August 05, 2020
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On The Right Track

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On The Right Track

OUTLOOK posed the question, "is Pakistan a failed state?", to two Pakistan experts in the US. Why has Pakistan failed to build democratic institutions? What are its problems today? Does democracy have a future or is the military likely to reassert itself? How has it been affected by Islamisation and fundamentalism? Both experts affirmed Pakistan’s stable core.

Prof Marvin G. Weinbaum, senior fellow, US Institute of Peace, said: "Failed states don’t have atomic weapons or first-rate foreign policy establishments. As foreign policies go, the Pakistanis play rather well, even with a weak hand. However, I would like to focus on missed economic opportunities. Perhaps the greatest failing has been the low investment in human resources." Is Islamisation linked to economic problems? "Iran as an Islamic state does far better. I blame inconsistencies in economic policy over the years. The real Islamic parties have not had a role in the governing of the country. They have not been an obstacle with respect to economic growth, except maybe in population control. At one point the Nawaz Sharif government wanted to pursue interest-free banking, but the business community will not allow him [to do it]. Sharif is showing extra maturity. He’s learnt from past mistakes." Will the army reassert itself? "Democracy has dampened the military to the point where it is not active but behind the scenes. The military is only vocal on three issues—Kashmir, Afghanistan and nuclearisation."

Dr George K. Tanham, former vice-president, Rand Corporation: "There are many problems—of law and order, the situation in Karachi and Punjab, narcotics. But I would not say that Pakistan is a failed state. There is a spirit of democracy within the people which reasserts itself, when given the chance. The army has behaved quite well, despite getting no increase in funds. But there is a point where you can’t push the army too far. Also, you don’t get democracy overnight."

 What about Islamisation and fundamentalism? "The Islamic parties hardly got any seats in the assembly. People are upset about the Taliban coming into Pakistan. There is a problem of some extremists in Pakistan but there is no sign of it within the leadership or within the army." On education and health: "The government can’t do everything. They don’t have the money but they are headed in the right direction."

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