With Friends Like These: On Pakistan

Christian Parenti in The Nation:

FlagbigIt’s best not to dwell too much on Pakistan, or at least Ahmed Rashid’s description of it in Pakistan on the Brink, because the conclusions are so grim. Consider the variables: there are at least three civil wars being fought in the country, which has an arsenal of around 100 atomic weapons and is manufacturing more. Its military and intelligence services have cultivated religious extremists and terrorists as policy proxies for nearly sixty years, and have now lost control of some of them. The social capacities of the government’s civilian branches are minimal; its bureaucracies are largely unable or unwilling to do the economic planning and development necessary to meet the basic needs of the world’s sixth-most-populous nation. Its economic growth is only about half that of Bangladesh or Sri Lanka, and is generally well below half of the typical growth rates in India; consequently, its economy can’t create enough work for its “youth bulge” (35 percent of Pakistanis are below the age of 15). The country’s political class is composed mostly of reactionary landlords who steal from the public coffers and oppose meaningful social reform. In 2011, more than two-thirds of Pakistani lawmakers—rich men, mostly—did not even bother with the pretense of filing income taxes. The president, Asif Ali Zardari, was among them.

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