Governance in Pakistan – 1

In this series of posts we will try and provide an explanation of the seemingly intractable problems that afflict Pakistan today.

But first we address the issue of why analysts and observers are so often wrong in their assessments of the Pakistani situation.

The occasion for this is an article by William Dalrymple who has made a name for himself as a chronicler of Mughal history and an analyst of modern South Asia. Writing on March 4, 2009 he says:

Just over a year ago, in February 2008, I travelled by car across the length and breadth of Pakistan to cover the country’s first serious election since General Pervez Musharraf seized power in 1999…. The story I wrote at the time for the New York Review of Books was optimistic.

Like most other people given the option, Pakistanis clearly want the ability to choose their own rulers, and to determine their own future, I wrote. The country I saw over the last few days on a long road trip was not a failed state, nor anything even approaching ‘the most dangerous country in the world … almost beyond repair’ as the Spectator (among many others) recently suggested … By and large, the countryside I passed through was calm and beautiful, and not obviously less prosperous-looking than its subcontinental neighbour. It was certainly a far cry from the terminal lawlessness and instability of post-occupation Iraq or Afghanistan.

A year on, however, the situation could hardly be more different, or more grim…

So this is our question for readers: Why was as astute an observer as William Dalrymple deceived? Why was he unable to correctly predict the future one year ahead?

Let us get some feedback on this question before we try and speculate on the possible reasons.


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