By Najam Sethi
June 25th, 2010
THREE recent global surveys are harbingers of bad news for Pakistan. They should compel us to think of what the future holds in store for us if we do not quickly set our qibla in the right direction.
Foreign Policy magazine’s survey ranks Pakistan as the 10th most failed state among the 177 countries of the world, just behind the likes of Afghanistan, Sudan, Chad and Zimbabwe, but worse than Burma and Nepal. By contrast, India ( 87th) is happily placed in the midway house of “ second world” states that are gearing up to challenge the “ first world” in many ways.
The report notes Pakistan’s description as the “most dangerous place in the world” and adds that “ President Asif Ali Zardari’s democratically elected government looks hapless— unable to gain any measure of civilian control over a nuclear- armed military… or an intelligence service that stands accused of abetting the Afghan Taliban”. More ominously, the report concludes that “ the indicator for external intervention has worsened since 2008” and America has become the largest donor of economic and military aid to the country even as its drones routinely attack Taliban- Al Qaeda targets in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
A survey by the BBC in April lends support to some of these conclusions. 23 out of 27 countries surveyed gave Pakistan a negative ranking— the anti- Pakistan average is 51 per cent in all the 27 countries.
Interestingly, Iran and Israel are in the same negative category as Pakistan.
But, significantly, only one third of the countries surveyed have a negative opinion about India! A third survey of 22 countries by Pew Research also arrives at disturbing conclusions about Pakistan. Despite being a major recipient of US aid, only 17 per cent Pakistanis had a favourable view of America. Indeed, 65 per cent think the US is a potential military threat to Pakistan! In sharp contrast, over 66 per cent of Indians, whose country trades with the US but receives no aid, had a favourable opinion of America! If the world is generally unhappy about Pakistan, it is also noticeable that Pakistanis are increasingly unhappy about their own state of affairs. In 2003, 67 per cent were dissatisfied by the direction their country was taking under President General Pervez Musharraf.
But after the economy picked up and prospects of peace with India brightened, only 39 per cent were still unhappy in 2005.
However, the subsequent economic and political crisis has put paid to that feel good factor. In 2010, nearly 84 per cent of Pakistanis were unhappy about the state of their country and nearly 90 per cent of these attributed its ill- fortune to the government of President Asif Ali Zardari. Worse, only a minority of 19 per cent think their economic situation will improve in the future. This is a telling sign. By contrast, over 64 per cent of all Indians have a rosy picture of their future and 85 per cent think their elected government is handling the economy fairly well.
PAKISTAN is also out of step with the world as far as perceptions of Iran are concerned.
Most countries, including Muslim- majority ones, disapprove of Iran’s president, its regime and nuclear weapons programme and support sanctions to bring it into line. But 72 per cent of Pakistanis give a thumbs- up to Iran on all counts! The only good news to emerge from these surveys is that 80 per cent of Pakistanis disapprove of suicide bombings.
Support for Osama Bin Laden has, thankfully, dropped from 46 per cent in 2003 to only 18 per cent in 2010. But there is still not sufficient realisation of how extremism is hurting the country at home and abroad— only 37 per cent are “ very concerned” about extremism at home! The biggest delusion is that as many as 40 per cent still think that their country is “generally liked” abroad whereas the truth is quite the opposite as all the surveys demonstrate.
What lessons should Pakistan draw from these facts if it is to avoid being pushed over the edge as a failed state? First, religious extremism at home or in the neighbourhood must be resisted with the might of the state instead of being nurtured by it for whatever goals. We have seen the bloody consequences of believing that America’s Taliban enemy is our friend— our armed forces are now enmeshed in a guerilla war in the northwest and our mosques and bazaars and police stations are routinely bombed.
Second, we must build peace in the neighbourhood instead of fomenting trouble in it through non- state actors.
We have seen the consequences of it in the dismemberment of our country and the progressive impoverishment of Pakistanis at the altar of an arms race in the sub- continent.
Third, we must put our house in order on the basis of good governance— law and order, accountability, economic policy continuity and quick justice for all— whose dismal indices make us a failed state. Politicians, bureaucrats, journalists and judges must work in tandem for the public good instead of tearing one another apart for personal or even institutional gain.
Finally, civil society must tame the military and redefine “national interest” as being much more than the military’s narrow institutional interest. The military should belong to Pakistan instead of Pakistan belonging to the military.
This is the way for a safe, successful and viable state of the modern world.
The writer is Editor, The Friday Times, Pakistan
Source: Mail Today