Sanjeev Bery, The Huffington Post, 05/18/09
As the Pakistani military rains fire down upon villagers and Taliban alike, Pakistanis and members of the diaspora are engaged in numerous online debates about the future of their country. In some cases, they are offering perspectives that the rest of us should listen to.
The Huffington Post
by Sanjeev Bery, Sahar Shafqat
It is always easy to tell someone else what they need to do. Just point your finger, clear your throat, and boldly offer your advice. Don’t worry about the realities of history — just speak your mind.
In his recent essay, “The Dilemma of the ‘good’ Muslim,” Deepak Chopra is guilty of exactly this. He ignores the complexities of history and blithely proclaims that Muslims should take responsibility for a whole host of enemies: oligarchs, military regimes, anti-Semites, jihadis. Chopra declares: “We — and here I mean the entire world — need the vast majority of Muslims to wake up and then to stand up.”
The Nation magazine (U.S.) has an interesting short read by Richard Pollak on the market incentives for just letting ocean piracy happen. As it turns out, it is far cheaper for shipping companies to do nothing than to protect their crews:
No reliable statistics measure the annual cost of piracy, but one likely high estimate of $16 billion represents only .001 percent of the more than $14 trillion in world trade that moved by ship last year…
…for years Maersk and most other shipping firms, large and small, have refused to spend the money it would take to make each vessel more secure. Few, for example, have invested in Secure-Ship, an electrified wire fence that delivers a 9,000-volt nonlethal shock to anyone attempting to climb aboard.
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
Among the many factors at play in the growth of the Pakistani “neo-Taliban” is the story of poverty and a failed government response to basic human needs. With the global recession underway, things have only gotten only worse for those near the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder in Pakistan and elsewhere.
As the World Bank puts it:
“Estimates of the additional number of people trapped in extreme poverty in 2009 as a result of the financial crisis range from 50 to 90 million.”
With that in mind, it can be easy to view this weekend’s IMF/World Bank meetings as good news: lots of talk of providing money to Pakistan and other developing nations to help during the recession.
Unfortunately, the IMF is talking about providing loans.
That means more long-term debt for the very nations that can least afford to pay it off. To make things worse, many of these loans are likely to come with the kinds of conditions that will further limit social welfare spending.