Why Pakistan is not a failed state

The next time someone tells you Pakistan’s about to fall to the Taliban or end up carved into four pieces, you can tell them to zip it. There is no power on earth that can undo Pakistan. It has come to stay.
Don’t let them distract you, for we have a wonderful destiny to achieve, and a dream called ‘Pakistan’ to fulfill with 18 crore wickets in hand. [Image: More than 24,000 Pakistanis form the world’s largest “human national flag” in Lahore. –APP Photo]




by Michael Kugelman


Note for WoP readers:

While uploading this piece by Kugelman, I happened to come across a moving note by fellow blogger Global Pakistani. As I continue with the articles that are not written by us Pakistanis but from the western media most of whom parrot the same worn out tune of Pakistan a failed state, this note is a befitting response to such malicious reports disseminated by the mainstream media in the west.

Dear readers, what to speak of foreign press, our achievements are not given due projection by our own media because we are the people deriving much pleasure in denouncing our own country, our own values and our own identity. There are many amongst us who not only in drawing room discussions but also in the open chats, speeches and interaction, start casting doubts on the very Raison d’être of the nation state of Pakistan.

This message, therefore, by Pakistani by Choice blog is as much meant for our fellow Pakistanis as it is for the western propagandists who day and night try to brandish Pakistan as a failed state solely because it does not fit into the frame work the western imperialists and the US Neocons are trying to build for this part of the world… [Nayyar]


For decades they’ve talked about how Pakistan is on the verge of collapse, a failed state, better off chopped into four smaller countries. Ever since the nation’s birth our enemies have steadfastly worked overtime to reverse the miracle of Pakistan.

Pakistanis are arguably among the most resilient people in the history of this earth. No other nation can soak up as much pressures that Pakistan has in recent years.

We’ve fought wars, brought superpowers down on our doorstep, faced internal strife and terrorist attacks, faced monumental refugee crisis, earthquakes, floods, and have been labelled terrorists. However, each time we’ve dusted ourselves off and moved on with a solid determination and the steely resolve that makes us ‘Pakistanis’.

It is, therefore, no surprise that despite being deprived of top level international cricket for more than 15 months, being isolated internationally and reeling under the most harrowing incident of the game, fighting a war inside our borders and looking after three million of our brothers and sisters made homeless due to conflict, we manage coming on top of the world in T20 finals and so many other events where we occupy one of the top three positions in the world.

This is who we are.

This is what we do.

The next time someone tells you Pakistan’s about to fall to the Taliban or end up carved into four pieces, you can tell them to zip it. There is no power on earth that can undo Pakistan. It has come to stay.

Don’t let them distract you, for we have a wonderful destiny to achieve, and a dream called ‘Pakistan’ to fulfill with 18 crore wickets in hand.


It’s been about a week since the Connecticut school massacre, and Americans are still grieving.

Mourners line the road to watch the hearse containing the body of Sandy Hook Elementary School student James Mattioli, 6, drive past on the way to a cemetery in Darien, Conn., on Dec. 18.

Yet we’re comforted by the thought that, with time, the bereaved community of Newtown will bounce back. Students will return to school, and victims’ families will somehow get on with their lives. This is because America, as politicians and the US media have intoned repeatedly in recent days, is a strong and resilient society.

For me, such words bring to mind another strong and resilient society — one that endures constant afflictions, tragedies, and privation. I can think of few nations that suffer more misery than Pakistan.

Pakistan certainly isn’t the only country where, in a span of hours, an infant can be bitten by a rat in a hospital nursery, and 16 people can die from consuming toxic cough medicine. This happened several weeks ago.

Yet, place these individual incidents alongside the unending onslaught of natural disaster, insurgency, terrorism, corruption, poverty, natural resource shortage, and disease. Now you can understand why so many Pakistanis suffer from PTSD, and are driven to desperate measures.

In 2008, in one of the most harrowing pieces of journalism I’ve ever read, Newsline’s Shimaila Matri Dawood wrote of Pakistanis murdering their children, jumping in front of trains, and setting themselves on fire — all because they couldn’t provide for their families.

Still, the aim of my final post of 2012 is not to dwell on Pakistan’s suffering. It is to showcase the remarkable strength and resiliency with which the Pakistani society responds to it.

in summer of 2010 when highly devastating floods hit almost every part of Pakistan , Abdul Sattar Edhi initiated a begging campaign in Quetta for the flood victims of Balochistan. 
Crouched on the roadside in Meezan chowk, the philanthropist and his daughter were collecting money for the thousands of people displaced by the flash floods in Balochistan. 
The money, food and other relief items collected by Edhi were distributed equally amongst the flood affected people of the province. Image via http://tribune.com.pk/story/31969/edhi-begs-for-flood-victims/

When the 2010 floods plunged 20 per cent of the nation underwater, the government was largely missing in action. Yet doctors, housewives, students, and many others (not to mention the military) immediately deployed to the affected areas to render assistance. Of course, many Pakistanis minister to the needy every day, and not just after humanitarian catastrophes. Witness the tireless work of Pakistan’s living legend, Abdul Sattar Edhi.

Ardeshir Cowasjee hailed from the well-known Parsi family. He was a businessman in merchant shipping. In 1988, he started writing letters to the editor of a leading English newspaper, which led him to become a permanent columnist.
His hard-hitting and well-researched columns exposed corruption, nepotism and incompetence in different local, provincial and national governments for the last twenty years.
Cowasjee passed away in Karachi on 24. Nov 2012 after a prolonged illness. He was 86. Image via http://www.thenews.com.pk/article-76893-Ardeshir-Cowasjee-dies-at-age-of-86

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl activist was shot in the head about two months back by religious fanatics who guise themselves as the members of the Tahrik e Taliban Pakistan,
Malala is now undergoing treatment at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth hospital, in the United Kingdom. The hospital has the world’s largest single-floor critical care unit for patients with gunshot wounds, burns, spinal damage and major head injuries.
Last week’s reports from Hospital in Birmingham indicated her progress as very good. After she regained consciousness, she is reported to have uttered her very first sentencene, ‘I pray for my country and once I’m recovered, I’ll go back home and continue my fight’. Image via http://brilliantpakistan.com/2012/10/17/malala-to-be-honored-by-sitara-e-shujaat/

Some of Pakistan’s citizen-first responders come bearing not relief or medical supplies, but inspiring words and campaigns that galvanise the nation. Malala Yousafzai certainly comes to mind — as does Sana Saleem, the free speech advocate recently named one of Foreign Policy’s top 100 global thinkers of 2012 (Malala made the list as well). Their ilk will increasingly take center stage as older generations — led by the likes of the late Ardeshir Cowasjee — retire from public life.

Arfa Karim Randhawa was a Pakistani student and computer prodigy, who in 2004 at the age of nine became Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP), the youngest in the world before Babar Iqbal (another Pakistani from the KP province) in 2008. She was invited by Bill Gates to visit the Microsoft Headquarters in the USA.
Recipient of numerous awards, Arfa at the young age of 16, was battling the race for her life in a Lahore hospital after an epileptic seizure. She passed away on January 14, 2012. A science park in Lahore is named after her [the Arfa Software Technology Park]. Image via http://mwf.com.pk/?p=212

Then there are those Pakistanis who use their rare gifts to benefit the country. The tragically short life of Arfa Karim, the teenaged IT genius who provided computer training to the poor, is a shining example.

Also admirable are those who labor under the most difficult of conditions, yet still pull off extraordinary acts. Take journalists and doctors, many of whom are severely underpaid and overworked, and work in dangerous environments. Admittedly, some of them succumb to the stress (recall the surgeon who left operating scissors in a patient’s stomach, and the journalists who fell for the infamous Shamsul Anwar hoax). Yet many more shrug off threats to break critical stories, or save countless lives. I’ll never forget the young doctor I met last summer, who told me he constantly fears getting attacked at his hospital by livid people denied care. When I asked why he keeps going back, his answer was immediate and simple: “Pakistan needs medical care.”

And then there are the besieged religious minorities, who quietly persevere in a nation that refuses to protect them. It’s a wonder more haven’t fled.

Finally, there are the simple yet poignant acts of charity and benevolence — like the kids in Karachi who collect garbage every Sunday, or the Islamabad-based peace activists who travel to KP to speak to students about tolerance and nonviolence.

One of Pakistan’s enigmas is how it manages to “muddle along” despite its multitude of problems. The answer can be found in its people, who hold the country together. They are undoubtedly driven by patriotism, whicruns deep despite the nation’s divisions. This is why I cringe whenever I hear Pakistan referred to as afailed state.So long as the Pakistani society remains strong, I can’t imagine how Pakistan can fail.

At least not yet.

The question, in the years ahead, is whether Pakistan’s resilient society can beat back the cresting waves of militancy and sectarianism that threaten to tear Pakistan apart and, one day, even plunge it into civil war. Balkanisation, more so than an Islamist takeover, is a very real threat to the Pakistani state.

Up to now, the Pakistani society has stepped in to provide services and fill roles where the government is absent. Yet this isn’t a sustainable strategy. To avert disaster in the decades ahead, the Pakistani state will need to step up — and provide the leadership and good judgment long exemplified by its society.

See you in 2013.

The author is the Senior Program Associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. You can reach him at michael.kugelman@wilsoncenter.org

Related Posts:

1. What’s Wrong with Pakistan? [in two parts] 2. Is Pakistan a failed state? 3. Is Pakistan a failed state? NO.
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