It takes a long time for any nation to recover from a natural disaster. It takes longer still if that nation’s government is largely dysfunctional.
Last year, Pakistan endured floods of Biblical proportions. At one point, as much as 20 per cent of the nation’s landmass was covered by water.
Pakistan’s economy has still not recovered from the floods, as the AfPak Channel makes clear in a lucid report. Combine disaster with economic mismanagement and you have all the makings of an overthrow of the current government:
Pakistan’s crises are usually described in political terms. But economic mismanagement and trouble in the cities helped bring down Ayub Khan’s government in the late 1960s, and these could well be the country’s Achilles heel now. The army, always a powerful political actor in Pakistan, has little understanding of economic issues and less appreciation for the political skill needed to deal with them. Despite its own substantial economic interests, it is not likely to help the government make the tough decisions needed to address the problems, especially due to the military ‘s interest in letting the civilian government take the heat for tough decisions.
There is no silver bullet – and certainly no American silver bullet – that can address all these problems. Simply pouring money into the government will buy only limited time, and could encourage the Pakistanis to delay making the serious effort needed to put their country on a sustainable path. The economic management issues that are at the heart of this storm can only be fixed from Pakistan. But Pakistan’s international donors need to look seriously at the kinds of support that can promote and sustain a real reform program.
Meanwhile, an undeclared war between Afghanistan and Pakistan is heating up. Although there has been little coverage of the war in the media, the intensity of the hostilities has increased dramatically in recent months. Again, AfPak Channel has the story.
Wars and economic mismanagement are, of course, nothing new in South Asia. The difference is that Pakistan is the world’s 5th largest nuclear power.
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