By Antonio Sampaio, Research Assistant, Survival and the Armed Conflict Database, IISS
The supply of gas to the Lahore home of renowned Pakistani journalist and author Ahmed Rashid was cut off six months ago. While hardly one of the most severe problems faced by Pakistanis today, regular energy shortages are but one element of the multidimensional crisis afflicting their country. As Rashid explained during his address to the IISS, behind the international headlines on security and strategic issues lies ‘a dire economic situation’ that is exacerbating regional instability.
According to Rashid, ‘Pakistan’s foreign policy has undermined the state itself, it has created even more splits in the ethnic makeup, it has divided the country.’ Its political and military leadership had failed to implement economic and foreign-policy reform after the Cold War. Instead Pakistan had continued to support proxy armed groups in Kashmir, as well as aiding elements of the Taliban – despite its ongoing fight against different elements of the same group on its territory.
Both the security threat from Islamic militants and the poor outlook for the economy were ‘symptoms of things going very wrong’, stated the author of Pakistan on the Brink: The future of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the West. His bleak assessment of the situation on the ground both in Afghanistan and Pakistan came in the aftermath of two bold moves by the Taliban: a series of coordinated attacks across Kabul and three eastern Afghan provinces and ‘the biggest jailbreak’ in Pakistan’s history, in which almost 400 prisoners were released from a prison in the northwestern town of Bannu.