Pakistan is not doomed

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Pakistan to Press US Envoy on Missile Strikes By VOA News 02 April 2009Analysts across the globe have become adept at predicting the implosion of Pakistan. They suggest that the culmination of the Taliban, economic woes, a weak central government, a corrupt military, an uncontrollable intelligence organisation, the possibility of another terrorist strike and the tensions with India will result in a failed state. March saw them yet again heralding the coming apocalypse.

But March has merely been an example of the cyclical nature of Pakistani chaos. It has not been an indication of its imminent failure. The logic of implosion is flawed.

The much feared creep towards Quetta by the Taliban is of international concern but it is not the primary reason for Pakistan's instability. There are certainly multifarious links between the Taliban, regional terrorist organisations and the insurgency in Afghanistan. But to fight on every front is strategically impossible and totally implausible.

In due course the Taliban problem will be confronted and hopefully resolved. But it will not happen before the internal political situation stabilises. Nor will it happen without US help.

Reform of the military and of Inter-Services Intelligence will be an incremental process that will occur only as civil society in Pakistan strengthens and the government re-aligns itself. Patience is a virtue in South Asia. Although the situation is not improving quickly, it does seem to be improving.

On 24 March Pakistani stocks closed at their highest level for the year, buoyed by MSCI Barra's assessment that political risk in the country had decreased. By the end of the month Pakistan will receive the next instalment of its US$3.1 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund,following successful quarterly review meetings.

The Obama administration has pledged to expand economic engagement with Pakistan, recognising that economic development may provide a bulwark against insurgency and violent extremism.

In a move that confounded international commentators, surprised Pakistani citizens, and left the Indian media dazed and confused, President Zardari pragmatically acquiesced to both external and internal pressure by reinstating the Musharraf-deposed Ifthikhar Chaudhry to the post of Pakistani Supreme Court Chief Justice.

In doing so, Zardari averted a planned protest march by irate lawyers and the violence that may have accompanied it, pacified the Pakistan Muslim League enough to restart dialogue, and engaged in an allegedly constructive discussion with Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani.

Many assume that another terror attack of the severity of those in Lahore or Mumbai would suck Pakistan into a nuclear war with India. Yet South Asia is spectacularly resilient. Terrorist attacks and outbursts of violence there do not typically engender regional disintegration.

Furthermore, despite claims to the contrary, relations between India and Pakistan are not worse than they have ever been. During 1965, 1971 and 1999 the two countries were actually at war with one another. Nor were relations during Partition cordial.

The Mumbai terror probe is progressing steadily. India got what it wanted when Kasab, the only perpetrator detained by Indian police, admitted he was Pakistani. Although the conclusion of the probe will inevitably satisfy neither Pakistan nor India, it is unlikely to annoy either sufficiently to provoke a serious confrontation.

Track two diplomacy (citizen diplomacy) has resumed, with delegates from both countries meeting in Islamabad under the auspices of the Nobel Prize winning Pugwash organisation. Representatives from India, Pakistan and Kashmir will also meet in early April in Bangkok with New Delhi's Public Policy Research Group to draft new initiatives that will build confidence.

Recent border incursions from Pakistan into Indian controlled Jammu and Kashmir have prompted only a limited response from the Indian government and media. Both are preoccupied with upcoming national elections and  with the shifting for security reasoons of the Indian Premier League (IPL) to South Africa.

Pakistan may have a nuclear weapon in one hand but in the other it has a begging bowl. Across both Pakistan and the region disorder ebbs and flows. Political dynamics, the economic situation, foreign relations and the progress of the War on Terror may turn sour, but this does not mean that the state is about to fail. Don't believe the hype: it's not all over for Pakistan.

Kimberley LaytonKimberley Layton is a freelance journalist and researcher at the New Delhi-based think tank the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.

Topic tags: kimberley layton, pakistan, india, terrorist attack, nuclear war, taliban



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The Islam taught in madrasas is an austere Sunni form known as Wa'habism. Originating in pre-Saudi Arabia, the Wa'habists have remained supportive of the al-Sauds despite all the personal excesses of that family, in return for funding of Wa'habist madrasas. Consequently, much of the Islamic world remains in mediaeval stagnation.

Would Pakistan be well-served to close down Wa'habist madrasas and seek to recover the less intolerant forms of Islam (particular Sufism) that the Mughals engendered in pre-Raj India?
David Arthur | 03 April 2009


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