Pakistan: a State in formation in a context of domestic and foreign turmoil

In many accounts of Pakistan, the « land of the pure » appears as a weak state, on the verge of collapse under the combined threats of organised crime and Islamist groups. A more thorough analysis of Pakistani politics and foreign policy, paying attention to the long term, reveals the severe limitations of such apocalyptic accounts of Pakistan. Pakistan is indeed exemplary of these « soft states » whose political trajectory is characterized by an organic partnership between the agents of the state and the national as well as regional private entrepreneurs of violence. Rather than putting its existence at risk, the turbulences which Pakistan has been facing since its creation in the tumult of Partition in 1947 have directly and positively contributed to the continuous formation of its state. And rather than being simply constrained by these internal and external disorders, the Pakistani leadership has used them strategically, through an ongoing partnership with the irregular forces whose activities contribute to the perpetuation of regional conflicts. This partnership makes sense in the framework of the « diplomacy of disorder » which the Pakistani establishment has coined to deter what it perceives as a perpetual threat to its security, both on its western and on its eastern borders (respectively Cisjordania and Afghanistan). Moreover, the Afghan disorder functions as a real ‘strategic rent’ for Pakistan, whose leaders have put this turmoil to profit to negotiate, not unsuccessfully, their position in the international order. – Summary AFRI-2004