Saturday 18 November 2017

An emergency for the West

Unless we act decisively, large parts of Pakistan's devastated country will be taken over by the Taliban, the rule of law will collapse -- and the war in Afghanistan will escalate, writes Ahmed Rashid

Ahmed Rashid's latest book is 'Descent into Chaos: the United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia' (Viking). A revised edition of his best-selling 'Taliban' has been reissued by IB Tauris.

Pakistan's floods have not just devastated the lives of millions of people, they now present an unparalleled national security challenge for the country, the region and the international community. Lest anyone underestimate the scale of the disaster, all four of Pakistan's wars with India combined did not cause such damage.

It has become clear this week that, unless major aid is forthcoming immediately and international diplomatic effort is applied to improving Pakistan's relations with India, social and ethnic tensions will rise and there will be food riots. Large parts of the country that are now cut off will be taken over by the Pakistani Taliban and affiliated extremist groups, and governance will collapse. The risk is that Pakistan will become what many have long predicted -- a failed state with nuclear weapons, although we are a long way off from that yet.

The heavy rain and floods have devastated the poorest and least literate areas of the country, where extremists and separatist movements thrive. Central Punjab -- the country's richest region, where incomes and literacy are double those of other areas -- has escaped the disaster. The resentment felt towards Punjab by ethnic groups in the smaller provinces is thus likely to increase.

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