Is Pakistan a Failed State?


(soon to be published in ‘The News”)

Ijaz Ul Haq
Former Minister for Religious Affairs & Minorities

Washington based Fund for Peace; an Independent Research Organization has conducted a world wide survey to index the failing states wherein Pakistan has been placed at the 10th position in the International Community. Our country has been categorized as insecure, unstable and a breeding ground for terrorism and spreading extremism, which will affect everyone.

It is a widely recognized survey and accepted to be reliable. The Group has based its results on 12 indicators relating to rulers and the ruled. In 2007 Pakistan occupied the 12th Position where from it nosedived to the 9th position in 2008 i.e. this decline was seen after the democracy had been restored and the present leadership was effectively placed. In 2009, we are lucky to have crept up by a decimal.

The indicators used are:

Demographic Pressures – Refugees/IDPs – Group Grievances – Human flight – Uneven Development – Economic Decline – Delegitimization of the State – Public Service – Human Rights – Security Apparatus – Factionalized Elites – External Intervention

The question that causes a stir is that are we really a failed state? Good enough, the surveys / findings may prove us so, but is the ground situation really bad enough for us to be bracketed with tiny African states like Chad and Guinea?

For academic interest at least, let us examine the phenomenon in a little detail and have a closer look at the Indicators. Demographic constants apart, we take into consideration the Indicators leading us to the Indexed position.  We seem to conclude and find that it is not the failure of the State but in actual effect, it is the failure of our Leadership and its Policies. And by a stretch it proves the fact that it is the failure of American policies, imposed and followed in these countries that have landed them to such a dismal and un-enviable condition.  Leaving aside the Tiny African States, countries like Somalia, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan are listed among Failed States. Iraq and Afghanistan are under physical military occupation of the US while influence, intervention and involvement of the US in Somalia, Zimbabwe and Sudan is manifestly apparent and open.

Leadership thrown up to rule Pakistan Iraq and Afghanistan, to the nails, is backed by the United States. In our case, it is Washington washed, Condy Cleansed and Boucher Brought Leadership. What sanctification indeed!!  The scores of secret meetings that took place with Ms Candoleezza Rice and Mr. Boucher in Dubai and else where, the undertakings and commitments made by our present rulers to further American interests in the region, ought to put us to shame.

Before the general elections in ‘07, President Musharaf had no holds barred, in telling Ch. Shujaat Hussain that it has been pre-arranged that PML (Q) will now be given and should be content with only 40 – 50 odd National Assembly seats.  The majority will be given to the Pakistan’s People Party (PPP) as allowed and ordained by the USA.

The former President, in his lust and hope to continue to rule, felt no remorse to become a part and partner in the despised game plan and despicable deal through notorious NRO. Which law of the land sanctions such a compromise and connivance at national level, on basic norms of morality,   attributes of intellectual honesty and fair play – the very foundation of an edifice – the Islamic Republic of Pakistan? Statutory Offences and offences against the state are neither compoundable nor condonable. For us, the primitive age is still not over.  The point to prove and regret is that the US – the sole superpower and symbol of democracy, independence, and human rights, stoop so low to sponsor and support such a move to ensure the return to throne of discredited, dishonest rulers.  The governance deficit of these Baptized Puritans is so low that in every Pakistani’s estimation they hold the poorest of credentials and credibility. Their popularity rating can be gauged from the inland SMS traffic. It would be an amusing survey. More laughable is the Law Enactment in this regard. It would be naïve to expect such a piece with stand the adjudication and judicial review. On the Indicators, it is this de-legitimized government which is responsible for our down slide.  It is this Angelic Elites and Factionalized Few, with wealth both legitimate and illegitimate amassed abroad, that has contributed to our indexation amongst   failed states. It is this External Intervention that has brought the present leaders to the fore.

The economic decline is due largely to poor economic and fiscal policies of the government. The billions looted and billions written off as a result of NRO. The big loans un-accounted for and waived off by various regimes of the recent past over the years and similar fat amounts wasted on endless war on terror are a sufficient factor for our economic decline if not collapse.

Refugees / IDPs and involuntary displacement is a direct outcome of drone attacks and military operations. This is the largest internal displacement of approximately 2.5 million people ever experienced by donor agencies.

In year 2006, I attended two Seminars held at Lahore organized by Council of Pakistan Affairs and Pakistan Institute of World Peace. The participants comprised Economists, Businessmen, Intelligentsia, and Professors from the Far East and eminent personalities from respective fields. The speakers were almost unanimous in predicting the fall of the USA in at least economic terms – thereby declining its role and curtailing its capacity to act and its longevity as a Sole Super Power – the war on terror being the cause of drain and possible destabilization of its economy. The billions of dollars spent on war on terror would cause enormous strain on US economic and other potentials, would weaken its capabilities and eventually it would fall apart  from within into Zones – as one may call it – at least on linguistic basis if not other identities.

It looked like a prophecy and a paradox – far fetched from reality and unlikely to happen.

Today, we are witnessing such tendencies and demands, for example, that Spanish should be made the primary language in its North. The Mexican majority areas have their own group grievances. Through massive subsidies and support funds, major business concerns and banks have been put on ventilators while others have collapsed.  Unemployment and retrenchment are on the rise. The Pakistani Think Tanks have proven right in their prediction and pronouncements.

More than 40% of our population is living and languishing below poverty line with no access to the basic amenities of life. What to talk of amenities, the very basic barest needs of education, employment, health and even clean drinking water. Common commodities of daily life are beyond their reach. The hapless masses are crying for justice, equity and employment. Their life has been made miserable for lack of good governance. For the relief, they have no recourse. Rampant corruption, erosion of government control, and authority is so glaring that target and mass killings in Karachi fail to attract the mischief of Law. Dozens of dead bodies are consigned to nowhere without naming the killers and the killed. The opposition which is unique in its nature being in coalition in Punjab and friendly in the Center has not played its due role of check and balance. The voice of the masses, the burden of price hike, law and order etc is not being aired at any forum whatsoever. They rush towards the Chief Justice to come to their rescue for their collective and individual unfathomable grievances of daily life like POL prices and electricity tariff. The Opposition has not been given its due role to play in the national affairs as evidenced during the recent Budget Session. The Cut Motions relating to law and order by the Opposition were shelved / withdrawn. To promote personalized Party Rule constitutional provisions are being contemplated to further curtail the role of a viable opposition.

 As a Federal Minister for Religious Affairs, my portfolio required comparatively more frequent meetings with President Musharaf. In my own humble way, I resisted foreign imposed pressures and restrictions about the Islamic Seminaries and their syllabi. Though known little to friends outside, I even raised concerns regarding the handling of the entire Lal Masjid episode. In a meeting in 2006, President Musharaf told me not to favor MMA Members of Parliament, as in the New Scheme of Things they will not be allowed to re-emerge or regain prominence in the political arena and only the secular and moderates will be allowed a role. General Musharaf stressed that the government is required to move away from religious elements and I should as well. On Lal Masjid and other such issues, General Musharaf clearly indicated that I should abdicate my conviction and my real forte. At one point, I had even decided to resign from my position but I was persuaded to stay, and to seek some sanity to prevail. However, it did not happen and I failed to forestall the finales that followed. My heart goes out for the innocent lives lost in the Lal Masjid tragedy. I did not resign but sincerely feel that it might have been more desirable and far more prudent.  

From the above, one can deduce and derive that Pakistan is not a failed state. However, it is the failure of our rulers and their Masters.



  1. “My heart goes out for the innocent lives lost” <– how convenient to do a flip-flop now. I guess when in Rome, do as the Romans do.

  2. Thanks for your response, Anonymous.

    It’s actually not a “flip-flop” – If you read about the Lal Masjid incident from the past, you will see that Ijaz Ul Haq was one of the very few ministers who openly spoke in public about the fact that he was not in favor of what happened and was strongly against this act.

  3. Junaid · · Reply

    @ Anonymous…. I’m not a huge fan of anyone who joined hands with Mushrraf and played under his wings but it is true that Mr. Ijaz did whatever he could to bring an end to the Lal Masjid Operation. I might be wrong here… but the coverage of the whole lal Masjid operation made me feel that Mr. Ijaz was negotiating with Ghazi more like a friend then in his capacity as the Minister for religious affairs. When the whole deal broke down and i saw the minister in tears on capital talk.. i had a feeling that he would resign but he did not and there can be many reasons for it which are obviously known only to the former minister himself. However, i do have great respect for the man for not giving up till the very last night and expressing his helplessness once he returned from the GHQ.

    Mr. Ijaz correctly states in his article that Pakistan is not a failed state, and that the only failure is of our rulers and their masters. However, it would have been pleasant to read that the writer in his article retires from politics accepting the fact that he is pretty much a part of the failed ruling class. Who knows maybe after his retirement we’ll see the Chaudrys following his footsteps, then Mr. Akhter, slowly and steadily the Pml N and then the PPP, MQM, ANP, MMA, PTI. And maybe then the real people will be able to rule the country.. people from middle lower class.

  4. Danish Khan · · Reply

    “Condy Cleansed and Boucher Brought Leadership”…has to be the best pun I could quote from the article. The question it poses, whether Pakistan is a Failed State can be well answered, in a beffiting some what humourous manner through this pun…it was all “Condy Cleansed and Boucher Brought Leadership”.

    These so-called Think Tanks of Washington’s elites, lobbyists, financiers and political class have been airing such nonsensical rhetoric off age. This term failed state arose during the Cold War, when Communist States of the Former Soviet Union were deemed failed for matter of convenience and strategizing the fate of states. Therefore, in order to believe without proper academic research whatever is told by these Think Tanks is stupidity. I am the least bothered!

    The situation within United States itself is not too bright either. I mean lets just look at Law and Order as an indicator: one does not have to be a scholar to know that the highest number of deaths from arms occur in the United States each year, rape, murder, some of the biggest frauds in human history have taken place only in the last century and continue to emerge, Enron and Bernard Madoff to name a few.

    Fact of the matter is, that United States does not give a flying duck about the people of Pakistan and what conditions they are in because of policies imposed and agreed upon, stated in the article above. In order to only expand their interests in a region laden with minerals, untapped natural resources and geostrategic location.

    Americans must realise that in order to succeed, they do not have to be bullies or conspirators against us. But then again, arrogant power is an evil vice fuelled by greed.

    @Anonymous – You may have taken a 387 A.D. quote of St. Ambrose and wittingly used it within this context. What you don’t realise is that St. Ambrose stated this to St. Augustine who was visiting Milan and not Rome, therefore, I shall use the idiom for the Americans and say when in Rome do as the Romans do, because Pakistan is certainly not Ancient Rome or Rome’s “Colosseum” of theatrical conspiracies.

    The author’s stance on Lal Masjid, and especially the build-up to the situation was evident, documented and maintained. You just need to be in touch with the current affairs.

  5. First Step · · Reply

    Well, tell us something new. We all know where Pakistan stands, what % of people live below poverty line etc.

    We need to know the solutions, solutions and only solutions. We all know the problems, even a common citizen is well aware of some of the facts due to loads of talk shows etc.

    Since Independence, Pakistan never got an opportunity to stand on its foot. Again, we all know the reasons. Everything boiled down to leadership whether leaders of 70’s , 90’s or today. No leader till today showed up a complete role model. WHY? in 80’s, some of the Goverment Senior Officals predicted that Pakistan will have energy crises and proposed Solar System, Why it was not taken seriously by the Goverment at that time.

    WE NEED TO STOP THIS BLAME GAME. We need leaders who loves to work for country not individuals, who are ready to take hundred painful steps to enjoy million gains, we need leaders whose first priority is their common man and not their families, friends, bank balance, etc, we need leaders like Hazarat Abu Bakar (RS), Hazarat Omar, and above all Hazarat Muhammad (S.A.W.). Yes, that’s what we need. And believe me; we have hundreds of such pious, intellectual and highly educated people. It’s just a matter of right appointment, bring right set of people on the top, we need to break the monopoly of few selected people who have been tried and tested hundred times. We need to say no to million things that we do nowadays; as an example how can a nation like us afford a daily expense of 600,000 allocated for Prime Minister travel, there are hundreds of such examples I can quote, we have to scarifies ourselves, our personal agendas, interest and personal life style for this country. Every single citizen especially the Ministers and above has to become Quaid-I-Azam, think like Quaid and behavior like Quaid. We need to ask, what I have done so far for this country. Friends, its time to be practical, its better to do it now to save our future.

    Presently, we have leaders partially or fully corrupt, all sailing in one boat. The only difference is, at times, they make government, at times, make opposition.

    For me, the deadly situation of Lal Masjid was much more than just saying No to Mush. If i would have been in Ijaz sb shoes, i would have either make it or break it as it was a question of innocent girls and boys. I would have resigned, came on the roads, protest, protest and protest for those kids. After All, no one is going to be answerable for my deeds in the end!!!!.

    Pakistan is indeed safe state and not failed state. As it is protected by Allah and his pious people and their prayers. The government has done no miracles to protect it.

    It is easy to write articles, give expert opinions but what we need is not articles, we need actions, faith in Allah, Unity in Nation and endless efforts of day and night to win the battle. If Iran can do, if many other countries younger than Pakistan can do, then we can also do. We were the ones at one time in History when other countries used to look up to our Engineers, Scientist, Doctors, Pilots etc for world-wide solutions. Even now, Hundreds of Pakistanis are working with Top World Class Employers like Microsoft, Dell, Toyota, etc on very high level positions. Companies are running because of Pakistanis Dynamic Contributions and efforts. We need a leader who can bring all these dynamic efforts under one umbrella. Umbrella of Pakistan prosperity and growth.

    There was a time in 2005, I did series of interviews of Pakistanis working abroad and taking pretty attractive packages. 95% of them said, we want to come back and work for our country, we are ready to work on less salary but the issue is that the Government and Private Sector has no such conducive systems to absorb us.

  6. Dawood Ahmed · · Reply

    Pakistan is not a failed state. I actually think Pakistan is most adaptable nation in the world. It has gone through many trial and trabulations very successfully. People of Pakistan have learned to survive in a very difficult enviroment; load shedding, water shortage, gas shortage, bribery, bhata khoury, etc.
    I believe Pakistan is most resourceful both in human and material. However, it is most unfortunate for Pakistan that it has been mis-managed for many years by corrupt civilian/military leaders. Pakistan is governed by one “TOLA” for the last several decades. If Pakistan is manager right today, I strongly believe it would be one of the best country to live and prosper in. But, who will tie the bell??? application of the law must the same for all; poor or rich or land lords or wadera or choudhry or military officer or the police officer. No one should be about the law. my two cents!!

  7. Ghaffar Ahmed · · Reply

    Definitely not. Pakistan is 100% not a failed state. And whoever so calls it should be ripped off the paki citizenship.

    Pakistan is currently under wrong leadership at the sametime external threat and pressure to a certain level. Up’s and down are there in every life. Pakistan as a life has it’s own up’s and down’s. We need to get united to get Paki out of this difficulty.

    The time is coming when Paki would rise again in every field. We have plenty of resources of all kinds. A few days back a major (from Pakistan military) made us proud of Pakistan when he scored the best academic student in Britain. And days before that a student made us proud of being the youngest researcher around the world by winning a research compitition in Britain.

    Don’t we have a reason to be proud of Pakistan as a Nation. I AM definitely proud

  8. M Lightwala · · Reply

    “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves if we are underlings”

    Unfortunately, all the replies above are typical of Pakistanis emotional, illogical, “ostrich” response, whenever someone calls us a “failed state”. We start by listing all the great resources we have (which by the way Allah has given to ALL the countries in the world, it is just a matter of who can utilise it properly), and how we don’t have the right “leadership” (as if our leadership has come from outer space or that we would behave any differently if we had the power), or how all the world is conspiring against us (as if they have nothing better to do), or how all the “hidden hands” are making us fight amongst ourselves (why is it that WE are not able to make THEM fight amongst themselves?)

    For all our problems, someone else is to blame. We never, ever look at our own individual deeds as a common citizen. As they tell you in TQM “if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem”.

    If instead of trying to change the world by revolution, each one of us should just fulfill his own simple responsibilites as a citizen.

  9. Pakistan is in many ways a failed state and this is made abundantly clear by the fact that a semi-literate electorate has elected a notorious criminal as their Prime Minister.

    Until true land reform is carried out, and the grip of the landholding class is broken, Pakistan can never emerge as anything but a failure. Successive governments can do nothing to bring about development until land reform is achieved.

  10. Pakistan is not a failed state but our intelligence (ISI, FIA etc.) have the full capability of making it one in no time.
    The day people of Pakistan get to call the shots is the day such allegations/speculations will stop. The biggest obstacle to freedom in Pakistan is its establishment. This is the new breed of elitist in Pakistan. Pakistan is not threatened by feudels anymore. Its the establishment forces (bureaucrats, armed forces etc.) that threatens its existence.

  11. Usman Ahmed Khan · · Reply

    I just wish that I was able to agree with postings made by some above but in the true sense of the word, I am afraid we are on an express way to become one if not already. I do not mean to upset anyone’s emotions but the state of affairs we are in are indicators to a failed state!

    Pakistan, the land of pure, made after long struggle has been reduced to some sorry state situated in African continent. Our only contention till present is going nuclear and the famous cricket world cup(s) in 1992 or this year.

    Pakistan may have gone down to the dogs in stately affairs but it is certainly one of the finest nation’s on the face of earth that is still withstanding so much of ill and deceive, which certainly is a silver lining and if not us, may be our children to come would be able to boast on their origin

  12. Babar Afridi · · Reply

    Lets not get emotional, its a very logical questions. What is ‘defintion of failed state’
    From Wikipedia,
    The term failed state is often used by political commentators and journalists to describe a state perceived as having failed at some of the basic conditions and responsibilities of a sovereign government. In order to make this definition more precise, the following attributes, proposed by the Fund for Peace, are often used to characterize a failed state:

    loss of physical control of its territory, or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force therein,
    erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions,
    an inability to provide reasonable public services, and
    an inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community.
    Common characteristics of a failing state include a central government so weak or ineffective that it has little practical control over much of its territory; non-provision of public services; widespread corruption and criminality; refugees and involuntary movement of populations; and sharp economic decline [1].

    The level of government control required to avoid being considered a failed state varies considerably amongst authorities.[2] Furthermore, the declaration that a state has “failed” is generally controversial and, when made authoritatively, may carry significant geopolitical consequences.[2]

    If you look at the definition of failed state we meet all criteria, logically we are failed state so stop bikering, except the fact & lets move to make Pakistan a sucessful state!!!!!

  13. Atique Ur Rahman · · Reply

    Pakistan is not a failed state at all, I would say that the Pakistan is the only Muslim State that exist on the face of the world with its ideological identity. Go back to history, 14 points of Quaid-e-Azam brought a revolution in terms of Pakistan. Remember we are diffrent then others. To prove it ask those who are living in Europe Or States for more then 3 to 4 decades but still they are called Pakistanis or Muslims and have some existance as comunity, still they practice more or same life style and try to abide by the same values that their ancesstors used to, on the other hand those who have lost their identity, that minority in these developed countries exist no where and they have no say at all.

    Survival of Pakistan is not dependent on economy, its survival is dependent on its ideology. Unfortunately our leaders are so duffers, idiots and coward. They never understand actual base of Pakistan, they feel that if America is happy then the country can only survive otherwise ——–, but in actual its vice versa.

  14. I like this – and agree with the perceived threats (with limited borrowed knowledge from family back home). But to the point that your father makes, where is this leadership going to come from? Who is going to topple Zardari and NRO? In my view, we need to suplement the discussion in the media with street agitation – in the absence of a credible parliament (maintained by the article also), civil disobediance is the only way forward – and for this to happen people such as your father who hold a credible public persona need to play a leading role in attracting and aligning the masses …

    Also, I think the question isn’t why India or any other foreign power is creating unrest in Baluchistan, instead its why and what is driving the Baloch people to ascede to their advances so easily … there is tremendous discord within the province which in large part is of our own making! Thus in the end we have no one to blame but ourselves … but as the article states, I believe there is still time to correct the course!

    Would be most interested to know his view on a specific course of action to bridge the leadership deficit and align the provinces … goes without saying that you dont have to answer any of this but thought id feedback / ask nonetheless 🙂

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