What five years of civilian governance in Pakistan looks like

For the first time in Pakistan’s history, a democratically elected civilian government has successfully finished its five-year term — despite a flurry of anti-government protests. But what does that success look like? Foreign direct investment collapsed after President Asif Ali Zardari’s government came to power in 2008, and has continued declining since, according to the ...

ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images
ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images
ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images

For the first time in Pakistan's history, a democratically elected civilian government has successfully finished its five-year term -- despite a flurry of anti-government protests. But what does that success look like?

Foreign direct investment collapsed after President Asif Ali Zardari's government came to power in 2008, and has continued declining since, according to the World Bank. Meanwhile, foreign aid from the United States spiked, more than doubling under the new government to over $4 billion a year before tapering off again in 2011.

The country's relative political stability has paid off in some respects. Child mortality is down. School enrollment has continued to improve as well, rising three percentage points between 2008 and 2011 (admittedly not as impressive as the 14-percent increase over the course of the previous five years). On the other hand, since 2009 the ratio of girls to boys receiving a primary or secondary education has declined, indicating that enrollment is increasingly skewing toward boys. Pakistan may have fallen from ninth to 13th place in the Fund for Peace's annual ranking of failed states between 2008 and 2012, but the slightly better finish was still pretty dismal (as Robert Kaplan's "What's Wrong with Pakistan?" article for FP's Failed States package last year attests).

For the first time in Pakistan’s history, a democratically elected civilian government has successfully finished its five-year term — despite a flurry of anti-government protests. But what does that success look like?

Foreign direct investment collapsed after President Asif Ali Zardari’s government came to power in 2008, and has continued declining since, according to the World Bank. Meanwhile, foreign aid from the United States spiked, more than doubling under the new government to over $4 billion a year before tapering off again in 2011.

The country’s relative political stability has paid off in some respects. Child mortality is down. School enrollment has continued to improve as well, rising three percentage points between 2008 and 2011 (admittedly not as impressive as the 14-percent increase over the course of the previous five years). On the other hand, since 2009 the ratio of girls to boys receiving a primary or secondary education has declined, indicating that enrollment is increasingly skewing toward boys. Pakistan may have fallen from ninth to 13th place in the Fund for Peace’s annual ranking of failed states between 2008 and 2012, but the slightly better finish was still pretty dismal (as Robert Kaplan’s "What’s Wrong with Pakistan?" article for FP‘s Failed States package last year attests).

Domestic security under Zardari’s government got off to a rough start, but has started to improve more recently. Domestic suicide bombings surged in the last year of Pervez Musharraf’s government — from the single digits through the first half of the decade to 57 in 2007. Terror attacks hit their peak with 90 suicide bombings in 2009, but the number fell to 32 attacks in 2012.

For what it’s worth, in the last five years there have also been 353 U.S. CIA airstrikes against terrorist targets that killed at least 2,376 individuals, compared to 12 strikes with a minimum death toll of 159 people from the start of the CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan in 2004 through 2007.

That figure does not include the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad in May 2011 — for which President Obama famously did not give advance notice to the Pakistani government because of concerns about al Qaeda sympathizers in the Pakistani military and intelligence service. At an event at the Brooking Institution last month, retired CIA analyst and South Asia expert Bruce Riedel speculated that bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is also being sheltered by the Pakistani military. If the civilian government is slowly finding its sea legs, it has a long way to go.

J. Dana Stuster is a policy analyst at the National Security Network. Twitter: @jdanastuster

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