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On Pakistan

May 25, 2009 Leave a comment
Asif Ali Zardari

Asif Ali Zardari

The current New York Review of Books has a sobering article by the Pakistani writer Ahmed Rashid on the current political and military state of affairs in Pakistan, with a focus on the growth of the Taliban in the northern part of the country. I never had great confidence that if (my college classmate) Benazir Bhutto were elected president, she would have been able to solve the immensely complex political challenges facing the country, but in reading the article, I couldn’t help thinking that she would have done a lot better than her husband Zardari is doing.

Here’s a passage from early in the article.

Pakistan is close to the brink, perhaps not to a meltdown of the government, but to a permanent state of anarchy, as the Islamist revolutionaries led by the Taliban and their many allies take more territory, and state power shrinks. There will be no mass revolutionary uprising like in Iran in 1979 or storming of the citadels of power as in Vietnam and Cambodia; rather we can expect a slow, insidious, long-burning fuse of fear, terror, and paralysis that the Taliban have lit and that the state is unable, and partly unwilling, to douse.

In northern Pakistan, where the Taliban and their allies are largely in control, the situation is critical. State institutions are paralyzed, and over one million people have fled their homes. The provincial government of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) has gone into hiding, and law and order have collapsed, with 180 kidnappings for ransom in the NWFP capital of Peshawar in the first months of this year alone. The overall economy is crashing, with drastic power cuts across the country as industry shuts down. Joblessness and lack of access to schools among the young are widespread, creating a new source of recruits to the Taliban. [President] Zardari and [Prime Minister] Gilani have spent the past year battling their political rivals instead of facing up to the Taliban threat and the economic crisis.

And here’s a passage towards the end. Note in particular the incredibly depressing second paragraph regarding policy under the Bush administration This is one area where I have no great confidence that the Obama administration will do better. Read more…

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Categories: Politics, World