The stability of Pakistan – security political consequences of flood catastrophes


  • Samuel Neuman Bergenwall
  • Louise Simonsson

Publish date: 2012-10-09

Report number: FOI-R--3460--SE

Pages: 39

Written in: Swedish


  • Pakistan
  • floods
  • Taliban
  • Baluchistan
  • political violence
  • terrorism
  • corruption
  • Imran Khan
  • climate change
  • global warming.


In 2010 and 2011 Pakistan was hit by two devastating flood catastrophes. During the monsoon season of 2010, the floods affected one-fifth of the country, resulting in a major humanitarian and economic crisis. Increased intensity and frequency of the floods during the monsoon seasons could, climate researchers argue, be the consequence of climate change. Scenarios of climate change indicate that Pakistan will continue to face flood catastrophes in the coming years. This paper analyses how the floods of 2010 and 2011 have affected the stability of Pakistan, and determines what implications recurrent catastrophes may have on a country that already faces serious security threats as well as major economic, social and political challenges. The recent catastrophes have indirectly contributed to increased levels of political and ethnic violence in Karachi, the largest city of Pakistan; the emergence of a new popularly supported and US-critical political movement, PTI, which may change the political landscape in Pakistan; and above all, the floods have caused a slowdown of the economy. If floods of the scale of those in 2010 become recurrent a phenomena it will hurt the Pakistani economy badly. The capacity of the state to provide security, health, education as well as salaries and benefits for the military will decline, while the state's ability to combat rebellions in Baluchistan and the Pashtun areas will decrease. The bleak picture of Pakistan as a state on the brink of collapse needs to be complemented by another more positive portrayal. While the state is weak, the society of Pakistan is strong and resilient to catastrophes. The military, by far the strongest institution in the country, is dedicated to the ideology of nationalism and the territorial unity of the country. Although Pakistan faces serious economic difficulties and a looming financial crisis, it nevertheless has a comparably stable economic base and a history of comparatively decent economic growth. Moreover, Pakistan's demographic, political, economic and military structures make it difficult for ethnic separatist movements to achieve successes. Lastly, if Pakistan were on the brink of collapse, the Unites States and neighboring states would have common interests and strong incentives to act in order to avoid that Pakistan deteriorates into a de facto failed state. Annual flood catastrophes caused by climate change could in the long run bring the ethnically heterogeneous Pakistan on its knees and, together with other factors, catalyze a process resulting in the disintegration of the state. In the short term, however, floods alone will not likely cause the breakup of Pakistan. Other factors, such as the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan's "Pashtunistan" are more important factors for the stability in the near future.