Pakistan must focus on internal woes: Scholars

The scholars urged Pak to concentrate on efforts against Islamic radicals.

New York: Pakistan needs to strengthen democratic institutions, ramp up education spending and shift its focus away from India if it hopes to avoid an even worse crisis, a report by scholars said on Wednesday.

A group of 31 leading US and Pakistani experts meeting under the aegis of the New York-based Asia Society said that while the nuclear-armed nation was not a failed state, its problems had "risen to a dangerous level”.

"Without the urgent adoption of both remedial and revolutionary measures, Pakistan`s future challenges will only become more serious over time," the report said.

The study was led by Hassan Abbas, a scholar at the Asia Society and Columbia University. It involved former US deputy secretary of state John Negroponte, former US diplomat Frank Wisner and influential authors Ahmed Rashid and Peter Bergen, although not all participants endorsed each finding.

The scholars called for Pakistan to concentrate on efforts against Islamic radicals who have waged a campaign of violence inside the country, despite Islamabad`s traditional focus on countering historic rival India.

"The government must turn inward and concentrate on addressing internal problems rather than seeking a false `liberation` of Kashmir or creating strategic depth in Afghanistan, as it did in the 1990s," the study said.

The study was largely written before US forces on May 02 killed Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani garrison city of Abbottabad, which set off new questions about the role of Pakistan`s powerful military and intelligence service.

The study said it was unrealistic to expect Pakistan`s military to leave politics immediately. But it said that democracy can be built over time by ensuring military leaders have firm term limits and not appointing retired generals to head civilian institutions.

The report also called for urgent efforts to address poverty and illiteracy. Pakistan ranks 125th out of 169 countries on the UN Human Development Index.

The scholars urged Pakistan immediately to raise education spending to four percent of GDP, up from 1.5 percent now, and lift it to six percent by 2020.

"Without making this minimal commitment, a reversal of the worrying trends in the education sector is unlikely to occur," the report said.

Bureau Report

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