News / Middle East

Multiple Political and Security Shocks Rattle Pakistan Stability

People look at the remains of a passenger minibus near Hungu in Pakistan's northwest province, 17 Jan 2011.
People look at the remains of a passenger minibus near Hungu in Pakistan's northwest province, 17 Jan 2011.

The recent assassination of the governor of Pakistan’s most populous province delivered another shock to a country reeling on multiple fronts.  Pakistan is struggling to maintain stability while trying to cope with a shaky economy, wobbly politics, and emboldened domestic terrorism.  

Pakistan remains beset by security, economic, and political troubles that have caused leading analysts to voice deep concern about the country’s stability.

Governor of Punjab province Salman Taseer speaks to the media in Islamabad (File Photo - 28 Mar 2009)
Governor of Punjab province Salman Taseer speaks to the media in Islamabad (File Photo - 28 Mar 2009)

Terrorist activity inside Pakistan continues to grow, as evidenced by the recent assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, allegedly by one of his own handpicked bodyguards. The economy is in a shambles as key economic reforms were put on hold, placing more than $3 billion in International Monetary Fund bailout money in jeopardy.  The governing coalition briefly disintegrated, reuniting only when the ruling Pakistan Peoples’ Party rescinded an unpopular increase in fuel prices and put off plans for tax reform.

Stephen Cohen of the Council on Foreign Relations says Pakistan’s woes do not necessarily mean the country is on the verge of collapse, but adds that there are very worrisome trends.

"It’s not necessarily on the road to disintegration," he said. "But all of the trend lines are negative. I can’t think of many positive ones.  And, of course, the floods and the assassinations and the sectarian violence and the bad economy contribute to this."

The Pakistan terrorist threat has captured most of the world headlines. More than one analyst has described it as a “Frankenstein monster,” referring to the fictional scientist who created a new being but found he could not control it.  The army and in particular the military-run Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, or ISI, are widely reported to have trained, financed, and armed militant groups as a way of maintaining influence in Afghanistan and waging proxy war on India.

Supporters of the Sunni Tehreek religious party hold placards in support for Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, the gunmen detained for the killing of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, in Hyderabad, 09 Jan 2011.
Supporters of the Sunni Tehreek religious party hold placards in support for Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, the gunmen detained for the killing of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, in Hyderabad, 09 Jan 2011.


Former CIA officer Bruce Riedel says the Pakistan army is fighting militants in six of the seven tribal areas, taking casualties and imposing serious costs on the jihadists. But at the same time, he adds, other jihadists, particularly those rattling India, are openly tolerated in Pakistan.

"It is this unique and complex situation in which Pakistan is both victim and patron of terror that is so unique today," said Riedel. "You add the worst natural disaster in the country’s history, extreme economic problems, and extraordinarily poor governance together and you have the makings of a potential disaster."

Riedel, who has just written a new book on the nexus between Pakistan, the U.S., and the global jihad, says Pakistan remains a country with high democratic aspirations, despite an intermittent string of military rulers and floundering civilian governments.

"Pakistan is a country in which the yearning for democracy has pushed the dictators out of office over and over again," he said. "Unfortunately for the Pakistani people, the civilian leaders they’ve often got have not lived up to the hopes of the Pakistani people, and that’s as true today as it has been on so many occasions in the past."

But the worst thing the U.S. and the West could do, he adds, would be to resort to the expedient of encouraging the army to step in yet again to fix things.

"Whatever else we do, don’t undermine the democratically elected civilian leadership of Pakistan," said Riedel. "The politicians we are dealing with are weak, corrupt, and, more often than not, ineffective.  But they are the best of bad alternatives."

But the economy is still foundering.  The country is recovering from the recent destructive floods, electric power outages are widespread, prices are rising, and inflation is hovering at over 15 per cent - all of which, analysts say, are further fueling anti-government sentiment.

You May Like

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Video Kenyans Lament Al-Shabab's Recruitment of Youths

VOA travels to Isiolo, where residents share their fears, struggles to get loved ones back from Somalia-based militant group More

This US Epidemic Keeps Getting Worse

One in 4 Americans suffers from this condition More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensionsi
X
May 26, 2015 11:11 PM
When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs