By Nadeem Hotiana
To paraphrase Mark Twain, the news of Pakistan's failure has been greatly exaggerated. We take exception to Pakistan's placement on the Failed States Index published in Foreign Policy magazine. The methodology fails to capture Pakistan's myriad strengths, while exaggerating its perceived weaknesses.
It would be helpful to deconstruct the methodology that is so cavalierly applied to Pakistan. The index singles out "the erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions," the "inability to provide reasonable public services," and "the inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community" as key attributes of a failing state. The compilers get it wrong about Pakistan on all these counts.
Pakistan today is on the cusp of an epochal transition. Even as it fights a full-blooded war against terrorists, it is completing a historic transformation from authoritarian rule to genuine democracy. This is the most legislatively active parliament in our history. It has cleansed the constitution of the debris of past authoritarian interludes and devolved power to the provinces, passed landmark legislation to help bring the residents of our Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Gilgit-Baltistan into the political mainstream, and taken the most comprehensive set of measures to address the grievances of the people of our Balochistan province. It has passed more legislation on women's rights than all of Pakistan's past parliaments combined, while tackling such issues as domestic abuse and property rights and establishing a National Commission on Women. It also established a National Commission on Human Rights with enforcement powers.
A boisterously vibrant media complements the coming of age of Pakistani democracy. The Pakistani military is part of this democratic evolution. It has earned the respect of the average Pakistani through its unflinching resolve to take on the terrorists and allow the political leadership to set the country's direction and policies.
This is not to say that Pakistan does not face challenges. We are on the front lines of the fight against terrorism, which has consumed precious resources. We also face pressures on a number of other fronts. Our infrastructure, for example, has suffered neglect. And yet, the work of the state continues to get done. The parliament continues to meet and make laws and even vote in a new prime minister through a peaceful constitutional change. The bureaucracy continues to deliver services. Schools, colleges, and universities continue to admit students and grant certificates, diplomas, degrees, and doctorates. The borders of the country continue to be defended and the scourge of terrorism continues to be met head on.
The economy, despite laboring under the impact of some of worst natural disasters to befall Pakistan (including the 2010 floods, when 20 percent of our landmass was under water), continues to perform creditably, managing a growth rate of 3.6 percent this year. Tax collection has surged by 25 percent, and remittances from Pakistanis abroad have increased by 21 percent as exports have surged to $25 billion. Pakistan's stock market continues to perform well. Clearly, the investors know or see something that the Failed States Index's compilers can't or won't.
Pakistan is an active and valued member of numerous international organizations. It maintains diplomatic relations with almost all countries of the world. It is currently a member of the U.N. Security Council, earning that place after a tough election. Pakistan has also historically been the top troop contributor to U.N. peacekeeping operations.
The true measure of a nation is not the number and magnitude of challenges it faces, but how it rises to meet them. Measured against that yardstick, Pakistan has hardly any equal.
Nadeem Hotiana is press attaché at the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, D.C.