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.
“I learnt about a family who had to leave child with polio behind and take all the other healthier children with them. Similarly, there are people who left the elderly behind as they could not endure the travel.”
The following piece landed in my inbox via the yahoo group for the Pakistani American Community of Atlanta. Reports say more than one million Pakistanis are fleeing the Pakistani military’s bombardment of Taliban-controlled areas. The piece ends with a bit of a whimper, but it does a good job of turning aggregate numbers into individual realities.
Today We are All Pashtuns
As the horrific situation with the internally displaced people in Pakistan unfolds it has hard for any one with a heart to remain focused on their work.
While we continue to see the numbers of people leaving their homes rise, these are not mere numbers. These are actually people who have had to make some very difficult choices. Choices most of us cannot even dream of making.
“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:
Special to The Seattle Times
By Ambreen Ali
THE U.S. media have become obsessed with Pakistan of late, fueling a sense of panic that we must do something quickly to save Pakistan from crumbling.
True, violent tragedies seem to occur in Pakistan regularly, overtaking headlines before the prior ones register. But the most important policy the U.S. can implement as Pakistan takes on big challenges is to step out of the way.
Those attacks are a sad reminder that for Pakistan’s involvement in America’s war, its citizens have paid a hefty price. For years, the U.S. has focused the Pakistani government on a border fight with Afghanistan, instead of the needs of its people.
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