Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

Pakistan and the narrative of shame

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lahore mosqueManan Ahmed has a piece up at Chapati Mystery which should be essential reading for anyone interested in the current state of Pakistan and its prickly relations with the west, particularly with the United States. 

Starting off with a re-reading of Salman Rushdie’s “Shame” (one of those books that I expect many of us read in our youth without properly understanding) he returns to the original inspiration for the title – “Peccavi“, Latin for “I have sinned.”   According to an apocryphal, yet widely believed, story of British imperial conquest, “Peccavi” is the message that General Charles Napier sent back to Calcutta when he conquered Sindh (nowadays one of the provinces of Pakistan) in the 19th century. He then discusses how the modern-day view of Pakistan is defined by shame, or by a perception which over-simplifies it to  “Peccavistan”.

“Peccavistan is just as real as Pakistan,” he writes. ”It is a bundling, an explaining, a framing, a means of de-mystification when the mystery is itself a reflection of paucity of sources not of intelligibility. Peccavistan sells because Peccavistan takes away complexity, it reduces our mental and emotional commitments to Pakistan. Pakistan, though 180 million strong, ravaged by floods and suicide bombers, continues to carry on. Apocryphally speaking.”

Do read the whole thing, but his description is familiar.  I’ve shortened some paragraphs below to illustrate the point, in ways I hope do not do too much disservice to his text:

from FaithWorld:

Mumbai gunmen denied Muslim burial secretly interred in January

Remember the issue of what to do with the corpses of the nine attackers killed during the November 2008 siege of the Taj Mahal Hotel and other targets in Mumbai that killed 166 people? The dead attackers were all presumed to be Pakistani Muslims, like the sole survivor, but local Indian Muslim leaders refused to let them be buried in their cemeteries. Islamabad ignored calls to take the bodies back. So they were left in morgue refrigerators in Mumbai, presumably until the issue was finally settled.

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Sole surviving attacker, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, in police custody in this undated video grab shown by CNN IBN Television channel on February 3, 2009/CNN IBN

Shunning Pakistani players is not cricket

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(The Pakistani cricket team)

(The Pakistani cricket team)

Pakistani cricketers, the press and ordinary people are livid about their players’ exclusion from India’s Premier League , the game’s most lucrative tournament played out before a vast television audience. Eight Indian teams that take part in the tournament bid for players  from around the world, doling out large sums of money.  But nobody bid for the 11 Pakistani players on the list, includng some who were part of the Pakistani squad that won last year’s  World Cup Twenty20 tournament, the three-hour version of the game that the IPL is also played in.

It’s not that they were not good enough. They are some of the best the game has to offer. It’s that the people who own the teams fear the Pakistani players may face dificulties getting visas or that tensions between the two countries, already rising, could make things dificult  for them  So why put money on them ?

Pakistan’s war within

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A spate of gun and bomb attacks seen as a response to the Pakistan Army’s offensive in South Waziristan has sent jitters across Pakistan, including in the normally peaceful capital Islamabad

Conventional wisdom would have it that the attacks on both security services and civilians would eventually turn the people against Islamist militants rather as happened in Iraq at the height of the violence there. But as yet, there is no sign of a clear and coherent leadership emerging that might be able to forge a consensus against the militants.

from India Insight:

Is Gaddafi’s U.N. speech winning him a fan base in Kashmir?

A street vendor in Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital, sold hundreds of framed portraits of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in the last one week.

Kashmiri separatists and many residents are all praise for Gaddafi after his maiden address to the U.N. General Assembly last week in which he said Kashmir should be an "independent state."

Anti-Americanism in Pakistan

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U.S. ambassador Anne W. Patterson, in a speech reported by the Pakistan press, said last week that the depth of anti-Americanism in Pakistan, especially among the middle-class, had surprised her. Pakistan’s long-term interests were aligned with those of the United States, and those opposing U.S. engagement in the country had a limited understanding of  how the partnership based on economic assistance had changed the lives of Pakistanis, she told a meeting in Karachi. For added measure, she said that the “ïncreasingly prosperous middle class” would be the first to suffer if  hardliners gained ground.

KFC outlet in Lahore

She needn’t have looked further than to events last  week to see why America sits rather uneasily on the Pakistani mind, a heavy hand of friendship that Pakistanis are increasingly chafing against.

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