While working in Somalia, Afghanistan and South Sudan, I often tried finding underlying commonalities. I tried finding some clues but the study of “Why Nations Fail?” provided flesh to the skeleton. Written by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, the book explains the common reasons behind the downfall of failed states. The book explains why an average American is seven times as prosperous as the average Mexican, 10 times as prosperous as the average Peruvian, about 20 times as prosperous as people of sub-Saharan Africa and about 40 times as prosperous as the average citizen of wretched countries as Mali and Sierra Leone; Somalia, and DRC are not even in the count. The authors answer: “strong institutions, Political and economic inclusion;” institutions, either can be inclusive – focused on power-sharing, productivity and the well-being of the nation as a whole; or extractive – bent on grabbing wealth and resources by the few. The case of DRC under Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled the Democratic Republic of Congo from 1965 to 1997, is mind-blowing. Mobutu and his courtiers weren’t interested in developing Congo. They were, at best, vampire capitalists. The world witnessed the abysmal poverty, disease and ongoing conflicts in DRC while the ruling few had their wealth booming. Democracies don’t nurture in a vacuum. They need a well-functioning political, social and economic system, and an independent judiciary. When rotten regimes are abetted by exploitative elites, weak institutions and the absence of an empowered central authority, failure is all but a natural result. While vicious cycles like Congo’s can churn out poverty, there are virtuous cycles like Botswana. At its independence in 1966, Botswana had just 22 university graduates, seven miles of paved roads, and a few hospitals. But today, Botswana has “the highest per capita income in sub-Saharan Africa.” Botswana benefited from the prudent centralisation of the state and limiting the power of tribal chiefs that had milked the colonial rule. When diamonds were discovered, the government ensured that the newfound riches were utilised for the national good, not the elite gains. The book argues that Egypt was poor “precisely because it has been ruled by a narrow elite that has organized society for their benefit at the expense of the vast mass of people.” My first-hand observation in Somalia, Afghanistan and South Sudan presents more or less the same reasons for national failure. The absence of visionary leadership was found all over. Except at one point in South Sudan when John Garang was in power, South Sudan, Somalia and Afghanistan share the absence of nationally acceptable leadership The governments were seen confined to the offices or more to the provincial capitals only. The rest of the country was at the hands of the warlords, clan leaders. The central government was found weak while the federating units were strong. This often created confusion, imbalance and poor services delivery. A key constant was personality/ clan-driven or elite-captured poorly performing institutions. In Afghanistan, the institutions were found cow-towing to warlords, in South Sudan to SPLA veterans and Somalia to clan chiefs. In Somalia, an absence of an organised army was observed, militias with no command and control system. They failed in handling a relatively minor terrorist entity” Al Shabab,” God forbid if they had to face a well-resourced outfit like the TTP etc, the country would have long been engulfed by militants. In Afghanistan, the enormous investment in training, equipment and arsenals couldn’t transform the army into a national force. For reasons of unity, discipline and commitment in their rank and files, their crumbling to a smaller force was no surprise. An unfortunate Ukraine moving from pillar to post for support has hard lessons too. Their governments lacked the ability to bring relief to the citizens at large while discriminately favouring the elites; resulting in chaos and perpetual poverty. This broke the state-public trust and dents national cohesion. How to avert the failure? State-Public Trust: The most common reason for failure was a trust deficit between the state and the public in all cases. In Somalia, during the Siad Baree regime, it boiled up to a level that every building and every entity that the mobs could lay their hands on turned into ashes. In Afghanistan, the state-sponsored corruption had alienated the commoners. It was largely perceived as a regime of the elites, for the elites. Easier said than done though, a reset is a must, from the elite focussed policies to people-centred. Rule of Law: Pakistan has the constitution, regulations and procedures governing the whole government spectrum. The holistic and equitable implementation of the law has magic. Rule of law creates a sense of equality in the nation. Improved Governance: Pakistan suffered from this pandemic chronically, various governments have been dislodged for poor governance and corruption. The key reason for this inter alia includes the political system, which supports the rich, who hobnob with the powerful and exploit the masses. The electioneering system starts with fallacies, undue favours, gimmickry bottom-up. This cycle goes up the ladder. The depressing election cycle in which one oligarchy often replaces another is only a “recipe of disaster,” common in all failed states. Unless the whole political system of electioneering and governance is reformed, this vicious cycle would only generate the leadership that most desist. Democracies don’t nurture in a vacuum. They need a well-functioning political, social and economic system, and an independent judiciary. Good governance would remain elusive in the absence of these integral components of the democratic dispensation. Robust Checks and Balances: An across-the-board accountability and transparency system at all levels of the governance architecture boost good governance. It is universal. It is time to depoliticise the accountability matrix. Strong Federation: The absence of strong legitimate central authority in all the failed nations was one unique constant. In Somalia, Afghanistan nothing of an empowered federal authority existed. Resultantly the Multi billions siphoned off could only enrich a few deep pockets. The plight of the poor and marginalised remained the same, except for a few dynasties, enterprises and corporate bigwigs. Lessons for devising strategic balance in Pakistan. The 18th amendment in Pakistan, after all, isn’t a divine decree and the same human can revisit it. Unless the system is rebooted to the advantage of the masses and an enlightened social contract signed, the eternal vicious cycle could be an unwanted fait accompli. The writer is a recognised health and public policy expert. He can be reached at Nadeemjan77@hotmail.com.