Mar 19, 2009 - published work    12 Comments

Failed State? Not really

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Sometime back, Newsweek named Pakistan the most dangerous place on earth. Now, the American magazine Foreign Policy has come up with its own most dangerous place. Surprisingly, it is not Pakistan. They name Somalia as the most dangerous country. In addition to a detailed article about the perils to life in Mogadishu, the Somalian capital, they came up with a chart of 60 countries that pass for failed states. They have graded the countries on indicators of instability that are as varied as human flight, human rights, economy and factionalized elite among others.

There are no marks for guessing that Pakistan gets an honourable mention in the top ten. It is the ninth most failed state after Somalia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Chad, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan and Ivory Coast – all fairly failed states. What did get my goat, however, was that Pakistan is considered more failed than Central African Republic, which came in tenth. Central African Republic? No one would even know where the country is if its name were not so geographically specific.

But it’s not just the good ol’ Central African Republic – Pakistan is more failed a state than Ethiopia (16), Liberia (34), which is famous for its blood diamonds and child soldiers, and Malawi (29), a heaven for celebrities looking to adopt kids without much ado.

The chart is designed with the maximum point of 10 for any indicator – the more failed a state is, the higher the score would be on most indicators. According to the chart, out of the 12 indicators of instability, Pakistan’s least worrisome performance has been in economy and – believe it or not – public services. It is a known fact that electricity –rather, the lack thereof – has wreaked havoc with our lives and economy. If that’s come out smelling of roses, imagine how bad the score would be on other indicators.

Group grievances, security apparatus and external intervention were among the higher scoring indicators. I personally think the chart is biased and is part of an international conspiracy to besmirch the good name of Pakistan. For instance, it has been suggested that US Drones that are said to be flying from Afghanistan are actually taking off from our own airfields. If that’s the case, then the level of external intervention is not as high as has been indicated in the chart.

Similarly, if the number of times traffic is blocked in the main cities of Pakistan to clear passage for high-ranking officials is any indicator of our security apparatus at work, it seems to be working just fine – that is, for the government officials, if not for all Pakistanis. Pakistan may score high in group grievances, but that is to be expected in a multi-ethnic country. If Baloch people have any issues with the federal government about royalty of its resources and the fate of its missing persons, it’s not that big a deal. After all, they comprise only 4 percent of the population.

Pakistan also scored high on delegitimization of the state. This was perhaps correct in the past, but it has been taken care of since last month. We have officially signed deals with dissident groups in Swat and Bajaur Agency and handed over districts and cities to them. Now they are the ones who are officially administering those areas and government of Pakistan cannot be held responsible for the deligitimization of the state.

The highest scoring indicator for Pakistan is the curiously titled factionalized elites. Contrary to scoring in the chart, the Pakistani elite does not seem all that factionalized. The elite has been quite focused, coherent and persistent in evading the taxes while piling indirect ones on the poor people of Pakistan. It can also be thanked for upholding the flight of Pakistani capital out of the country, investing in the Middle East, signing over parts of the country to militants, selling public goods, and denying external intervention in matters of governance. If anything, they have proven to be the most consistently performing group of the country.

The link for the chart was sent to me by fellow blogger Desi Che

PS: Those looking for laughs should check out the comments section in dawn blog, I personally think common sense is the rarest commodity these days.


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  • While I dont think we should take these surveys overly seriously (they are probably done by some Intern based on secondary data)perhaps there are some learnings/ insights.

  • So what are you surprised, amazed, outraged or sad at the grading system or disappointed for not scoring high enough to be at the top. I don’t get it but that does not matter? With the current state of things the moment is not far when it will surpass all charts and graphs of failures and then set new records. Sad isn’t it. For Pakistan to be even considered in the same group as some of these countries is shameful enough. I just hope the “Leaders” of your country can read this, I know they can read but I hope they can understand it as well.
    The least they can do is publically apologize and then go home and commit suicide. What a pity and shame.
    Desperate time warrants desperate actions, Continue to write to educate as the poison is slowly creeping. Take small steps in your own world to change things and cause ripple action. There are no leaders at top just scavengers.

  • haha i read the comments on the dawn site. made for fun reading. I think you waste your satire and sarcasm on these people who just dont get it.

  • Amazing stuff.

    Hey Tazeen,

    Your ability to poke fun at serious matters is simply incredible.

  • 😀 I was waiting to see how many got it!
    greta post Tazeen:)

  • Tazeeen:

    Going to the comments at the Dawn site was scary. When the difference between satire and seriousness has been obliterated in the eyes of so many, it does bring a smile but shakes me up no end.

    You’ve got to start writing serious stuff for people to mistake it for satire. Anyway, great work. Keep it up and stay safe. You rock, Ma’am.

  • I cannot agree “now” that Pakistan is a failed state but with current energy crisis its not far from becoming one.

  • Che,

    The irony is that the post at Dawn says, “Blogger Tazeen Javed returns with her weekly dose of satire” imagine what would have happened if they had not written that.

  • Mr Mohammad Faizur Rab in the Dawn comments thought your name is Tasneem! Lolz.

  • Awais,

    Him calling me tasneem is not as scary as him thinking that there is an international conspiracy underway to demonize Pakistan and the fact that I believe it.

  • Seriously now….there is a parallel conspiracy going on here. How the fuck can ALL the retards flock together to ONE blog in Dawn and comment such diverse nonsense? From concerns about the LoC to comparing with India and bollywood.

    I mean… it would be interesting to know what tipped 🙂

  • Sony,

    hahaha, I was wondering the same. Honestly, i couldn’t read them all but liked one comment where someone wrote that I need to write serious stuff, people may take it up as satire or something.

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