Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
(The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone. The writer is Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK)
By Wajid Shamsul Hasan
The world is awash with conspiracy theories. A whole lot of them — some plausible and some implausible — have been listed by Jamie King in the book “Conspiracy Theories”. The book covers the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and a plot to bring down President Bill Clinton. Others refer to the murder of martyred Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto, the doubts about 9-11 as to who did it, and many more.
It makes for interesting reading. The author says, “belief in conspiracy theories is more than just the belief in the occasional underhand plot. It is a belief system that asserts that world events are governed in secret by a group of extra-powerful puppeteers behind the scenes”. It also proves the Goebbelsian methodology of repeating lies until they are believed.
Pakistan is no exception to this, especially in the light of what is happening in the country in these days. If we go by what we see in a section of the media it seems that the country is unfit for rule, is a failing or failed state.
One of the more interesting details in the advance reports of Bob Woodward’s “Obama’s Wars” is that Washington had prepared a “retribution plan” in the event of a major attack on the United States which is traced back to Pakistan.
“While no contingency plans exist for dealing militarily with a collapse of nuclear-armed Pakistan, there is ‘a retribution plan’ in place, developed by the Bush administration, if the United States suffers another 9/11-style terrorist attack,” according to the Los Angeles Times. ”That would involve bombing and missile strikes to obliterate the more than 150 al Qaeda training and staging camps known to exist, most of them in Pakistan, which presumably would suffer extensive civilian casualties.”
from India Insight:
Separatist militancy has waned over the years in Kashmir, but now a radicalised young generation which has grown up in over two decades of violence and strife is driving the massive anti-India demonstrations across the disputed region.
Who is leading months of freedom demonstrations in Kashmir, a fresh unarmed uprising that is proving a huge political challenge for the Indian government?
Few in Pakistan believe that the army is going to make a grab for power at this time, but it hasn’t stopped speculation over the fate of the civilian government, widely seen to have to failed to mount an effective response to the nation’s worst floods since its creation.
The powerful military which is fighting a full-blown insurgency by Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda has raised its standing in the eyes of Pakistanis by spearheading relief efforts. It is unlikely to exploit the vulnerability of the weak civilian government led by President Asif Ali Zardari to itself get bogged down in Pakistan’s enormous problems by staging a coup.
Of the many comments I heard in Pakistan, one question particularly flummoxed me. Was democracy really the right system for South Asia? It came, unsurprisingly, from someone sympathetic to the military, and was couched in a comparison between Pakistan and India.
What had India achieved, he asked, with its long years of near-uninterrupted democracy, to reduce the gap between rich and poor? What of the Maoist rebellion eating away at its heartland? Its desperate poverty? The human rights abuses from Kashmir to Manipur, when Indian forces were called in to quell separatist revolts? Maybe, he said, democracy was just not suited to countries like India and Pakistan.
One of the arguments that comes up frequently for helping the victims of Pakistan’s floods is that otherwise Islamist militants will exploit the disaster, and the threat of terrorism to the west will rise. It’s an argument that makes me wince every time I read it.
It implies that wanting to help people simply because they are suffering from hunger, homelessness and disease is a hopelessly outdated concept; that until these hungry, homeless and diseased people turn up at a bombing near you, then there is no reason to give them money. (For a great take on this, do read Manan Ahmed’s “I am a bhains” at Chapati Mystery).
If you were to give the flood victims in Pakistan a voice, they would tell you that they need seeds to replant the crops destroyed by the water and enough emergency relief to tide them through the winter. After that the land, newly fertilised by the floods, could yield bumper crops in the years ahead.
The children would tell you that the floods hit so powerfully that the memory of feeling in panic while loudspeakers broadcast warnings from the mosques will be forever etched on their minds. They don’t blame the government for a disaster so big that not even in the tales of their ancestors had they heard stories of such floods. They just want enough help to rebuild their homes so they don’t have to sleep in half-destroyed buildings with sunken floors, worrying about them collapsing on top of them in the night.
from India Insight:
New Delhi has expressed its willingness to hold talks with "any group" from Kashmir where protests against Indian rule have mounted in recent weeks and government forces have killed at least 65 people, mostly stone-throwing protesters.
The civilian deaths have fuelled anger in the disputed Himalayan region where anti-India sentiments run deep though militant violence has gone down.
On Friday, Sept 3, a boy stands outside a house destroyed by flood waters that swept through Mehmood Kot a month ago. Residents of Mehmood Kot have been waiting a month for relief aid, which they say they have not received. (REUTERS/Chris Allbritton)
After three days traveling the flood path down the Indus River Valley, from Nowshera in the northwest down to Multan and to the confluence of the Indus and Pakistan’s other major rivers, it’s clear the devastation is as great as everyone feared.
By Rebecca Conway
Along a sun-scorched Indus River, fishermen point to the low-lying sandbanks banked by a swollen, drifting current.