Books and Arts; Book Review;Pakistan's future；Resilient mess；
The Future of Pakistan. By Stephen Cohen and others.
It seems optimistic to write a book called “The Future of Pakistan”; it assumes the country has one. Tot up the assorted threats and its survival may look dubious: Islamists, separatists, potentially stray nuclear weapons, the war in Afghanistan, economic and natural disasters, a booming and restless young population, unfathomably venal leaders, rotting institutions and violent megacities. Any of these could yet spell the country's demise (see our special report this week).
Individually, none of the 17 expert contributors to this frank and detailed volume is quite so apocalyptic. But their collective mood is grim. In pondering scenarios for the coming years, these various specialists have produced a flood of gloomy details and prognoses.
Stephen Cohen, a well-respected observer of Pakistani politics at the Brookings Institution, sets the tone by observing how Pakistanis lack even a shared idea of their nation. They are increasingly divided between the urban and rural, the educated and illiterate, and by competing religious strands. “The new normal is abnormal,” he observes.
The country is threatened by various long-term trends. Of Pakistan's 185m people, two-thirds are younger than 30 years old. Only the population of Yemen—hardly a model of stability—is more youthful. One poll taken among such youngsters and cited in the book suggests that three-quarters might emigrate if given the chance. Also many of the young hold extreme religious views, unleashed by the zealous regime of Zia ul Haq in the 1980s.
Rapid urbanisation brings more problems. Over a third of Pakistanis now live in towns and cities, where tribal and rural rivalries are morphing into violent, urban warlordism. Town-dwelling Pakistanis are “historically more religious and conservative than rural populations,” writes Shuja Nawaz of the Atlantic Council. They also have smaller families, and the youngsters are often left to fend for themselves. Thus it is in towns that both extremists and the armed forces increasingly find recruits, which bodes ill for preserving moderate views inside the army. Oddly, little space is given to the bloody turmoil in Karachi, perhaps the world's most violent metropolis.
The army's destructive habit of meddling in Pakistani politics continues unabated. Roughly every decade this switches from explicit power grabs to unsubtle efforts to manipulate civilian leaders. For now Pakistan is in the latter phase. Though this book went to press before the most recent civilian-military clash, known as Memogate, the authors may well prove largely right in predicting lots of scheming but no new coup for some years yet.
Within the gloom there are glimmers of hope. Most of the authors expect Pakistan to hobble forward more or less in its current state. The lives of some will improve. Literacy rates are rising fast (79% of men under 24 can now read, says the World Bank), families are shrinking (even in rural areas the norm is now to have four children, down from as many as ten two generations ago) and the press, generally, is more open than before. One sharp contributor, Aqil Shah, reckons that Pakistan will become “neither Sweden nor Somalia”, as the army's strong grip will prevent disintegration but also block growth of strong civilian institutions. Even an optimist would not describe Pakistan's glass as half full—keeping it unbroken may be the best one could hope for.
在阴霾之中还有一丝希望。面临这样的状况，大部分专家希望巴基斯坦人能或多或少在蹒跚中摸索前行。一些人的生活会得到改善。教育普及率迅速增加（据世界银行说24岁以下的人中79%的人能阅读 ），家庭人员减少（在农村普遍是四个孩子，比两代前的很多孩子相比下降）。Aqil Shah认为巴基斯坦不会步瑞士和索马里后尘，军队紧握政权使其免于风崩离新的可能，但也阻遏了平民机构的强劲增长。甚至乐观主义者也不会将巴基斯坦描绘为半满的玻璃杯——而保持这个玻璃杯的完整可能是人们最希望的。