Insight with Ahmed Rashid – Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan

By Emily Wight

View event here.

The end of this month will see the anniversary of Osama Bin-Laden’s death, which exposed the escalating tensions between the United States and Pakistan.

Topically, the celebrated writer and central Asia expert Ahmed Rashid joined BBC special correspondent Lyce Doucet in conversation to discuss his new book, Pakistan on the brink: the future of America, Pakistan and Afghanistan

Rashid said:

“Pakistan is the most fragile state with nuclear weapons right now. It’s beset with a crumbling economy, sectarianism, insurgencies in two of the country’s four provinces -and still the army are giving sanctuaries to Islamic extremists of all kinds who are active in India, Afghanistan and central Asia.”

This statement neatly summarised the problems Rashid feels are facing Pakistan. He descibed a state of affairs in the which the country has just been “muddling along” but believes that this can no longer be the case.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 were a turning point for Pakistan, he said. After that fateful day, “we gave the Taliban sanctuary; we helped the Taliban re-launch their offensive in Afghanistan.”

The problem with Pakistan’s duplicity is that the international community is beginning to recognise it. Speaking of a recent trip to Washington, Rashid said he found that no-one wanted to deal with Pakistan. He said: “We are facing for the first time a serious risk of abandonment by the international community at many different levels.”

Potential investors are pulling out of Pakistan left, right and centre. If the country is left to fend for itself, it will not be able to sustain a population of 180m people, let alone a vast army, bureaucracy and nuclear armaments. 

Meanwhile, war is still raging in Afghanistan with increasing insurgency. Rashid was doubtful that the Americans really will leave any time soon: “The aims of the Obama administration in Afghanistan are seen to be much further away than back when he was elected.”

But he was adamant that Afghanistan must be left by western powers to find its own way, not least because of his conviction that most of the Taliban’s leadership is in fact in Pakistan. He called on Britain, a country divided over war in Afghanistan, to stand up to the US and make stronger demands for withdrawal.

And the public in Pakistan, he said, need to engage with the actions of their government in order to achieve full democracy and stability.