ATP Poll: What is Pakistan’s Biggest Threat?

Posted on March 22, 2009
Filed Under >Adil Najam, ATP Poll, Economy & Development, Education, Environment, Foreign Relations, Law & Justice, Politics, Religion, Society
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Adil Najam

Pakistan Day is a day of celebration. But it is also a day of reflection on what we have been through and what lies ahead of us.

In this, the second in our series of special posts to mark Pakistan Day 2009, we want to focus on what lies ahead in terms of the biggest threats to Pakistan’s future. In the next post in this series we intend to focus more on the opportunities.

It is an understatement to say that Pakistan is floating through an especially precarious time in its precarious history. Indeed, Pakistan is passing through a defining time.

There is no dearth of threats facing Pakistan. But in this special ATP Poll for Pakistan Day we would like you to think ahead and respond to the question: “What, in your opinion, is the single biggest and most important threat facing Pakistan?” THIS POLL IS NOW CLOSED.

Our ATP Poll gives you eight major options to choose from. If you think there are others that are even bigger, do let us know. Also, please comment on which of these is the most important one for you, and why? If, by any chance, you have suggestions on what to do about these threats do please share your views. That, after all, is the most important question of them all. THIS POLL IS NOW CLOSED.

33 Comments on “ATP Poll: What is Pakistan’s Biggest Threat?”

  1. Daud says:
    March 22nd, 2009 10:26 pm

    I think as we look forward on this Pakistan Day it is clear that the one threat more important than all else is the Taliban and their religous extremism. This is not just about Swat, the whole of society is under threat.

  2. khurram nazeer says:
    March 22nd, 2009 10:29 pm

    Dear Adil:
    I feel Incompetent political leaders and bad governance goes together. You cannot separate them as bad governance is always due to result of Incompetent leaders. Even if you have excellent governance but it cannot survive under leaders like Musharaf and Zardari.
    Khurram Nazeer
    Louisville. KY

  3. Maqbool says:
    March 22nd, 2009 10:47 pm

    I think we need to get rid of 1973 constitution and replace it with an American style of government. We are personality worshipers and we need to directly elect a President. That man or woman will then be all powerful and responsible for 4 years for the country.

  4. Muhammad Zahid says:
    March 22nd, 2009 11:32 pm

    free and fair judiciary which means a guaranteed tenure of service for the judges at all levels no matter who is governing the country. Army enjoys this already, the army chief is the chief for 3 years and no matter who is in rule the army chief stays army chief until he completes his tenure. if we can get the same thing for judges with their salary and benefits being higher than any other government servants,, only then we can hope to get a strong and impartial judiciary which no body will be able to influence and bend the laws in their favor. This is the only guarantee that can save the country and ensure a bright future. This is the thing that makes Canada different from Pakistan. both countries have too many identical laws but in Canada courts force the law on everyone equally and the result is so good. constitution and laws in Pakistan are not too bad, in fact they are taken word by word from the constitutions of countries like UK, Canada etc (anglo-saxon world). The fault lies in their implementation and interpretation which changes person to person.
    inequality and injustice are the biggest threat to Pakistan today and all the forces that support these evils must be routed out (be it Taliban or the Army) . This can only be done by making sure our justice system is free of all flaws and passes judgements against the president or the layman with equal force.

  5. Mohsin Irshad says:
    March 23rd, 2009 12:19 am

    One option should be “Lack of Education in the country”

  6. Eidee Man says:
    March 23rd, 2009 12:58 am

    The list is missing a very important option, especially given the focus during the past three years: inaccessibility to justice. It sounds cliche, but accessibility to justice is usually the primary determinant of a society’s failure or success.

  7. Qasim says:
    March 23rd, 2009 1:30 am

    I wanted to go for “USA and the ‘west’ “, because an overwhelming amount of circumstantial evidence shows that they’ve been the central theme, involved in and causing many of the other problems we face that this poll highlights.

    I’m talking about the US backing “military interference in politics”, fueling “corruption and bad-governance” by propping up “incompetent political leaders” which, in turn sell out “economic & resource” infrastructure assets like steel mills, PTCL, and Balochistan coal mining rights to western and west-approved/accepted corporations. Heck, even according to Iran’s Ayotalla, Pakistan’s not behind the “religious extremism & violence” that’s causing problems for Iran’s Balochistan border, it’s the US. And of course alot of people believe the US also propped up “India” against Pakistan, and they do have a history of using “ethnic & provincial faultlines” to their advantage, in many different places, to the detriment of millions.

    So it’s difficult to decide what to poll for though, because all the options make sense to a degree, and the degree to which they make sense, is a personal and subjective thing. People who get their homes blown up by accidental army shelling or whatever, would think the army’s the biggest problem. People shot at by drones would think the US is really bad. It depends on how deep you look, and what you percieve to be the real cause behind other problems. Choosing to squarely blame the US would be a very disempowering belief, because they’re an external factor and not something we directly control. So I don’t know what the biggest threat is, or what the main problem is, or what causes such problems to persistently plague us for sixty years. Could be any of these factors, could be the lack of political, intelectual, spiritual, or moral awareness in our masses.

    In the end, I spent about twenty minutes thinking about this, because this is an important question, but decided not to poll. I don’t have the requisite knowledge required to make an objective judgement. So I decided I’d jot down what I thought instead, in case it’d help someone else figure out an answer.

  8. Jusathot says:
    March 23rd, 2009 1:32 am

    All of the eight categories of threats listed are intertwined

  9. shahzad shameem says:
    March 23rd, 2009 6:06 am

    Adil Bhahi, you have asked the most sensitive question, In my view is the biggest THREAT to PAKISTAN is the Pakistani itself.

    Every one knows that slow and steadily our conscience, inner soul, Khuddi, self respect, culture being given sleeping pills/destroying in many ways especially in the name of Entertainment Media believe it or not.

    Look at the History whenever the Khuddi/inner soul was being let to sleep or kept aside, then the centuries of Ruling, while governing million of miles area, having mountains of Treasurers, with millions of population couldn’t stop the downfall of the Muslims.

    So have to keep awakened and awake the KHUDDI of our Generation (for which Allama Iqbal has been trying and telling through out his life), otherwise many many obsitcles, problems and troubles are waiting in line (GOD forbid).

    In the beginning the thirteen years of training (611-624) A.D, at Mecca made the Sahaba Karams that much perfect and obedient, when in next 10 years at Madina shareef almost all laws of Quraan, revealed by Hazrat Jibraeel, obeyed insistently at once.

    So here we have to wake up the KHUDDI/self conscience/inner soul as soon as possible. Then you won’ be afraid of anyone, any culture, any army or from any ISM.

    We have seen:-
    The most Literate the Country is Sri Lanka=condition in front of you.

    The most advance Country of Europe =Every fourth child does not know his father name.
    (once only Electricity gone in New York, everyone knows what happened)

    The most well mannered nation considered of U.K=and the Kashmir issue is product of it.

    America advising and concerned about Atomic weapons=is the only country who Used atomic bombs.

    In America they are spending 1000$ per month., on their dogs=and millions innocent killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan

  10. March 23rd, 2009 8:14 am

    Once bitten, twice shy. I believe that the biggest threat to Pakistan is the rift between its provinces. In a federation like Pakistan, justice must be done when it comes to provinces like Balochistan. I must tell you that we are underestimating the depth of alienation plaguing the Balochi speaking parts of Baluchistan. Just division of resources between the federal components based not only on population but also on the need for development will give rise to a strong Pakistan. No amount of defence spending can keep a country safe if the own people are not happy with their fortunes.

  11. Usman says:
    March 23rd, 2009 9:16 am

    I agree somewhat with Shahzad Shameem below, who has said that the biggest threat to Pakistan is the Pakistani himself. We have beaten our conscience into submission such that we violate everyday laws with impunity. e.g., littering, breaking traffic signals, bribing govt. officials, tax evasion, etc.

    Another dangerous trend being encouraged by some people is that defying of state institutions is good for its own sake. E.g, Nawaz Sharif’s public rants and abusive language against the Supreme Court verdict that went against him is an example in this regard. Not accepting the Supreme Court verdict is one thing – publicly instigating civil disobedience can only further destabilize an already fractitious society.

    Two things can bring back order into Pakistani society: One, reawakening of conscience at the individual’s level, and second, dispensation of justice. However, reawakening of conscience/personal responsibility comes first and dispensation of justice flows from it.

    By the way, religious extremism and violence, USA and the west’s interference in our affairs, ethnic and provincial tensions and to a lesser extent, military intervention in politics, corruption and bad governance are NOT PROBLEMS but are SYMPTOMS of ECONOMIC AND RESOURCE CHALLENGES.

    However, it can be argued that all these things are interrelated.

    I request Dr. Najam to formulate his polls more carefully in the future so as to differentiate between symptoms and root causes/problems more effectively.

  12. Waheed says:
    March 23rd, 2009 10:04 am


    I am sorry but anyone who thinks that corruption is not a problem either has no clue about things or is purposely trying to distract people

    People like Shahzad and Usman are just apologists for Raliban types trying to confuse what us clear to everyone…. The only real threat to Pakistan and to Islam are the mulahs are Taliban murderers.

  13. Ghazanfar Ali says:
    March 23rd, 2009 12:11 pm

    Great poll. Most important and very pertinent choices. These are the questions that Pakistan and Pakistanis really need to think about and do something about.

    Some Taliban apologizers and conspiracy theory people want to see everything connected to outsiders because they do not want to take the blame for our own mistakes. specially with religious extremes which is real problem in Taliban. That is real challenge we have to face and do something about.

    Again, good work ATP for this very good and timely survey and forcing people not to make excuses about how things are “connected” or how everything bad is being done by outside forces.

  14. paataykhan says:
    March 23rd, 2009 1:51 pm

    I haven’t checked the pol yet but I’m gonna put in words what I feel. Taliban and democracy should be our priorities for the moment, in the same order. In the long run, education and democracy will help us make a tolerant society where rule of law persists. In my opinion Mr Shamim’s argument is not very educated one. His priorities are not right. Examples he gave are either wrong or irrelevent.

  15. commoner says:
    March 23rd, 2009 2:24 pm

    I think the single biggest long-term existential threat to the nation-state of Pakistan emanates from India.

    Before explaining why, first let me state categorically that I am neither an Indophobe and nor a GHQ apologist, in fact I admire the secular democratic and culturally rich credentials of India and at the same time abhor recurrent military intervention in national affairs of Pakistan. I also know that in the present era of relative Indian success it is politically incorrect to say it, but I feel compelled to say so because I honestly believe in it.

    Independent United Pakistan’s boundaries were bigger than those of United India. The departing Chief of British Army in India said that independent Pakistan would need as big a standing army as that of India to secure its vast frontiers, an assessment which turned out to be true unfortunately (Source: The State of Martial Rule: The Origins of Pakistan’s Political Economy of Defense ). The blood bath of Partition and the belligerence of the narrow minded Indian leadership strengthened the fear in the infant psyche of Pakistani establishment as well as awam. The instinctive urge to defend against a huge opponent who was hell bend upon avenging the humiliation of a thousand year of subjugation and rule, resulted in creation of the disproportionally large Pakistan Army.

    Pakistan’s infatuation with the west and her joining SEATO and CENTO was more out of the same desperate survival instinct than any ideological fervor.

    The creation of the frankensteinian monster of freelance religious extremists the so called Jihadis, must also be viewed in the same background.

    Lastly, creation of Bangla Desh would not have been possible, despite our demeaning hatred and prodigious incompetency, without the covert intrigue and the overt invasion of the then East Pakistan by India.

  16. Salman says:
    March 23rd, 2009 2:33 pm

    “The list is missing a very important option, especially given the focus during the past three years: inaccessibility to justice. It sounds cliche, but accessibility to justice is usually the primary determinant of a society

  17. Salman says:
    March 23rd, 2009 2:53 pm

    The URL for the daily times article mentioned in my earlier comment is here:

    “Development: Debt we can

  18. Asim says:
    March 23rd, 2009 2:57 pm

    Going little off topic here, but a quick root cause analysis of our constant failures suggest that the biggest threat has been our narrow minds and unwillingness to accept change and the fact that no two people are the same (in terms of faith, belief, race, sex, ethnicity, color, physical appearance, wealth etc) and should be respected unconditionally. The same is also the main cause for lack of trust among ourselves, and trust is the main factor for advancing.

  19. skeptic says:
    March 23rd, 2009 3:11 pm

    education, education, education. free flow of information and unbiased education is the solution to extremism

  20. Sohaib says:
    March 23rd, 2009 3:42 pm

    So I voted for “religious extremism and violence” as the biggest threat. I might have considered other options, but my vote suffered from a bias because only today I saw a documentary (linked below) that brought the message home.

    The documentary is by Sharmeen Obeid-Chinoy, a wonderfully talented Pakistani film-maker (I know she’s been featured on Pakistaniat before), and is called “Pakistan’s Taliban Generation.” I don’t know how many of you have seen it before (I think it aired on TV recently) but for those who have not, here it is:

    The youtube video has five parts, 50 minutes in total.

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

    Part 3:

    Part 4:

    Part 5:

    Very, very disturbing and ominous. Enjoy people! :)

  21. zach chugtei says:
    March 23rd, 2009 6:05 pm

    Pakistanis should keep their faith in the ‘original idea’ of the very creation of this nation and eventually it will all work out. All nations have gone through periods of uncertainty and termoil and the great ones have survived it all.

    Pakistan is an unbreakable unit of people with a lot of talent, a great cultural heritage, a desire to educate her next generation and it can handle all challenges it is facing presently.

    With today’s web based world of science and technology, it is anybody’s game to make whatever one wants to make of it’s people and, Pakistan is fortunate to have the people and land resources enough to be a major player for years to come.

    It is an easily believable situation and so doable, just keep the faith.


  22. shahzad shameem says:
    March 23rd, 2009 8:47 pm

    Everyone is right in his/her capacity of understanding but the main root cause is the sleeping of our Zameer/inner soul which is nearly to dead/murdar. I tell you once that awaken we will solve our problems automatically.

    When that one is awakened, we will have a JAZBA:-
    to help others,
    to sacrifice for others,
    to have selfrespect for others,
    to complete our duties just like Faraize,
    to do our jobs like worship of Allah the Great,
    to have sympathy for others, while forgiving others,
    will having thinking to understand the problems of others,
    will be respecting labour, cobblers, barbers like Dr., Engrs,
    will be giveing respect according to the their CHARACTERs,
    will come haya/sharm in our eyes and respect for ladies,
    and many many other unseen benefit we will get you cann’t even imagine, like barakat/barka/blessing of Allah will come as mun-o-salwa.

    Whatever Education system is going on, just kindly we add with open heart and noble intention the Tashree of Allama Iqbal poetry, I tell you the whole Nation will be united as in 1940 and will progress to achieve goals for the Pakistan was created.

    Don’t forget we are the most blessed 2nd Nation and Country on Earth which came to existance in the name of Allah, first was Yasrab (Madina Shareef) and the second was Pakistan on Earth.

    We have to boost up the moral of the Nation, have to bring forward our successive part while eliminating our faults.

    IF we get success in awaking of Khuddi/inner soul, then our every child will be Eedhi for Nation and atomic bomb for enemies.

  23. Usman says:
    March 23rd, 2009 9:20 pm


    There is a difference between a problem and a symptom.

    All I have said is that many ‘problems’ cited in the poll are not actually problems, but rather symptoms from ‘Economic and Resource Challenges/Problems’.

    I am no Taliban sympathizer. I abhor them with a vengeance.

  24. sun_screamer_divisonq says:
    March 23rd, 2009 11:17 pm

    @ Commoner

    A few comments:

    “I think the single biggest long-term existential threat to the nation-state of Pakistan emanates from India.”

    I am a bit confused by this statement. You claim that India is an existential threat today and in the future to Pakistan but all your examples are from 40-60 years ago.

    “Independent United Pakistan

  25. Aamir Ali says:
    March 23rd, 2009 11:49 pm


    India is been hostile to Pakistan since its inception. It has invaded Pakistani territory and sponsored terrorism and insurgency in Pakistan. That is what “commoner” is alluding to.

    However with the introduction of nukes and delivery systems in the subcontinent, the threat of war has receded. Pakistan’s problems today stem from internal insurgency in its northwest.

  26. Raheel says:
    March 24th, 2009 1:58 pm

    The greatest threat to Pakistan is the religious extremists. But also the silent support they sometimes get from rest of us because they use religious ideology. So, it is not only that these extremists have to be rooted out but we all must have teh moral courage to speak out against them.

  27. Inayatullah says:
    March 25th, 2009 9:26 am

    I am very happy that the people answering thsi poll have recognized that the greatest threat to Pakistan are the extremists who are killing Pakistanis every other day. They are the ones fighting a war against Pakistan and Islam and have been murdering Pakistanis, They are our biggest threat today.

  28. March 25th, 2009 12:55 pm

    The biggest threat to Pakistan is not the extremists. It is the stubbornness at the top which fails to understand the potential and real power of people and and they fail to tend to the problems of the masses. Channelize the power of the people in right directions and see the wonders. With the landlord mentality, they rule us, think we are useless creatures at the face of the earth, use us to their and their master’s benefits and leave to enjoy in their London, Paris, Dubai and USA (summer vacation houses). Our masters fail to understand that “zara nam ho to yeh mitti bari zarkhaiz hai saqi” So its the people at the helm of affair who are the biggest threat to the country.

  29. Aysha says:
    March 25th, 2009 3:46 pm

    The answer to this question depends on how we view “problems” in the world, let alone Pakistan. Are they solved by looking externally for someone or something to blame? Or are the roots of these so-called problems, in our human heart? If the root is the latter, as I believe it is, then what in our hearts needs to change? Is Pakistan a Muslim state, that allows no dissent and gives token approval to other religions, or is it a pluralistic society that allows true freedom of belief, the freedom to practice whatever faith you wish to practice? And for that matter is Islam a religion that is between God and his follower or one which needs to be politicized and interpreted by some outside authority?

  30. readinglord says:
    March 25th, 2009 11:57 pm

    The greatest threat to Pkidtan, in my view, is the crisis of identity. From Indian to Pakistani, from Est-Pakistani to Bangladeshi and from West-Pakistani to New-pakistani, our identity has al along been in a flush.

    The real dilemma is that neither our Paky identity could wash out our Indian-ness and nor the Indian identity could do the same to our Pakistaniat or Muslimness.

    So we have al along been trying to sove this dilemma like Bulleh Shah who had said:

    “Ki jaana mein koun o, Bulleha, ki jaana mein koun”

    (Who I am, I am?)

  31. March 26th, 2009 8:13 am

    Dear Editors,

    I’m a little surprised and disappointed that there is no direct mention of structured inequality nor feudalism.

    To some extent, these matters are covered by a combination of some of the options in the poll. But not entirely. And to me, they seem to be the biggest hurdles to achieving liberte, egalite, fraternite / akhuwwat, musaawaat, adl / unity, faith, discipline / peace and all the rest.

    The material imperatives of our existence are undeniable. And to my mind, they greatly influence all other conflicts and debates in society.

    Yes, we’re running out of resources – but in the presence of a societal structure that rewards the rich because they are rich, it becomes exceedingly difficult to promote or sustain the kind of initiatives that may lead us out of this morass. My point being: it’s not just scarcity that is the problem, it’s how we decide to share the fruits of our collective labour in transforming those scarce resources that is at least as important.


  32. March 26th, 2009 8:26 am

    Follow-up: And having read your views on feudalism (, I really have to admit that lost in the myriad problems that seem to define us, you somehow managed to miss the forest.


  33. Ahmed says:
    March 27th, 2009 3:43 am

    biggest threat faced by Pakistan is from people like Nawaz Sharif and Qazi Hussain Ahmed who for their own benefit can go to extreme lengths..All they want is KURSI..i wish they were more support towards our government while the country is going thru difficulties like Taliban invasion and constant threats from India..kash Allah hamaray politicians ko aqal ata farmaye Ameen

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