Is Pakistan a Failed State?

In almost all branches of knowledge there are certain terms and concepts which confuse more than contributing anything worthwhile to the common understanding. In political science, failed state is one such concept which although studied for decades by numerous scholars, remains a contested concept vulnerable to different interpretations depending upon the context and the motive of the one who is interested in it.
According to its pioneer Max Weber, a state could be said to succeed if it maintains a monopoly on legitimate power of violence; if it loses this monopoly to other non-state actors, it is a failed state. The Fund for Peace characterizes a failed state as having the following characteristics:

  • Loss of control of its territory, or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force therein
  • Erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions
  • Inability to provide public services
  • Inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community.

Thus, common characteristics of a failing state include a central government so weak or ineffective that it has little practical control over much of its territory and there is a non-provision of public services. When this happens widespread corruption and criminality, the intervention of non-state actors, the appearance of refugees and the involuntary movement of populations, and sharp economic decline can occur.
Using the above yardstick, can we put Pakistan in the category of Failed States. No way.
Those who have never been to Pakistan or those who look at everything in Pakistan from a jaundiced point of view, will always describe it as a dysfunctional society where various institution are at daggers drawn for their own respective vested interests.
To them Pakistan is a country where armed forces are a state within a state, solely interested to ensure their corporate interests, where civil society is non-existent, where judicial activism is not to redress the grievances of the poor but for its own self-aggrandisement, media is nothing but another name for yellow journalism, its bureaucracy is corrupt, and politicians are inept without any scruple etc.
Yes, you can find all these traits in one form or other in present day Pakistan. But those who have historical approach towards any phenomenon will understand that behind this facade of turmoil and instability, there is a vibrant society which is functioning as good or as bad as any other post-colonial state.
Despite all the gloom and doom scenario being projected in a section of the media day in a day out, there are certain stellar successes of Pakistan which need to be kept in view when assessing the performance of Pakistan. Its democratic setup may be dysfunctional like so many other developing countries while its economy may be facing serious challenges, yet its state and its institutions are working perfectly well. It has a standing army which can deter any external aggression while its internal security establishment is robust enough to maintain law and order. Similarly, its judiciary is dispensing justice , its public service institutions are delivering the services-not 100% to the satisfaction of the citizens but delivering
A country which fought four wars with India, hosted four million refugees for two decades, remained under severe economic sanctions and is presently at war with terrorists, home-grown and foreign, for the last one decade cannot be construed as a weak economy.
May be the basic resilience of the Pakistan economy owe it to its thriving informal economy which according to different estimates ranges from 50% to 90% of the total economy. Maybe we pass judgement about the state of economy on the basis of the figures about the formal economy which are deceptive in the face of the above mentioned unrecorded economy thriving in Pakistan
Pakistan, like any other country, is facing multiple challenges emanating from within the country or posed by the rapidly changing regional and global geostrategic environment. In some cases, Pakistani state has responded exceptionally well to the challenges while in others, its performance has been lacklustre. But saying that it has failed is far from the truth.

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