T.V. Paul’s Narrative of Pakistan is Biased and Flawed
By Riaz Haq
TV Paul has based this book on a highly biased and deeply flawed narrative of Pakistan which does not hold up to basic scrutiny.
While it is true that Pakistan has not lived up to its potential when compared with other US Cold War allies in East and Southeast Asia, it is wrong to describe it as a "conspicuous failure".
Here's a point-by-point response to Paul's narrative:
1. Paul argues: Seemingly from its birth, Pakistan has teetered on the brink of becoming a failed state.
In 1947 at the time of independence, Pakistan was described as "nissen hut" by British Viceroy of India Lord Mountbatten in a conversation with Jawarhar Lal Nehru. However, Pakistan defied this expectation that it would not survive as an independent nation and the partition of India would be quickly reversed.
Pakistan not only survived but thrived with its economic growth rate easily exceeding the "Hindu growth rate" in India for most of its history.
Even now when the economic growth rate has considerably slowed, Pakistan has lower levels of poverty and hunger than its neighbor India, according UNDP and IFPRI.
The key reason for lower poverty in Pakistan is its per capita value added in agriculture which is twice that of India. Agriculture employs 40% of Pakistanis and 60% of Indians. The poor state of rural India can be gauged by the fact that an Indian farmer commits suicide every 30 minutes.
2. Paul: Its economy is as dysfunctional as its political system is corrupt; both rely heavily on international aid for their existence.
The fact is that foreign aid to Pakistan has been declining as a percentage of its GDP for many decades. Today, foreign aid makes up less than 1% of its GDP of $240 billion.
3. Paul: Taliban forces occupy 30 percent of the country.
The Taliban "occupy" a small part of FATA called North Waziristan which is about 4,700 sq kilometers, about 0.5% of its 796,000 sq kilometers area.
Talking about insurgents "occupying" territory, about 40% of Indian territory is held by Maoist insurgents in the "red corridor" in Central India, according to Indian security analyst Bharat Verma.
4. Paul: It possesses over a hundred nuclear weapons that could easily fall into terrorists' hands.
A recent assessment by Nuclear Threat Initiative ranked Pakistan above India on "Nuclear Materials Security Index".
5. Paul: Why, in an era when countries across the developing world are experiencing impressive economic growth and building democratic institutions, has Pakistan been such a conspicuous failure?
Pakistan's nominal GDP has quadrupled from $60 billion in 2000 to $240 billion now. I wouldn't call that a failure.
Goldman Sachs' Jim O'Neill, the economist who coined BRIC, has put Pakistan among the 'Next 11' group in terms of growth in the next several decades.
6. Paul argues that the "geostrategic curse" -- akin to the "resource curse" that plagues oil-rich autocracies -- is at the root of Pakistan's unique inability to progress. Since its founding in 1947, Pakistan has been at the center of major geopolitical struggles: the US-Soviet rivalry, the conflict with India, and most recently, the post 9/11 wars.
Pakistan is no more a warrior state that many others in the world. It spends no more than 3% of its GDP on defense, lower than most of the nations of the world.
7. Paul says: No matter how ineffective the regime is, massive foreign aid keeps pouring in from major powers and their allies with a stake in the region. The reliability of such aid defuses any pressure on political elites to launch the far-reaching domestic reforms necessary to promote sustained growth, higher standards of living, and more stable democratic institutions.
"Massive foreign aid" adds up to less than 1% of Pakistan's GDP. Pakistan's diaspora sends it over 5% of Pakistan's GDP in remittances.
8. Paul: Excessive war-making efforts have drained Pakistan's limited economic resources without making the country safer or more stable. Indeed, despite the regime's emphasis on security, the country continues to be beset by widespread violence and terrorism.
In spite of spending just 3% of its GDP, which is average for its size, Pakistan has achieved strategic parity with India by developing nuclear weapons. It has since prevented India from invading Pakistan as it did in 1971 to break up the country. Pakistani military has shown in Swat in 2009 that it is quite capable of dealing with insurgents when ordered to do so by the civilian govt.
Pakistan should be compared with other countries in South Asia region, not East Asia or Southeast Asia. Comparison with its South Asian neighbors India and Bangladesh shows that an average Pakistani is less poor, less hungry and more upwardly mobile, according to credible data from multiple independent sources.