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Stuck in a rut

Pakistan spends more on defence than on education and health. This leads to low GDP rates, which fuels poverty. The complete Talibanisation of the State follows, writes GD Bakshi.

india Updated: Apr 01, 2009 22:31 IST
GD Bakshi
GD Bakshi

Monday’s attack on the police academy in Manawan, Pakistan, reminds us of Stephen P. Cohen’s seminal 2006 work, On the Idea of Pakistan, where he wrote: “Pakistan could again become its own worst enemy, that highly dangerous future might be in store...would Pakistan dissolve slowly or collapse in a sudden cataclysm? Or would it become an outlaw and a threat to the entire world; acting as a base for international terrorism...Can Pakistan become a normal State at peace with its neighbours and itself?”

Today, Cohen’s words sound like a self-fulfilling prophecy. The real cause for Pakistan’s systemic collapse is the high investments its military is making in asymmetric warfare. To seek military parity with India, it has often rented out its territory to extra-regional powers in return for military aid from the US.

Pakistan is paying a steep price for destabilising the region and employing non-State actors for spreading chaos. This has led to the weaponisation of its own society to the extent of making the State dysfunctional. The real power in Pakistan is the military-Inter-Services Intelligence complex. For decades, it has ensured that despite foreign aid, Pakistan was spending 6-9 per cent of its GDP on defence while the average expenditure on education has been just 1.7 per cent and 0.4 per cent on health.

Pakistani economist Sultan Bashir has highlighted this basic structural flaw in the country’s economy, which lies in a ‘low equilibrium trap’ that stems from its low rate of domestic savings. This leads to low growth rates of GDP, which further lowers the rate of domestic savings and fuels poverty. This, in turn, leads to the poverty trap forcing families to push their children into madrasas for two square meals a day. The number of madrasas in Pakistan in 1947 was 245. By 2000, the registered number rose up to 11,882. Add the unregistered ones and the count climbs to over 45,000.

As long as Pakistan keeps spending huge amounts on its military, poverty will continue to rise in Pakistan. This will lead to the complete Talibanisation of the State.

GD Bakshi is a retired Major General of the Indian Army