ISSN 2330-717X

Pakistan In 2012 Failed States Index: All That Glitters Is Not Gold? – Analysis


By Lidia Leoni

Although its situation remains rated as Critical, Pakistan improved its score (102.30 to 101.60) and placement (12th to 13th) in this year’s Failed States Index, (FSI) thus continuing the positive, albeit slow trend since reaching its worst ever score in 2009 (104.1/120).

A closer look at the causal factors and at the individual indicators present a different story; Pakistan’s position deteriorated in three critical categories, Group Grievance, Poverty and External Intervention, while improvements in other categories are the result of external rather than internal factors. This study aims at analysing Pakistan’s performance in the 2012 Failed States Index by reflecting on underlying reasons, while at the same time questioning the reliability of the Index in conveying the true sense of the current situation.

Since the Index is used to assess short and long-term developments in a given country, this analysis will concentrate on a comparison of Pakistan’s current scores with previous ones.

Background: The methodology

The Index compiled by Funds for Peace (FfP) uses twelve social, political and economic indicators representing different types of pressures faced by states on a scale from zero to ten to rate the stability of a country, with ten meaning most unstable and zero meaning most stable. The methodology used to assess the scores is based on a content analysis of collected information about these pressures. The analysis is then converted into a score by an algorithm assessing the significance of each pressure for a given county. These results are further integrated with qualitative and quantitative data drawing from major events during a year. The data is collected during the year previous to the publication of the Index, meaning that the 2012 data reflect developments happening in 2011.

Pakistan in 2011: Why does it glitter, then?

Within the social indicators, Pakistan’s score improved of 0.3 points in Demographic Pressures scoring 8.5 out of 10 compared to 8.8 the previous year. The same margin was seen in Brain Drain with a score of 7.2 against the previous total of 7.5 out of 10. A 0.2 point improvement was also seen in Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons scoring at 9 opposed to the previous year’s 9.2 score, while Group Grievance worsened by 0.3 points jumping from 9.3 to 9.6.

The Demographic Pressures improvement can be interpreted under the light of the migratory pressures Pakistan faced following the 2010 floods. Given the fact that in 2011 (the rains are yet to come in 2012) the floods affected a smaller area, it was predictable that this score would improve. Still, Pakistan is yet to reach pre-2010 scores. A similar assertion can be made in regard of Refugees And Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), though in this case Pakistan was able to improve only 0.1 points, showing the government’s inability to efficiently deal with IDPs due to either flooding or instability.

As noted by the Fund for Peace in last year’s Country Profile for Pakistan, the decreasing number of educated and middle-class Pakistani who decide to leave the country (Brain Drain indicator) was the result of the tightening of immigration laws in countries that are the main targets of such immigration. The further improvement of the indicator can be adduced to the effects of the same factor. 2011 for example saw Kuwait banning visas for Pakistani nationals and the UK tightening its immigration regulations significantly.

The worsening of the Group Grievance indicator denotes deterioration in ethno-sectarian related violence. In this respect, Human Rights Watch’s Annual Report underlines how the second half of 2011 was characterised by a spiral of violence against Shia Muslims and other vulnerable communities in Pakistan. The attempt to amend the blasphemy law was silenced by the targeted killings of two prominent supporters of the cause, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti. Ethnic violence especially deteriorated in Balochistan, where the army and the paramilitary Frontier Corps are held responsible for the disappearance of alleged militants and opposition activists, in what The Guardian has defined Pakistan’s “dirty little war”. At the same time, Balochi militants increased their attacks on non-Balochi civilians. Discrimination was also perpetuated against the Ahmadi community, which is targeted by blasphemy and community specific laws as well as social discrimination, as shown by the expulsion of 10 students from a school in Hafizabad in Punjab. The improvements in this indicator in the 2011 Index over 2010 were put down by FfP as owing to the lack of ethnic violence during and as a result of the floods; this year’s escalation score denotes a resumption of sectarian violence, therefore directly linked to the lack of widespread flooding.

In the economic indicators, while the Uneven Development has seen improvement, the Poverty and Economic Decline (7.2/10) Indicator has worsened by a whopping 0.6 over last year’s score of 6.6, marking Pakistan’s biggest jump in this year’s Index. This result denotes a steady downfall of the Pakistani economy which is a consistent trend since 2010. Pakistan’s economic growth stands at 3.6 percent and remains decidedly lower than its neighbours Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India, while inflation rose, in spite being theoretically contained by a tightened monetary policy. Inflation, combined with power shortages and an insecure political situation have undermined Foreign Direct Investment, as underlined by the World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects published in June 2012. Although Pakistan is recovering from the floods of 2010, the risk exists that heavy rains and power shortages will damage standing crops and affect this year’s harvest, which could result in a further weakening of agricultural performance.

Within the political indicators, the Legitimacy of the State indicator shows further improvements (0.3 jump from 8.6 in 2011), although the total remains fairly low at 8.3. The continuance of a relatively stable democracy in spite of significant challenges as well as the emergence of new political forces such as Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, which has enjoyed growing popularity contributed to this score. The data for the index was collected, however, before the recent clash between the executive and the judiciary happened, which ultimately led to the resignation of PM Yousuf Raza Gilani. This could translate in a renewed loss of confidence in the political system and given how the Index works will probably be translated into next year’s score.

The score indicating the lack of Public Services remains high at 7 with gas, water and power shortages being a constant feature of the Pakistanis’ every-day-life. At the same time this represents the best result Pakistan achieved in any of the indicators within the index, and an improvement of 0.3 points from last year, reaching its best performance since the first publishing of the Index in 2005. This development comes up as rather surprising, given the fact that 2011 was marked by an explosion of riots related to power shortages caused by outages of up to 18 hours per day. Given that no significant infrastructural improvements have been made this last year, this score is perplexing and has defied analysis from information available in the public sphere. One possible explanation is that the massive increase in poverty mentioned earlier means that the total number of people able to afford public services has decreased hence better provision of extant services to a smaller pool of people who can still afford the same.

Human Rights Watch defined Pakistan’s performance on the deliverance of Human Rights during 2011 as “disastrous”. Within the Failed States Index Pakistan posted an improvement of 0.1 points, but its situation remains critical at 8.6 out of ten. Since Funds for Peace recommends that 0.1 to 0.2 changes stand within the margins of error, exaggeratedly small scoring differences can be considered consistent with last year’s. As already pointed out with regard to group grievance, religious and ethnic-related violence was widespread during 2011. In respect of press freedom, Pakistan was declared for the second year in a row “Most Dangerous Country for Journalists” by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Pakistan’s poor human rights record is a consequence of its traditional weaknesses ? the continuing importance of tribal and kinship structures, as well as systemic abuses by security forces.

The Security Apparatus indicator also remained constant, with a slight improvement of 0.1 over last year’s 9.4, but still critical at 9.3 out of ten. This score denotes how, despite four years of civilian government, the role of the army remains crucial in the Pakistani decision-making process and with a veto on foreign and defence policy as well as on its economic interests. Beside of the shadow of an over-powerful army, Pakistan has to deal with the presence of insurgent groups on its territory, parts of which it does not control. This despite the improved situation, post the retaking of the Swat region in 2009 and a by and large corrupt and inefficient police, despite some improvements in its trainings. At the same time, however, the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies detailed in its Security Report a decline in terrorism related violence during 2011.

The Factionalisation of Elites indicator remained constant in this year’s Index, scoring 9.1. The poor record of Pakistan in this category reflects the presence of communal violence and powerful communal-based groups, either on religious or ethnic grounds. At the same time, the score reflects a rather weak feeling of national identity which comes as a consequence of ethnic polarisation.

The (marginal) increase in the External Intervention indicator from 9.3 to 9.4 is consistent with an increased publicity for the American drone campaign on Pakistani soil, as well as manned incursions such as the one that killed Osama Bin Laden in May 2011. Although the U.S. started its campaign back in 2004, the 2011 campaign was characterised by increasingly higher visibility including the highly publicised killing of Pakistani soldiers in October, after which Pakistan closed its borders for ISAF supplies to Afghanistan. This route was only re-opened recently after an official apology by the US government in July 2012.

Neither gold nor plastic

The analysis of Pakistan’s score in the 2012 Failed States Index shows how the Brain Drain indicator reflects an external and extraneous development, while the Demographic Pressures and Refugees & IDPs indicator improvements are dependent on extraneous variables like the lack of floods of the same scale as the ones in 2010. It does not reflect any substantial effort by the Pakistani government to deal with the problem. For what concerns the Legitimacy of the State indicator, the recent developments within Pakistani institutions makes the result somewhat outdated to be able to grasp the current situation. Moreover rumours like the ISI backing and sponsorship of supposedly popular political movements like the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf have not been factored in.

The improvement in the deliverance of Public Services remains an enigma given how pronounced a feature of Pakistani society that power and water riots became in 2011 and continue to be in 2012. This erosion of the supply of public goods has a direct effect on economic development and in return, on the legitimacy of the state. Given the precarious situation of Pakistan’s water supplies, this factor has the potential to be a decisive one for Pakistan’s stability in the near future.

The developments in External Intervention , despite a nominal increase, are also worth a closer examination. The stability of the Pakistani Army could be undermined by anti-American sentiments within its ranks if the Army fails to show that it stands up to the unpopular American interventions on Pakistani soil. While on one hand the army acquiescing to such interventions is an important source of foreign aid to the country, active incursions by US soldiers in Pakistan could prove especially destabilising if they provoke widespread desertions within ordinary soldiers? as pointed out by Anatol Lieven, a long-time observer of Pakistani politics and Professor at the Department of War Studies, King’s College. The killing of Bin Laden was well publicised as an humiliation for Pakistan and the death of Pakistani soldiers in Salat was seen as an attack on the Pakistani state. The flip side of the coin is that the Pakistani Army is maintaining some kind of internal stability, but this contrasts with its role as a brake on social and democratic development. This year’s score within the Security Apparatus indicator shows how it remains the leading institution in Pakistan but that this indicator is also directly an inversely linked to the social and economic indicators.

The indicators for Group Grievance and Factionalised Elites are both critical being over the 9 point grade, and either repeated last year’s score or worsened. Group-related violence, stirred up by factionalised elites, is a major impediment in the exercise of human rights in Pakistan. At the same time, it dangerously undermines the difficult task of promoting a national identity in a multi-ethnic country that has up to now had difficulties in defining itself in absolute terms.

So, if some positive developments are in fact not as positive as they seem, is Pakistan even more fragile than the Failed States Index methodology is able to grasp? Probably not. Although Pakistan does definitely have stability concerns, it was able, up to now (besides the Swat crisis) to keep the insurgents largely at bay, which is confirmed by the fact that the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is still resorting to terrorist attacks to challenge the state rather than direct confrontation. Also, although the government and the institutions have generally weak legitimacy within the population, this does not necessarily translate in the rejection of the idea of Pakistan as a national entity. It should be kept in mind, moreover, that the general weakness of Pakistani institutions and state vis-à-vis tribal and kinship structures especially in rural areas are not an uncommon feature in other South Asian countries and are not to be equated with state collapse. The fact that FfP does not publish details about its weighting system makes it difficult to comment in detail on how the effect of each destabilising factor in a country is assessed. Nevertheless, FfP clearly uses general, clearly western-biased criteria to assess the success of a number of different states; a reflection on an assessment method taking into each country’s own vision of state success and failure would be much needed.

(The writer is a Masters candidate at Ludwig Maximillian University, Munich)

Observer Research Foundation

Observer Research Foundation

ORF was established on 5 September 1990 as a private, not for profit, ’think tank’ to influence public policy formulation. The Foundation brought together, for the first time, leading Indian economists and policymakers to present An Agenda for Economic Reforms in India. The idea was to help develop a consensus in favour of economic reforms.

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