Pakistan: Now or Never?
It is interesting because it stands out in the feverish, and often involved reporting that has characterised media in both India and Pakistan following the Mumbai attacks. The author, Shandana Khan Mohmand, who is a doctoral candidate at the University of Sussex, says Pakistan must really accept the reality that it is not the equal of India, a belief that he thought had stunted its development
“We cannot win a war against it, we cannot compare the instability of our political system to the stability of theirs, we cannot hope to compete economically with what is a booming economy well on its way to becoming a global economic power, and we certainly cannot compare the conservativeness of our society to the open pluralism of their everyday life,” he writes.
Pakistan’s most beneficial economic strategy would be to get in on the boom next door in India, he argues. But for this, “we need to think outside the box – outside the two-nation theory, outside the box of the violence of 1947, and outside the box of the ill-conceived wars of the last six decades.”
Strong words those, and one that apply to both nations walled off from each other nursing their animosities over the years. As political commentator M.J.Akbar wrote in the Times of India, India and Pakistan aren’t neighbours, they are worlds apart. He believes the two fully turned away from each other after the 1965 war. ”Walls of regulation were raised to block knowledge, and then vision. If you do not see a neighbour, he is not a neighbour. There are no neighbours in the huge apartment blocks of Mumbai, only adjacent numbers.”
Is it any wonder then that a popular Pakistani comedian who made thousands laugh on an Indian TV show has had to return home after being threatened in a Mumbai studio? [Reuters pic of India and Pakistani border guards)
Taliban militants have banned female education in the northwest Pakistan valley of Swat, depriving more than 40,000 girls of schooling. Last month, the Taliban warned parents against sending their daughters to school, saying female education was “unIslamic”. The warning was reiterated by a close aide to militant leader Mullah Fazlullah in a message broadcast through an illegal FM radio station on Friday night. Government schools have been shut down and some 300 private schools due to reopen next month after the winter break will probably remain closed, a senior official said.
An Indian military presence in Afghanistan to put further pressure on Pakistan? That would be the red rag for Pakistan, and the end of its long struggle to seek strategic depth in Afghanistan against its much larger eastern neighbour.
Pakistan is dealing with multiple challenges all at once – its sovereignty and its very idea of itself as an independent nation state are tested in the northwest by both the Islamist militants and U.S. forces hunting them. To its east, the old hostility with India is back in full force following the Mumbai attacks. Then above all, some think the economic meltdown is a more serious risk to Pakistan’s survival than the threat of a conflict with India.
There’s much talk about President-elect Barack Obama possibly appointing Richard Holbrooke as a special envoy to South Asia. The New York Times says it’s likely; while the Washington Independent says it may be a bit premature to expect final decisions, even before Obama takes office on Jan. 20.
Pakistan and its nuclear weapons are back in the centre of the U.S. foreign policy frame as a steady stream of reports from think tanks and newspapers build the case for President-elect Barack Obama to recognise and act urgently with regard to the potential threat from the troubled state.
U.S. Vice President-elect Joe Biden held talks in Pakistan as part of a regional tour expected to focus on terrorism and tensions between Pakistan and India following the Mumbai attacks.