Of all the south Asian states Pakistan seems at the greatest risk of social and political collapse. Government has been weak, veering between incompetent and corrupt ‘democratic’ regimes and self-serving military dictatorships. The leading figures in both have been and still are members of a small wealthy elite closely connected with the military, governing a vast mass of desperately poor and disadvantaged people. Around two-thirds of Pakistanis work on the land, often on small subsistence plots that can barely provide them with enough food, and frequently, as the tenants of wealthy absentee landlords, are trapped in a cycle of poverty and debt. More than 60 years as an independent state have done little to change this. The population, 40 million in 1947, had grown to 190 million in 2012.
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