New book says Pakistan's 'failed state' tag undeserved | Connect Asia

New book says Pakistan's 'failed state' tag undeserved

New book says Pakistan's 'failed state' tag undeserved

Updated 18 January 2012, 16:05 AEDT

Pakistan's military intelligence agency may have denied killing journalist Saleem Shahzad, but the case again put the I-S-I in the public spotlight.

Apart from fractures within the military intelligence community, is Pakistan on its way to becoming a failed state?

Professor of War Studies, Anatol Lieven argues that far from being a failed state, Pakistan may be useful in coaxing the Taliban to the negotiating table in Afghanistan.

Presenter: Sen Lam

Speaker: Anatol Lieven, Professor of War Studies, King's College in London. Professor Lieven was in Australia as guest of the US Studies Centre, University of Sydney. Anatol Lieven's book, Pakistan - A Hard Country is published by Penguin

LIEVEN: It's not of course, completely certain that it was I-S-I members who killed Saleem, because Pakistani militants also had good reasons to kill him. But certainly, the balance of probability is that he was killed. Whether that was on the orders of the high command of the I-S-I or lower level elements, we just don't know. But there certainly are good reasons to suspect that there are groups within the I-S-I who have their own strong militant sympathies.

Ever since the 1980s when I-S-I officers creamed off American and Saudi aid to the Afghan Mujahideen, it's not just that the I-S-I has had independent secret sources of funding, but it's widely thought that groups within it have their own sources of funding. As far as the military as a whole is concerned, there are militant sympathisers within the military. It's generally thought that the last big attack on a naval base in Karachi can only have taken place if they had some sympathisers on the inside.

The army as a whole however, does remain united and disciplined. So it's not that the army is crumbling, but certainly there are dangers within it.

LAM: But if the dangers lurk within the I-S-I itself, which after all, does provide the military intelligence, what does the Pakistan government have to do, and indeed, what does the US have to do, to make sure that everyone is on board, in this campaign against terrorism?

LIEVEN: Well, it's extremely difficult, because the army in Pakistan is a law unto itself, and the I-S-I is of course, a highly secretive group within the army. I mean, all that can be done is to remind the Pakistanis again and again, that if there are terrorist attacks based in Pakistan, either on India or on the West, the I-S-I will come under suspicion and that will have extremely serious consequences for Pakistan.

LAM: Let's move to north-west Pakistan, where 100 Taliban attacked a security checkpost in South Waziristan and eight soldiers were killed. Is this yet another indication that the Pakistani military has little control over FATA - the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas?

LIEVEN: Well, not entirely. Most of FATA is now back under some kind of control. Waziristan is certainly the most troubled area. It's worth saying, by the way, that a good many of these attacks, like the last major attack, are actually coming out of Afghanistan, so it's not just that... which is entirely true, that, you know, the Afghan Taliban are taking shelter in Pakistan, but as the Pakistanis sometimes point out, pretty bitterly, it's also true that their (Pakistan's) militants are hiding in Afghanistan.

LAM: And Pakistan has often been described as being on its way to being a failed state. But in your book, A Hard Country, you say that there's more to it than that. Can you tell us why you still hold out hope for Pakistan - that there might still be redemption yet?

LIEVEN: Well, it's partly because I've worked in genuinely failed states during my time as a journalist - in the former Soviet Union, indeed, in Afghanistan and elsewhere. And it's quite clear to me that most of Pakistan is still a long way away from that condition. The army, as I say, is still capable of maintaining basic order and defeating insurgency in most of the country. The areas controlled by the insurgents are limited.

After all, a very large part of India is controlled by Maoist insurgents, but nobody would described India as a failed or failing state.

The other reason is that the Islamists can carry out terrorist attacks but that's a very different matter from carrying out a revolution, to overthrow the state.

In my view, the resilience of the Pakistani political system and the political elite who run it, as well as the deep divisions in Pakistan, along ethnic and religious lines, means that it will be very difficult to have a successful revolution in Pakistan, unless the Pakistani military splits and disintegrates - in that case, the collapse of the state would come almost automatically.

LAM: And of course, the United States has been pumping millions of dollars into Pakistan. if you had any criticism at all, about American foreign policy or US strategic policy in that area, what might that be?

LIEVEN: That it's been far too focussed on the Pakistani military and not on the long term economic development of Pakistan. If I were to put pressure on Pakistan over insufficient help, then I would use it via military and not civilian aid.

I'd also like to say that when it comes to the Afghan Taliban, I don't think that the present US strategy in Afghanistan can succeed, given the weakness of the administration that the US is trying to create in Kabul.

I think it would therefore make more sense to try to go for a peace settlement with the Afghan Taliban. If the United States does try for that, then Pakistan ceases to be so much of a problem for the west, and in fact, it becomes an asset, because it's really probably only with Pakistani help that the Taliban can be brought to the negotiating table and persuaded to accept a reasonable compromise.

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