I have become increasingly concerned about what is happening to our world. I don't know what to do about it but I believe it is crucial that information be disseminated. These are momentous times for which the necessity to stay informed is ever greater. I plan to post notes about recent publications on this site that help me think about what is going on. And I would welcome your comments.
Tariq Ali ("Pakistan at Sixty") has as usual given us a valuable insight into the situation in Pakistan, one of the world's most conflicted and worrisome countries. But this time he is unusually pessimistic. One wonders what can become of a country like this. The most astonishing statement in the article is that even some Pakistanis are thinking that the formation of the country was a mistake. The Indians have been thinking this for years, but not the Pakistanis. And given the mess that Pakistan has now become there is no way that India could even want it. This region was in British times one of the continuing problem areas of the subcontinent; now its problems are compounding. That Washington still cannot think creatively about what to do about Pakistan compounds the problem. Some selections from the article follow: RLC [Click on the title for the original and complete source]
Pakistan at Sixty
"In private, of course, there is much soul-searching, and a surprising collection of people now feel the state should never have been founded."
"Can Pakistan Survive?"
"The country is here to stay. And it's not religion or the mystical 'ideology of Pakistan' that guarantees its survival, but its nuclear capacity and Washington."
"The European and North American papers give the impression that the main, if not the only, problem confronting Pakistan is the power of the bearded fanatics skulking in the Hindu Kush, who as the papers see it are on the verge of taking over the country. In this account, all that stops a jihadi finger finding the nuclear trigger is Musharraf. Alas, it now seems he might drown in a sea of troubles and so the helpful State Department has pushed out an over-inflated raft in the shape of Benazir Bhutto."
"There is no possibility of a takeover by religious extremists unless the army wants one"
"There are serious problems confronting Pakistan, but these are usually ignored in Washington"
"The lack of a basic social infrastructure encourages hopelessness and despair, but only a tiny minority turns to jihad"
"Corruption envelops Pakistan. The poor bear the burden, but the middle classes are also affected"
"The resulting moral vacuum is filled by porn films and religiosity of various sorts. In some areas religion and pornography go together: the highest sales of porn videos are in Peshawar and Quetta, strongholds of the religious parties"
"Nor should it be imagined that the bulk of the porn comes from the West. There is a thriving clandestine industry in Pakistan, with its own local stars, male and female"
"Meanwhile the Islamists are busy picking up supporters. The persistent and ruthless missionaries of Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) are especially effective. Sinners from every social group, desperate for purification, queue to join."
"Another triumph was the post-9/11recruitment of Junaid Jamshed, the charismatic lead singer of Pakistan'sfirst successful pop group, Vital Signs. He renounced his past and now singsonly devotional songs – naats."
"some younger male recruits, bored with all the dogma, ceremonies and ritual, are more interested in getting their hands on a Kalashnikov."
"Many believe that the Tablighi missionary camps are fertile recruiting grounds for armed groups active on the Western Frontier and in Kashmir. The establishment has been slow to challenge the interpretation of Islam put forward by groups such as Tablighi. Musharraf advised people to go and see Khuda Kay Liye ('In the Name of God'), a new movie"
"This may not help the film, or the moderate Islam it favours, given that Musharraf's popularity ratings currently trail Osama bin Laden's"
"After the Supreme Court insisted that 'disappeared' political activists be produced in court and refused to dismiss rape cases, there were worries in Islamabad that the chief justice might even declare the military presidency unconstitutional ... The general and his cabinet decided to frighten Chaudhry by suspending him ... But instead of caving in ... the judge insisted on defending himself, triggering a remarkable movement in defence of an independent judiciary."
"There was something delightfully old-fashioned about this struggle: it involved neither money nor religion, but principle."
"The judge was due to visit Karachi, the country's largest city, on 12 May. Political power here rests in the hands of the MQM (Muttahida Qaumi Movement/United National Movement), an unsavoury outfit created during aprevious dictatorship"
"On Islamabad's instructions, the MQM leaders decided to prevent the judge addressing the meeting in Karachi. He was not allowed to leave the airport. His supporters in different parts of the city were assaulted. Almost fifty people were killed."
"A devastating report, *Carnage in Karachi*, published in August by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, confirmed in great detail what everyone already knew: the police and army had been ordered to stand by while armed MQM members went on the rampage."
"The fact is that jihadis are not popular in most of Pakistan, but neither is the government."
" The Red Mosque episode raised too many unanswered questions.Why did the government not act in January? How did the clerics manage to accumulate such a large store of weapons without the knowledge of the government? Was the ISI aware that an arsenal was concealed inside the mosque? If so, why did they keep quiet? What was the relationship between the clerics and government agencies?"
"Back in the heart of Pakistan the most difficult and explosive issue remains social and economic inequality. This is not unrelated to the increase in the number of madrassas"
"A general election is due later this year. If it is as comprehensively rigged as the last one was, the result will be increased alienation from the political process. The outlook is bleak. There is no serious political alternative to military rule."