Blogger Tazeen Javed returns to the Dawn Blog to provide a weekly dose of satire.
Sometime back, Newsweek named Pakistan the most dangerous place on earth. Now, the American magazine Foreign Policy has come up with its own most dangerous place. Surprisingly, it is not Pakistan. They name Somalia as the most dangerous country. In addition to a detailed article about the perils to life in Mogadishu, the Somalian capital, they came up with a chart of 60 countries that pass for failed states. They have graded the countries on indicators of instability that are as varied as human flight, human rights, economy and factionalized elite among others.
There are no marks for guessing that Pakistan gets an honourable mention in the top ten. It is the ninth most failed state after Somalia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Chad, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan and Ivory Coast – all fairly failed states. What did get my goat, however, was that Pakistan is considered more failed than Central African Republic, which came in tenth. Central African Republic? No one would even know where the country is if its name were not so geographically specific.
But it’s not just the good ol’ Central African Republic – Pakistan is more failed a state than Ethiopia (16), Liberia (34), which is famous for its blood diamonds and child soldiers, and Malawi (29), a heaven for celebrities looking to adopt kids without much ado.
The chart is designed with the maximum point of 10 for any indicator – the more failed a state is, the higher the score would be on most indicators. According to the chart, out of the 12 indicators of instability, Pakistan’s least worrisome performance has been in economy and – believe it or not – public services. It is a known fact that electricity –rather, the lack thereof – has wreaked havoc with our lives and economy. If that’s come out smelling of roses, imagine how bad the score would be on other indicators.
Group grievances, security apparatus and external intervention were among the higher scoring indicators. I personally think the chart is biased and is part of an international conspiracy to besmirch the good name of Pakistan. For instance, it has been suggested that US Drones that are said to be flying from Afghanistan are actually taking off from our own airfields. If that’s the case, then the level of external intervention is not as high as has been indicated in the chart.
Similarly, if the number of times traffic is blocked in the main cities of Pakistan to clear passage for high-ranking officials is any indicator of our security apparatus at work, it seems to be working just fine – that is, for the government officials, if not for all Pakistanis. Pakistan may score high in group grievances, but that is to be expected in a multi-ethnic country. If Baloch people have any issues with the federal government about royalty of its resources and the fate of its missing persons, it’s not that big a deal. After all, they comprise only 4 percent of the population.
Pakistan also scored high on delegitimization of the state. This was perhaps correct in the past, but it has been taken care of since last month. We have officially signed deals with dissident groups in Swat and Bajaur Agency and handed over districts and cities to them. Now they are the ones who are officially administering those areas and government of Pakistan cannot be held responsible for the deligitimization of the state.
The highest scoring indicator for Pakistan is the curiously titled factionalized elites. Contrary to scoring in the chart, the Pakistani elite does not seem all that factionalized. The elite has been quite focused, coherent and persistent in evading the taxes while piling indirect ones on the poor people of Pakistan. It can also be thanked for upholding the flight of Pakistani capital out of the country, investing in the Middle East, signing over parts of the country to militants, selling public goods, and denying external intervention in matters of governance. If anything, they have proven to be the most consistently performing group of the country.
Tazeen Javed has lived most of her life in Karachi; so far no one has asked her to leave. She has worked as a journalist, teacher, salesperson, activist, tour guide, election observer, fruit vendor, copy writer and television producer in the past. She has wizened up since then and now only works for a living. She blogs at http://tazeen-tazeen.blogspot.com and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org