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What five years of civilian governance in Pakistan looks like

For the first time in Pakistan's history, a democratically elected civilian government has successfully finished its five-year term -- despite a flurry of anti-government protests. But what does that success look like?

Foreign direct investment collapsed after President Asif Ali Zardari's government came to power in 2008, and has continued declining since, according to the World Bank. Meanwhile, foreign aid from the United States spiked, more than doubling under the new government to over $4 billion a year before tapering off again in 2011.

The country's relative political stability has paid off in some respects. Child mortality is down. School enrollment has continued to improve as well, rising three percentage points between 2008 and 2011 (admittedly not as impressive as the 14-percent increase over the course of the previous five years). On the other hand, since 2009 the ratio of girls to boys receiving a primary or secondary education has declined, indicating that enrollment is increasingly skewing toward boys. Pakistan may have fallen from ninth to 13th place in the Fund for Peace's annual ranking of failed states between 2008 and 2012, but the slightly better finish was still pretty dismal (as Robert Kaplan's "What's Wrong with Pakistan?" article for FP's Failed States package last year attests).

Domestic security under Zardari's government got off to a rough start, but has started to improve more recently. Domestic suicide bombings surged in the last year of Pervez Musharraf's government -- from the single digits through the first half of the decade to 57 in 2007. Terror attacks hit their peak with 90 suicide bombings in 2009, but the number fell to 32 attacks in 2012.

For what it's worth, in the last five years there have also been 353 U.S. CIA airstrikes against terrorist targets that killed at least 2,376 individuals, compared to 12 strikes with a minimum death toll of 159 people from the start of the CIA's drone campaign in Pakistan in 2004 through 2007.

That figure does not include the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad in May 2011 -- for which President Obama famously did not give advance notice to the Pakistani government because of concerns about al Qaeda sympathizers in the Pakistani military and intelligence service. At an event at the Brooking Institution last month, retired CIA analyst and South Asia expert Bruce Riedel speculated that bin Laden's successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is also being sheltered by the Pakistani military. If the civilian government is slowly finding its sea legs, it has a long way to go.

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The last time a papal intervention worked in South America

The big headline out of Argentine President Cristina Kirchner's visit with Pope Francis today was Kirchner's request that Francis intervene in Argentina's dispute with Britain over the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic.

"I asked for his intervention to avoid problems that could emerge from the militarization of Great Britain in the south Atlantic," she told reporters outside the Vatican. "We want a dialogue and that's why we asked the pope to intervene so that the dialogue is successful." 

But could papal intervention really help resolve the dispute?

Popes, for better or worse, have intervened in international conflicts for thousands of years. But should Francis intervene in the Falklands, he'd have big shoes to fill, as the most relevant example of a papal intervention in a South American territorial conflict is Pope John Paul II's successful treaty between Chile and Argentina in 1984. The two countries were on the brink of full-out war over the Beagle Channel and other islands in the south of the continent before the late pope worked with both sides to de-escalate the crisis.

In 2011, the foreign affairs ministers of Chile and Argentina paid homage to the pope in a ceremony at Casina Pio IV in Vatican City where bilateral talks concluded with the Peace and Friendship Treaty signed by both parties in 1984. As MercoPress explained at the time:

Back in 1978 when Argentina and Chile were under military rule (a military Junta headed by Jorge Videla, and Augusto Pinochet), John Paul II impeded the launching of an imminent war over the possession of the Picton, Lenox and New islands, along the Beagle Channel, and which following the mediation were confirmed as Chilean territory.

Obviously, it helped that both countries were deeply Catholic in a way that Great Britain is most definitely not (Catholics amount to about 8 percent of the population in the U.K.). If there was any speculation about whether Britain would adopt a deferential posture toward the new pontiff, it was put to rest last week when British Prime Minister David Cameron criticized Pope Francis for his 2012 remarks that Britain "usurped" the disputed archipelago from Argentina. Per Reuters:

The year before Bergoglio said that the islands were "ours", a view which most Argentinians share.

Cameron said the people of the islands had made their view clear in a referendum last week in which they overwhelmingly voted in favor of remaining British.

Whatever the likelihood of Pope Francis getting involved in the Falklands dispute, Kirchner seems keenly aware that today's conflict differs from the one between her country and Chile several decades ago. "There was a very difficult situation in 1978 when Argentina and Chile were almost at war and then John Paul II intervened and helped bring the two countries closer," she told the press today. "Now the situation is different because Britain and Argentina are two democratic countries with governments elected by the people. The only thing we ask is that we can sit down and negotiate."

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