Is Pakistan a Failed State?



Tariq A. Al-Maeena

The country that was once referred to by Joe Biden during the 2008 US Presidential campaign as a dangerous state, Pakistan has been fighting back such undeserving allegations.


In the foreign media, the portrayal of Pakistan has been anything but pleasant.There is plenty to buttress their feeling that the country is indeed sinking into a deeper mess.They cite in particular the violence and other nefarious activities of extremist militant groups.They quote statistics that indicate that extremism and terrorist violence appears to be increasing overall, rather than declining.



Some critics charge that these extremist groups are gaining more power and freedom to operate.They argue that in the face of the Zardari administrations apparent unwillingness to clamp down hard on these militant groups, the extremists have become louder and bolder.They also contend that provincial governments have failed to crack down on these subversive groups, particularly in the Punjab province, since the political parties are dependent on the voting bloc of sectarian extremists, making it a political suicide to consider such an attack against these fringe elements.


There are also allegations that the government has failed to address the demands of the people of Baluchistan who feel that not only have they have been marginalized in Pakistans development process, but they have also been victimized by continuous repression and economic denial.The fact that the provincial feudal lords are behind the misery of most of their people and have been freely operating in tyranny within their domain has spurred calls by the downtrodden people of the province for a breaking away from Pakistan and forming a new country.


But one must understand that it was not all started by Pakistan.Back in 2001 when the sitting US President George Bush drew his infamous line on the sand with his youre either with us or against us, Pakistan was sucked into a spiraling vortex from which it is still suffering today. As the then Pakistani President Pervaiz Musharraf recalled, afterthe Sept 11 terrorist attacks on America, he was told by Richard Armitage, the US deputy secretary of state to support Washington or his country would be bombed back to the Stone Age, a credible threat that prompted his sleeping with the devil.


Mr. Musharraf stated in his autobiography In the line of fire, I felt very frustrated by Armitages remarks. It goes against the grain of a soldier not to be able to tell anyone giving him an ultimatum to go forth and multiply, or words to that effect.Following their uneasy partnership to facilitate Mr. Bushs adventure into Afghanistan, Pakistan became the battle ground for extremists groups such as the Afghani Taliban who not only ventured across the border to create mayhem, but also began successfully recruiting like-minded individuals from within Pakistan to their brand of ideology.


The countrys sovereignty took a hit when civilians began to be counted as innocent victims of bombs released by drones or NATO led aircraft.Although NATO commanders at the timecategorically and emphatically stated that they would not support US military intrusion into Pakistan, and would not take part in a proposed U.S. strategy of conducting raids into Pakistan from Afghanistan against suspected Taliban and al Qaeda militants, the reality of events following that 2008 claim was otherwise.


Sectarian violence increased, undoubtedly fed by the extremism of ideology which rejected all faiths and beliefs, except for the warped and twisted version these militants were following.The economy and the countrys infrastructure took a heavy hit as resources were diverted to fight this growing menace.The province of Sindh became a battleground for various political groups who were not beneath resorting to violence to promote their ideals.The city of Karachi has often been featured on many headlines or video clips, all which spotlight bombings or sectarian fueled killings.


But the people of Pakistan are a resilient lot.Notwithstanding the great challenges facing them, they have demonstrated their survival skills on the political arena.Political parties or NGO groups have been formed by concerned Pakistanis in recent years to counter what ails Pakistan.One such group was a coalition comprising of representation from groups as varied as the Pakistani Defense of Human Rights, the Good Governance Forum, the Pakistani Christian Study Center and the Ex-Servicemen Society representing retired military servicemen.


Imran Khan, the popular ex-cricketer is another individual who feels for his country.He began his foray into politics when he founded the Tehreek e insaaf party back in 1998, and is currently running for political leadership to eliminate what he perceives as corruption of elected officials and the threat to national sovereignty by foreign aid.It is democracy in action in a country so quickly maligned as being lawless.


Nowhere else was it so aptly demonstrated than lastSaturday when the government stepped down at the end of its five-year term, and set the stage for elections due to be held in the middle of May.Several parties are in the contest, jockeying for leadership.The elections could very well usher in moderates who are committed in word and deed to clamp down on the extremist groups without regard for political consequences.


Pakistan must not be dismissed as a failed state.On the contrary, it is proving that it is alive and is on the road to getting better.We wish them well on their journey.


The writer is a Saudi socio/political commentator. He lives inJeddah, contact


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