Mercury Rising 鳯女

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Moyers on Pakistan

Posted by Charles II on May 15, 2009

On Bill Moyers, Juan Cole and journalist Shaftan Mufti did a good job of analyzing the issues in Pakistan. This is what they said:

1. The street demonstrations (for example, to restore the Supreme Court justice removed by Musharraf) are a sign of stability, not instability.
2. The Taliban number perhaps 15,000 and are not an existential threat to the nation. They are unpopular with most Pakistanis (particularly the large middle class and women) who tend to be religiously moderate.
3. The nuclear weapons are well-secured.
4. The governmental action against the Taliban in the Swat Valley was undertaken only to placate Washington. The military operation has displaced hundreds of thousands of people from rural areas and forced them into hard living in refugee camps.
5. However, there has been a convergence of opinion among Pakistanis that the Taliban are a problem that needs to be dealt with now.
6. The most important thing the US can do is promote economic growth and a broadly shared prosperity.

I did think that they very much underestimate the risks to Pakistan. It does not take many insurgents to make life grim. Furthermore, Pakistan’s democracy is extremely fragile. There are risks of a military takeover and risks of paralysis because of infighting between the two major parties. Corruption is endemic and, along with militarism, is leading Pakistan into deeper and deeper poverty. The lower classes are susceptible to the siren song of religious fundamentalism and, as large as the middle class may be, there are even more poor. If economic conditions decline, support for extreme responses of all kinds may rise.

But I sure hope Barack was listening, because Predators are not going to resolve this conflict in our favor.

6 Responses to “Moyers on Pakistan”

  1. omen said

    juan cole also pointed out, contrary to misconception, the swat area isn’t full of militant, fundamentalist, taliban sympathizers. voters there supported a secular party before the taliban installed sharia law.

    • omen said

      via juan cole:

      Baluchistan only has 5 percent of the country’s population, and is vast, rugged and arid. It may have a lot of natural gas but who knows? Right now it is not a big player. The North-West Frontier is populated by Pushtuns, organized as somewhat egalitarian clans. They have been most deeply affected by the wars in Afghanistan, and a movement of Pakistani Taliban is active there, though most Pushtuns are not fundamentalists or militants.

      Moreover, the Pushtuns of the North-West Frontier Province voted in a secular party in the last elections, and even a lot of people in the tribal areas oppose the neo-Taliban.

    • Charles II said

      Interesting point, Omen, but I didn’t get that precisely from the show (see transcript). Pakistan as a whole supported a secular party, but Swat is much more conservative. According to Wikipedia, religious parties won elections in 2002.

      Added: I see you’re psychic. Ok, your point is good and taken.

  2. Charles II said

    Omen, you could be right. Wikipedia doesn’t say. Whatever the case, it sounds like it’s not very fertile soil for extremists.

    The main grievance of the Pashtuns is, as I understand it, economic. It’s a very poor area and the central government is too corrupt to provide effective aid.

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