Pakistan 2020: Don’t Give Up On Pakistan

Posted on May 18, 2011
Filed Under >Hassan Abbas, Economy & Development, Environment, Foreign Relations, Law & Justice, Pakistanis Abroad, Politics, Society
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Hassan Abbas

(Editor’s Note: The Asia Society today launches a new study group report on Pakistan titled “Pakistan 2020: A Vision for Building a Better Future.” In this essay, first published at, Dr. Hassan Abbas, the Project Director for this Study, highlights his own personal thoughts on the report and its findings. Full report can be accessed here. A video of the panel discussion at the launch of the report is available here).

In recent years Pakistan has stumbled from one crisis to another. Reeling from a deadly insurgency on the country’s western border, its democratic government has struggled to establish even a modicum of stability. The people of Pakistan have shown amazing resilience even as they face rising terrorist activity, severe economic distress and perennial regional tensions.

That Osama bin Laden was hiding in plain sight in a compound less than a mile from Pakistan’s national military academy is troubling, to say the least. If Pakistan’s intelligence missed him completely, then it was a case of criminal negligence. If there was collusion of some sort, that will be an even more dire piece of news.
Yet Pakistan needs more attention and understanding from its most important ally, the United States, and from the rest of the world. Now is not the time for the world to turn its back on Pakistan.

Pragmatic and durable policy options aimed at improving Pakistan’s prospects with a long-term vision are needed. A new Asia Society study group report attempts to provide them, drawing on the insights and guidance of 30 Pakistani and U.S. scholars, former senior officials and experts.

Some of the major recommendations of the report, titled “Pakistan 2020: A Vision for Building a Better Future,” are:

  • The process of democratization must continue, as there is no other way to expand civilian control over all institutions of the state. Pakistan has been ruled by generals for half its history — another military takeover would set the country back yet again.
  • Pakistan’s military expenditures should be made more transparent, and there should be an increased civilian role in defense spending and security policy decisions.
  • Independence of the judiciary — a major Pakistani achievement in recent years — needs to be further strengthened through respect for the separation of powers enshrined in the constitution and by providing financial autonomy to the country’s judicial institutions.
  • To fix the education system, spending on schools needs to rise from less than 1.5% to at least 4% of gross domestic product — so girls don’t drop out, boys don’t end up in radical madrassas, and Pakistan overall can take part in Asia’s boom.
  • Along with proper upkeep of existing hydropower dams, more dams are needed to meet Pakistan’s current and future energy requirements.
  • Without a drastic overhaul of law enforcement, Pakistan’s internal security situation could worsen further. Major financial investment is needed — for example, half of U.S. funding allocated for counterterrorism and counterinsurgency support could be directed toward enhancing the forensic capabilities of law enforcement and supporting scientific investigations.
  • Pakistan must diligently pursue a peace settlement with India, and increased economic interactions with India will expand the space for a peace constituency in the country.

While Pakistan has a reputation as a source of instability in South Asia, it also holds the key to peace in the future. Declaring Pakistan a failed or failing state resolves little. By helping Pakistan remedy its dysfunctions, its friends and allies can help ensure better prospects for all of us.

(The Pakistan 2020 Study Group included former diplomats, military leaders, and intelligence officials, journalists and media personalities, economists and development specialists, scientists, and experts in the fields of health, education, governance and law, and natural resources and the environment. In addition to Hassan Abbas, the Project Director, the group also included: Samina Ahmed, Graham Allison, Peter Bergen, Christopher Candland, Stephen Cohen, Suzanne DiMaggio, Asad Durrani, C. Christine Fair, Asher Hasan, Andrew Hess, Pervez Hoodbhoy, Robert Hsu, Mir Ibrahim, Asma Jahangir, Jehangir Karamat, William Milam, Adil Najam, Director, Nigar Nazar, John D. Negroponte, Sania Nishtar, Amir Rana, Ahmed Rashid, Eric Rosenbach, Babar Sattar, Ayesha Siddiqa, Shirin Tahir-Kheli, Frank Wisner, Moeed Yusuf, Mariam Abou Zahab, Mosharraf Zaidi, and Nasim Zehra.)

19 responses to “Pakistan 2020: Don’t Give Up On Pakistan”

  1. shahid says:

    Rise people of Pakistan.
    Rise against injustice.
    Rise against ignorance.
    Rise against closed mindset.
    Rise against the vested interests which keep you in bondage.
    Rise against prejudice.
    Rise against feudal exploitative system.
    Rise against existing land distribution pattern
    Go for liberty, equality, fraternity and knowledge and use them for the welfare of humanity and the future is yours.

  2. MQ says:

    @Hassan Abbas
    It’s an ambitious goal, but a desirable one — and even achievable. And the timing is right, too.

    Like an addict who accepts for the first time he has a problem and needs help, Pakistan perhaps is ready, now than ever before, to accept the fact that it has serious problems and needs to do something about them. Thanks largely to Abbottabad!

    Incidentally, I attended your meeting and enjoyed it. Even though I am not an early riser, I made it to Asia Society that day in time, all the way from Lower Manhattan.

  3. Dear Sheepo and Ally:

    Who would benefit by us turning our backs on each other? Taliban and Al Qaeda. Who would be the beneficiary of our manipulated differences? Taliban and Al Qaeda. Who would love to see us part ways and lose focus on our common goal of defeating terrorism? Have not Taliban and Al-Qaeda already shown they are capable of murdering thousands? We just witnessed the TTP claim responsibility for murdering over 80 Frontier Constabulary in retaliation for Usama Bin Laden’s (UBL) death.

    The murder of thousands other innocent inside Pakistan poses one question… Is now not the time for the US and Pakistan to accelerate their fight against the insurgency? Can we deny that we are facing a common threat from Al-Qaeda, TTP and other terrorist organizations?

    US Senator John Kerry on Monday called Pakistan and the United States “strategic partners with a common enemy” as he sought to ease tensions in the wake of UBL death. He also said, “More importantly I explained that I am here with the backing of President (Barack) Obama, (US) ambassador (to Pakistan Cameron) Munter and their team to find a way to rebuild the trust between our two countries,” and “We must never lose sight of this essential fact. We are strategic partners with a common enemy in terrorism and extremism”.

    The aim of both our nations is to eliminate insurgency for the sake of future generations. We ignore Senator Kerry’s message to our peril, that “both of our countries have sacrificed… so much that it just wouldn’t make sense to see this relationship broken or abandoned,” and “It was the need of the hour that Pakistan and the US should rebuild the trust and confidence between their governments and institutions”.

    CDR Bill Speaks,

    DET, United States Central Command

  4. Adnan says:

    Just read the names of people given in the list. They have not only sold out their lives but souls as well. Completely dip from head to toe to US. While China is supporting us today and US is kicking us on our butt. These front men of US are asking us to keep ourselves associated with US aid one way or other. Akhir kar in logo ko apna “Dawa DAROO” bhe tu chalana hay

  5. Come on !!!!
    wats the use of all this???
    what would this give us……….remember we have a constitution in the form of a book as well…….who cares about it???
    what change is this going to bring to our politicians…!!!!
    Absolutely nothing!!!!
    indeed it might be a source of relaxation for some…..but quite sorry to say this, its impact is minimal.
    we have visionaries, vision but we are in a dire need of a LEADER!!!
    just increasing the Education GDP would never yield any result unless and until our EDUCATION SYSTEM is changed.
    just count the number of Boards we have in a single country?!

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