It is feverish and flooded but Pakistan can yet thrive

Mohsin Hamid in the Financial Times:

Portal-graphics-20_1158635a Pakistan’s airwaves and front pages, blogs and cafés are full of the debates of a rambunctious multi-party democracy, one of precious few in the region between India and Europe.

Yet the battle against despair is a constant one. I feel it after each deadly terrorist attack, of which this year there have been half a dozen in Lahore alone, killing some 200 people. I try to shut off my novelist’s imagination when I go to my barber, otherwise I might think that the glass of his window could make effective shrapnel and any of the motorcycles parked outside could be rigged with explosives. I also try not to think too much about the snipers on the rooftops of primary schools and the steel barricades at their gates, telling myself my daughter still has some years left before she has to enrol.

It is difficult, however, to ignore the fact that the electricity to my house is cut off for a third of the day, Pakistan having failed to plan for rapidly growing demand. It is also difficult to ignore a general sense of malaise, of steadily dropping official standards, brought home recently by a tragic aircraft crash and multiple aviation near-accidents in a single week.

And now there are the floods. The worst natural disaster in living memory, they have brought devastation to 14m Pakistanis, a number almost as large as the populations of New York and London combined. Pakistan normally ranks fourth in the world’s production of cotton and milk, and 10th in wheat – but this terrible year it will not.

Slowly and painfully, however, Pakistan should recover. And beyond that, its future need not be bleak.

More here.