Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, December 28, 2007

What next in Pakistan?

OK, so what next in Pakistan?

Here are some little factoids about Pakistan mostly from the CIA worldfactbook (see link to the right).

population: aprox 165 million
median age: about 20 (the median age in the USA is about 36, the global median is about 28)
Per Capita GDP (adjusted for purchasing power): $2,600 (in USA it is $43,800; the global per capita GDP is $10,200)
Largest import partner: China
Largest export partner: USA
Labor force distribution: ag = 42%; industry = 20%; services = 38%

Pakistan spends about 3% of their GDP on the military and has nuclear weapons. The US provides special military aid that is specifically targeted to protecting/guarding Pakistan's nuclear arsenal (of about 20 to 40 weapons). According to the various websites I looked at Pakistan may not have the missiles to deliver those warheads very far (possibly not even as far as Dehli).

So what we have here is a very poor, very agrarian, very young country with nuclear weapons in which a corrupt (remember the nuclear smuggling that Musharraf's government let happen?) military regime is doing everything it can to maintain the status quo. The problem is that the status quo involves Al Qaeda and the Taliban have the run of half the country. Musharraf apologists say "that's better than them having the run of the entire country." That's probably true if that's really the only alternative.

I haven't thought through what the US policy should be towards Pakistan after this latest development. So let's have a little forum about it here on the blog...


Dr. Strangelove said...

USWest commented on the previous blog that she would be "pleasantly surprised" if any of us were particularly knowledgeable about Pakistan. Well, I'm not, and I would also be pleasantly surprised. Even RbR's little summary contains more details than I knew. I am short on facts, but never short on opinion. (Hence, I blog.)

And in my uneducated opinion, my best answer to "what next in Pakistan" is probably "not much." With Bhutto gone, the elections will probably be a dud and Musharraf will remain in power (even though he no longer technically wears the army uniform). Whoever assassinated Bhutto probably hoped to keep her from upsetting the status quo. Whether this was the Taliban, Al Qaeda, the military, or Musharraf, we may never know. But when you askk "cui bono" the answer is all of the above. And I suspect they will get what they want. Meanwhile, Pakistan waits for another leader to emerge...

Raised By Republicans said...

Some more tidbits about Pakistan. Pakistan is mostly (77%) Sunni but has a significant (20%) Shia minority. Shia have been targets of attacks over the last several years.

Urdu, one of two official languages, is only spoken by 8% of the population. From what I've heard that's mostly spoken by the decedents of Indian muslims who fled to Pakistan during the partition. The other official langauge is English and is only spoken by 1% of the population. There is no language spoken by a majority of the population but Punjabi comes close (48%). The Bhutto family is Punjabi I believe.

The Pushtun tribes that get all the headlines comprise about 8% of the population.

So US West is right to have suggested in earlier emails that Pakistani politics is often dominated by an elite that is in many ways alienated from the rest of the country. But I don't think that means we should throw up our hands and say "it's all smoke and mirrors."

We should not give up on the prospects for a Pakistani democracy. They've been an election-coup-election-coup cycle for decades. India is just as poor and perhaps even more divided but has established a stable democracy and the foundations of a thriving economy.

So where does this leave me as far as a normative opinion goes? Well, I think the US should stop military aid to Musharaff and link that policy change directly to the Bhutto murder. He's a bad egg. He's got people that he depends on who are in league with Al Qaeda and other similarly anti-modern/anti-American groups.

Certainly any overt intervention by us could backfire badly. But at the same time Musharaff is so unpopular right now that if we make a clear and tangible demonstration of our opposition to him could win over a large number of hearts and minds.

The good news about Pakistan's young population is that it places enormous weight on what we do RIGHT NOW. We can overcome the negative effects of decades of bad behavior towards Pakistan's people (by supporting military dictators like Zia and Musharaff) with a bold act now. Keep in mind the median Pakistani was only 13 or 14 when 9/11 happened!

Raised By Republicans said...

Correction: Bhutto's family is from Sindh not Punjab. About 12% of the population speaks Sindhi. Sindh is the region around Karachi and Hyderabad.

Sindh's neighor to the east is the Indian province of Gujarat which is the most industrialized province of that country.

Sindh is similarly well endowed economically. According to wikipedia, Karachi's metro area accounts for 60% of Pakistan's GDP. Karachi is the main seaport so they could be counting everythign that passes through as being attributed to Karachi's economic activities.