Thanks for clear and concise writing and the helpful links to fill in the gaps. This is all very interesting but you remind us diplomacy is not a chess game but a matter of life and death for all of us. We cannot really insulate or isolate ourselves. There is no place to hide; we must face the burdens of leadership or someone else will.
That is most, shall I say, illuminating. But I can’t help feeling it is addressed not so much to random readers here as to specific readers in what passes for the Pakistan establishment (Such as it is. Such as it may become.)
From my limited point of view, the problem seems to be one of classic co-dependency, except that we are not dealing with a single drunk, but an entire class of an entire nation. A nation that has not yet bottomed. The problem of course is that while one may let a drunk bottom, letting a nation like this do so usually ends in fire.
I’ll be waiting forthcoming essays on how best to address this but I note, in passing, that a recent spate of reports seems to show that Americans — as individuals and groups — seem to be less “interested” in the current disasters in Pakistan than previous ones in the region. It could well be that there is already a kind of “compassion fatigue” settling in in the part of the public that even pays attention to Pakistan. That’s surely not a good sign when it comes to the political will to continue diplomatic, military, and aid efforts with this country.
If Israel isn’t worried by Pakistan’s nukes, why should we be?
if a destabilized , collapsing pakistan is scary to the americans , imagine what a nightmare it will be for india.
but despite the fact such a pakistan can’t be in anyway india’s interest , pakistan seems to be convinced that that is what india is trying to achieve.
Well, you have to see the whole board and play the long game.
Everything I know about Pakistan (which isn’t much) I learned from reading Professor Mead’s excellent posts on the country and Nick Schmidle’s extraordinarily good book on Pakistan entitled “To Live or to Perish Forever.”
Mead’s and Schmidle’s descriptions of Pakistan lead to the inevitable question; is Pakistan really a viable country? It seems that Islam is the only thing that unites the country while ethnic passions and hatred as well as linguistic differences divide the country.
My question is simple; is there any viable chance that Pakistan can become a stable, united, relatively free nation or is the likelihood of that occurring so remote that other strategies need to be contemplated?
As radical as it is, perhaps the only way to stabilize the situation there is to continue the process that started when Bangladesh got its freedom.
Maybe the only solution is partition.
Does the Executive branch of the United States government realize Pakistan is such a priority, and not, for example, achieving a final peace settlement for Israel/Palestinian in one year? Even before these floods, it was obvious to some that Pakistan should have been #1 foreign policy priority.
As much as I usually agree with WigWag, partition would most likely lead to more dysfunction. Pakistan’s military is so Punjabi, with a bit of Pashtun.
How does Pakistan even begin to 1) rebuild what has been flooded, and 2) really educate their children, and re-educate the young adults.
Enormously informed, thoughtful and compassionate analysis –
a logical answer to many of Pakistan’s urgent needs is right under its nose – integrating its economy with India, setting aside Kashmir for now; India has pnenty of capital, both financial and human, to spare, and plenty of business expersie. Ya, Pakistanis have to eat crow – but that’s a lot better than starvation!
In the absence of that, US may have to assume de fecto control, but with a five year firm deadline for disengagement, just as we did in Iraq –
Let us compare two American clients on two opposite sides of the continent. There’s Israel, who’s everything Pakistan could be and isn’t, and there’s Pakistan. Why it works for the Jews (despite the wars, occupation, collective national trauma, conflicts with neighbors and existential threat) and so manifestly does not works for Pakis?
It works for Israel because Jews have brains, and they use them for personal and societal advancement – not to dive planes into skyscrapers! And Jews are charitable – yes, they can be hard driving and ruthless – but just about every big city universirsity, art museum or a performing arts center is built with Jewish donations. Now, Saudis have all kinds of money (none of it they worked for) – I haven’t seen a single charity or public building named after a weahth Saudi…and the big Pakistani money never leaves their Swiss lockers!
Its time to cal Pakistan’s bluff.
Time and time again Pakistan blackmails the world with the words,’Help us or we collapse and the bad guys take over’.The problem in Pakistan is that the bad guys are very much part of the state apparatus and are tools to be used to further the interests of the power elite in Pakistan.Typical is the Taliban,Pakistan nurtured it,supported it and still back some factions as a trump card.Today with some element causing problems to Pakistan, they wail again help us or they take over.At the very same time they are supporting certain factions of the Taliban as a trump card for their designs in Afghanistan.If it were up to Pakistan,it will enesure that there is never stability in the region.Trouble and strife gives it the pretext to demand even more money from the west,which is to be either used against India or promote factions favourable to Pakistan or simply siphoned off by the Pak army and the power elite.
these guys have really played bad with the alpine ecosystem there. we are pouring over satellite data from, CARTOSAT-2B, it has a one meter resolution, we are seeing huge storage facilities built up into the rock face? wonder what is in it there! Glaciers seems to be cut in also? Either these guys were plain stupid or they had too much faith in Chinese engineering. Himalayan ranges are pretty young , one need to be quiet careful.
Pakistan’s own founding father Jinnah was a barrister without a bachelors degree. He too would not have been able to sit in the Pakistani parliament.
However the Musharraf law that introduced this provision has been done away with.
Thanks for a really good article on Pakistan, especially one that is based on first-hand observation.
You say, “The costs of helping Pakistan get on its feet are significantly less than the costs of living with its continued and ultimately catastrophic decline.”
I beg to differ. The costs of Pakistan’s failure would first be borne by India, and not by USA. The costs of keeping it alive are borne by USA but a lot less than those borne by India.
A Pakistan that is fragmented into its constituent parts, does not have the need to pursue Islamism or look for strategic depth in Afghanistan or to create troubles for India in Kashmir or spread terrorism in India and abroad.
USA should for a second take a breather and come out of its one-dimensional thinking that a failure of Pakistan would bring the whole world down and America’s interests would be severely jeopardized. This thinking seems to be so deep-seated that nobody asks anymore why.
America would still be able to use the constituents singularly or together for its ends.
America should start looking at the people as Punjabis, Sindhis, Baluchis, Pushtuns, Mohajirs, Gilgitians, Baltistanis, Seraikis, Hindko, etc., the way they look at themselves. Only the Punjabis and to some extent the Mohajirs really define themselves as Punjabis. All others are willing to go their way.
I meant –
Only the Punjabis and to some extent the Mohajirs really define themselves as Pakistanis
If professor feels that educating pakistan military will turn the tide in rescuing pakistan from its mess then I am sorry professor I have to be break this bad news. They are not listening. The reason I say military as opposted to politcians or civil administration is because these two along with judiciary hardly matter in pakistan where all major decisions are taken in GHQ Rawalpindi and not in Islamabad. Pakistan military is still obsessed with its dreams of waging war on India and then on Israel and raise the islamic flag. Sadly we are slow to regognize that pakistan army has slowly but surely been islamasized and they can as bhutto propehtically stated in 1978 that “Eat Grass but develop Nuclear Power”. So pakistan today is deluged under the indus water but is still dreaming of strategic depth for its war against India. Look at how rainbow of jihadi organizations are openly distributing aid in pakistan and that shows you the hollowness of the claims that army has turned the corner
Just as with the financial firms in Wall Street, Prof. Mead’s prescription leads to the “too big to fail” syndrome and the consequent irresponsible behavior by Pakistan’s elite, secure in the knowledge that between them, the US, the European Union, China and Saudi Arabia will always bail them out.
Only when it is apparent that the US is both willing and able to walk away from Pakistan, and likewise with the other “friends” will there be an external incentive for the Pakistani elite to change.
Since internal incentives to change – such as popular unrest, popular movements – will always be interpreted as “destabilizing” by Pakistan’s friends, these will always be suppressed by the Pakistani elite with the tacit approval of Pakistan’s friends.
Therefore, I see Prof. Mead’s prescription as a recipe for chronic crisis for Pakistan.
In foreign policy, Pakistan has always been like a savvy belly dancer – each time you shove another billion in her bra a little more is revealed – and like in most rowdy strip joints, there will be mayhem and roiting and power failure before the audience get to see “everything”….next night the dancing starts all over again…
Interesting prescription for the Pakistani migraine! However, I must point out that all this is entirely predicated on a cooperative attitude from India….which to my utter surprise has been really quite patient with the failed American policy vis-a-vis Pakistan. Whenever Pakistan has found stability and prosperity (generally resulting from American largess), India has paid a heavy price from Pakistan’s overt military adventures to annex Kashmir or through terrorism to inflict the proverbial thousand cuts on India. Americans should realize that eventually this Indian patience will run out and American military aid to Pakistan that eventually finds itself turned against Indian security will invite an Indian backlash against American interests in the region – possibly in cooperation with Russia and Iran. Already there are signs that US-India relations are taking a turn for the worse after years of upswing. Would it still be worth supporting the crumbling state of Pakistan or is it better to cut our losses and let it go down the only road it has a calling for? If we could live through the collapse of Soviet Union, we can certainly live through the collapse of Pakistan.
Your mind-boggling argument for propping up Pakistan is as below.
“Pakistan may not have a lot of ability to make our world a better place, but it has a significant party pooping power that we need to respect. Nuclear program, terror links, geopolitically sensitive location: it’s a bad mix, but it’s real.”
If a gun carrying hoodlum in your town desires your lovely wife or daughter and threatens you with violence, I assume, you would allow him to have his way?
Dr Mead, I would love to see you analysis of what happens if Pakistan disintgrated into 5 states? What is the cost in terms of humanity, geo strategic paradigm etc.
Indians will be well advised to take a page from the Israeli handbook – if there is another attack from Pakistani-based jihadists – respond with ten times the force…
jrr -In foreign policy, Pakistan has always been like a savvy belly dancer – each time you shove another billion in her bra a little more is revealed – and like in most rowdy strip joints, there will be mayhem and roiting and power failure before the audience get to see “everything”….next night the dancing starts all over again…
This is a bit uncooked!
Professor Mead, there is a fundamental contradiction in your otherwise enlightened article that will ensure that US efforts will fail
You say: “Going forward, the United States will have to find ways to make clear that Pakistanis will determine the future course of our relations. ”
but earlier, you have stated:
“Beset by so many problems from so many different sources, Pakistanis struggle to make sense of their country and the world.”
Taken together it only means that Pakistanis themselves do not know where they are headed. That has been so for decades and what the US has done every time is to take the opinion of the one entity that acts as it it knows and controls all of Pakistan, the Pakistani army.
So what the US ultimately does is to support the Pakistani army against the interests of the Pakistani people.
In the 1960s – billions of US dolars were poured in to prop up the Pakistani army against the Soviet empire and that army went and squandered all that against India
In the 80s the US funded the Pakistani army again and the Taliban were created. And they still shelter the US’s former allies the Al Qaeda.
After 9-11 the US has once again given 1.5 billion dollars a year to the Pakistani army and given them F-16s, AMRAAM missiles and ships for the navy. Good heavens! Was that aimed at countering the Taliban Air Force and navy.?The Taliban do not have a navy or an Air Force – so what do you think your Pakistani allies are going to do with those arms?
The US can do what it likes in the region, but India too has significant party pooping power in the region. If that US aid is used against India the US and Pakistan are both going to have their love fest ruined.
The only thing that has changed in 20 years is that back in those days the terrorist who were fighting in Afghanistan and killing Indians in Kashmir were called “Freedom fighters” and American allies. Now they are called terrorists.
my apology for these off topic questions .
I was watching your talk on american foreign policy in youtube.
thank you for that interesting talk.
you mentioned that one part of US foreign policy is to promote/encourage open societies abroad and maintain the current international system.
my Q.s are
1. whether a conflict may arise in future because china has an authoritarian domestic system .
2.unlike japan and germany which has much less population than USA , china (and india) has a potential of becoming an economy 2/3 times larger than USA. at that time they will likely to be in a drivers position in international economy and relations.
will USA voluntarily release the role of predominance ?
Care to put the coordinates of the cartosat image you are referring to?
Would love to see what you guys have seen.
From Mead’s article above:
“The social upheaval and economic consequences of the Afghan wars present and past, the invasion of Iraq and many other US policies large and small have significantly worsened the economic and political situation in Pakistan.”
Prof. Mead seems to believe in a ‘Yankee-centric’ theory of history and civilizational development, as it were, requiring that the United States be, by definition, the inheritor of a tontine of responsibility or, more accurately, blame. (No matter what the problem, IT IS ALL OUR FAULT.)
Did we invade Pakistan and take over the country? No, we dealt with Pakistan as though it was a part of the community of nations, fully sovereign and able to make and decide its own policies and fate. Yet it seems that the well of Mead’s bigotry of low expectations is inexhaustible.
And what is Mead’s solution to the last 62 years of U.S. and Western involvement with Pakistan? MORE OF THE SAME. Another round of, and I use the term loosely here, diplomatic engagement. With a strongly worded message that we can’t fund these rent seekers forever, but that we should, anyway. It is in our interest.
Like his initial comments on Anthropological Global Warming (AGW) and the climategate emails, and his failure to adequately address the outright dishonesty, completely lack of integrity in their scientific method, and the absolute refusal of the pro AGW scientists to fully publish their work, and their decision to actively fight to prevent the release of their original data, Mead deliberately ignores the 500lb gorilla, (which is happily destroying the furniture, windows, doors and other occupants), in the room.
Because it isn’t actually Pakistan that is the problem: it is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, (the country’s official name) that is the problem.
Mead’s article mentions “Islam” exactly twice: once in the ‘posted in’ section for indexing and filing purposes (which really doesn’t count), and once in the context of radicalism and the attractions of “a pure Islam” as a destabilizing influence. What would be the difference, one wonders, between an Islamic Republic of Pakistan as it is now currently managed, and an Islamic Republic of Pakistan based on “pure Islam?
Is it the “failure” of the elites, “where half the population can’t read at all (my guess is that most of those people are women) and most adults have less than four years of school” or the deliberate theological policy of an already Islamic Republic? Mr. Mead doesn’t say, and honestly, I doubt that he even considers the question.
Mead implicitly, and not so implicitly, succumbs to the illogic of multiculturalism. It is the US, or it is the elites, or the military, or India, but it cannot be the culture of the country or, even more forbidden to mention, (gasp!) the state mandated religion and theocratic rule set upon which Pakistan is based.
His failure to recognize, or even mention, the wonderful, peaceful, oh-so-maligned, religion of Islam (which has nothing to do with honor killings, terrorism, death for apostasy, no equal rights for women (let alone education),tribalism, theocratic and civil rejection of natural law (really! look it up. Allah can do anything) and its educational and scientific consequences, death for homosexuality, and a complete intolerance for other religions by state and theocratic law)), is utterly consistent with the current approach of our political and diplomatic betters to the problems faced by the people living in (there are no democratic ones) theocratically, monarchially, or militarily ruled Islamic countries. Not to mention, us.
Like so many others, Mead fails utterly to even consider the possibility that you can’t get to here, a secular republic that is not ruled by a tyranny of the majority, from there, rule by Islamic theocracy or Islamic theocratic tenets.
In fact, he won’t even mention that Pakistan is an Islamic Republic nor consider that civil laws based on theocratic tenets inevitably lead to corruption, perpetuate tribalism, and lead to civil disorder, not to mention the disenfranchisement of all women. No offense Mr. Mead, but this is the equivalent of going out to sea in a sail boat and insisting that the captain ignore the actions of the tides, currents and winds.
And then blaming the man at the tiller, the navigator, the crew manning the rigging, passengers, other ships, the captain who followed your directives, harbor master, the people who financed the ship, and boat builder, (but never, ever the diplomats and their assumptions) when you end up on the rocks and shoals of reality. Or, as is currently fashionable and the primary argument for ignoring and/or supporting so many things religiously and culturally Islamic, you could accuse them of being Islamophobic.
But never, ever blame the winds, tides or currents of Islam. One must never, ever deviate from the idea that Islam is just the same, and just as good and never as bad as Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, Judaism, or Christianity, and is in fact much more peaceful than all of the above.
Mead’s article is oh-so reasonable, oh-so plausible and well thought out and written. But, not only does it blindly ape (pardon me for continuing with the simile) a Neville Chamberlinian approach to actual behavior and consequent results by pretending they don’t matter, it is also frighteningly Orwellian in what it assumes to not even exist.
In Mr. Mead’s circles, that’s not a bug, it’s a feature.
I’ve posted the google earth pictures of the Tunnels that sanjithmenon referred to on BRF TSP thread. The image is dated May 31, 2010.
Is this the set of tunnels that sanjithmenon referred to or are there others?
Ravi has published the details in orbat.com.
Prof. Mead’s strategy amounts to saying, out of one side of the mouth, “we (America) have no choice but to give Pakistan what it wants or needs”, and out of the other side of the mouth, telling the Pakistanis sternly what is wrong with them. Knowing the nature of the Pakistani elite, this can only give them a good laugh as they continue to milk the American taxpayer for all they can get.
The only thing that will work is or American thinktankers to rid themselves of their illusion that Pakistan is the “indispensable state.” Until they do, good luck with getting Pakistan to do the right thing.
For over 60 years Pakistan as a nation has been ruled by just Punjabis, the feudal lords and no other region has ever been allowed to be a part of it development may it be sindh, Baluchistan or north-west frontier province . It has been ruled by military for half of its existence and when the east Pakistan choose it leader to lead Pakistan he got jai which eventually lead to it partition and creation of Bangladesh. Pakistan never learns from it mistake and will never will. One doesn’t think dissolution of Pakistan would be an issue as the Nuclear weapon will be with the Punjabi military officers and rest of the provinces will be better of on their own with better development indexes.
we have an online geo-political based magazine , plz visit it and post your views on it , if interested feel free to contact to our editor-in-chief who has had 40 years of experience in journalism.
Mr. Mead I must congratulate you in putting the realities of Pakistan in such a sublime manner, your article touches all the angels that Pakistan has been facing and US’s dilemma of helping it. Though you forgot to point out that china is also trying to cement its place in Pakistan , may be that might add to troublesome situation .
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untill islamism and the woe to rule the world ,reviving caliphate ,be the motoo of pakistan , it has brought unprecedented mesieries upon its margenalized downtrodden masses ,perticularly ,but the vermin of jehadism and wahabism ,will also shatter the peace ,serenity and progress of the world at large ,
time for the world to sense ,and contain jehad , give space to the left forces to flurish ,as the west helped and suastained in past naurish the islamic fundamentalist in order to contain the soviet union .
Have you ever seen a light bulb change itself?
If you have you need a psychiatrist.
As a Pakistani, I think the best strategy would be for the US to annex Pakistan as their 51st state.
This is a great article.
Maybe I am biased, being an Indian, but if the US wants to stabilize Pakistan, the first necessary step is to weaken the bloc of elites (primarily the military) that is obssessed with hating India. Hatred and fear of India is what keeps the radicals in power. While Pakistan may legitimately been worried about India in the past (Aside: I dont think this is the case, especially since Pakistan has initiated all the Indian-Pakistani skirmishes in the past, and India, in fact, did not step into Pakistan as it so easily could have in wars where it clearly had the upper hand, but I am not old enough to know so) there is really no legitimate reason for Pakistanis to worry about India now. For India, the best case situation is a stable Pakistan, because that is likely to lead to India Pakistan relationships that are similar to US-Canadian relationships currently, and no one can argue that is a bad thing.
Additionally, this isn’t all just in the US. Indians need to step up to the plate. Manmohan Singh, and Vajpayee before him, did a great job of preventing escalation of tensions between the countries, even at great political costs to themselves and their parties (ABV after Kargil, and MS after the Mumbai terror attacks), but Indians cannot afford to let crazies like Advani get into power. Fortunately, this seems like a remote possibility. At the same time, India needs to be able to turn a blind eye towards some of the craziness emanating from Pakistan, and instead further shore up the internal instabilities that rising inequality are causing within India.
All Pakistan needs is a revolution and all will be ok! We need to get the corrupt people out and replace them with the learned and honest ones. Its not about Punjabis, Mohajirs, Sindhis etc. Its about uniting and staying united. Enough of everyone using and abusing us the way they want. We should learn to look everyone in the eye and talk rather than be hushed up after loading us with aid and loans which end up in the corrupt’s pockets. At the time of the earth quake and even now after the floods just the support of the Pakistani people is so tremendous for their brothers that it far exceeds the support of any outsider. If we want, we can, but its just about who leads us to it!! The need of the hour is to be united and get the right person for the job!
The author is happy to say that Pakistanis have responsibility for the future of Pakistan but doesn’t acknowledge how little influence ordinary Pakistanis have on the running of the country. Given that the author claims to have first-hand knowledge of Pakistan he should that Pakistanis could scarcely be any angrier or more frustrated with their pathetic government. The ordinary people know what they need and they know that the government isn’t doing anything for them. They just can’t make the state meet their needs because the state’s primary purpose in Pakistan is as a rent-extraction vehicle for political and economic elites.
The dysfunctional Pakistani state is absolutely at the heart of this mess. It doesn’t raise any tax revenues – and is so delegitimized that it has no chance of imposing any direct taxes to fund real services. Most of our budget goes to pay off loans (long since eaten up by corrupt elites) or to fuel the military’s obsession with India. The only thing keeping it going is more foreign money which feeds the wealthy and sustains a sick regime when it doesn’t directly go to arms purchases. Our massive military budget is a black hole that we can’t examine and parliament doesn’t even discuss. If you’re mad at the tricks of the Pakistani military then think of what it feels like at this end. The day that Pakistanis have meaning oversight of their government will be the day that this conversation ends. The US and international financial institutions need to ask themselves what they are doing by continuing to fund the current system.
And I should mention that the degree requirement which so offends the author is long-gone. It was the brain-child of a military dictator – Musharraf, a favorite of the US – and was thrown out by the next civilian government.
We don’t need your tough love, we need your enlightened self-interest. Until and unless the Pakistani state is accountable to the Pakistani people there is no solution to the current mess.
Dr. Mead missing from you analysis is
that Pakistan will use China to get US do to anything because China wants to build a super highway whole of pakistan all the way to ports it is building. US is scared [ vulgar adverb deleted –ed]. Then China will also build a pipeline from Iran all the way to China.
All the other things is just [vulgar comparison deleted — ed].
To save Pakistan, the country needs another Allama Mashriqi. Pakistan is being ruled by corrupt and selfish leaders since 1947. Pakistan’s bad situation was predicted by Mashriqi prior to partition of India. He knew Muslim Leaguers were selfish and corrupt and had no vision for Pakistan. His prediction has come true. Honest leaders like Allama Mashriqi can save Pakistan.
The degree issue was an attempt to bring fresh blood into the system. Another example is the two term limit on local provincial and federal positions.
America can help Pakistan by supporting land reforms. Having landlords creates long term negative effects:
History, Institutions and Economic Performance:
The Legacy of Colonial Land Tenure Systems in India
Direct versus Indirect
Colonial Rule in India:
America can ask the local system be restored. In that local system Pakistan got an integrated local system for urban areas that is the most modern for South Asia, which was a foundation to build on. Since America is a laggard in implementing such system itself, it has lost n the benefits others have enjoyed. Citymayors has several articles on this subject and you may want to see what they say. There is one about the US system also.
Best thing for US is to impose Embargo of every thing except Medicine Thru UN . Watch that no-one help Pakistan . Let them solve their problems . Dont let any country enter any political/Gov. person. Leave Pakistan alone & see they will solve their problems . Talban , Al-Qaida or any group can not work for even for one hour without the Finnancial, Techinical & manpower support of any outsider . Any indivisual can not afford Bill. of $ to keep them going . It has to be funded by any country. If Isreal is not affraid of Pakistan & US is sitting far away from Pakistan, then who is playing all this game ? Defenatly any country is scared of Pakistan or they have intrest that area. Yes Pakistani Leaders ( Most of them ) have intrest in Pakistani Money . They dont care about Pakistan at all, they care about their Bank Balance ( Swiss ) only.
Blame it on Pakistan it is the only country that has been forced to become a recycling bin for all Political Military and Economic failures of the world. Our Governments are tailored elsewhere in the name of Democracy where only 15% of the people (mostly criminals) vote and therefore our Governments have always been available to act and perform any which way their supporters please. It took one psycho to extinguish all the bulbs the 3rt Party is inevitable and will switch them on again.
@brad, lemme tell you the Pakistan Army right now has become the most trained Army in the world they have been in constant combat with terrorism, disasters and life saving activities since 2008. Its quite different from the type of training the Indian Army is undergoing in Kashmir. The Indus Valley Civilization will prevail despite repeated backstabbing from “friends”. 3rd Party of the rest and best of Pakistan.
Are you still planning to make more posts in this series?
Thanks for your blog and this post. You have a great blog here. I truly like this post good work and I hope it survives.