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CGA Scenarios: Pakistan 2020

October 1, 2011


This report considers the future of Pakistan from a variety of perspectives, seeing radicalization, reform, and fragmentation as three likely courses of development.

The scenarios presented in this document are based on the Pakistan Scenarios workshop, held on April 29, 2011 at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University. This was the seventh in a series of workshops organized by the CGA Scenarios Initiative, which aims to reduce surprise and illuminate U.S. foreign policy choices through scenario-building exercises. Previous events focused on Iraq, Iran, China, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. The workshops on China, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, and Pakistan were funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

In both official and academic policy debates, the future is often expected to parallel the recent past. Potential discontinuities are dismissed as implausible, information that conflicts with prevailing mindsets or policy preferences is unseen or viewed as anomalous, pressure for consensus drives out distinctive insights, and a fear of being "wrong" discourages risk-taking and innovative analysis. This conservatism can obscure, and thus reduce, foreign policy choice. Our experience, through several workshops, is that experts tend to underestimate the degree of future variability in the domestic politics of seemingly stable states. This was the case with the Soviet Union, as it is now in the Middle East. Globalization, financial volatility, physical insecurity, economic stresses, and ethnic and religious conflicts challenge governments as never before and require that Americans think seriously about both risk and opportunity in such uncertain circumstances.