NYU-SCPS Center for Global Affairs Considers Three Scenarios for Pakistan in 2020

NEW YORK, December 13, 2011 – Pakistan can either radicalize, fragment, or reform over the course of the next decade, according to “Pakistan 2020,” the latest report issued by the Scenarios Initiative of the New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies Center for Global Affairs (scps.nyu.edu/cga.scenarios).

Rather than attempting to predict the future of the country, "Pakistan 2020" projects these three plausible alternative scenarios and their consequences for U.S. interests. 

In Scenario One, "Radicalization," perceived military threats, spiraling economic losses, and political infighting ignite populist fervor that leads to the democratic election of a conservative military officer. The new regime aims to strengthen Pakistan, and the wider Muslim world, through a radical Islamic agenda reinforced by Pakistan’s growing nuclear capability.

In Scenario Two, "Fragmentation," devolution of resources to local and provincial authorities weakens federal control and legitimizes separatist movements, while internal and external defeats reduce loyalty in the army. Patronage networks come to dominate socio-economic relationships; regions operate independently of each other; and nuclear material is, at best, insecure.

In Scenario Three, "Reform," a growing, urban middle class unites with expatriate entrepreneurs to spark a centrist political movement for consensus-based economic reforms. The movement forms a political party that prioritizes increased trade with regional partners and co-opts political and military elites by sharing the economic gains.

“To consider three plausible scenarios for Pakistan, the 16 participants focused on primarily internal drivers of change as the basis for our discussions,” said Michael Oppenheimer, the NYU-SCPS Center for Global Affairs clinical professor who leads the Scenarios Initiative. “We hope that each scenario is plausible and thought-provoking, revealing challenges and opportunities for U.S. policy that may not be apparent in extrapolations or in current policy-driven debates about Pakistan.” 

The CGA Scenarios Initiative aims to raise the quality of U.S. foreign policy by improving policymakers’ understanding of and reaction to change. The project gathers experts from diverse skill sets and nationalities to participate in interactive scenario-building workshops. 

The Initiative has attracted leading experts representing a wide range of academic, commercial, and diplomatic expertise in each of the target countries. These workshops are unscripted and conversational in nature. The format enables the participants to challenge prevailing assumptions and attitudes towards the country under analysis and express their personal views. Oppenheimer, its leader, has provided research, consulting, and policy advice for the U.S. foreign policy and intelligence communities, using similar scenarios-building exercises, for almost four decades. 

This latest report, funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, is the seventh in the CGA series that examines likely foreign policy issues facing the United States. 

Pakistan 2020 is available for download at scps.nyu.edu/cga.scenarios or cgascenarios.wordpress.com. Previous reports on Iran, Iraq, China, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine can also be accessed through both websites. 

The Center for Global Affairs (CGA), one of several comprehensive academic divisions within the New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies (NYU-SCPS), offers graduate and continuing education programs in global affairs and hosts a series of vibrant public events on related topics.

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