New book warns of looming Pakistan anarchy

Published: March 23, 2012

Ahmed Rashid's 'Pakistan On The Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan' released in the US this week. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK: A Pakistani journalist and best-selling author cautions that Pakistan is heading towards anarchy in his new book that offers solutions for his country’s frayed ties with the United States and how US peace talks with the Taliban is crucial in its exit strategy from Afghanistan.

The writer, Ahmed Rashid, who frequents the dinner tables of the world’s top leaders offering advice, gives a dire assessment of the region he has reported on for more than 30 years in “Pakistan On The Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan” released in the United States this week.

In his fifth book the Lahore-based prize-winning journalist says he fears Pakistan is on the verge of a meltdown and blames both Pakistan and the Obama administration for the deterioration in their ties due to a series of destabilizing incidents, including the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Pakistan’s escalating problems are rooted in its reliance on US aid, its complex politics, the government’s lack of control over both its military and intelligence service and its failure to protect minorities and secure regions controlled by the Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups, the book maintains.

That spells more trouble for Washington if such groups gain further control in a nuclear-armed country where the military now largely controls foreign and security policies and has taken the lead in relations with the United States, he said.

“Pakistan has all the potential of becoming a failing state,” Rashid, 63, said in an interview, explaining the title of the book that follows bestsellers including “Taliban” and “Descent Into Chaos” that were translated into dozens of languages.

“I feel very much that the lack of state control, the lack of state authority is going to mean there is going to be increasing anarchy in many different parts of the country,” said Rashid, who has received numerous death threats and was named by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the top 100 global thinkers.

Taliban deal crucial

Rashid argues that the Obama administration has fueled Pakistan’s paranoia by locking it out of peace talks with the Taliban, not discussing its decade-long Afghan war and exit strategy and increasing relations with economic powerhouse India, Pakistan’s nuclear-armed neighbor and regional rival.

In turn, Pakistan has made little effort to meet US demands to weed out insurgents operating from its safe havens, including the Pakistani Taliban and the Taliban-allied Haqqani network held responsible for many attacks inside Afghanistan.

Calling those opposing positions “the standard” for ties between Washington and Islamabad since the beginning of the Afghan war, Rashid called upon both sides to “break the logjam.”

“There has to be a greater willingness by Pakistan to show when and under what conditions it would be willing to give up the sanctuary for the Taliban,” he said. “And on the American side, there needs to be greater American trust in discussing their withdrawal plans and future plans with the Pakistanis.”

The two countries reached crisis point after a November incident in which Nato aircraft killed 24 Pakistani troops. Pakistan shut down Nato supply routes into Afghanistan and have demanded an apology and a halt in drone strikes.

“There is so much distrust now, on both sides,” Rashid said, adding ties “are certainly not going to return to what they were where there was almost a carte blanche for the Americans to do what they like in Pakistan. That is not going to happen again.”

Peace talks between the Taliban and United States must be the cornerstone of the US exit strategy from Afghanistan, said Rashid, adding that Pakistan, which has long harbored Taliban leaders, must be included in the talks.

“The key issue is to get a political settlement with the Taliban that leaves Afghanistan in peace,” Rashid said. “You do not want to leave Afghanistan in a state of civil war.”

Doubts about the nascent peace talks between the Taliban and the United States intensified after the recent killing of 16 Afghan civilians blamed on a lone US soldier, as well as the burning of copies of the Koran at a Nato base. The Afghan Taliban blamed “shaky, erratic and vague” US statements.

Rashid criticized contradictory policies of the Obama and the previous George. W. Bush administrations, including ten years of US emphasis on a military solution rather than diplomatic talks, which Rashid believes has left more Afghans and Pakistanis radicalized.

Rashid cautioned Obama against waiting to announce more details on the US exit strategy from Afghanistan for fear of losing voter support in his re-election bid in November.

The author said the Republican presidential candidates were “more confused than Obama” on Afghan peace talks and withdrawal. “They don’t know which policy to follow.”

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Reader Comments (21)

  • Mumbai Dude
    Mar 23, 2012 - 12:53PM

    I don’t think Pakistan can become a failed state because Pakistani society is quite different than Afghan society. There is lesser tribalism and more modernity in Pakistan. The only thing that can happen is Pakistan can remain in this state of lower economic growth and sectarian violence for a very long time.

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  • Amjad
    Mar 23, 2012 - 6:13PM

    I think that some authors have made a career out of crying that the sky is falling. Ahmed Rashid has been screaming the same thing for decades but by now most people in Pakistan are tired of his doomsday scenario visions because they are unfounded. The western media love him since he plays into their fear and loves to be seen on the TV recounting his doom and gloom analysis!

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  • Falcon
    Mar 23, 2012 - 7:12PM

    I think that on the issue of state failure, Anatol Lieven has written a much better and insightful analysis. However, I agree on some observations made by Ahmed Rashid, specially on the confusion in American ranks. Furthermore, Anatol also concluded something which is consistent with Ahmed Rashid’s assertion that the state is growing weaker and if that continues, we will see more anarchy. Another good point that the author has brought up that the regional solutions should be heavily focused on political methods rather than the military focused madness.

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  • Mar 23, 2012 - 7:47PM

    Pakistani army & intelligence services ( who are also controlling the foreign policy and national security)in their pursuit to control Afghanistan by proxy ( after the withdrawal of US) are supporting Taliban. However Taliban in Afghanistan as well as in Pakistan have indicated that they have gone beyond their control and attacking them also.democracy is in nascent stage and politicians are corrupt. But Judiciary has shown their strong will to impose the rule of law.judiciary shall have to fave obstructions from the ruling Party/politicians and also the army /intelligence services. Media has also shown maturity as the fourth pillar of Democracy. Pakistani society is quite modern including thoughts and these factors are very positive. therefore Pakistan is going to be failed state is highly exaggerated by Janab Ahmed Rashid and to be ignored fully. Although Low economic growth coupled with Islamic radicalism may cause problems in ensuing couple of years.

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  • Mar 23, 2012 - 8:10PM

    Look this guy predicted Al Qaeda will attack the US before 9/11 happened. Right after 9/11 White House ordered his books in bulk because nobody had any idea what or who the Taliban is.

    This guy knows stuff and he is damn smart. I’ve been reading his assessments for ages and they have been on the dot every time. No wonder he is called all over the World to deliver speeches and offer policy advice.

    If he says Pakistan can become a failed state, you have to take it seriously.

    Earlier I was thinking Pakistan has the base to withstand instability. But, if Ahmed Rashid doesn’t think so, I am definitely wrong!

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  • Sana
    Mar 23, 2012 - 8:46PM

    Ok please forgive me but who is Ahmed Rashid? Never heard him of him before. Whatever, no wonder that he is called best selling author. After all any book written on “Pakistan and Taliban”, “Pakistan and extremism, “Pakistan failing”, “Pakistan breaking up” will definitely work. I mean come on! Please get some new angle. Aren’t the world writers sick of writing the same thing again and again. Bring some new and original ideas. I mean why not write on ” The evolution of music in Pakistan”, Pakistan diverse culture or lesser known culture”. I ask the world why not? Why you don’t want to see the human side of Pakistanis. Why you want to reduce us to a caricature? Because controversy sells. Isn’t it?

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  • BlackJack
    Mar 23, 2012 - 9:11PM

    @Sana:
    I agree and can understand your frustration – but then you also need to ask the question on why the idea of your country failing/ falling to the Taliban etc has so many takers. The reasons are not that hard to find, the origins (and solutions) of which all lie within the territory of Pakistan, and not in the diabolical designs of US/ India/ Israel etc as most of your compatriots believe. But for what its worth, I am sorry for the pain that you feel.

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  • Grace
    Mar 23, 2012 - 9:22PM

    @BruteForce: Spare me the drama! This guy did not predict 9/11 or Al Qaidi – he just reworked his previous words to make them jive with the fashion of the times. We all know that any book that bashes Muslims – be it anti Arab, anti Iranian, anti Turkish or anti Pakistani is well received in the West. Mr. Rashid is only to happy to oblige with sensationalist books to make money.

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  • Sana
    Mar 23, 2012 - 11:06PM

    @BlackJack:
    Reason is simple as i have explained that controversy sells. Noone wants to hear success stories. As for US, India, i haven’t blamed them. We are terrible in marketing ourself. Not blaming anyone. Besides i don’t need your sympathy. Thanks but no thanks.

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  • Amir
    Mar 23, 2012 - 11:08PM

    Seems to be american foreign policy on pakistan written by a man living in U.S. Total nonsense

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  • Muhammadd
    Mar 24, 2012 - 1:26AM

    As usual, Pakistanis will simply call this book a zionist/indian/american conspiracy against a nation that is hallmark of peace, justice, equal rights and purity…lol

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  • usmanx
    Mar 24, 2012 - 4:55AM

    of course indians like these books.. books about pakistan’s destruction are like porn for indians.

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  • Mar 24, 2012 - 5:59AM

    The scenario of a failed or failing state like Pakistan is so horrendous that the world powers cannot afford to see it happen. The rulers “establishment” in Pakistan knows it very well, that’s why we see that on one hand there is complete breakdown of Law and order situation, depleting energy resources that has brought industrial sector almost to a grinding halt, restlessness in Baluchistan province, rise of extremist organizations in disguise as religious and on the other hand very rapid increase in Nuclear arsenal. So, there is no possibility that Pakistan is going to fail as a state.Recommend

  • Mar 24, 2012 - 9:20AM

    @Mumbai Dude:
    Pakistan can remain in this state of lower economic growth and sectarian violence for a very long time. Pakistan has great potential of progess and economic prosperity if we have competants leadership. Recommend

  • Critical
    Mar 24, 2012 - 9:27AM

    @usmanx:
    Actually Pakistan govt likes these books….Because they can show their helplessness against terrorists and get more aid from US and NATO …..

    Its like a kid blackmailing the mother…”Give me chocolate or I will jump down the terrace and hurt myself…..

    Needless to say,this trick has worked wonders for Pakistan

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  • Zeta
    Mar 24, 2012 - 11:06AM

    Ahmed Rashid is known sell out in Pakistani community circles. His usual dooms day scenarios carry no weight. He writes what sells.

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  • usmanx
    Mar 25, 2012 - 1:45AM

    @critical,

    i don’t think it has worked at all. we should follow india’s approach. to date india has rec’d 160 billion dollars in aid, pakistan has rec’d less 50 billion.

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  • Pollack
    Mar 25, 2012 - 2:58AM

    @Sana: You seem to know a lot about a guy who you “never heard of”? Loose the delusion, get real and see what’s happening around you or you will end up the same way as afghan woman did under Taliban.

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  • Pollack
    Mar 25, 2012 - 3:03AM

    @Zeta: Are you talking about the same Pakistani community which stood around in a cowardly manner while their country is being run to the ground by obscrists, fanatics and sectarian thugs? Ahmed rashid must be doing something right to earn their ridicule.

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  • Mar 25, 2012 - 1:21PM

    @Grace:

    He is not that off the mark, is he? Pakistan is a failing state now. Your own newspapers claim around 35,000 people have been killed by their own.

    He has written for NYT, BBC and other esteemed publications. If you dont think he is that great without even attempting to read his columns, it just shows your arrogance.

    Recommend

  • Maria
    Mar 25, 2012 - 4:47PM

    He has been chanting the doom mantra for over 25 years- he plays it well for his anti Pakistan audiences because that is what they pay to hear. He does it well on Western media channels like the pro India BBC, the NYT and others, You can see from the comments from the large number of Indians here that Ahmed Rashid is venerated by the Indians who are obsessed with posting on Pakistani news sites.Recommend

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