On Tuesday, Foreign Policy and Fund for Peace published their fourth annual failed states index. The good news was that Pakistan had moved from the 12th position to the 13th in the rankings.
The bad was that on the same day, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had conducted a judicial coup and declared that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani stood dismissed from his office.
The celebrations in the ranks of Imran Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaf and Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League can attest to the fact that the Pakistan Supreme Court's decision was a political one. In democracies, constitutional bodies give each other a respectably wide berth.
Pakistanis dance as they celebrate a Supreme Court's decision to disqualify former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, in Multan
Courts avoid politically loaded petitions, while the executive usually honours the decisions of the judiciary.
There are obvious infirmities in the Pakistan Supreme Court's position, not least being its decision to disqualify a representative of the people on the basis of civil contempt. But that is not what concerns us here in India.
What matters for us are the consequences of the verdict on India-Pakistan relations. Gilani was not a flamboyant politician, and neither was he- in the context of the Pakistan People's Party he represented- all powerful. But he had the virtue of possessing political skills that enabled him to be the second longest serving prime minister of Pakistan.
In other words, despite heading a government, marred by charges of corruption and incompetence, he did provide a measure of stability to the governance of the country. Gilani's tenure was eventful.
He had to contend with an ongoing Tehreek-e-Taliban insurgency, the unprecedented floods and in his last year, the precipitous decline of US-Pakistan relations.
And he had to function between the Scylla of the Pakistan Army GHQ and the Charybdis of his boss, President Asif Ali Zardari.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani waves upon his arrival at the Supreme Court
If you take 2011 as an example, you will get what I mean. In January Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, was assassinated and the lawyers of Lahore who had played a huge role in overthrowing Musharraf, showered rose petals on his assassin.
On May 2, Osama bin Laden was killed by US Seals while hiding in plain sight in a huge house at Abbotabad, a hill station near Islamabad which also houses the Pakistan Military Academy.
The fallout of that event has been long and complex. It first led to the firing of the Pakistani ambassador in the US who is accused of having attempted a 'coup', if it can be called that, against the military in Pakistan.
Second, in conjunction with an incident in November that led to the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a NATO airstrike at a Pakistani border post, Pakistan blocked all US and NATO supplies from transiting through its territory.
As if this was not enough, the city of Karachi went through one of its regular bloodbaths with hundreds of people dying in targeted killings in July and August.
Yet, Gilani was also, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has acknowledged, a sound interlocutor in relation to New Delhi, especially since he had to deal with India in the wake of the Mumbai terror attack. This does not mean that we were able to get our way with Pakistan or move the dialogue agenda forward, leave alone lay our hands on the terrorists who perpetrated the Mumbai attacks.
But it did mean that the always fraught relationship was conducted with an element of civility and purpose.
Last year, despite all the problems, the two countries resumed their stalled dialogue, identifying the Siachen and the Sir Creek issues as the ones that could possibly be settled in quick time. Pakistan's decision to accord Most Favoured Nation Status to India and to normalise trade over the next two years marked a high point of sorts. What happens now?
The crisis in Pakistan, where the judiciary seems determined to pin down President Asif Zardari, has not ended.
That will happen either if the new prime minister is willing to write a letter to the Swiss authorities to reopen the corruption cases against Zardari, or if the government collapses and fresh elections take place. In any case elections are due and must take place in the next six to seven months.
It is unlikely that the PPP will win any election at this juncture.
This means that once again, the India- Pakistan issues must mark time. While we may go through the motions, as indeed we seem to be doing, of discussing the issues, there is little chance of any kind of a breakthrough.
Once the celebrations die down in the Opposition camp, they will have to confront the issues surrounding the Gilani verdict. If an elected Prime Minister can be deposed by a judicial verdict, then the supremacy of parliament will forever remain in question.
But the joker in the pack remains the military. Many people suspect that the Chief Justice, who has taken a tough line with the civilian government, and has gone easy on cases related to the military, is playing the game of the deep establishment in the country which has never trusted the Bhuttos and the Zardaris.
There will be many who argue that the lesson of Gilani's departure is that there is little point dealing with civilian governments in Islamabad, prone as they seem to be to coups, earlier military and now judicial.
That would be wrong. Pakistan is not a failed state, but a failing one. To know what a failed state is, just look at Somalia.
As for a failing state, its key characteristic is that it gives rise to multiple centres of power, in this case, the military, the civilian political system, the judiciary and the assorted militant groups.
Any country which must cope with such a state- and India is one that cannot avoid dealing with Pakistan- must learn to handle several, or all these elements at the same time.
Mail Today June 21, 2012