Pakistan: the hard reality

At Open Democracy, Anatol Lieven writes:

If there is one phrase which defines many aspects of Pakistan, it is “Janus-faced”. So apt do I find it, and so often did I use it in the draft of my book Pakistan: A Hard Country (Penguin/Public Affairs, 2011), that the editor went through the manuscript excising it.

Where politics are concerned, the notion suggests that many of the features of Pakistan’s state and government which are responsible for holding Islamist extremism in check are at the same time responsible for holding back Pakistan’s social, economic and political development.

This is most obviously true of the Pakistan army. The institution is essential to keeping the country together, but through its proportionally huge budget drains money that might otherwise have gone to development; and through its repeated interventions in government acts as a brake on what might otherwise have been greater progress towards democracy.

The operative word here, however, is “might”. For even leaving aside the military, there are colossal obstacles in Pakistan both to the creation a truly representative democracy and to economic and social progress. These obstacles are bound up both with the deep conservatism of most of the population, and with the entrenched power of local kinship groups and the landowning and urban bosses who lead them.

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