Saturday, August 20, 2011

NB: The trends in Pakistan: population, resources, and public opinion

I have just finished reading Bruce Riedel's Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America, and the Future of Global Jihad [D.C.: Brookings] and as usual the more detail I get on Pakistan the more I wonder about the future for that country. I keep hoping for signs that the plethora of dilemmas there are being resolved before they spin completely out of control. But I find it hard not to despair the more I think I know about it.

Here are some statistics that Riedel provides on the country. Consider the trends these numbers represent: are they not reason for alarm? [from Riedel 2011: 120+]

On population
> 53.8% of Pakistanis are under the age of 19.
> 37.7 % of Pakistanis are between the ages of 20 and 39
> At the current rate of fertility in Pakistan the population will reach 460 million by 2025.
> By 2050 Pakistan will be more populous than Indonesia.

On resources
> Probably for reasons of the population growth, per capita water availability between 1951 and 2007 declined from 5,000 to 1100; by 2025 the number will drop to 700.
> This decline could become worse if the warming of the earth cuts the amount of flow from the Himalaya glaciers. I am told that the decline is already measurable.

So, some problems:

What are the prospects for employment of this young population in Pakistan these days? Or in the next ten years? [So far, one of the main paying jobs for young men is jihad.]

And, if the current situation remains so conflicted, what are the prospects for resolving them when the population has doubled? Or tripled?

And then there are the conditions of popular opinion, which has been profoundly influenced by the Pakistani military.

> More than two-thirds of Pakistanis have a negative view of the United States.
> 90% of Pakistanis believe the U. S. wants to weaken the world-wide Muslim community.
> Half of the Pakistanis believe the US is Pakistan’s greatest danger [greater than India].
> Only 11% regard the Taliban and Al Qaeda as its greatest danger.
> 79% of Pakistanis have a favorable view of China.

Note the reaction to the Kerry-Lugar legislation of 2009 that tripled aid to Pakistan: “Pakistanis almost universally denounced it.” [p123] Most of the editorials were against it -- and most of them “were orchestrated by [Gen] Kayani, Chief of the army, and the ISI… " Such are America's colleagues in the attempt to stabilize Afghanistan and crush Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

So it is crucial that our leadership take further steps to reach the Pakistanis people and help them work through the substantial challenges that lay ahead.

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