A debate has been going on across Pakistani society of its having become a failed state. The question being raised by people representing the intelligentsia both within the country and abroad is ‘Is Pakistan a failed state?’ To be able to rightfully judge if this contention is correct or not one would essentially need to know the description or definition of a failed state. As defined by Wikipedia, a failed state is a state perceived as having failed at some of the basic conditions and responsibilities of a sovereign government. There is, however, no general consensus on the definition of a failed state. The definition of a failed state according to the ‘Fund for Peace’ is often used to characterize a failed state as one (a) that has lost control of its territory, or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force therein (b) where there is erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions (c) where the state is unable to provide public services and (d) where the state is unable to interact with other states as a full member of the international community.

Some common characteristics of a ‘failing state’ include a central government so weak or ineffective that it has little practical control over much of its territory; non-provision of public services; widespread corruption and criminality; refugees and involuntary movement of populations; and sharp economic decline. Typically, the term ‘failed state’ means that the state has been rendered ineffective and is not able to enforce its laws uniformly because of high crime rates, extreme political corruption, an impenetrable and ineffective bureaucracy, judicial ineffectiveness, military interference in politics, and cultural situations in which traditional leaders wield more power than the state over a certain area.

If the issue is looked at in the backdrop of what has been stated above, one would be inclined to believe that Pakistan is on the verge of becoming a failed state. Today’s Pakistan has become a country where: corruption is rampant, law and order has gone haywire, the state has bitterly failed to provide its people the basic amenities of life like food, clothing, shelter, education and health, the state has completely failed to provide security to its people, the economy is on the verge of total collapse, galloping inflation is ruthlessly cutting through the purse of people belonging to every stratum of the society, massive flight of both human and financial capital has become the order of the day, human rights is being blatantly violated, the rule of law is being audaciously desecrated by those at the helm, the downtrodden masses are becoming poorer and the opulent rulers of the country are becoming richer.

In short, all that should not have happened has happened in Pakistan. Unfortunately, all this has been happening in total disregard to the norms of national and international law and the norms of a civilized and educated society. The situation is indeed alarming. Will the people of Pakistan quickly rise to the situation and persuade their elected representatives, through democratic means, to take immediate cognizance of the issues threateningly confronting this nation and make untiring and sincere endeavors to steer the country out of the morass it is in?

M. FAZAL ELAHI,

Islamabad, February 5.