The Future of Pakistan by Stephen P. Cohen

The Future of Pakistan by Stephen P. Cohen

By:Nargis Zahra

Stephen P. Cohen is an established expert on politics of Pakistan. Presently, he is rendering his services as a senior fellow in Foreign Policy Program at Brookings Institution, Washington DC. He is currently a member of the National Academy of Science’s Committee on International Security and Arms Control. In his long career as an academician, Stephen P. Cohen has also taught at universities in India, Japan and Singapore.

Dr Cohen has more than eleven books to his credit as author, co-author and editor. Major emphasis of his scholarly work is South Asian Security & Strategic Studies.

Dr Cohen’s ecent book ‘The Future of Pakistan’ is preceded by another exclusive work on Pakistan i.e. Idea of Pakistan. Cohen has got a rare intellectual skill to break down complex political phenomena of Pakistani political culture into comprehendible analysis; to which the present book is not an exception. The book has already earned applause from the scholars of politics of Pakistan, both at home and abroad. This is a read on the future of a state that has, since last decade and a half, become an ever-more significant player in international politics.

Dr Cohen and his colleagues have addressed most significant responsibility of the scholars of international politics i.e. logical prediction of future scenario considering present, emerging situation. The authors of the book have presented and evaluated multiple scenarios of how and why Pakistan’s future may/will develop during 2012-2017. Their views are sweepingly tilted towards pessimism about the future of the most dynamic nation of the world.

This book is a captivating read because it not only has coherent and lucid style of writing but also discusses the probable geopolitical implications of each future scenario. The specific factors such as impact of foreign and domestic Islamist and other radical groups on internal and international security; influence of the Pakistani Armed Forces, civil government, and key regions; nuclear weapons; and relationships with India, China, and the US have also been examined.

The book carries eighteen essays inclusive of afterword, and is the result of a workshop at the Rockefeller Conference Center in Bellagio, Italy, held in May 2010. This book takes its uniqueness from three factors: 1) its authors come from America, Europe, India and Pakistan itself, giving it an international and comparative perspective, 2) the comprehensive comparative analysis is based on consideration of all internal and external factors related to the future of Pakistan, 3) the argument of the book is in logical sequence though this is contributed by seventeen people from three continents. The authors were asked to briefly set forth important variables or factors that might shape Pakistan’s future and to speculate on the likely outcomes. Every author was given same pattern i.e. a brief summary of recent developments, examination of a number of involved factors, analysis of a number of alternative futures, exploration of the methodological problems inherent in this exercise and discussion of policy options especially for the United States, Atlantic Countries, China, Japan, and India.

The book begins with Cohen’s overview of Pakistan that gives vent to all concerns about Pakistan’s future, ranging from female literacy to international politics, placing it within the context of current-day geopolitics and international economics. Cohen’s essay is followed by a number of more focused essays addressing more specific issues of Pakistan. They address critical factors such as ‘Radicalization, Political Violence, and Militancy’, ‘The China Factor’, ‘Security’, ‘Soldiers and the State’, ‘Regime and System Change’, ‘Population Growth’, ‘Urbanization’, ‘Female Literacy’, and ‘Youth and the Future’. The book also breaks down relations with other international powers such as China and the United States. The all-important military and internal security apparatus come under scrutiny, as do rapidly morphing social and gender issues. Political and party developments are examined along with the often amorphous division of power between Islamabad and the nation’s regions and local powers. The book emphasizes that uncertainty about Pakistan’s trajectory exists.

The futuristic picture drawn is not exactly perilous but re-establishes concerns about the fate of this habitat of more than 180 million people. The Future of Pakistan facilitates understanding of not only the current circumstances, the relevant actors and their motivation, the critical issues at hand, but also the different outcomes they might produce, and, above all, what this all means for Pakistanis, Arabs, Indians, Americans, Europeans, Chinese, Russians and the entire world. This book has successfully established a thought that future of this region lies where future of Pakistan does.


Pakistan was originally intended to transform the lives of British Indian Muslims by providing them a homeland sheltered from Hindu oppression. It did so for some, although this only amounted to less than half of the Asian subcontinent’s total number of Muslims, and ironically the north Indian Muslim middle class that spearheaded the Pakistan movement found itself united with many Muslims who had been less than enthusiastic about forming a new state.

In fact, the 1990s are often referred to as the “lost decade” in terms of economic growth and witnessed a high rise in urban and rural poverty levels. Growth rate in the 1980s averaged 6.5 percent but in the 1990s, real GDP growth declined to 4.6 percent.

Musharraf turned to the technocrats for guidance, transforming the system of local government, selling off many state assets (thus improving the balance of payments problem, always severe for a country with little foreign investment and hardly any manufacturing capabilities).

Zardari lacks his wife’s brilliance and charisma. His reputation for corruption was one of her greatest political liabilities. … Zardari’s defense to visitors is that he has never been convicted of any crime, but of course that is true of most Pakistani politicians whose reputation for corruption equals or surpasses his.

Pakistan is one of the countries undergoing a population boom. It will soon have one of the world’s youngest populations. In some countries, mainly in Africa, the Middle East, and a few in Latin America and South Asia, birth rates remain much higher than mortality rates so that growth rates are over 2.0 percent a year.

Courtesy: Journal of Contemporary Studies

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