Pakistani scientists have proliferated nuclear technology to the rogue state of North Korea. And Pakistan now has the fastest-growing nuclear weapons program in the world.
Pakistan is also routinely gripped by Sunni-Shia violence, has a serious secessionist movement in the vast gas-rich province of Baluchistan and its financial capital, Karachi, is one of the world's most dangerous cities.
But there is another side to Pakistan that suggests some underlying strengths that don't make quite as good copy as the Taliban marching towards Islamabad, as they did in 2009.
Those strengths are Pakistan's maturing institutions.
Pakistan has a largely ineffectual state, but it has a vibrant civil society that picks up at least some of the government's slack. The private Edhi Foundation, for instance, runs a fleet of 1,800 ambulances and a slew of other welfare services for the poor across Pakistan.
As a result of this strong civil society, Pakistan had its version of the Arab Spring long before the wave of demands for accountable governments emerged in the Middle East. It was, after all, a movement of thousands of lawyers taking to the streets protesting the sacking of the Supreme Court chief justice by the military dictator Pervez Musharraf in 2007 that helped to dislodge Musharraf from power.
Pakistan is no North Korea, and if Pakistanis really got a grip on their own problems, rather than too often resorting to blaming the United States or India for their ills, Pakistan might begin to look more like Turkey than Bangladesh.