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McCain’s ‘failed state’ reference, challenged by ex-US Ambassador to Pakistan

The US Presidential debates are still over a month away, but the campaign frenzy is nearing its climax and mud slinging has slowly started to peak. The numerous comments made during last weeks Presidential debates are still being carefully analyzed with a magnifying glass and their subsequent meanings deciphered endlessly. As we may recall Pakistan was a hot topic in the discussion last Friday, due to its strategic importance on the war on terror, today an email report has surfaced where an ex-US Ambassador to Pakistan challenged McCain’s reference to Pakistan being a failed state in 1999 [I’m glad somebody stood up for us!! ]

During the debate if we may recall, McCain referred to Pakistan as a failed state in 1999 when President Musharraf came into power via a military coop, McCain in turn accused Obama to have not understood the problem in Pakistan and blamed him for an unrealistic plan of action. But in an interesting move William Milan the US Ambassador to Pakistan at the time of the coup, has categorically come forth to say that it’s McCain who doesn’t understand.

Matthew Yglesias asked Ambassador Milam about this issue and his response was

There are a number of interesting books, including a forthcoming one by me, that cover the 1999 coup by the Musharraf-led army. You might want to look at those already published by Steve Cohen, Hasan Abbas, Hussain Haqqani (long before he became the present Pakistani Ambassador), and especially Ian Talbot’s updated history of Pakistan.

I think that all of them would agree that, while there were a lot of things wrong in Pakistan during the years leading up to the 1999 military takeover, Pakistan was not a failed state as we normally define such states. I am on record as stating publicly that, having come to Pakistan from Liberia a year before the takeover, I had a pretty good idea of what failed states look like, and it was not one.

I feel this is a definite breath of fresh air, to see someone standing up for us and issuing a very strong statement for Pakistan, looking back I might partially agree with Ambassador Milam that in 1999 there was definitely a financial crisis but Pakistan was no where near to being labeled as a Failed State, though I must concede that there was definitely a buzzword around town talking about the failed state scenario but I am sure we were not at the brink of disaster back then, but if the ex-US Ambassador to Pakistan says that Pakistan was NOT a failed state, I would have to take his word for it and surely not be dependent on GHQ issuing a clarification of such sort back then


  • guYasir |

    Coming back to my original name/nick from LAVA to guYasir
    Since 1999 US think-tanks/Magazines declare after every few years that Pakistan is under top-10 failed states.Bangladesh is far better dan Pak 19th position Pak 9th position in 2006 report now current position is 12th I guess. They declare us failed becuz our gov doesn’t have practical control on its territory like FATA. I disagree, dis shouldn’t be the measurement of failed-state status, rather it should be measure from political corruption like how far one’s country rulers are corrupted in which Pak can come in top-3 maybe #1
    Because our leaders are kleptocratics instead of democratic.
    Not democracy rather kleptocracy is a best revenge and in my view Pak is failed-state bcuz of Kleptocracy.

  • Riaz Haq |

    It’s sad to see that the definition of “failed state” has become a political issue in the US presidential campaign. Ambassador Milam, a Clinton-appointed Democrat, is quibbling with a Republican candidate on this definition to make McCain look bad. Compared with Liberia, Pakistan was not a failed state in 1999. But if you consider the fact that Pakistan was essentially bankrupt with only a couple of weeks worth of foreign exchange left, you’d understand what dire straits Pakistan was in. In 1999 Pakistan’s total debt as percentage of GDP was the highest in South Asia – 99.3 percent of its GDP and 629 percent of its revenue receipts, compared to Sri Lanka (91.1% & 528.3% respectively in 1998) and India (47.2% & 384.9% respectively in 1998). Internal Debt of Pakistan in 1999 was 45.6 per cent of GDP and 289.1 per cent of its revenue receipts, as compared to Sri Lanka (45.7% & 264.8% respectively in 1998) and India (44.0% & 358.4% respectively in 1998).

    Do you consider an insolvent state as failed state? I do think an insolvent state is a failed state. If it was a corporation, it would have almost certainly folded with its remaining assets given to its creditors. Its management would end up in debtors prison and its employees would be fired.

    Musharraf’s coup was widely hailed by Pakistanis. People understood that if Musharraf hadn’t taken over in 1999, the country would have suffered irreparable harm. Yet the people of Pakistan, who have a short memory, overwhelmingly voted to recycle the failed old leadership of the Nawaz League and the PPP in 2008 elections. No wonder, Pakistan is returning to the bad old days. Please read my post on this subject: http://www.riazhaq.com/2008/09/will-economic-mess-get-worse-under.html

  • guYasir |

    @Riaz sb
    I do agree pak is returning to its old days of 1999, our gullible public had no other choice but to participated on 18th Feb illusionary democratic election by voting btw 2 top parties.
    These 2 parties rivalry is started in punjab province which won’t be good for pak public and its fragile economy.
    I’m 29 yet I haven’t voted in any election bcuz I feel shame to take part in it neither I’ve got any involvement with any political party and politician. I feel shame to contact ’em.
    They are looters and loosers who are chosen by USA to spread her malevolent agenda.
    J. Edgar Hoover famously said: “The individual is handicapped by coming face-to-face with a conspiracy so monstrous he cannot believe it exists.”

  • yaseen ch |

    gu yasir people like you are the blacksheeps who never vote . You are like simbiosis ,you suck food from Pakistan but don’t need it necessary to give something back. Americans are the dirt of this planet and i think from your site you are too dirt and burden of our planet. You should think thousand times before such false remarks about our politicians . They are not bush’s and mccains atleast. Atleast they didnt kill millions innocent people. Shame on you and tour bush”s and mccains and nixons.

  • Shah |

    Riaz agree with your point.
    I am really concerned though for Pakistan being high in Presidential Election in USA.
    Who ever wins need to divert the attention of people from collapse of finanacial market.
    The president can say ,We cannot afford war,we want peace.
    Let us help these nations,to rebuild themselves and provide more oppertunities and education to facilitate democracy
    they can decide they need war to protect and defend American citizens from extremists.

  • guYasir |

    Yaseen beta we eat on our own behalf we do pay taxes we don’t avoid taxes like choudharies one of the biggest culprits in pakistan you are poodles of perverse politicians to gain nepotism since 19990 what democratic politicians have given us no clean water no clean roads, no electricity.?
    You are blackdog of choudharies and its create revulsion in my mind to think and talk to u who has got paindu mind we shame on choudharies.

  • aryan khan |

    Pakistan a failed state: Unfortunately for pakistanis, the world has all but declared Pakiland as a epicenter for terrorist activities. The latest Mumbai incident and I am a Mumbaiker clearly nailed the coffin. For the past 10 years Pakistans image has taken a worse beating every year. From the 90’s when the 1st WTC bombing suspect was arrested in Pakistan to the cross border terrorism that has resulted in thousands of Indian Muslims to die in Kashmir. India as the world recognizes is a volatile country yet the largest functioning democracy. Everyone knows there are holes in its operations yet it survives and is on its way to become in the next 25 years one of the key new multipolar players in this world incl China, Brazil, Japan and South Africa. Pakistanis just cannot fathom this and look for ways to justify thier existence while Indians not bothered are looking to contribute to the world economy from NRI’s in the US to UK to Canada to Indians in India. Pakistan was an accident, infact aside from the rabid muslims and the rightist hindus nobody wanted it. The Brits ofcourse didn’t give a shit. The so called founder of Pakistan M.JINNAH by the way was as Western as you Mr. Smith found in Harrods. He was the most anti-muslim in his ways, used to smoke, womanize and wore only western clothes from Saville Row in London.
    This new country formed purly based on religoin would have survived if it followed a secular approach in its thinking such as Turkey, however is today in brink of collapse because of the following reasons:
    – No state apparatus that controls the entire nation. Infact the Baluch, NWP are out of control and limits
    – Taliban and Al Queda have established themselves in these regions and in POK
    – Pak has no vision and India centric approach to everything makies them blind
    – Failing economy, Any of the key Indian states has a stronger and growing economy than entire Pak: Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka etc
    – Remaining as a stooge of the Americans where they are asked to bend over when required and then paud for the act has made them another banana republic which India refused to do ever
    – No established education system, so pretty much a non-educate country
    – Small portion of educated elite including the army controls the entire nation
    – India centric approach needs to stop, Pakis need to get improved self esteem which is lacking
    – Formenting terrorist camps in POK have back fired
    – A corrupt police, army and politician nexus fools the idiots of the nation with anti India rhetoric and keep the masses fooled whle filling thier pockets. Check out the properties of the army folks in Pak vs. in India its the opposite.
    – Generally this has led to a nation slightly ahead of Afganistan in intelligence and IQ
    – Eradication of history, whats taught in Paki schools and colleges is total distortion of the real history. They dont even know anything about the Mohenjodaro and Harrapa civilizations, also Ashokan empire whic built the Bamiyan statues which were destroyed under the Paki led Taliban.

    Ofcourse Indians are trying to help improve the lot of the Afghanis via roughly $1billoin dollars of aid provided.
    I think Pakis should try to change thier attitudes, bring peace in the region and start to learn about this changes world which regards them as one of the most dangerous countries of the world. Maybe they shouls break up and Paki Punjab and Sindh should join the Indian dominoin.
    This will improve the standards of living in these provinces and reunite amny families under the Indian umbrella. The rest of Pakistan can either break up in smaller countries i.e. Baluchistan
    and NWFP can join Afganistan etc.


    “Chronic Failure of Provinces, is making Pakistan a Failed State.”

    Provinces are very proactive in demanding provincial autonomy but their performance in Provincial subjects of Education, Health and Police (Law and Order) is zero and infact X , Inspite of Donations of Billions of Rupees from Federal Government and International Organizations provinces has chronically failed in delivering any thing to common people,It is very important to analyse the performances of provinces in view of continuous deteriorating situation in Pakistan,specially killing of ethnic minorities in Balouchistan province by majority Balouch ethnic group ,denial of rights of Identity and land ownership of ethnic minorities in city of Karachi and province of Sind by majority of Sindhi and Urdu speaking people,the disease of Provincialsim and ethnocentrism is spreading and spreading without any stop, the details of disease of Provincialism and ethnocentrism and failure of provinces in serving common citizens with fairness due to Provincialsim and ethnocentrism are as follows:

    Performance of Provinces in the subject of Education:

    • In Examinations cheating is common.

    • Even bribe is demanded from position holder’s students from the official of Boards.

    • Standard of education has been totally destroyed in government’s schools.

    • Even poor people do not like to admit their children in government schools

    • Schools have been converted into Otaaqs and leisure rooms of addicted people.

    • Literacy rate is stagnant from last 25 years.

    • Teachers are recruited on political and ethnic basis without any merit.

    • Ghost schools are common without any teaching, fake teachers are gaining salaries.

    • Practice of molesting innocent children by teachers in government school is


    • Citizens and children are denied their right of education on the basis of ethnicity.

    • On the basis of ethnicity admissions are given in colleges without any merit.

    Performance of Provinces in the subject of Law and Order (Police):

    • Provinces are using subject of Police as Jobs Banks for their ethnic and provincial supporters instead of recruiting people on merit for maintaining law and order.

    • When any person is recruited in police a huge amount of money is taken from that man as bribe.

    • When any one retires from police department he is required to pay money as bribe for the processing of his pension documents.

    • Even no proper training is given to policemen for maintaining law and order by provincial governments.

    • Even no proper training is given to policemen for their own safety by provincial governments.

    • Policemen are performing their duties without wearing any protective helmets and bullet proof jackets.

    • Due to provincialism, ethnocentrism and racialism prevailing in structures of provinces, policemen are not committed with their duties and do not have any motivation for prevention of crimes and evils.

    • Due to provincialism, ethnocentrism and racialism, Policemen are involved just in making money by taking bribes from common and noble people.

    • Policemen are frightening noble citizens for taking bribes from them, but are friends of criminals involved in narcotics trade, social and immorals crimes.

    • Due to no commitment with any moral and ethical Ideology and due to disease of provincialism and ethnocentrism, criminals are committing their crimes freely and police Department is totally inefficient in protecting the life and property of people which is obvious from following examples.

    1) Merciless killing and massacre in Karachi on 12 May 2008, in which police and provincial government were found helping the criminals, and officially no investigation was made by provincial government against such delirious crimes.

    2) Loot and arson on 27 December 2008, on the day of death of Benazir Bhutto, free hand was given to criminals for each and every type of crime by provincial governments and police and Railway and transport of people of other provinces was main target of these criminals, and later on all cases against these criminals were removed by Chief Minister of Sind.

    3) 0n 27 December once again police of province failed event to protect the property of people and free hand was given to criminals in committing their crimes.

    Moreover whenever people ask provincial police to help them as their duty and responsibility police never help to people.

    In case of snatching a car or Motor cycle when people go for registration of FIR to police, even then police ask for payment of bribe when the person is himself suffering from great trauma.

    Provincialism is blocking the progress of Pakistani nation and creating problems in the development due to making of decisions on ethnic and racial basis by Provincial governments, These Provincial governments are blocking people’s movement from one place to another place and violating basic right of movement of common people and thus hindering urabanization which is the basis of all developments.

    Performance of Provinces in the subject of Health:

    • Hospitals maintained by Provincials Government (such as civil Hospital Karachi) have been converted into ruins.

    • Admissions in Medical Colleges are given on the basis of Ethnic basis.

    • Provincial government had established Medical colleges in different cities on ethnic basis.

    • Medical colleges have become places of promotion of provincialism and ethnocentrism.

    • Medical Treatment is given to patients in hospitals on the basis of their link with any ethnic or political party and not on the basis of humanity.

    • Citizens are unable to gain any drugs from hospitals even vaccines are not provided to infants and children for eradication of Diseases.

    • Due to lack of motivation and any ethical commitment all program of polio and Tuberculosis eradications have failed.

    • There is no visible program for eradication of HIV, AIDS and Hepatitis.

    • There is continuous flow of population from India into Pakistan having Diseases like AIDS, HIV, Hepatitis, Swine Flue and Tuberculosis but provincial governments are doing nothing to block or to monitor to people coming from India into Pakistan.

    • Pakistan is leading country in the world whose population is suffering from Diabetes, Heart Diseases and Tuberculosis but provincial governments visibly are doing nothing for controlling such diseases.

    • Provincial Drugs Inspectors are involved in corruption and malpractices.

    • Even children are selling drugs in medical stores without any license.

    • There is no monitoring of food items sold in hotels, resturants and on road side.

    • Even in city of Karachi there is not only shortage of water but also water is usually without any treatment and having sewerage contamination.

    • There is no program by Provincial government for prevention of diseases.

    Moreover Provincial governments are Blocking the mix up of different races and ethnic groups which is also hindering evolution of good genetic health characteristics in present races and due to provincial government, such policies, racial and ethnic group are becoming confined just to their community and causing increase in genetic and hereditary diseases in present population.

    From above examples it is quite clear that disease of ethnocentrism and provincialism has become a cancer for common people and has become a main source of victimization of noble citizens and this disease is destroying all moral values and all state institutions.

    Therefore, there should be strict monitoring by Federal Government and international community of Provincial Education, Health ,Police (Law and Order) Departments and other departments and in case of no improvements then these Subjects should be taken back from provinces to federal Government.

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