Monday, April 23, 2012

The Outlook for Pakistan is not Bright

The 8th of April saw the leader of India, Manmohan Singh, and Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, shared lunch in Delhi; it was first visit by a Pakistani president to India since 2005.  Yet despite the cordial air of the meeting, and the hope that relations between the two nations can improve further,  the future for troubled Pakistan remains bleak.

Zardari should become the first civilian to complete a full presidential term, but he is not a popular leader and it is likely he will not see a second term when the country goes to the polls in 2013.  Corruption is rife, and the economy is really struggling.  Religious extremists and insurgents occupy large area of the country and the military, unable to confront them, seeks collaboration with these groups rather than risk conflict.  Furthermore, the withdrawal of American forces from neighbouring Afghanistan is likely to destabilise Pakistan further.  

A major concern for Pakistan is its armed forces; the military receive the largest share of the State’s recourses, and for the money the state invests in its military it gets a corrupt inefficient security force, with too much influence over government.  In addition the military have pushed bad policy options upon the State.  Specifically; aggressive foreign policy that alienates Pakistan from its neighbours, taking decisions to aid extremists and opponents that undermine Pakistan and continuing to spend vast sums on building nuclear weapons that might not even be secure.

Another major concern for the outside world is the lack of press freedom within the country.  The North-West regions are lawless and journalist is regularly attacked.  Worryingly there are also signs that the government are increasing the level of censorship within the country - These issues highlighted in more detail here:!/2012/04/writing-in-blood-and-sweat-threats.html .   

Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, commenting on the issues facing Pakistan, concludes that; “[The] long-term problems, if not tackled immediately, may well plunge Pakistan into the failed-state category very soon.”  The reality is that the Army have set Pakistan on a dangerous course, and that corruption has further crippled the core of the State, and as Pakistan grows more fragile, it poses a greater threat to the countries around it.  As a nuclear state it should be a concern for the International Community as a whole.

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