Every day I receive in my email several news stories. Much of these are poorly made articles being peddled by people working for one political group or another. But there are some friends who send me really good articles that I probably would not see otherwise. The world is a complicated place, and for this reason I believe it is important to always read as many different sources as possible. Here are some great articles that I recommend for reading today.
Pakistan: A Nation in Denial by Yousuf Nazar
It is common to blame the rulers and elites for Pakistan’s failure to evolve as a stable and civilized society with a viable political system. Few Pakistanis blame themselves. I have thought many times about putting this in writing but somehow could not. But more I think about this, the more I am convinced that we need to resolve some very fundamental contradictions that have roots in our history. We need to come to terms with what may be unpleasant facts for many or most Pakistanis. The collective failure to recognize them and appreciate their implications has contributed to self-doubts about Pakistan’s national identity, pervasive hypocrisy, misconceptions about the role of Islam in the affairs of the state, and failure to generate a climate for open and frank public discourse perversely dominated by a section of the media patronised by the intelligence agencies. Not everything Quaid-e-Azam or Muslim League said or believed in should be treated as gospel. These may appear to be rather minor points for some but grown-ups with troubled childhoods sometimes need to face tough questions and realize that the childhood was not perfect but whose ever is. Those issues are as follows…
New ‘Peace Index’ of Nations a Puzzler by Aparna Pande
In South Asia, Bhutan — the country which developed the happiness indez — is ranked 34 and Sri Lanka (124) is ranked higher than Pakistan, even though during the last year the military offensive against the Tamil separatists involved violence and suppression of human rights.
What is also interesting is that United States (85) is five ranks below China. China has an unsettled border with India, internal conflicts in Tibet and Xinjiang, and social unrest, yet it still ranks higher than the U.S. — a country which has a peaceful border and no internal insurgencies.
Quantitative analysis is a useful tool in social science, but it is only one of the many tools which are used for analyzing countries. What we must not forget is that most often tools like indicators, variables, indexes, and rankings are misused for political purposes.
If we look at the media reactions across South Asia, nations like India have not paid any attention to this report. However, in countries where domestic consensus is lacking, the report has been used to beat up on the government of the day. In Pakistan, sections of the media and political figures are using the report to berate the government. Moreover, they have apparently not read the entire report. While placing Pakistan at 145, the report admits that there has been “an improvement in the measure of relations with neighboring countries and a slight rise in political stability” in the last year.
Hiding in Plain Sight by Ahmad Majidyar
The Pakistani government’s willingness to turn a blind eye to militancy exacerbates the problem. The Punjabi-dominated Pakistani Army is unwilling to fight its brethren. In a June 24 interview with the BBC, Pakistani Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas ruled out a Waziristan-style military operation in Punjab. “There needs to be a political decision to crack down on the jihadi organizations,” he noted. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League runs the provincial government and openly courts the terrorist groups for political support.
In February, Punjab’s law minister, the Pakistan Muslim League’s Rana Sanaullah, campaigned for by-election in Jhang district together with Maulana Muhammad Ahmad Ludhianvi, the leader of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, a banned organization that facilitates al Qaeda recruitment in Punjab, in an official vehicle escorted jointly by police and militants. He also paroled two terrorists ahead of the polls. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Nawaz Sharif’s brother, pleaded with the Taliban to “spare Punjab” because his party shares the Taliban’s anti-Western agenda.
The Punjabi government’s support to banned terrorist groups recently came under fresh scrutiny after last year’s budget allocated around $1 million to Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a charity on the U.N. terrorist watch list and a front organization of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a group responsible for the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks.
Pakistan’s Political Cancer Grows by Claude Rakistis
Complicating the Pakistani government’s options to manoeuvre is that the Punjabi government, which is headed by Nawaz Sharif’s brother, is not at all keen to use force against these religious extremists. On the contrary, the Sharif brothers are advocating talking to the Punjabi Taliban instead.
The problem with that approach is that it doesn’t work: all the peace agreements the Pakistani government has signed with the Pakistani religious extremists in the past have been broken by the militants.
But Nawaz Sharif doesn’t care. He wants to regain power in Islamabad as prime minister from which he was ousted by General Pervez Musharraf in 1999. So he wants Gilani to take all the blame for turning on fellow Punjabis, hoping to make it easier for him to win the next parliamentary election.