The conference concluded with a round-up of the very different trajectories followed by Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Carnegie’s Sarah Chayes joined Georgetown’s Christine Fair and Maneeza Hossain of the Hudson Institute for the conversation, in which each panelist discussed the governance challenges facing these countries. Frederic Grare, director of Carnegie’s South Asia Program, moderated.

Afghanistan

  • Nation Building? Chayes said that as the United States moves toward withdrawal in 2014, its efforts at state building have failed. Instead, Chayes argued that what has taken root in Kabul is a sophisticated, vertically integrated criminal syndicate.

  • War in Peace: Discussing the prospects for Afghan society after the withdrawal, Chayes theorized that the criminal infrastructure may lend itself to a kind of stability after U.S. troops are gone, but that the resulting society would be anything but peaceful.

Pakistan

  • Autocracy with Friends: Fair emphasized that in Pakistan, the army has never been able to rule alone, and has always needed political accomplices to stabilize its rule. 

  • Unlikely Alliances: Despite the role that the Supreme Court played in ousting President-General Musharraf, Fair argued that the court may now be allied with the military in a move calculated to keep the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in check. The success of this move has been limited, ironically, by the PPP’s main electoral rival, the Pakistani Muslim League-Nawaz. That party’s leader, Nawaz Sharif, has declined to cooperate with the military’s maneuvers, Fair said.

Bangladesh

  • Slow Progress: Hossain said that in recent years slow but visible progress has been made in improving the quality of life in Bangladesh, in particular with respect to infrastructural improvements.

  • A Third Way: Caught between two feuding, dynastic parties, Bangladesh’s best hope for improved governance may rest with the country’s dynamic youth, who are exploring the development of a third political party that would give Bangladeshis an alternative option, Hossain said.