The following entry has been excerpted from the ongoing work of students from Claremont Graduate University as part of Wikistrat’s 2011 International Grand Strategy Competition.
The “changing nature” of Pakistan begins with its efforts to stabilize domestic security, while terrorist organizations continue operating from within its borders. With an impending U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in the short to mid-term, Pakistan will likely see the removal of key foreign instigators of Pakistani turmoil.
Politically, the central government will only increase its sovereignty in the foreseeable future. Pakistan will maintain its democratic institutions but necessarily will become more Islamic in nature.
Economically, Pakistan will harness short term comparative advantages in textile, textile manufacturing, and agriculture. In the mid to long terms, Pakistan will seek to establish a regional specialization in connecting energy suppliers to energy consumers. Furthermore, Pakistan will capitalize on the consumer economies emerging in India and China.
Militarily, its standing in the region will compel Pakistan to forgo a leviathan force in favor of a more agile, better trained, and capable system-administration force that will concentrate its efforts on domestic security and infrastructure development. Pakistan will draw nearer to China, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, while distancing itself from the U.S., and pursuing a posture of détente (in the classical sense) with India.
Role in the Global System
Short Term (5 years)
Pakistan’s role in the global system stems primarily from its poor domestic security environment, which in the short term will continue to house a variety of terrorist organizations.
To a degree, Tehrik-e Taliban and other terrorist organizations operating from within the country render Pakistan politically volatile. The state of Pakistan, however, will not “collapse,” “implode,” or “disintegrate in the foreseeable future. Pakistan’s domestic situation stands far from analogous to Lebanon of the 1980s, and little about Pakistan resembles current failed states such as Somalia. In actuality, the United States (U.S.) represents the biggest violator of Pakistani sovereignty (e.g. drone attacks), and with an American withdrawal from Afghanistan in the next few years Pakistan’s sovereignty will likely increase. Additionally, the removal of U.S. forces from the region will create an opportunity for the Pakistani government to redress the numerous disaffected communities in remote tribal regions. Thus, over the short-term, Pakistan will continue to house numerous foreign and domesticjihadi organizations that cause problems for Afghanistan, India, occasionally Iran, and to an even lesser degree China. In this respect, non-state actors will continue to undermine Pakistani sovereignty. However, not all “failed states” exude the same level of failure. Pakistan will seek to improve its current condition regarding terrorist organizations operating from within its borders through policies of accommodation and limited combat operations when these groups attempt to overstep their bounds beyond their mountain strongholds. With the exception of Tehrik-e Taliban and a few others, most terrorist organizations operating in Pakistan remain focused on external enemies and not the Pakistani government.
Medium Term (10 years)
Pakistan’s medium-term role in the global system will derive from its efforts to become an indispensable energy conduit linking energy suppliers with energy consumers.
While domestic security will continue to signify Pakistan’s major concern over the medium term, the Pakistani government will also reach out to its neighbors. The most probable example of outreach will center on Pakistan attempting to play the middleman in building pipelines that connect Gulf oil to China and potentially India. It stands in Pakistan’s interest to engage in increased diplomacy with India. If Pakistan continues to attempt to compete militarily with India, Pakistan will only increase its “gap-state” status and increase its isolation (please refer to “Security Orientation” below). Other plausible efforts for Pakistani outreach efforts in the medium term include establishing free trade agreements with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman—states with which Pakistan maintains excellent historical and religious ties.
Thus, Pakistan’s most ambitious international effort over the next decade will likely revolve around its pursuit of becoming an indispensable conduit linking energy suppliers with energy consumers, falling in line with the global economic rebalanciling process. Furthermore, it demonstrates Pakistan’s eagerness to find economic opportunities in emerging markets while accounting for the consumption shift in the region. Additionally, given current conditions with Iran and proliferation, Pakistan anticipates continued Iranian isolation by the international community (and specifically the West) which provides Pakistan an opportunity to assume the role of linking East and West Asia. In the event that Pakistan stabilizes both its domestic politics and internal security quickly (which our analysis suggests looks probabilistic), it is plausible that in ten years, a pipeline connecting from China to the port of Gwadar will likely be reaching its completion. The pipeline will stretch through the developed provinces which will have additional infrastructure and security constructed to provide assurance to all parties involved. While the refinement industry will continue to be in development at the ten-year mark, added capacity at the port of Gwadar will provide much needed government revenue for the continuation and expansion of policy goals. Further, Pakistan’s planned construction projects in the frontier includes new power transmission lines, roads, and running water, which will likely reduce the processes of Islamic radicalization among tribal communities.
Long Term (20+ years)
In the long term, Pakistan will likely become economically integrated with South Asia, resulting in a portfolio with broader economic trade and development in addition to energy.
Accordingly, over the next twenty years, strong trade links with major economic players such as China and India will develop out of necessity. In terms of energy, China will continue its dependence on foreign energy reserves to maintain its own economic growth. It will ultimately opt for an over-land pipeline through Pakistan’s core and into China for the simple reasons of security and efficiency. The only viable alternative in the near to long term given the chaos of Afghanistan remains shipping oil and gas by sea through the Straits of Malacca, which is not only costly but leaves China strategically vulnerable to the area denial capabilities of its Southeast Asian neighbors. India is also dependent on foreign energy, and while the costs associated with transporting oil by sea are less than its rival China, it too will ultimately prefer pipelines. As China and India move up the value-added scale, Pakistan will find itself in a new niche area to step into in the coming years and spur additional economic development. The international community will no longer deem Pakistan a “failed state,” but rather a responsible regional actor that has achieved fair domestic political stability and economic growth. While perhaps not owning a monopoly, Pakistan will have achieved a higher degree of dominance over the use of coercive force in its domestic environment. Its relations with India will have greatly improved, while its key ally will have shifted from the U.S. to China. Due to a successful increase in the role of Islam in government, Pakistan will also have achieved a more prominent leadership role in the Muslim world. All told in 20 years, Pakistan could be on a successful path to functioning as a junior member of the “core.”
With the exception of the U.S., Pakistan’s alliances will likely remain stable in orientation and improve in quality for the foreseeable future due primarily to shared economic interests.
Pakistan’s relations with the U.S. and Afghanistan will become increasingly ambiguous. Despite U.S. efforts to push Pakistan to help conclude the conflict in Afghanistan, Pakistan will likely stay disengaged in any positive diplomacy regarding the Taliban, its affiliates and Afghanistan’s Karzai government. Furthermore as U.S. and NATO forces disengage from Afghanistan specifically and the global war on terror in a more general sense, Pakistan will transition from a central to periphery interest in western capitals. Similarly, Pakistani relations with Iran will remain negative, as Pakistani forces will do little to curb Jundallah’s war against the Iranian military in Baluchistan.
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, and China will emerge as Pakistan’s key allies in the years ahead. Pakistan will look toward its traditional Sunni allies to provide energy imports that will stoke domestic economic growth and by its consumption facilitate the rejuvenation of a national identity. Given new infrastructure Pakistan will be able to leverage the Arab states excess production capacity and marry it with Chinese demand. In doing so, Pakistan alters the dynamic of its relationship with Beijing. Recently Pakistanis, including the Defense Minister, see China as “an all-weather friend and the closest ally of Pakistan.” These sentiments seem mutual in that subsequent to the killing of Osama bin Laden, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao stated “no matter what changes might take place in the international landscape, China and Pakistan will remain for ever good neighbors, good friends, good partners and good brothers. However, Pakistan has paid a high price for Chinese assistance in terms of economic, military, and technological development in continuing hostile relations with India. By becoming a stable energy broker, Pakistan will leverage its supply capacity to equalize the strategic partnership with Beijing. This freedom of movement will empower Pakistan to engage India from a position of strength that domestic military might cannot provide.
Pakistan’s complicated and fractured domestic environment remains its biggest obstacle to global integration in theforeseeable future. One can classify Pakistan as a federal parliamentary republic, yet its history of military coup d’etats and assassinations of political leaders demonstrates that Pakistan has failed to truly consolidate its democracy. However, the worst-case scenario in the foreseeable future suggest that Pakistan could readopt authoritarian-military rule. Accordingly, we have built a variety of agent-based models to determine the circumstances in which Pakistan could increase domestic stability while simultaneously increasing the durability of its democratic institutions (i.e. its electoral processes and representative government but not necessarily “liberal democratic values,” which Pakistanis has never embraced en masse; for example, Pakistanis favor severe punishments for criminals, and Pakistanis largely favor gender segregation).
Watch our agent-based modeling (ABM) video on various forecasts for Pakistani domestic politics in the near term, or see our Pakistani identity politics ABM page.
Reasserting Government Control & Stabilizing Domestic Security
Stabilizing domestic security will require numerous changes in government structure and political outlook, all of which center on a re-solidification of Pakistani national identity. In regard to the findings of our predictive analysis, Pakistan will entertain at least three major governmental changes in order to maintain its democratic institutions, bolster Pakistani national identity, and stabilize the domestic security environment. First, Pakistan will consider increasing the role of Islam politically and legally. This transformation might involve creating some type of electable religious office (e.g. an official religious advisor to the president). Second, Pakistan will need to shift financial and political focus away from the “Indian threat” and toward domestic infrastructure, particularly the power and energy infrastructure. As shown in our vector autoregression forecast (See below in our “Security Orientation” section), Pakistan cannot compete with India in military spending. Pakistan can better use its resources on building internal infrastructure, which in turn will help buttress the central government’s control. Further, Pakistan will seek to establish a regional “specialization” as an energy-supplying middleman. Third, the Pakistani military and intelligence apparatus might shift their foci toward securing new domestic infrastructure and developing Pakistan’s regional role. In this regard, “corruption” would function positively in the sense that the military and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) would compete over securing new “goods” rather than focusing on propping up the phantom Indian threat.
Bolstering Pakistani National Identity: New Role for Religion
Numerous identity groups reside in Pakistan, making for a flimsy national identity. Throughout Pakistan’s history, Islam has functioned as a unifying force. In the near future, Islam can revitalize Pakistani national identity which would require the government to show a willingness to adopt a more Islamic character. It could do so in a number of ways, such as establishing an official governmental position for a religious authority or by incorporating more shari’a (Islamic jurisprudence) into the Pakistani legal system. In the foreseeable future, the Pakistani government promises around an 85 percent chance of overtly supporting more formal Islamic components within the government. In the foreseeable future, the Pakistani nation becoming less concerned with the “Indian threat” rests at around a 66 percent likelihood, whereas the military shifting primary focus to securing domestic infrastructure sits around a 33 percent likelihood. Ultimately, Pakistan could use Islam to gain the trust of Pashtun (or Pakhtun) and Baluchi tribesmen. Such cooperation will then bolster the participation of the Pakistani labor force, which remains under-mobilized especially for the Pashtuns and Baluchis.
Afghanistan & Kashmir, the ISI & the Pashtuns
With a major U.S. & NATO withdrawal, Afghanistan will likely remain unstable. Accordingly, Pakistan will see fit to encourage the ISI to continue operations in Afghanistan while decreasing them in Kashmir--a trend that has already started. Pakistan will find it necessary to place the ISI in charge of engaging the tribes of Pakhtunkhwa. This will keep both the ISI and the Pashtuns focused on their respective interests in Afghanistan. In addition to a new governmental role for religion, Pakistan can offer Pashtuns a brighter economic outlook. This establishes some space to stabilize the domestic front and begin consolidating Pakistani identity.
Baluch separatists will not constitute a strategic threat to Pakistan’s government. A 2006 Carnegie Report demonstrated that “In the absence of foreign support, which does not appear imminent, the Baluch movement cannot prevail over a determined central government with obviously superior military strength.” Baluchi separatism is limited to that of a “nuisance.” In fact, were Baluchi separatists to cause disproportionate problems in the region, they would incur the ire of China who largely funds Gwadar’s development. In that sense, foreign support would enter into the equation, but on Pakistan’s side. That the Baluch movement is mostly arrayed against Iran also compounds the dynamic. If India attempted to assist the Baluchis against Pakistan’s government (the province is removed from the India-Pakistan border), it would be logistically difficult and an unprecedented provocation. Such a development remains highly unlikely for India as a state that wishes to avert conflict and consolidate its growth.
Pakistan’s security orientation will shift from that of a conventional, Indian-centric posture to one focused on an internal security.
Pakistan’s security orientation is affected by three inter-related concerns. First, economics wil curtail the popular narrative of a rivalrous dyad with India. This is associated with changes in public opinion that reduce the perception of India as a threat. Second, in light of diminishing military capability, Pakistan will reorient its conventional forces to a maritime posture to protect its economic interests in Gwadar. Third, Pakistan will continue to stabilize its internal security posture. The political-economy constraints foisted upon Pakistan necessitates that it curb its ambitions of being a regional leviathan in favore of a more capable system administrator force. This transition will require substantial political capital as the key constituency that favors a leviathan force is the Punjabi military class, which has governed the state since inception. Economically, Pakistan will be resigned to the fact that it cannot militarily compete with India in the conventional realm. Faced with spending the state into oblivion to maintain parity with India, or developing asymmetric capabilities, Pakistan will change its force posture to assure territorial defense. Expect to see more reliance on China for conventional arms on favorable terms, but not at the Pakistani state’s own expense. Pakistan and India both see an equal burden of defense as a share of their gross domestic product (GDP), yet India possesses double the active manpower of Pakistan. Using vector auto-regression, we constructed forecasts to assess the military burden of Pakistan’s military out to 2035 in a model that takes into account both India and Pakistani data. For details about this particular model, as well as the individual forecasts from which these figures were derived, please visit the appendix here. The result is a simple model that accounts for labor and fiscal considerations of both the civilian and military sectors. The forecasted portions appear as dotted lines in the graphs:
After the Cold War, Pakistan began its move away from a garrison-state mentality by reducing the number of personnel as a share of urban population, coinciding with the 1991 agreement with India prohibiting attacks on each other’s nuclear research facilities. Pakistan’s competition with India effectively ended after the nuclear watershed in 1998. With this development, Pakistan’s security from foreign threats became permanent, and all subsequent attempts to retain a semblance of parity with India are residual to these structural dynamics. Out to 2030, the forecast points to military expenditure as a share of GDP stabilizing around 1%. The nuclear deterrent coupled with looming demographic and fiscal pressures will disallow the military to have its way with large arsenals of conventional armaments. The shared benevolent and turbulent history has created a relationship which has the potential to createenormous success, but there is also an innate lack of trust that has instilled fear and hatred into many policymakers on both sides. In order for Pakistan to be successful, these structural factors will press Pakistan to re-establish cohesive diplomatic ties with its neighbor with the objectives of increasing trade, establishing a cooperative immigration policy. According to a 2010 poll conducted by the PEW institute 74% of Pakistanis see India as either a serious or somewhat serious threat. Yet despite such fear and mistrust, 77% said increased trade between India and Pakistan would be a good thing, 76% support the resumption of bilateralnegotiations, and 72% believe better relations with India is important. In the longer term, Pakistan will have ample opportunity to address the issue of Jammu and Kashmir in the 20 year period in concert with India (The same 2010 poll reports 71% understand Kashmir to be a huge political hurdle with India and that 79% of the total population want to see a resolution regarding the disputed territory).
One notable exception to the reduced arms balance concerns Pakistan’s maritime capability. Driven by a need to protect its investments in Gwadar, Pakistan has begun procuring Chinese Type 022 fast-attack-craft and Type 053 frigates, along with Agosta 90-B submarines from France. These comparatively small craft are all ideally suited to coastal operations as a competitive bluewater navy is out of the question; Pakistan has stated its intention to cede local dominance to India in this domain. A recent attack by Taliban militants on the Naval Base at Karachi is illustrative of Pakistan’s burgeoning security challenges. This highlights Pakistan’s shifting naval focus (the base hosted P-3 maritime surveillance aircraft as well as Chinese-made Z-9 anti-submarine warfare helicopters), but also highlights the primary vulnerabilities to sub-state militant groups. Domestically, the government will require the assistance of the ISI and military to address the enormous task of integrating the autonomous zones to the national and international affairs of Pakistan. This can provide the military and ISI with objectives that can benefit the future stability of Pakistan. Additionally, ISI and military will have a significant amount of their resources allocated to these regions, which will indirectly prevent both of these institutions from overinfluencing Pakistan’s political agenda. The military and ISI have eroded Pakistan’s central control, accountability, and legitimacy. Despite this past history with these institutions, Islamabad will look to these two forces to establishclear borders and acquire the capability to govern all corners of the Pakistani state. In the coming decades Pakistan will eschew a Leviathan-posture for its conventional forces, focusing instead on bolstering its internal security and immediate maritime region. Pakistan will free capital to engage in and secure ambitious infrastructure assets from the threat of domestic militant groups, and secure a lifeline to proximate Southwest Asian energy reserves.
We forecast that Pakistan’s relative comparative advantage will remain in agriculture and manufacturing, and will grow to encompass energy provision. The economic success of Pakistan will rely heavily on infrastructural development and a systemic change at the political level. Furthermore, in the long run, efforts will be made to improve technical skills and vocational education as a means to raise the labor force’s participation and productivity.
Throughout its history, Pakistan has experienced much difficulty establishing political and economic stability. The recent easing of Pakistan’s GDP growth is associated with worsening security conditions, heightened political uncertainty, stalled policy implementation, and infrastructure inefficiencies. Pakistan faces steep challenges as it hopes to alleviate many of its historic ailments. Nonetheless, Pakistan forecasts greater economic growth and stability in the short, mid, and long-run. Moreover, for the sake of its long-term survival, Pakistan cannot afford to continue down its current course (see above our VAR and agent-based models). Maintaining the status quo does not allow Pakistan to position itself for greater economic growth and development. Given the growth in both China and India, emerging markets with increased consumption, spending, and disposable incomes, Pakistan’s economic forecast is more optimistic than in previous years. The figure below indicates Pakistan regional opportunities given its comparative advantage:
From the table above, it is clear that Pakistan’s two largest exports are textiles, manufacturing and agriculture. Therefore, a cost-efficient and productive strategy will utilize the advantages that already exist. It is essential that Pakistan continue to work to achieve greater efficiency and economies of scale in areas where it is possible to do so competitively. A recent Asian Development Bank report on Pakistan reveals macroeconomic concerns including inflationary pressure, government subsidies, and limited ability of government to expand its investment in infrastructure. There is reason for optimism based on structural advances to business performance in the past 40 years:
Clearly, Pakistan has shown a dramatic increase in the service sector. However, the drastic decline in agricultural production and the stagnation of industry as well as increased inflationary pressure overshadows the service sector’s growth. Pakistan must address several domestic challenges in order to achieve greater growth and development. These challenges include, access to power, nutrition, literacy, gender equity, access to health facilities and clean water. Recent years have witnessed a decline in economic indicators, which in turn have worsened many of these socio-economic issues. From the table below, it is evident that nearly all of the problematic factors that hurt business come as a result of political and/or policy inefficiencies. Traditionally, Pakistan has encountered great challenges in managing property rights, rule of law, political order. Economic development requires rule of law and greater government efficiency, which are both currently lacking in Pakistan.
The impact of government inefficiencies becomes apparent globally when its citizenry must confront massive natural disasters including: the tsunami of 2004, earthquake in 2005, 2008 and massive floods in 2010. However, Pakistan’s governmental inefficiencies are witnessed daily by its population. Corruption and limited access to both electricity and water greatly impact Pakistan’s economic performance, which may explain why Pakistan significantly underperforms as compared to other regional actors. Pakistan’s natural resources alone suggest it should be a rich country as it has significant oil reserves, billions of cubic feet of natural gas, has the 5th largest coal reserves, is home to some of the worlds largest copper mines, and mines diamonds, emeralds and precious metals. Yet, until the issues of government inefficiencies can be addressed and mitigated, it will be extremely difficult for any industry in Pakistan to succeed in a long term strategic plan.
Pakistan’s current state coupled with emerging markets’ regional trends call for Pakistan to increase manufacturing in areas where ‘specialization’ and relative low labor costs allow the manufacturer (exporter) to gain and maintain a competitive advantage. In the short term, Pakistan should seek to exploit its geographical position and facilitate the transit of oil from the Arab states towards China, while seeking to improve its advantage in textiles, textile manufacturing, and agriculture. In the mid and long term, the greatest manufacturing focus should be on those goods and services that are consumed by populations in emerging markets, specifically the titans next door China and India, and where both the consumption shift and migration flow create great economic opportunities through increased demand. Despite the governments poor stewardship of the Pakistani economy to date, current relations with the Middle East and its proximity to both China and India (as expanding emerging markets), supports our forecast and allows us to contemplate the possibility of not only halting the decent into chaos, but rather a return to steady economic growth in the coming years.
Social and Demographic Prospects
Pakistan’s social and demographic prospects are dangerous in the short term, but advantageous in the long run if the government increases its political capacity.
To assess Pakistan’s demographic trajectory, we constructed demographic pyramids using medium-variant projections from the United Nations. The data portrays a favorable demographic structure as Pakistan enters a transition from that of a low mortality/fast growth state to one of low fertility/fast growth. The short term risk to such a structure is the burden that investing in this youth places on the current working population. Although the total dependency ratio in Pakistan will lessen over time (from 66 today to 47 in 2035), it will remain in the 50s and 60s over the next 10 years. This is driven by the large youth bulge. Pakistan’s youthful median age of 20 will rise to age 30 only in 2035. Conversely, by 2035 the average life expectancy will rise by approximately 5 years to age 70 and the limited old-age dependency ratio (7) is expected to only rise to 10 by 2035. Consequently, social security provision for the elderly is not a concern as is the case in the advanced industrial nations. Rather, in the long term Pakistan’s internal stability is contingent upon there being adequate educational and economic opportunities for this youth bloc. It is this area that determines how well the society responds to the need for Pakistan’s youth to transition from a net societal consumer via health and education investments, into net producers integrated with the global economy. Pakistan has advantages in that English is the official language, and education is on the rise (Pakistan’s primary enrollment ratio has doubled since 1985). Compounding the youth bulge is rapid urbanization, as these youth migrate to the cities in search of employment opportunities. According to the 2008 U.N. Demographic Yearbook, in 2008 Pakistan’s aged 15-30 cohort comprised 30% of the population, but just under 40% of these youth resided in urban areas. By contrast, only 31% of those ages 14 and under, and 32% of those over age 30 lived in the cities. In 2008 the U.N. placed Pakistan’s urban population at 35% but a recent study estimates that Pakistan’s urban population will climb 140% from 2005 to 2030, with Pakistan’s urban population matching its rural population in that year (this is consistent with our forecast above). All-in-all, this rapid urbanization presents assimilation challenges and creates strains on a burdened social services system. Associated with a rise in urbanization is a pronounced reduction in the projected fertility rate. Over the next 20 years the U.N. medium variant population projections estimate that Pakistan’s total fertility rate (TFR, or the average number of children born per woman) is expected to decline from 3.2 in 2015 to 2.86 in 2020. The analysis expects Pakistan’s TFR to flatten at 2.23 by the year 2035, still above the replacement fertility rate of 2.1. Comprehensively, Pakistan retains an ample supply of domestic labor as the population bulge is focused on the youth, with a peak at the 15-19 age cohort in the year 2035. A key determinant of Pakistan’s future is the degree by which the state is able to capitalize on the demographic dividend by providing an enviornment amenable to their employment.