Black Swan in Pakistan

The new thread of a Black Swan event likely to hit Pakistan is being discussed in the international media. Foreign Policy Magazine ran this thread on 24 Jan with the title, ‘Pakistan: Is the Crisis Flying Under the Radar’, written by James Stavridis who is a retired four-star US Navy admiral and an Ex-NATO supreme allied commander.

The Admiral suggests to the Trump administration, “the first set of challenges will come fast and furious, and responses will tend to be tactical. Spending some strategic time analysing the possibility of a classic Black Swan event (low probability, high impact) like the destabilisation of Pakistan would make sense. Investing time and effort early with this huge and important nation, while working closely with India, could pay significant dividends in global stability during the next few years.”

Similar view were expressed by Mr Shuja Nawaz of Atlantic Council (USA) during his talk at Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) on 22 Feb 2017, that Pakistan should be ready to face a Black Swan event in the near future.

What are Black Swan events and how do these impact trajectories in lives of nations? International Monetary Fund Director Christine Lagarde, speaking at a panel discussion on the global economic outlook at the World Economic Forum, said the world should brace itself for more of those events in 2017, if anti-establishment groups determined to upset the status quo win upcoming elections in the Netherlands, France and Germany: “If the disruptions that we are expecting in 2017 as a result of what has happened in 2016 prove to be all negative then we’ll end up in a race to the bottom on the tax front, on the trade front, on the financial regulation front,” Lagarde said. “It would be a really big ‘Black Swan’ with devastating effects.”

Dr Shahid Masood did an analysis of possible Black Swan event in Pakistan during one of his programmes on TV and deconstructed it to include a mass terrorist attack, political assassination of a big leader or something cataclysmic in Pakistan’s neighborhood.

Although Black Swan has been discussed in academia since long, the major work to develop as a theory was done by Mr Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his famous book, ‘The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable’, Taleb is a philosopher, essayist, scholar, and statistician. The book was released in April 2007 by Random House. Taking a leaf from Wikipedia, the book focuses on the extreme impact of certain kinds of rare and unpredictable events (outliers) and humans’ tendency to find simplistic explanations for these events retrospectively. This theory has since become known as the black swan theory. He advocates what he calls a “black swan robust” society, meaning a society that can withstand difficult-to-predict events.

In our analysis and opinion, a Black Swan event for Pakistan could be the result of some high impact scenarios with long range strategic implications for Pakistan and the region. These events may or may not take place in Pakistan, but could have direct or indirect implications for the country. Some of these are being discussed in ensuing paras.

Kashmir Melts:       Indian Occupied Kashmir could start melting under the new Freedom struggle, pushing Indian politico-military leadership to it limit. The quick collapse of governance in Kashmir Valley may trigger events that are beyond the comprehension of the Indian military and this could lead to unprecedented Indo-Pak military escalation and wider conflict.

Mega Terrorist Attack on Indian Soil: An orchestrated false flag operation sponsored by RAW within India at mega scale could trigger heightened tensions and Pakistan could be brought under enormous diplomatic pressure through the Indian Info War and an echoing media campaign by the Western media as well.

Mega Terrorist Attack within Pakistan: Hostile intelligence agencies could trigger a massive terrorist attack through a terrorist organisation (not witnessed so far in Pakistan in last seven years), creating a deep sense of insecurity and political divide. Assassination of some big wig of a political party could also trigger chaos in Pakistan.

NUG Collapses in Afghanistan: National Unity Government in Afghanistan could also collapse due to infighting between groups loyal to CEO Abdulla Abdullah and President Ashraf Ghani, resulting in strategic gains for Afghan Taliban and other warlords, creating a tectonic shift and mass exodus of Afghan population towards neighboring countries. This scenario could create serious repercussions for the whole region, especially Pakistan.

Conflict in the Persian Gulf. With the Trump administration taking a hardline against Iran, the possibility of an expanding conflict in Persian Gulf region is now becoming a possibility. Any military conflict involving US-Iran could become a mini world war engulfing entire West Asia and has the potential to draw Russia, China and the entire Middle East into it.

There is an urgent need to conduct strategic estimates and Forecasting of a possible Black Swan event in Pakistan and her immediate neighborhood and analyse implications and the future trajectory of such scenarios, so that Pakistan is not caught off guard. The emerging strategic realignment of the big powers in the region and the forces arrayed against CPEC and growing Russian influence in West Asia demand that Pakistan should overcome her governance and socio economic challenges and cement an internal polity to develop a “Black Swan robust” society, something advocated by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his famous book.

Our motivation to discuss and write about a possible Black Swan event in Pakistan was triggered by analysis of past events in Pakistan, to our horror we found that this thing was discussed once in 2007,as well. As far back as 5 Nov 2007, Frederick Kempe had projected a possible Black Swan event in Pakistan in an article, ‘Pakistan Gets My Vote for a Black Swan Event’. This article was published by Atlantic Council. Unfortunately Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on 27 Dec 2007.

Pakistani security community should analyse the new trend of a possible Black Swan event in Pakistan being proliferated in Western Media, especially after two very senior and seasoned US based opinion makers like Shuja Nawaz (Atlantic Council) and Admiral James Stavridis have talked about it recently.

It may also be prudent to take China, Russia our friends in Middle East (Iran,KSA and Turkey) on board for this Strategic Assessment, so that a more comprehensive and regional approach is adopted before it is too late.

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