September 19, 2014, 12:00 pm - October 1, 2023, 9:18 am


The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20036 (Map)

The current political crises in Pakistan and Afghanistan have raised important questions about the viability of democracy in both countries. Has democracy failed Pakistan and Afghanistan? Or have Pakistanis and Afghans failed their democracy?

The Middle East Institute's Louis R. Hughes Lecture Series hosted a panel discussion exploring the role of democratic governance in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Have the conditions been right within these countries for democracy to take root? Has it been given a fair chance to succeed? Should it be held to different standards than democracy in the West? Experts Hassan Abbas (National Defense University), Sarah Chayes (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace), Joshua White (Stimson Center), and Moeed Yusuf (United States Institute for Peace) discussed these questions, as well as whether future reforms could improve the efficacy of the existing governments in both countries. MEI scholar Marvin Weinbaum moderated the discussion.


Hassan Abbas is professor and chair of the department of regional and analytical studies at National Defense University’s College of International Security Affairs in Washington, D.C. He is also a senior adviser at the Asia Society. Previously, he served as the distinguished Quaid i Azam chair professor at Columbia University and a senior adviser at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. His latest book is The Taliban Revival (Yale University Press, June 2014), which chronicles the Taliban’s survival and resurgence after 2001 through firsthand research and interviews in the region.

Sarah Chayes is a senior associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law and South Asia programs at the Carnegie Endowment. She formerly served as special adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and as special adviser to two of the commanders of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). A former reporter, she covered the fall of the Taliban for National Public Radio, then left journalism to remain in Kandahar in order to contribute to the reconstruction of the country, living there almost continuously since December 2001. An expert in South Asia policy, kleptocracy, anticorruption, and civil-military relations, Chayes is author of The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban (Penguin Press HC, 2006). She is a contributing writer for the Los Angeles Times opinion section, and her articles have appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Atlantic, among other publications.

Joshua T. White is deputy director for Stimson's South Asia program. Prior to joining Stimson, White served as senior advisor for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, a position he held in conjunction with an International Affairs Fellowship from the Council on Foreign Relations. White has spent extensive time in South Asia, and has held short-term visiting research fellowships at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), the International Islamic University in Islamabad (IIUI), Pakistan's National Defence University (NDU), and the Institute for Defence and Strategic Analyses (IDSA) in Delhi. He has written widely, testified before Congress, and served on U.S.-sponsored election observer delegations to both Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Moeed W. Yusuf is director of South Asia programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Before joining USIP, Yusuf was a fellow at the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future at Boston University, and concurrently a research fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center at Harvard Kennedy School. He has also worked at the Brookings Institution. In 2007, he co-founded Strategic and Economic Policy Research, a private sector consultancy firm in Pakistan. Yusuf has consulted for a number of Pakistani and international organizations including the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and the Stockholm Policy Research Institute, among others. From 2004-2007, he was a full-time consultant with the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Pakistan’s premier development-sector think tank. Yusuf writes regularly for Dawn, Pakistan’s leading English daily, and frequently appears as an expert on U.S. and Pakistani media. His latest edited books are Pakistan's Counter-terrorism Challenge (Georgetown University Press, 2014) and Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in South Asia: From a Peacebuilding Lens (U.S. Institute of Peace Press, 2014). He is also the co-editor of South Asia 2060: Envisioning Regional Futures (Anthem Press, 2013) and Getting it Right in Afghanistan (U.S. Institute of Peace Press, 2013).

Marvin Weinbaum is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and served as analyst for Pakistan and Afghanistan in the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research from 1999 to 2003. He is currently a scholar-in-residence at the Middle East Institute in Washington DC. At Illinois, Dr. Weinbaum served for fifteen years as the director of the Program in South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. His research, teaching, and consultancies have focused on the issues of national security, state building, democratization, and political economy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author or editor of six books and has written more than 100 journal articles and book chapters. Dr. Weinbaum was awarded Fulbright Research Fellowships for Egypt in 1981-82 and Afghanistan in 1989-90, and was a senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace in 1996-97. He has been the recipient of research awards from the Social Science Research Council, the Ford Foundation, the American Political Science Association, and other granting agencies.