Michael KreponPakistan’s Health and Demography

A recent trip to Pakistan gave me reasons for hope as well as despair. Pakistan still has what it takes to succeed, as is evident from the vitality of its black economy. But governance will fail without leadership, revenue generation and internal security. Progress is evident on the third front, but not the first two. Pakistan is still suffering from the effects of dynastic politics and military rule. The latter isn’t in the cards; the former has been shaken up by Imran Khan, the most popular politician in the country who, so far, shows little evidence of being able to govern effectively.

The ongoing military operation against the Pakistani Taliban in North Waziristan, which was preceded by quiet steps to prevent blow-ups elsewhere, has been successful, suggesting that the powers of the state security apparatus remain intact. One notable exception – the explosion near the Wagah border crossing – occurred not for lack of prior warning, but for a failure to connect the dots, which happens in many countries. Whether the state security apparatus has the will and the means to succeed against groups that have targeted India, like the Lashkar-e-Toiba, remains an open question.

Demography isn’t exactly destiny, but it explains a lot, and has a bearing on nuclear dangers. The Stimson Center’s resident demographer, Wilson Center Global Fellow Richard Cincotta, predicted upheavals in North Africa before they happened by running the numbers. I asked him to take a look at Pakistan, where state failure is often predicted, but whose resiliency has surprised doomsayers. Read Rich’s analysis of demographic trends in Pakistan (in PDF format).


  1. Bradley Laing (History)


    RUSSIAN scientists are reviving Soviet-era nuclear missile trains as part of the Kremlin’s $530 billion overhaul of its armed forces.

    Disguised military trains loaded with nuclear missiles first rumbled across Russia’s railways in the 1980s. They could travel more than 1000km a day without being detected and could launch missiles from any part of their route, making them a key part of the ­Soviet Union’s Cold War arsenal.

    The Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology is designing a new missile launching train, said a source quoted by the Tass news agency. “While the decision to start manufacturing (missile trains) is still pending, the probability is high that it will happen,” the source said. “In the best-case scenario, they will be deployed by the end of the decade, probably somewhere around 2019.”

  2. Carey Sublette (History)

    Not commenting on this particular article, but about the site generally. It appears that comments on articles are disabled after two weeks (or so) now?

    That did not use to be the case.

  3. Bradley Laing (History)

    Sandia National Laboratories is studying how environments, including radiation that originates from a nuclear weapon itself, could affect the performance of electronics in the W76-1 warhead as they age.
    Sandia, which is responsible for most non-nuclear components in U.S. nuclear weapons, is helping replace W76 warheads in the nation’s stockpile with a refurbished version under the W76-1 Life Extension Program (LEP). The ballistic missile warhead is carried on the Trident II D5 missile aboard Ohio-class Navy submarines