Aug 31, 2007 0
Sixty years into its existence, Pakistan finds itself in one of its most critical junctures ever. Its paradoxical predicament is as precarious as it is hopeful—and one that much of the world has its eyes on.
Pakistan is home to an emerging market with one of Asia’s fastest growing labor pools, economies, and bourses; yet an overwhelming majority has not seen the fruits of recent years’ rapid growth.
The country is one of the world’s seven nuclear powers, yet the state cannot establish its own writ in various pockets of the country, and recently, in areas of its own capital.
Pakistan is one of the more hopeful candidates for democracy in the Muslim world. Indeed, its democratic experience is richer than that of its Arab Muslim counterparts by far. However, it has faced military rule for over half its existence; its two most prominent politicians reside outside the country; and its civilian rulers often crossed into authoritarianism themselves.
The country has witnessed both growing conservatism and liberalism, as well as interesting by-products in between (think, respectively, of Farhat Hashmi, Begum Nawazish Ali, and Javed Ghamdi). Islamist parties have never fared well nationally in Pakistan’s polls, nor have they received a harsh hand from the state. In fact, they have often been allies of elements of the state apparatus. But increasingly, militants of an Islamist sort have turned their eyes on Pakistan’s rulers, and the violence is more than part of a tough divorce.
Since September 11, Pakistan’s partnership with the United States has been its paramount foreign relationship. But it is a pairing that is top-heavy, and marked by growing distrust and—on the Pakistani side—perpetual insecurity. Washington considers Islamabad a major ally in the war on terror, so much that Pakistan is one of its largest recipients of foreign aid. Still, it sees areas of Pakistan as safehavens for al-Qaeda, and some voices in the Bush administration, as well as the larger U.S. policy community, attribute this to a lack of Pakistan will toward, or even interest in, uprooting the terror group.
A survey of leading American terrorism experts lists Pakistan as the country most likely to become an al-Qaeda stronghold and transfer nuclear technology to terrorists in the next three to five years; Pakistan was second behind Russia as the ally seen as least serving American national security interests. The Pakistani reaction to recent National Intelligence Report and Barack Obama’s subsequent remarks on entering Pakistani territory was strong—suggesting a growing sense of elite anger toward Washington.
For better or worse, both countries will find themselves tied together for the next coming years—if not decades. Pakistan will remain critical to regional and global security, as well as U.S. interests abroad. And the United States will remain the world’s sole superpower for the next decade or so, and an important trade partner and source of aid for Pakistan.
The long-term relationship between Pakistan and the United States is a broad focus of this blog. Our aim is to help bridge the growing gap between the U.S. and Pakistani policy communities and produce a more informed discourse on relations between Islamabad and Washington. Toward this goal, we aim to have guest bloggers representing policy makers, intellectuals, and commentators from both countries.
The purview of this blog, however, transcends U.S.-Pakistan relations. As parties interested in a secure, prosperous, and progressive Pakistan, we will provide regular commentary on Pakistan’s domestic politics and foreign policy. Periodically, we’ll also publish in-depth reports and strategy papers.
In the next few weeks, not only will you see a significant pick-up in our activity, but you’ll also be able to access our first strategy paper, which proposes a comprehensive way forward out of Pakistan’s endemic instability and underdevelopment.
We hope to not only raise the quality of discourse about Pakistan and U.S.-Pakistan relations, but also play a role in helping produce a country Pakistanis can finally be proud of—and fully see as their own.