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Pakistan – A Failed State?

What is a failed state?

A failed state is a political body that has disintegrated to a point where basic conditions and responsibilities of a sovereign government no longer function properly. The Fund for Peace organisation characterizes a failed state as having the following characteristics:

1. Loss of control of its territory, or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force therein
2. Erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions
3. Inability to provide public services
4. Inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community.

This definition of failed state can be rationalized in the case of Pakistan owing to the decisive actions taken by their government since its creation in 1947.

Pakistan since 1947

1. Loss of control of its territory, or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force therein

Pakistan was born on 14th August 1947 with two geographical territories of East Pakistan (now current Bangladesh) and West Pakistan (Islamic republic of Pakistan). West Pakistan was further divided into four provinces. East Pakistan had Bengali population in majority. In 1954, government of Pakistan introduced “One Unit” Policy which ended the autonomy of all four provinces in the West Pakistan. This triggered the Baloch separatist movement in the 1960s, allegedly resulting in bloodshed of the Baloch population by Pakistani government. In 1970, Mujeebur Rahman, a Bengali politician from East Pakistan had a massive win in the elections. However he was denied power, as the leadership in West Pakistan felt threatened by his popularity. Denial of power and partnership led to an uprising against the West Pakistan in the Bengali dominated east. West Pakistan tried to repress it severely by using force which resulted into a refugee crisis in Indian states. The Bengalis of the province reverted back with the help of Indian army, defeating Pakistan with shameful surrender of Pakistani armed forces in East Pakistan. This led to the creation of new nation of Bangladesh.

2. Erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions

Pakistan had been under military rule for almost a half of the period of its life since its creation in 1947. The first coup happened in 1958 and there have three successful attempts till then whereas there were numerous unsuccessful attempts since 1951. Pakistan’s history has shown that its army has always maintained a relentless outlook and readiness to intervene in government affairs.

3. Inability to provide public services

US had provided monetary aid to Pakistan which considering the situation of the country should have been used for development of public sector. Unfortunately that was not the case and the aid was used by the government in either strengthening the military by buying weapons or in undertaking nuclear programmes.

4. Inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community

In 2011, Osama Bin Laden was assassinated in Abbottabad, Pakistan by American Navy Seal. Laden who was taking refuge in Pakistan was the founder of al-Qaeda, the organization responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States. The Bin Laden episode exposed Pakistan to such levels that the international community starting perceiving it as hub for the global terror.


The central government in Pakistan was always challenged by their military and the leaders failed to establish political stability which is a crucial for growth in a developing nation. Adding to this was the high inflation, unequal distribution of wealth and lack of funds for infrastructure development and education making it a failed a state on many fronts.

About the Author: Himani Chauhan, Pune, India ( Independent Researcher)




[1] “Fragile States FAQ Number 6: What Does “State Fragility” Mean?”. the Fund for Peace, Retrieved 2015-01-04
[2] “Asia Report No. 119”. Pakistan: The Worsening Conflict in Balochistan. International Crisis Group. 14 September 2006
[3] “The Pakistan Eastern Command agree to surrender all Pakistan Armed Forces in Bangladesh to Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, General Officer Commanding-in-chief of the Indian and Bangladesh forces in the eastern theatre.”
[5] “Up to 70% of US aid to Pakistan ‘misspent'”. Walsh, Declan (27 February 2008), The Guardian London, Retrieved 2 May 2010
[6] “Osama bin Laden killed: Behind the scenes of the deadly raid” Sherwell, Philip (May 7, 2011) The Daily Telegraph London, Retrieved May 9, 2011