Pakistan:reasons to be anxious or reasons to be alarmed?

November 21, 2008



















The International Institute for Strategic Studies released a note  this week looking at the security, political and economic crises afflicting Pakistan.

For Pakistan watchers there was not much new, though the tenor of the note, despite its title “Pakistan on the Brink”, was a little less alarmist than other commentators, many of whom fear a nuclear armed state becoming a failed state.

As bad as things are, the IISS said:

– Pakistan is not in danger of becoming a militant Islamist state
– Pushtun extremists are not representative of all Pushtun tribes, still less other Pakistani communities
– Regardless of whether some Pakistani officials or associates may be helping the Afghan Taliban, there is no evidence that the Pakistan army’s structure has been weakened
– And that, partly as a result of U.S. mentoring, security arrangements around Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal are sound.

The IISS says that if the security, political and economic situation were to deteriorate seriously the Pakistan army would reluctantly step in to take control. That’s cold comfort to all those who see the army’s repeated interventions to uproot democracy, and its grip on foreign policy, as Pakistan’s core problem. And governments with troops in Afghanistan would like a Pakistan army that unequivocally regarded the Afghan Taliban — not just al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban — as an enemy, rather than an asset that could still be used to gain influence in Kabul and counter Indian regional hegemony.

The IISS does conclude that Western leaders should continue to worry. But perhaps people are getting used to Pakistan being on the brink?

(File photo of Pakistani troops in Bajaur)


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