needs to listen to its community spokespersons and it can be predicted that they will request help with basic needs i.e. food/water, shelter, transportation and security. Pakistan is a blank page for peacebuilding initiative. Pakistan might consider rebuilding in an innovative way i.e. not rebuild schools but energy-efficient schools (school garden projects have been on the rise in the US). Pakistan might consider Habitat for Humanity style homes or alternative energy sources for restoration of services. My hope is that Pakistan and the nations that help Pakistan will sustain peacebuilding initative beyond emergency relief. In a final note, during the tidal wave crisis in Indonesia, the Tamil Tigers actually had the gaul to demand aid. Have we heard such a demand from the Taliban? I do not know. I have heard that they are "regrouping". Well, if they regrouping then they might have been effected by the floods as well. Regrouping also implies movement and can't movement be tracked?

  14. 'Regrouping'? What does that mean? The vast majority of Taliban spread throughout the FATA remain unaffected and unconcerned about the rest of the country – other than the opportunity the lack of any effective government in vast swaths of Pakistan now presents. A few areas the controlled/contested have been affected by the floods but some like the Swat they have recently been driven out of by the Pak military. 'Regrouping' only applies if it implies that they are consolidating themselves in a military and political sense to further challenge for control of large areas of rural Pakistan either during or after the present disaster.

  15. Anonymous:

    Farhana Ali expounds on "The Militant Myth":

    http://counterterrorismblog.org/2010/08/the_militant_myth_1.php

    August 22, 2010
    The Militant Myth
    By Farhana Ali

    "…On Saturday morning, I appeared on Fox News to discuss whether militants in Pakistan could recruit among the millions of flood victims. The story began with a statement made by US Senator John Kerry, the first American official to visit the flood-hit areas, “We don’t want additional jihadists (and) extremists coming out of a crisis.” The idea that the human tragedy in Pakistan is a “frightening opening for the Taliban” is not yet substantiated but certainly makes for sensational news. We should remember that the Taliban is and has never been a charitable organization. The Taliban does not have a social services institute, and instead, boasts of enforcing and providing justice and order in the form of Qazi courts (i.e., harsh interpretation of Shariah law)…"

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