In a previous post, I wrote: “In one way or the other, every one realizes or refers to the Pakistan’s central problem: that it has no recognizable statesman who has the power and legitimacy to lead its people through the mess it is in right now.” The New York Times Magazine expresses the same concern in a recent article, titled “Can Pakistan Be Governed?“, making this a far more existential issue than I had envisioned. It’s no longer the central problem of the Pakistani people: it is perhaps a defining characteristic of the Pakistani nation that it cannot be ruled in an orderly fashion.
The events of the last two weeks have certainly lent some gravitas to this question:
- Apr 5: Eight paramilitary forces attacked by a suicide attack.
- Apr 5: Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud claims responsiblity for an attack on a Shiite mosque in Chakwal, in the FATA, that claimed over 30 lives.
- Mar 30: Mehsud also claimed responsibility for the death of over 25 policement in an attack on the Manawan Police Academy in Lahore.
- Mar 28: Over 70 people were killed at a mosque in Jamrud, along the Peshawar-Torkham highway.
The subtitle to the NY Mag article asks, Is Zardari The Man To Do The Job? The way the picture is shot, it seems like the question has been answered. Situated plumb center in the picture, and right under an almost refulgent portrait of Mohammed Jinnah, the founder of the nation, Zardari flashes a nerdy grin. It’s hard to imagine that a man with such a visage can be expected to actually play an important role in setting the world right from the troubles that plague it.
In spite of this seeming inability to play a significant role on the world stage, Zardari seems to excel in pontificating about the way the world is. Most of these thoughts are expressed mostly by way of adding the word “world” in the middle of some pretty arbitrary thoughts: ““The world philosophers,” have come to the conclusion that aid has never been one of the best ways of developing countries,” or “Democracy becomes the best formula of the world because it learns from its mistakes.”
Perhaps through these interventions, Zaradari hopes to convince his audience that he is equipped to handle these problems at the global level at which they are playing out. The danger with the situation in Pakistan (“everyone’s favorite front-line state,” as Traub’s article wryly puts it) is that it’s most certainly going to affect a large part of the world. Indian commentators are continuously worried about how any fallout of chaos in Pakistan is going to spill over into their own security situation. Then of course, there’s the danger to general American interests in the region: the Taliban, perhaps the most powerful military force with which the United States has failed to reach any compromise, will probably gain a foothold in the region. What will Iran do? The Taliban is Sunni, which allies them with Iran’s arch-enemy, the now-defunct Ba’ath Party headed by the now-dead Saddam Hussein. Its resurgence in Afghanistan or Pakistan is not exactly the future Iran is dreaming of.
Where Pakistan is headed is everyone’s concern, but within no one’s ability to control. All any one can do is watch the numbers, as if we are looking at the stock tickers of death in the hope that they will tell us something about where the market will be a few months from now.
And we know how easy that is. Sheesh.