Healing the Sick Man of South Asia

LAHORE – Pakistan is undergoing three transitions simultaneously. How they unfold matters not only for Pakistan, but also for much of the Muslim world, particularly as the Arab Spring forces change upon governments across the wider Middle East.

Most Muslim countries were governed for decades by autocrats who had either emerged directly from the armed forces, or had strong “khaki” support. That was the case in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and, of course, Pakistan.

The Arab Spring drained away whatever spurious legitimacy that style of governance ever had. But, in Pakistan, delegitimation of military rule had actually occurred three years earlier, and the pressure for change came from much the same source – a restive and mobilized new middle class.

Several decades ago, the American political scientist Samuel P. Huntington argued that economic prosperity in developing countries with weak governing institutions would not necessarily lead to political stability. On the contrary, economic growth in such contexts can be – and often is – politically destabilizing.