Pakistan past and future

Apoorva Shah asks: “What happened?”

For more than two decades, from the early 1970s to the mid 1990s, Pakistan had a higher per capita income than India, the country from which it separated in 1947 and against which it has fought four wars. While independent India enjoyed relative political stability and—following its economic reforms in the early 1990s—material progress, Pakistan has regressed. Poverty and violence have ravaged this country of 160 million people, who suffer from the misrule of an impotent civil government, the paranoia of an omnipotent military and intelligence network, and the terror of radical Islam…

…Disproportionately more international terrorists hail from Pakistan than from any other place on earth. For 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, and perhaps even Osama bin Laden, this country has served as a refuge or training ground. While radical groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami continue to operate freely in Pakistan and plot attacks against India, the homegrown Pakistani Taliban has become an enemy of the state, responsible for a spate of suicide bombings that have terrorized major Pakistani cities like Karachi and Islamabad. More remote areas of the country such as Swat Valley and Quetta are, or at some point have been, completely under militant rule, devoid of any state control.

What happened? Why has radical Islam become so entrenched in this supposedly secular Muslim state? After all, Pakistan’s founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, a Scotch-drinking, British-educated barrister, once said, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”

For many observers, both in South Asia and in the West, Pakistan’s troubles are rooted in specific difficulties: the lack of economic opportunity, political corruption, foreign meddling, or hyper-militarization, for example. By tackling these issues, they say, Pakistan could finally become a “normal” state, saved from the grip of radical Islam. But these ills are effects rather than causes of Pakistan’s troubles…

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About marypmadigan

Writer/photographer (profession), foreign policy wonk (hobby).
This entry was posted in South Asia. Bookmark the permalink.

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