“The notion of Pakistan as a “failed state” has roots far deeper than the last few years; it was first deemed to have “failed” in the early 1960s, and this framework has dominated discussion of Pakistan in America from the days of the Cold War to the War on Terror.“
From Manan Ahmed‘s “Legends of the fail,” published May 7, 2009, in The National newspaper (Abu Dhabi, UAE)
Full text below:
Americans are only learning about Pakistan from Americans, and that’s a problem. Too much of what passes for “news” about Pakistan is really just one American telling the other about how the Taliban are on the verge of taking over the nation. Nevermind that there might be 10,000 Taliban troops and 170 million Pakistanis.
One U.S. news source is attempting an alternative path: The Huffington Post. This online “newspaper” has launched a “Spotlight On Pakistan” series. If you are Pakistani, especially if you are in Pakistan, they need your help:
I couldn’t help but react to William Bradley’s April 30th Huffington Post column on Afghanistan and Pakistan. It had some interesting points, but it was also filled with vaguely orientalist notions of Pakistani security issues.
There were the noble generals, the scary ISI, and the invisible 170 million civilians who would soon fall to a marauding Taliban.
So naturally, I had to comment. You can read my three 250 word responses below. They were published as comments on the HuffPo website.
The news is certainly troubling. Taliban fighters get a “peace” treaty from the national Pakistani government, and then expand from Swat to neighboring Buner. A vast national military seems unable or unwilling to respond, and everyone scratches their heads wondering what is next.
But does this really mean that Pakistan is on the verge of falling to the Taliban? If you look at the details, it is a notion deserving of skepticism.
In a column for CNN, New America Foundation fellow Peter Bergen puts the current bad news in the context of Pakistan’s historic challenges:
The present crisis with the Taliban is not nearly as severe as the genuinely existential crises that Pakistan has faced and weathered in the past. Pakistan has fought three major wars with India and has lost each encounter, including the 1971 war in which one half of the country seceded to become Bangladesh. Pakistan’s key leaders have succumbed to the assassin’s bullet or bomb or the hangman’s noose, and the country has seen four military coups since its birth in 1947. Yet the Pakistani polity has limped on.
When looking for reasons why the Taliban don’t pose a nation-destroying threat, this history of “hard knocks” isn’t exactly what one has in mind. But it does put the current border insurgency in its proper context. Pakistan has experienced far greater challenges in the past, and Pakistan still exists as a nation.
Indeed, one can even look to India for additional context. Many think of India as a simple example of democracy rising, but you could easily string together a series of anecdotes to paint a more nuanced picture: two Indian states currently under military control (Kashmir and Manipur), two more states with ongoing Maoist insurrections (Chhattisghar and Jharkhand), past and present separatist movements elsewhere. Continue reading
Filed under India, Pakistan
A repost of my comment at Sepia Mutiny and Chapati Mystery:
On the intersection of U.S. policy and Pakistani politics, I was particularly surprised to read this link off a Pakistani news twitter feed:
Obama calls Zardari, discusses mutual cooperation
Pakistan News.Net / Friday 27th March, 2009 (ANI)
Islamabad, Mar. 27 : US President Barack Obama telephoned President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday to discuss mutual cooperation and the situation in the South Asian region. Obama and Zardari spoke about the “Friends of Democratic Pakistan” forum initiative, aimed at promoting and strengthening democracy in Pakistan, The Nation reports…
…Zardari, who launched the initiative of ‘Friends of Democratic Pakistan’ (FODP) in New York in September 2008, will chair the Friends’ Ministerial meeting being held in Tokyo on April 17. The forum consists of 25 countries and multilateral institutions…
What is the “Friends of Democratic Pakistan” forum, and why is Zardari chairing it?
Response to “Pakistan in Turmoil,” March 15, 2009, by Barbara Crossette in The Nation
Ms. Crossette’s article is strong on explaining political rivalries, but misses an opportunity to reveal the new gains of Pakistani civil society.
Viewpoint: Marching for democracy in Pakistan
By Sahar Shafqat
The Baltimore Sun (online)
March 12, 2009
Imagine this scenario: What if a U.S. president, in blatant contravention of the U.S. Constitution, fired every Supreme Court justice because he didn’t like their decisions, and filled the court instead with his own cronies? What if a new president was elected on a promise to restore the rightful judges to their legal positions after he was in office? What would you do if he didn’t follow through on that promise?
That is the position that Pakistan’s people find themselves in today.
U.S. has chance to help real democracy in Pakistan
Thursday, March 12, 2009
By Sanjeev Bery, Wajiha Ahmed
Today, a major Pakistani movement for democratic reform will challenge Pakistani President Asif Zardari with a call for government accountability. Known as the Lawyers Movement, this coalition of civil activists will give America a chance to voice support for the strengthening of Pakistan’s democratic institutions.
Members of this movement will begin what they are calling the Long March —- a multi-day walk across the nation that will end in the capital, Islamabad. They are marching to demand a restoration of the independent judges that the former U.S.-backed dictator Pervez Musharraf removed. Continue reading
Plain-clothes police officers detain a PML-N protestor outside the Punjab Assembly building in Lahore.—AP/File
Pakistani President Asif Zardari has given his orders, and compliant law enforcement officers in Pakistan are arresting rival politicians and activists. Team Zardari is taking pre-emptive measures to block Pakistan’s Lawyers Movemnt and allies from pursuing their Long March. Continue reading
As Pakistani President Asif Zardari cracks down on pro-democracy activists, a handful of Pakistanis are posting short bursts of information on Twitter. You can follow their “freedom tweets” online. The best tag is probably #Pakistan:
But you can also go with either of the following…