“U.S. must help Pakistan provide for its people”

Special to The Seattle Times

By Ambreen Ali

THE U.S. media have become obsessed with Pakistan of late, fueling a sense of panic that we must do something quickly to save Pakistan from crumbling.

True, violent tragedies seem to occur in Pakistan regularly, overtaking headlines before the prior ones register. But the most important policy the U.S. can implement as Pakistan takes on big challenges is to step out of the way.

Those attacks are a sad reminder that for Pakistan’s involvement in America’s war, its citizens have paid a hefty price. For years, the U.S. has focused the Pakistani government on a border fight with Afghanistan, instead of the needs of its people.
Continue reading ““U.S. must help Pakistan provide for its people””

Why Deepak Chopra is wrong

The Huffington Post
05/05/09
by Sanjeev Bery, Sahar Shafqat

It is always easy to tell someone else what they need to do. Just point your finger, clear your throat, and boldly offer your advice. Don’t worry about the realities of history — just speak your mind.

In his recent essay, “The Dilemma of the ‘good’ Muslim,” Deepak Chopra is guilty of exactly this. He ignores the complexities of history and blithely proclaims that Muslims should take responsibility for a whole host of enemies: oligarchs, military regimes, anti-Semites, jihadis. Chopra declares: “We — and here I mean the entire world — need the vast majority of Muslims to wake up and then to stand up.”

Continue reading “Why Deepak Chopra is wrong”

Help those who ask for it.

Americans are only learning about Pakistan from Americans, and that’s a problem.  Too much of what passes for “news” about Pakistan is really just one American telling the other about how the Taliban are on the verge of taking over the nation.  Nevermind that there might be 10,000 Taliban troops and 170 million Pakistanis.

One U.S. news source is attempting an alternative path:  The Huffington Post.  This online “newspaper” has launched a “Spotlight On Pakistan” series.  If you are Pakistani, especially if you are in Pakistan, they need your help:

 

Continue reading “Help those who ask for it.”

Reacting: William Bradley on Huffington Post

I couldn’t help but react to William Bradley’s April 30th Huffington Post column on Afghanistan and Pakistan.  It had some interesting points, but it was also filled with vaguely orientalist notions of Pakistani security issues.

There were the noble generals, the scary ISI, and the invisible 170 million civilians who would soon fall to a marauding Taliban.

So naturally, I had to comment.  You can read my three 250 word responses below.  They were published as comments on the HuffPo website.

Continue reading “Reacting: William Bradley on Huffington Post”

Failed State Fetish

The news is certainly troubling.  Taliban fighters get a “peace” treaty from the national Pakistani government, and then expand from Swat to neighboring Buner.  A vast national military seems unable or unwilling to respond, and everyone scratches their heads wondering what is next.

But does this really mean that Pakistan is on the verge of falling to the Taliban?  If you look at the details, it is a notion deserving of skepticism.

In a column for CNN, New America Foundation fellow Peter Bergen puts the current bad news in the context of Pakistan’s historic challenges:

The present crisis with the Taliban is not nearly as severe as the genuinely existential crises that Pakistan has faced and weathered in the past. Pakistan has fought three major wars with India and has lost each encounter, including the 1971 war in which one half of the country seceded to become Bangladesh.  Pakistan’s key leaders have succumbed to the assassin’s bullet or bomb or the hangman’s noose, and the country has seen four military coups since its birth in 1947. Yet the Pakistani polity has limped on.

When looking for reasons why the Taliban don’t pose a nation-destroying threat, this history of “hard knocks” isn’t exactly what one has in mind.  But it does put the current border insurgency in its proper context.  Pakistan has experienced far greater challenges in the past, and Pakistan still exists as a nation.

Indeed, one can even look to India for additional context.  Many think of India as a simple example of democracy rising, but you could easily string together a series of anecdotes to paint a more nuanced picture:  two Indian states currently under military control (Kashmir and Manipur), two more states with ongoing Maoist insurrections (Chhattisghar and Jharkhand), past and present separatist movements elsewhere.  Continue reading “Failed State Fetish”

The IMF and the Taliban

imfAmong the many factors at play in the growth of the Pakistani “neo-Taliban” is the story of poverty and a failed government response to basic human needs. With the global recession underway, things have only gotten only worse for those near the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder in Pakistan and elsewhere.

As the World Bank puts it:

“Estimates of the additional number of people trapped in extreme poverty in 2009 as a result of the financial crisis range from 50 to 90 million.”

With that in mind, it can be easy to view this weekend’s IMF/World Bank meetings as good news:  lots of talk of providing money to Pakistan and other developing nations to help during the recession.

Unfortunately, the IMF is talking about providing loans.

That means more long-term debt for the very nations that can least afford to pay it off. To make things worse, many of these loans are likely to come with the kinds of conditions that will further limit social welfare spending.

Continue reading “The IMF and the Taliban”

With a friend like this, who needs democracy?

A repost of my comment at Sepia Mutiny and Chapati Mystery:

On the intersection of U.S. policy and Pakistani politics, I was particularly surprised to read this link off a Pakistani news twitter feed:

Obama calls Zardari, discusses mutual cooperation
Pakistan News.Net / Friday 27th March, 2009 (ANI)

Islamabad, Mar. 27 : US President Barack Obama telephoned President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday to discuss mutual cooperation and the situation in the South Asian region. Obama and Zardari spoke about the “Friends of Democratic Pakistan” forum initiative, aimed at promoting and strengthening democracy in Pakistan, The Nation reports…

Zardari, who launched the initiative of ‘Friends of Democratic Pakistan’ (FODP) in New York in September 2008, will chair the Friends’ Ministerial meeting being held in Tokyo on April 17. The forum consists of 25 countries and multilateral institutions…

What is the “Friends of Democratic Pakistan” forum, and why is Zardari chairing it?

Continue reading “With a friend like this, who needs democracy?”

A Letter to an Editor

Response to “Pakistan in Turmoil,” March 15, 2009, by Barbara Crossette in The Nation

Ms. Crossette’s article is strong on explaining political rivalries, but misses an opportunity to reveal the new gains of Pakistani civil society.
Continue reading “A Letter to an Editor”

Opinion: Marching for democracy in Pakistan

Viewpoint: Marching for democracy in Pakistan

By Sahar Shafqat

The Baltimore Sun (online)
March 12, 2009

Imagine this scenario: What if a U.S. president, in blatant contravention of the U.S. Constitution, fired every Supreme Court justice because he didn’t like their decisions, and filled the court instead with his own cronies? What if a new president was elected on a promise to restore the rightful judges to their legal positions after he was in office? What would you do if he didn’t follow through on that promise?

That is the position that Pakistan’s people find themselves in today.
Continue reading “Opinion: Marching for democracy in Pakistan”

Opinion: “U.S. has chance to help real democracy in Pakistan” | Atlanta Journal-Constitution

U.S. has chance to help real democracy in Pakistan

Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Thursday, March 12, 2009

By Sanjeev Bery, Wajiha Ahmed

Today, a major Pakistani movement for democratic reform will challenge Pakistani President Asif Zardari with a call for government accountability. Known as the Lawyers Movement, this coalition of civil activists will give America a chance to voice support for the strengthening of Pakistan’s democratic institutions.

Members of this movement will begin what they are calling the Long March —- a multi-day walk across the nation that will end in the capital, Islamabad. They are marching to demand a restoration of the independent judges that the former U.S.-backed dictator Pervez Musharraf removed. Continue reading “Opinion: “U.S. has chance to help real democracy in Pakistan” | Atlanta Journal-Constitution”