Crisis in Pakistan

December 2008 • Volume 2, Issue 12
Can the fragile democracy survive?
By Robert Kiener


Pakistanis protesting (AFP/Getty Images/Arif Ali)
Protesters in Lahore on Nov. 21 condemn continued U.S. missile strikes against suspected terrorists hiding in Pakistani tribal areas. (AFP/Getty Images/Arif Ali)

South Asia experts warn that Pakistan — recently dubbed "the new center of the war against terrorism" — could become the world's first nuclear-armed "failed state." The Muslim country's new president faces a spike in terrorist bombings, rising Islamic fundamentalism, a weakened democracy and a faltering economy. Already, more people have been killed in suicide bombings in Pakistan during the first eight months of 2008 than in Iraq or Afghanistan. And Indian authorities suspect that Islamic terrorists from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir perpetrated last week's Mumbai terrorist attacks that killed 173 people. Another challenge for President Asif Ali Zardari and his relatively young nation: growing resentment about recent U.S. military incursions into terrorist-infested Pakistani tribal territories. Although the country has weathered many storms since its founding in 1947, experts wonder if recent developments threaten its survival. As the new administration tries to hold the disparate nation together, a strong military — with a long history of usurping civilian rule — is poised to take over once again. The world watches with growing concern to see if the fragile democracy can survive or if Pakistan — with its nuclear arsenal — will devolve into chaos.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Aug. 05, 2011  U.S.-Pakistan Relations
Dec. 2008  Crisis in Pakistan
Jul. 28, 1971  East Pakistan's Civil War
Regional Political Affairs: Middle East and South Asia
Terrorism and Counterterrorism