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Pakistan's economic misery aiding terrorism

2023 Apr 15, 17:28, Islamabad [Pakistan]

While Pakistan's economic conditions are at their worst, it is also increasingly getting exposed to terrorism. Pakistan is facing the most difficult phase in its history marked by a mix of all-round failure on the economic front, political front and heightened terrorist threats, the Pak Military Monitor reported.

Due to flawed priorities and a debt-dependent economic growth model, Pakistan had been unable to break the vicious cycle of poverty. It remains a low-income, low-saving, low-capital formation, a low-growth economy which has repeatedly reinforced itself in a circular path in the past.

About 40 per cent of the people in Pakistan are below the poverty line. Poverty is the most fertile breeding ground for terrorism as evidenced in the country. Many of the misled suicide bombers who offered their services to the Jihadi organizations were prompted to do so due to frustration, hopelessness and fatalism bred by their deprivation and dehumanized existence rather than devoutness to religion, the Pak Military Monitor reported.

Pakistan was severely impacted by terror attacks in 2022. A report by Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies found that militants carried out 376 attacks in which 533 of its citizens were killed, stating that the attacks in 2022 were the highest. And recently the Sydney-based Institute for Economics & Peace's Global Terrorism Index - 2023 also confirmed as much. It stated that Pakistan had faced an increase in terrorist threats by 120 per cent in the year 2022 over the previous year, the Pak Military Monitor reported.

Pakistan, which allowed terror to grow unchecked for its Afghan cause and war of attrition with India on Kashmir, has now become a victim of the same. Pakistan is a classic case that terror does not spare even those who use it as a tool of the state and foreign policy.

Its economy is under serious pressure due to leakages of resources for its war against terrorism. While the human cost of terrorism is devastating, the economic cost is much larger than most policymakers realize.

According to Pakistan's Economic Survey (2017-2018), the direct and indirect cost of terrorism incidents in Pakistan was USD 126.79 billion. Some media sources also estimated huge loss of human lives as high as 60,000 people including civilians, security force personnel and terrorists have been killed from 2000 to 2019, the Pak Military Monitor reported.

Terrorism does not only cause a primary economic impact but also produces considerable secondary or indirect impact. It also damages financial markets and the local economy in the long term. Lack of a conducive business environment, peace, poor law and order, and governance are some of the factors that have been impinging the Pak economy in several ways.

For years, Pakistani leaders have underinvested in human capital. 21.8 million of the 58.6 million young people, aged between 15 and 29, are not enrolled in school, training programmes, or working in any job. The military, which wields tremendous power in Pakistan, has warped economic policy by prioritizing rivalry with India taking away significant chunks of the country's narrow resource base, the Pak Military Monitor wrote quoting Gallup Pakistan.

Pakistan faces a drain of human resources, especially intellectuals due to terror activities. Pak authorities estimate that 832,229 Pakistanis left their country in 2022 because of the ongoing economic crisis, political instability, and a weak law & order situation. Pakistan's young people said that they would like to work and study overseas and 50 per cent would not like to return to their homeland, the Pak Military Monitor reported.

This is alarming as educated and talented manpower could have made a substantial economic contribution which is being lost.

62 per cent of young Pakistani men between the ages of 15 - 24 wish to leave the country, the Pak Military Monitor reported citing a survey conducted by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE).

Observers point out that Pakistan is a country that is not backwards due to the shortage of natural resources or manpower, but due to a handful of selfish and corrupt rulers and military and civil officers. The only aim of these greedy and ruthless persons is to accumulate as much wealth as possible and launder it outside the country. Many of them have built assets overseas and sent their wards for education and employment to greener pastures abroad. On the other hand, millions of people are living in pitiable conditions in slums and unventilated homes with no access to food, drinking water, primary health care and education, the Pak Military Monitor reported.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on Pakistan's economy, leading to a decline in GDP growth, job losses and an increase in poverty. And now, the economic recovery is facing an unprecedented shortage of forex resources and inflation. The condition has further worsened due to the Russia-Ukraine war and uncertainty caused by the failure of big banks in the West.

Even while the economy has come to the brink of default, instead of focusing on the development of the economy, Islamabad is pursuing regressive ideological goals. The jihadi activities are now catching up, threatening the very existence of the country and its people.

Pakistan's political and economic troubles are intertwined with its inconsistent treatment of terrorists. For decades, Pakistan has allowed some terrorist groups to operate freely while cracking down on others.

Observers point out at the sympathy for jihadis among the public and within law enforcement and intelligence, along with inaction by members of the political class are the factors which have allowed domestic militant groups to operate with impunity and fearlessly as the country has chosen to remain a safe haven for them.

These terrorist activities have also made it difficult to attract investment in Pakistan. Pakistan is a no-go area for foreign investors and businessmen and many of them did not even like to visit the country.

Islamist groups recruiting in Pakistan cited hadith that prophesied a great battle. Pak establishments thought that radicalization through religion could help break the deadlock over Kashmir and empower Pakistan's allies in Afghanistan. The strategy instead turned Pakistan into a battleground of competing interpretations of radical Islamist ideas. The fading line between good and bad terrorists has swept deep into society as well as people's mindsets. This now poses a new and serious challenge for the whole country.

This mixing up of terror with state policy and failure to curb terror has eroded Pakistan's international credibility. Taliban's takeover of Kabul with Pak support in 2021 has seen an uptick in terrorist attacks in various parts of Pakistan.

The Pak Military Monitor quoted Mohsin Dawar, a lawmaker from North Waziristan, as saying, "I believe that instead of finding strategic depth in Afghanistan, Pakistan has handed over a strategic depth in Pakistan to the Taliban."

The resurgence of domestic terrorism in Pakistan is now a bitter harvest for Islamabad. It never imagined that its support for Afghanistan could eventually boomerang and undermine its own security.

Many observers, including the World Bank, warned that if the Pakistan government and establishment do not opt for a change of mindset, the coming days would lead to social tension and instability. Domestic militant threats are expected to intensify amid a toxic cocktail of economic deprivation, social marginalization, heavy-handed security, ethnic nationalism, and tribalism.

Afrasiab Khattak, former President of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said that as Pakistan becomes increasingly militarized against internal foes, ignoring broader regional and global developments, a descent into civil war is possible. Across the country, terror attacks are on the rise, and Baloch and Pashtun nationalists are chafing against forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.

Pak administration avoided reform while arguing that Pakistan is too big to fail as they get abundant assistance/aid from the US and the Middle East as well as expensive debt-laden projects from China.

Besides, there is thriving illegal money in the economy from drug trafficking, etc. Furthermore, there is zakat contribution, a kind of people's contribution in the name of religion which is about 7 per cent of GDP. But all these resources are used inefficiently and even channelled to non-state players who carry out terrorist activities designed by the ISI.


Islamabad Pakistan economic conditions terrorism terrorist threats
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