A former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan is worried that the nuclear-armed South Asian nation could collapse as a growing number of Islamic terrorists are targeting soldiers, civilians and government officials.
"Pakistan is in a state of institutional failure," Ambassador Ryan Crocker said this week. "It's not a failed state, but you could argue it is a failing state."
Mr. Crocker, ambassador to Pakistan from 2004 to 2007, joined South Asian specialist Daniel Markey in a forum at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York this week to discuss the threats facing Pakistan as it prepares for a landmark parliamentary election next month.
"Since my time there as ambassador I've seen almost all the trend lines running the wrong way," Mr. Crocker said. "There are more extremist groups in Pakistan than when I was there, and they are targeting the Pakistani state, military and civilians."
He expressed concern about reports that Pakistani Taliban are on the "ascendancy" in the country's largest city, Karachi, a seaport of 21 million residents.
Mr. Crocker noted the U.S. strategic interest in a free and fair elections May 11. The ballot holds the promise of a peaceful transfer of power from one democratically elected government to another for the first time since Pakistan was carved out of India in 1947.
"The stakes are very high for the U.S.," he said, noting the long-standing U.S.-Pakistan security relationship.
Pakistan, a country of more than 180 million, frequently has been ruled by military juntas that overthrew elected governments, but Mr. Crocker is betting that the army will stay out of next month's election.
"I don't think there is much appetite in the Pakistani military to get itself involved in the electoral process," he said.
Mr. Markey added that the election campaign appears to be "going relatively smoothly so far."
"The really dangerous possibility is that you'll see a disruption in the process — a disruption that would be very unpopular with the Pakistani public if the elections were postponed or otherwise marred by violence or military intervention," he said.
The U.S. ambassador to South Sudan is fighting for the rights of women, who are often the victims of rape and domestic violence in the world's newest nation that is approaching the second anniversary of its independence this summer.
Ambassador Susan D. Page recently invited dozens of female leaders to her official residence to discuss women's rights in the Central African nation.
"Change does not always happen quickly," she said. "However, the more you are able to come together in solidarity, to prioritize women's needs and to speak with one voice to improve opportunities for all women and girls, the more likely you are to affect change."
Local news reports said her guests included Julia Akur of the South Sudan Women Lawyers' Association; Bruna Iro, director of the Ivory Bank; Hannah Lona, deputy speaker of the state of Western Equatoria; and Paleki Obur of the South Sudan Women's Empowerment Network.
Rape is "widespread" and domestic violence "common" in South Sudan, according to the State Department's latest human rights report.
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