Pakistan and Its Problems
Ninian, Alex, Contemporary Review
PAKISTAN cannot be ignored by the rest of the world for two main reasons. It has the sixth biggest population in the world, which was recorded as 173 million in July 2008 and is estimated at over 180 million now. The United Nations Population Division has estimated that it will be of the order of 335 million by 2050 placing it as the fourth largest nation in the world after India, China and the USA. The watching world is also conscious of the fact that Pakistan is the only Muslim state in the world to be an acknowledged nuclear power. Add to this the fact that the US, the UK and their allies are fighting a war in Afghanistan which makes its neighbour Pakistan a key player.
America's, and the world's, interest in this and the possibility that the nuclear weapons might fall into the hands of terrorists may be the reason that Pakistan will not be allowed to fail but, apart from that, the country is in a considerable mess with doubtful prospects of surviving as a state, never mind a stable democracy. The economy is not good, the country is beset by insurgents, ethnic and sectarian tensions are rising, the Taliban's influence in Punjab is on the increase, provinces are at loggerheads with the centre and there are great tracts of the country where the government's writ does not run. For the UK, Pakistan presents a particular problem: the great majority of terrorist plots carried out in Britain have originated in Pakistan. The large number of Pakistanis living in Britain means there are many connections between the two countries. In the middle of May several high-level US officials concerned with terrorism and security, including the head of the CIA, visited Pakistan to discuss the failed attempt to blow up a car packed with explosives in Times Square in New York City. A US citizen of Pakistani birth has been accused of that crime and he seems to have had many links with the Pakistani Taliban and their terrorist plots. This attempt highlights the reasons why the West takes such an interest in Pakistan.
Some analysts are calling Pakistan a failed state while others are calling it a rogue state. On the question of whether Pakistan is a failed state, opinions seem to be divided between 'yes it is' and 'not yet'.
The financial year in Pakistan runs from 1 July to 30 June and for the last full year the economy of the country was in big trouble. Other developing counties like India, China and even Bangladesh managed to grow by 7 per cent and above, despite the world financial slowdown, but Pakistan could only post growth of 1.8 per cent. Inflation was 20.8 per cent in 2008 and 14.2 per cent in 2009, the rupee depreciated, and the trade deficit reached its highest level in the country's 63-year history. This forced a cap-in-hand appeal to the IMF which produced an IMF International Fund Stand-By Agreement in November 2008. This, plus US aid, staved off total bankruptcy. The IMF package has been extended in 2010 to $11.3 billion and the US has pledged to commit $1.5 billion a year for non-military spending. A report by the US General Accounting Office in 2008 reported that, of the $7 billion distributed to 27 countries by the US between 2002 and 2008, $5.5 billion had gone to Pakistan in non-military aid. A further $10 billion had been given in military aid, making the total help to Pakistan since 2002, some $15.5 billion. The country's main infrastructure weakness is the shortage of energy production and critics say that the government has neglected to spend aid on new facilities and even skimped on repairs to existing ones. The unemployment rate is about 15 per cent and GDP per capita is only $2,600 per annum, which is ranked 130th in the world and only 1 per cent of the population pay income tax.
On a more optimistic note, the IMF has reported in Islamabad in February 2010 that Pakistan is progressing well. It stated that Pakistan had observed all quantitative performance criteria for end-December 2009, except for the budget deficit target which was exceeded by a small margin. …