‘Pakistan isn’t a failed state ... yet’

Published: February 5, 2012
Bestselling author talks about the country’s democratic evolution, extremism. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

Bestselling author talks about the country’s democratic evolution, extremism. PHOTO: AFP/FILE


Pakistan may not be a failed state yet, but it’s still in danger of becoming one, according to Anatol Lieven, author of ‘Pakistan: A Hard Country’.

A study of power in Pakistan, Lieven’s book has become popular across the world, and is a bestseller in the country, according to Oxford University Press (OUP).

Lieven elaborated on his work at the OUP head office, saying: “My book is essentially a portrait of power in Pakistan, what it consists of, how it is exercised and where it finds its roots culturally, socially and religiously.”

The author also discussed the barriers present in trying to publish a nuanced view of the country’s problems and politics. Lieven recalled how the Penguin publishers told him that they thought the book would be about the Taliban, to which he’d retorted: “It’s about Pakistan”. He received the response, “But isn’t that the same thing?” Lieven was subsequently rejected by Penguin.


Although the book has received praise in Pakistan, its detractors believe it has a pro-army or anti-democracy bias.

He did say that democratic evolution was healthy for Pakistan, but followed this with a controversial statement likely to confirm the suspicions of his critics: “If the army breaks, Pakistan will break.”

When asked about former dictator Ziaul Haq’s role in what one audience member termed “the rise of the religious right in Pakistan,” Lieven said, “It would be an error to attribute all responsibility to Zia for that. In fact, Zia directly achieved very little.”

International players

On the subject of Afghanistan, Lieven had some blunt assessments to make about the British and the Americans.

While he clarified that Pakistan’s internal role should not be forgotten, Lieven emphasised that America’s actions in Afghanistan had increased extremism in Pakistan. He further highlighted that Pakistan was a more important country to the US as well as the world at large, warning, “There is no sense in risking the destruction of Pakistan to save Afghanistan.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • Feb 5, 2012 - 9:49AM

    There are no red lines to determine if Pakistan has failed. Its a failing state and according to one analysis is rated 12th on the list of failing states.

    Even after 65 years Pakistan has not seen Democracy and Civilian Supremacy. If its a state like China or Saudi Arabia, who are inherently non-Democratic, you cant apply the same logic, but Pakistan intends to be a Democratic state but some internal factors will never let that happen. So, thats a failure of the state functionary.

    When it comes to Economy, Pakistan is barely growing, high population growth is worry and you the prediction of the future is bleak. Isn’t that failure of the management of the Economy?


  • Feb 5, 2012 - 9:54AM

    Fare Enough Assessment. Would love to get hands on a COPY of the book.


  • pragmatic
    Feb 5, 2012 - 10:46AM

    should pakistan fail completely to realize what kind of state it is in now?


  • Akhtar
    Feb 5, 2012 - 10:53AM

    This is just another writer making money out of our misery. By writing books, all these authors & media have branded us as “militant pakis” all over the world. Why should the media give so much coverage to militants here when there are criminals all over the world. Every country including china takes advantage of us. We killed so many innocents in Lal masjid to please china & still they blamed us Uighur, who have brutally suppressed in china.

    Our foreign policy is to blame.


  • Alami Musafir
    Feb 5, 2012 - 7:49PM

    People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Anatol should look at what will happen to the USA if China closes its credit line. The fact of the matter is that the US has been living on credit for the last 40 years, and is a crypto-failed state. Pakistan has vast mineral wealth and the Pakistani diaspora has the intellectual resources to convert this into industrial products, not for export but for lifting our entire population into the twentyfirst century.

    All thats missing is the leadership (are you listening Imran ?) With the leadership in place will come hope and promise. The diaspora will join hands with their local brethren to begin the hard job of reconstruction and uplift.


  • Kalabairava
    Mar 17, 2012 - 3:45PM

    I dont understand how a state can be failed or failing. The only failed states are states that have lost faith in themselves. As visible in this post lot of pakistanis are hoping for a better tomorrow. They dont seem to be begging to USA for their food. The 21st century is the century of the youth and youthfulness is full of hope.

    I urge pakistani people to not go by these humbug by others. The only person who has failed is the person who has lost faith. It is neither dollars not gold nor any materials that can proclaim us a winners or losers. all this is a cycle. Failures are the stepping stones of success. All the best.

    I say this because I feel that Indian youth should not be hallucinated by the opium of having GDP and Dollars and think that their future is bright. Ultimately these things dont matter. Have we lived our life in a way we want and have we allowed others to have their own way is the only thing that counts. It takes one earthquake and one fire to destroy. But what cannot be destroyed by any thing is your faith and the fact that you lived for your faith and allowed others to follow their respective faiths.

    faith and hope in oneself is the root on which the tree called country stands. The only caution i give to my friends in pakistan is that terrorists are hopeless and have no hope that humanity will help them. They are against humanity.


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