What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Pakistani peoples party?

News of some massive re-adjustment going on in the ranks of the Pakistani middle class. The survival strategy of the day is no longer being understanding towards the hordes of armed men who had descended onto the Swat valley, amidst rants about U.S. policies (which, do not misunderstand me, did seem like a rational approach for those who could not be entirely sure if no Taliban ever came to their house one day). Now that the monsters are gone (back to the mountains), relief can be expressed freely.

Forward-looking observers, such as Asad Hashim, are warning that

"Pakistan’s defence secretary, Syed Athar Ali, has claimed that the operation in Malakand division ‘is 90 per cent complete’, which is a foolish boast, one feels, because all it implies is that militants have been pushed out of settled areas into their hideouts in the mountains. The military is going to have to pursue them there, on their home turf, and attempt to dislodge them permanently. Or else all this: the deaths of over 4,500 militants and soldiers (if Mr Ali is to be believed), the destruction of Mingora and other cities, and, above all, the suffering of the internally displaced people across Pakistan will have been for nothing.

And then? Well, Waziristan. Here’s hoping that our man Zardari has a ‘plan’ for that one, too."

By plan, Asad Hashim is referring ironically to how lucky Pakistan got, after the release of Sufi Muhammad in April 2008, and the Nizam-i-Adl agreement. These were all done in appeasement rather, but these measures have taken some of the wind out of the Tehrik-e Taliban's sails, and let the people see them more for what they really were.

Of course, nobody can be entirely sure that there are indeed thousands of militants among the dead buried under the rubble. As to the internally displaced, they are not only suffering, in some places they are also receiving some aid along with ideology, in one package, just like the victims of the 2005 Kashmir earthquake used to.

Here's an outline of the general health conditions:

"Pakistan's health care system is loaded with grim statistics, beginning with an annual budget of less than $150 million this year. The government says it plans a 56 per cent increase next year, bringing the budget to $300 million.

By contrast, Pakistan's defence budget last year came to $3.45 billion, and is expected to reach $3.65 billion next year.

More grim statistics: A new doctor to the government service is paid $120 a month, with an additional $16.50 housing allowance. There are only 12 doctors to every 10,000 people in Pakistan and 10 hospital beds to every 10,000 people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). That compares to 22 doctors and more than 30 hospital beds in the United States.

Khan says international charities have provided medicines and field hospitals in refugee camps. But only about 20 per cent of the two million refugees are in camps."

Thus there is no rabies vaccine in the camps, for example, while dog bites are frequent.

In the end, the greatest concern was not that the Taliban would end up occupying Islamabad or Karachi in a continuous expansion out from the FATA. It was rather a gradual spread of their ideological appeal in the rural areas on the one hand, and the generally bad consequences of the growing extent of areas within Pakistan affected by the fighting.

The big question is if the Taliban's latest (not the first) adventure in the Swat proves to be a wave-breaker, with their ideological appeal significantly hurt. But in any case, the consequences of the fighting are now severely serious for millions of people. And if just 1 percent among them think that it is not the Taliban to be blamed for this, that is not so good.

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