Pakistan: A look back at 2012

February 14 2013: In 2012 Pakistan faced another wave of terrorism-related violence and instability. In this article, Zahid Shahab Ahmed, Insight on Conflict's Local Correspondent for Pakistan, focuses on a variety of issues, including terrorism and counterterrorism, to see where Pakistan is heading in coming years and what should be done to improve the situation.

Pakistan military in Swat Valley in 2009

Pakistan military in Swat Valley in 2009 Image credit: Al Jazeera English

It is not long ago that the success of the lawyers’ movement provided the people of Pakistan with some hope of a stable and prosperous country. This resistance helped in removing a dictator and in installing a democratic government in the country. However, the question remains, did this change anything in Pakistan? Many would say it has not as the security situation in the country has been deteriorating and the government’s strategies have failed to protect its people from terrorists, both local and foreign.

Is Pakistan a failed state?

For any modern state, the protection of its sovereignty is very important, which the government of Pakistan has failed to do in recent times. There are a mix of security, political and economical factors that have led to Pakistan being given the title of a failing state.

The 2012 Failed States Index, refers to a failing state as a country with an alarming situation, meaning it is on its way to becoming a failed state. Pakistan is currently ranked 13th on the 2012 Failed State Index. However, there are only two states on the index that are defined as completely failed states, Somalia and Congo. This demands some discussion on what is saving Pakistan from becoming a failed state.

In my opinion, it is the existence of institutions that modern states have, such as judiciary, businesses, bureaucracy, law enforcement agencies etc. Nonetheless, we can question the operations of some, or all, of these institutions because Pakistan continues to suffer from widespread corruption. The Transparency International’s 2012 report found corruption on the rise in Pakistan. Overall, a corruption of PKR 12,600 billion was reported in different sectors of the country, ranking Pakistan 33rd out of 176 countries.

Who controls Pakistan?

Can we label Pakistan a failed state merely based on its deteriorating security? I do not think so.
In Pakistan and abroad, there is another point of view on Pakistan that does not consider it a failed state, however considers it a state controlled by a few elites and a government that is unable to manage parts of the country.

For example, under the Federal Government of Pakistan, the state cannot practice its authority in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). However, the government has still not been able to practice its authority in areas directly under its control like Karachi – the financial capital of Pakistan – that has been exposed to extensive political and ethnic violence.

Nevertheless, most of Pakistan is still under the state’s control. One such example of this is that the state recently managed to block mobile phone services in major areas of the country in a bid to stop planned terrorism plots. Therefore, can we label Pakistan a failed state merely based on its deteriorating security? I do not think so.

In some small ways, there are examples of democracy, proving to be a far better option than dictatorship in the country. For instance, in November 2012 the Pakistan Senate passed a resolution to de-weaponise Karachi; however, no one knows when the actualization of this important decision will be viable.

The country’s army is still very much a key player in democratic Pakistan due to the ongoing reliance on the foreign funding, which is strongly linked Pakistan’s commitment against terrorism. The international community has been demanding Pakistan show some positive results from its efforts against terrorism and extremism in return for the billions of dollars of aid that has been given. The United States of America has perhaps been the most vocal for demanding such proof. Pakistan’s economic, political and security situation have made it vulnerable, and led many to think it is failing.

According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal the situation in Pakistan is becoming worse. During 2003-12, there have been over 45,000 deaths in the country, including over 6,000 in 2012. This is believed to be the case as the War on Terror has not produced the desired outcomes and the influx of aid has made Pakistan a “basket case”. One such indicator, which is used by the Fund for Peace in its Failed States Index, is the level of external interventions in a country. On this index Pakistan scored 9.4, which is almost equal to Sudan’s score of 9.5 who are ranked 3rd. Additionally, Pakistan’s score is far higher than Nigeria’s of 6.6 who are ranked 14th overall. The score of many countries in the Index tells us that to be a successful state, governments have to resist external interventions, especially military operations such as drone attacks and unwelcomed operations like the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Only a strong democratic government in Islamabad can do that.

The importance of ending terrorism

There is a causal relationship between terrorism, domestic economy, poverty, unemployment and many other social problems in Pakistan.
One possible solution to a few major problems in Pakistan is linked to the success of counterterrorism. Thus, the effectiveness of counterterrorism should be a key priority of the government. The eradication of terrorism will increase the authority of the state and provide a secure environment for foreign investors/foreign direct investment (FDI) – crucial for economic development. Since Pakistan has increased the intensity of its counterterrorism operations the FDI has been dropping on an annual basis possibly due to the increased number of terrorism attacks in the country.

There is a causal relationship between terrorism, domestic economy, poverty, unemployment and many other social problems in Pakistan. According to the Board of Investment of Pakistan, FDI during 2007-08 was US$5,409.80 million. This has dropped to just US$812.6 million during 2011-12. Mainly due to this, the Pakistan Economy Watch reported the unemployment rate in Pakistan at six per cent in 2012. Hence, we can say that terrorism is the root cause of other social security problems.

Therefore, with the intention of helping Pakistan’s economy, the international community should first support its democratic government and not the military in fighting terrorism. A strong government would not have permitted direct dealing of external actors with its military, which is not the case of Pakistan proving that there is a weak democratic government.

It is now a matter of Pakistan’s government re-gaining its authority, particularly to gain control of affairs relating to security and economy. Pakistan could very well have a lot to learn from such countries like Bangladesh, who have managed to make extremely good progress in areas of social and economic development. Such progress can no doubt be attributed to increasing FDI.

The year ahead

The end of 2012 leaves the people of Pakistan with both hope and frustration.
The end of 2012 leaves the people of Pakistan with both hope and frustration. There is huge uncertainty regarding the future of counterterrorism in Pakistan and beyond (Afghanistan). However, there is some hope, as the upcoming elections will provide the people the opportunity to either re-elect the same government or bring a new government into power. Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf, provides great hope for the educated middleclass of Pakistan.

This year will also expose Pakistan to some external challenges, such as the repatriation of international troops from Afghanistan, which is thought to be completed sometime in 2014. This might leave Pakistan with regional security challenges, as Afghanistan remains very unstable under the influence of the Taliban. Nonetheless, Pakistan’s army and the US will remain key players due to counterterrorism operations and Pakistan’s poor fiscal situations.

Whoever will ascend to power in the coming months in Islamabad will have to face many new challenges. Pakistan is a country that has huge potential for future economic and human development. However, this will only happen if the new leadership is committed to the welfare of its people.

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