State of Emergency: Washington's Role

A state of emergency has been declared in Pakistan, with General Musharraf finally wearing his true hat, that of a Martial Law Administrator. This declaration puts the democracy movement back a long way.

But what kind of democracy movement is it anyway? The national opposition to Musharraf and military control is in fact opposition to the Pakistani Army’s actions against militants in the Northern Areas, which has led to the destruction of villages and thousands of civilian casualties, retaliation against government and military installations: a civil war by any other name. The opposition to these actions comes in two forms: political and civil society calls for the restoration of democracy and attacks on government installations.

It goes almost without saying that the conflict spreading through the Northern Areas is pushed ahead by the United States’ expectations of Pakistan’s role in the War on Terror. These expectations are not shared by most Pakistanis. Therein lies the problem.

True expression of democratic sentiment would mean military disengagement in the Northern Areas and Pakistani withdrawal from the US Global War on Terror, currently being fought on Pakistani soil. And yet the favoured ‘democratic’ alternative out there – Benazir Bhutto – would have come in to power as the result of British and American influence and would thus continue the war in the North. Nawaz Sharif, regardless of his current stances, would want to court American patronage. Democracy in Pakistan, in whatever form, will not reflect the people’s preferences until a massive shift in the state's relationship to society, particularly in the Frontier, changes. And this requires a change in external pressures.

It’s time that the United States in particular took responsibility for this mess; no one in Pakistan wants the American version of a ‘War on Terror’, but that is exactly what the Pakistani state has been executing on American orders, in exchange for massive amounts of military aid. This is why the legitimacy of the state is at an all-time low, this is why there is massive resistance in the Northern Areas, and this is why the State of Emergency was proclaimed.

This time, it’s not just an open question between democracy or stability. The US needs to retreat from its short-term objectives of chasing Taliban-friendly tribesmen all over the mountains and consider the long-term stability that comes from a state that is able to sort out its affairs on its own. That autonomy would allow a more vibrant and lasting democracy, and more effecttive action against extremist elements.

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A state of emergency has been declared in Pakistan, with General Musharraf finally wearing his true hat, that of a Martial Law Administrator.

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Which Hindu democracy are you

Which Hindu democracy are you talking about ? Even India and Nepal are officially secular.

India. I don't know enough about Nepal. India's secularism is very different than American secularism, in that the Indian state (ideally) embraces all religious "communities" equally whereas American secularism (ideally) strives for a separation between religion and state activities. But substantively, neither of these countries escape the influence of the dominant religion on state activities (see: Ram Sethu or the Gujarat pogroms or the 1984 massacre or the myriad activities of the Christian right in the U.S.). And of course there are the riots, prejudices, the day to day workings of the state, etc.

The reason I said that Turkey and France were extremely secular compared to the other two is that they both take secularism as a defining quality of the state and actually try to act on that (to the point where the army might intervene in Turkey and, I believe, headscarves are banned there as well, though I'm not sure...okay i found it--hijab is banned in turkey in all universities and official buildings). It's probably more accurate to say that they have a different type of secularism than in India and the U.S., but I find it frightening in its virulence. Let the people have God if they want to :)

That's just my opinion on limited reading...could be wrong.

I could make the same

I could make the same argument about “Hindu democracies

Which Hindu democracy are you talking about ? Even India and Nepal are officially secular.

Turkey is showing signs of conservatism, so I am not sure what you mean by beyond secularism. And what kind of "beyond secularism" does France have where Sikh students have to take their turbans off in class, and Muslims have to remove their scarves?

even a fairly orthodox interpretation of what “Islam” means in a political context is not a perpetual roadblock (again, see Soroush).

Seems like the road block has been around since Islam's inception.

if anyone's looking for a

if anyone's looking for a basic text, Ian Talbot's Pakistan: A Modern History is what I was assigned.

if anyone's looking for a

if anyone's looking for a basic text, Ian Talbot's A Modern Pakistan is okay.

Kawaa: Max Weber is a

Kawaa:

Max Weber is a brilliant place to start though, because these are the perspectives that are inbuilt into the way US policy-makers think of states and their responsibilities over territory.

Yes, I'm familiar with Weber's definition, and it is true that realist US policy makers view the state. I fully understand the way US government officials view these things (most of the State Department officials I have spoken with confirm this assertion). What I'm saying is that I tend to go beyond that definition. Just because US policy makers see is that way doesn't mean that they have a monopoly on that definition and we certainly have the right to expand that, no? US officials on all levels think torture is ok, it clearly doesn't mean that we should fall in line with that thinking. And plus, most realist US decision makers view the state as having very minimal responsibilities (monopoly of legitimate force). I think this stems from a conservative-liberal view of the state.

My research on this is a tad more historical, but as I’m finding that the bureaucratic apparatus changed very little at Partition, it seems to make sense.

Completely agree with you. But I also have to point out that despite the changes and fluctuations within the structure of our own governing system in the US, we also have changed little as well.

There are some civil society

There are some civil society groups that have mobilized themselves for various issues (women’s bill, human rights, et). They may be NGOs, but I think they criticize the government just as much as the English press and lawyers do.

Sure they criticise the state, but that's not the concern. The big problem is that they don't have mass organisations behind them, unlike some in India (SEWA, for example). Asma Jahangir and others at the HRCP are doing great work, but it's work that focuses on the courts, the foreign press and individual assistance. It makes complete sense for them to do so, but this isn't the stuff of revolution.

I tend to think of state sovereignty beyond just the legimitate use of force.

Max Weber is a brilliant place to start though, because these are the perspectives that are inbuilt into the way US policy-makers think of states and their responsibilities over territory. I must confess I'm writing a paper on this right now, so it's on my mind a lot.

My research on this is a tad more historical, but as I'm finding that the bureaucratic apparatus changed very little at Partition, it seems to make sense. Interviews I've done with senior bureaucrats seem to indicate reaffirmation of indirect rule through tribes along with direct involvement by ICS / Political Officers in politics, which is carried over to the CSP.

But yes, I'd be interested in the legal and constitutional frameworks involved, as a baseline. I just think that the experience of the complex, convoluted and fluctuating relationship between state and society up there requires pretty deep anthropological study, for which I'm certainly not qualified.

My research on this is a tad

My research on this is a tad more historical, but as I’m finding that the bureaucratic apparatus changed very little at Partition, it seems to make sense. Interviews I’ve done with senior bureaucrats seem to indicate reaffirmation of indirect rule through tribes along with direct involvement by ICS / Political Officers in politics, which is carried over to the CSP.

This is interesting, because I was reading a paper by CA Bayly yesterday about how--to simplify--there has been a dependence on the local power structure by the national (or imperial) structures in South Asia from Mughal (or even Sultanate) times onwards (as well as conflicts between), and that the former level, a dynamic that has always managed to replicate itself owing to the needs of the centre to extract revenue from the land but I imagine that could be extended to "other" needs (like eliminating the Taliban). I read it through an India lens, but it seems like it might apply here, though I don't know what the economy is in the northwest (he was talking mainly about agrarian power).

But I also have to point out

But I also have to point out that despite the changes and fluctuations within the structure of our own governing system in the US, we also have changed little as well.

This is an extremely inaccurate reading of American history, even from the standpoint solely of institutions. When the U.S. Constitution was written, it was primarily a confederation of states; since the Civil War the federal government has taken over; there was no income tax (it was unconstitutional); there was no direct election of the Senate (and most voting in general was reserved for men with land); Just to take one small example that argues against some kind of progressive view of history, immigration was controlled by the Department of Labor and then the Treasury Department (I may have those two backwards). and then the Department of Justice and now the Department of Homeland Security.

Too bad said former official only sees the 15 million Pashtuns in Pakistan, but not the other 145 million Pakistanis, for whom having Musharraf out would be the ideal thing.

But this is not enough. Pakistan has seen enough "democratic" revolutions followed by either a harsher dictator or a petty demagogue who for all practical purposes, does little except bide the time until the next military rule. There needs to be (and I'm sure there is) substantive thinking on what follows Musharraf--or perhaps, what ought to follow Musharraf.

Very good example of US

Very good example of US realist stands which mostly talk Musharraf vis-a-visa the use of force: http://www.motherjones.com/interview/2007/11/crisis-in-pakistan.html

Too bad said former official only sees the 15 million Pashtuns in Pakistan, but not the other 145 million Pakistanis, for whom having Musharraf out would be the ideal thing.

You can wish for the liberal

You can wish for the liberal state, but I don’t know what you can build it out of these days.

No wishing. there's always a few people here and there to start somethign that might have results in 40 years (or might not).

Kawaa: I’m not saying that

Kawaa:

I’m not saying that post-1947 there was peace and harmony. The army certainly had a presence. But neither were there outright military engagements against tribals (in NWFP at least, Balochistan is another story). Politics in the NWFP and FATA were generally handled by political agents from Islamabad and they were empowered to broker deals with tribal leaders. Such is not the case now.

From what I know, I'm under the impression that it is still the same case. I am nowhere near intimiate familiarity with FATA, so I'll just ask you why you think this is not the case anymore. The closest thing I came across which speaks of this aspect you brought up is this:

http://www.jamestown.org/terrorism/news/article.php?articleid=2370032

Apparently,

1.Mushie put in motion a decentralization
2. Levies have been empowered (this is not good)

If you want to know about the beginnings of negotiated sovereignty on the frontier, look at the constitution of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the formalised autonomy they enjoyed in carrying out functions of the state within their own territories. Look at Weber’s definition of state sovereignty and tell me whether the state had (has?) a monopoly over the legitimate use of force there. That is the only meaningful criterion.

Chill, yaar.

As to the people who make

As to the people who make sense, these are also depressing conversations: they are often professionals (lawyers), disregarded members of political parties or journalists in the English language press.

There are some civil society groups that have mobilized themselves for various issues (women's bill, human rights, et). They may be NGOs, but I think they criticize the government just as much as the English press and lawyers do.

Wouldn't claim for a second

Wouldn't claim for a second that Pakistan is incapable of mass social movements, I just don't know what channels / platforms / institutions are available for this kind of thing to come about. Student groups? Labour groups? Peasant andolans? Communists? As I said, all were completely and IMO irrevocably destroyed by the Zia regime. (Talking to the Pakistan Workers' Federation this spring was a eeply depressing afternoon). The only mass organisations extant in Pakistan right now are the political parties and the Tablighi-Jamaat, and the former are compromised and the latter are profoundly apolitical. There isn't even an equivalent to the Ikhwan in Egypt and Jordan. So I agree that mass movements are possible, but you need to have institutions to call for building institutions. :)

As to the people who make sense, these are also depressing conversations: they are often professionals (lawyers), disregarded members of political parties or journalists in the English language press. They have interesting ideas, but are socially marginal (as in on the elite side) and politically impotent. As I would be if I got sincerely involved there.

You can wish for the liberal state, but I don't know what you can build it out of these days.

Kawaa: Chill, yaar. Just to

Kawaa:

Chill, yaar.

Just to clarify myself, that part referred to resorting to Webster's dictionary's definition, and no need to go there :)

I tend to think of state sovereignty beyond just the legimitate use of force. I'm really interested in finding out what exactly have been the consequences (good and bad) of keeping the Regulations and the 73 Constitution. I'd love it if someone could link to an informative piece on this.

Very true. Actually Malaysia

Very true. Actually Malaysia is also a democracy. But for some reason Islamic democracies tend not to be secular.

I could make the same argument about "Hindu democracies" and "Christian democracies" and "Jewish democracies" ;) And Turkey is beyond secular, compared to a country like India or the United States, though not France. I do think there's an important point about the relationship of scripture to the law in many kinds of political Islam today (as opposed to "Islam" which is a much broader thing), but I have trouble figuring out exactly what it is because this kind of conversation is extremely loaded and it's hard to have a good decent conversation if you're not careful.

And in any case, even a fairly orthodox interpretation of what "Islam" means in a political context is not a perpetual roadblock (again, see Soroush).

Well Indonesia has a

Well Indonesia has a democracy, and it has more Muslims than any other country in the world.

Very true. Actually Malaysia is also a democracy. But for some reason Islamic democracies tend not to be secular. Malaysia, with only 60% Muslims, is an Islamic country and minority rights are not honored. Malaysia in the last year has destroyed over a 100 Hindu temples. Indonesia is also officially an Islamic country, as is Iran and a host of other Muslim nations.

There are of course other factors, but religion seems to be playing a huge role in these countries. Probably another factor is that Democracy is not necessarily a panacea.

Mass movements in Pakistan

Mass movements in Pakistan will either be brutally crushed or will lead to a change in military leadership... the latter happened in 1969-1970 against Field Marshal Ayub Khan. The problem is though that all the groups that were involved were utterly destroyed at the hands of Zia ul Haq. There is no student politics, consequently, no powerful labour unions. And the political parties and self-interested and deeply compromised.

I'm not saying that post-1947 there was peace and harmony. The army certainly had a presence. But neither were there outright military engagements against tribals (in NWFP at least, Balochistan is another story). Politics in the NWFP and FATA were generally handled by political agents from Islamabad and they were empowered to broker deals with tribal leaders. Such is not the case now.

If you want to know about the beginnings of negotiated sovereignty on the frontier, look at the constitution of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the formalised autonomy they enjoyed in carrying out functions of the state within their own territories. Look at Weber's definition of state sovereignty and tell me whether the state had (has?) a monopoly over the legitimate use of force there. That is the only meaningful criterion.

The United States should at

The United States should at least condition that money on Pakistan’s performance in the anti-terrorism fight

Great. Perfect.

Yes, this is the kind of macho ignorance that we have deal with. But I can only see an answer in telling them how and why the perspective is stupid. Maybe a fool's errand, but what else can one do? It's not like I have faith, not like I know how to get to them, I just don't know what else to do.

Except for Turkey, there are

Except for Turkey, there are no democracies in the Muslim world. India and Pak are the same people, but one has democracy and the other is struggling. The difference is religion.

Well Indonesia has a democracy, and it has more Muslims than any other country in the world. And there are a number of commonalities between India and Pakistan in terms of how they have developed, and I'm not sure the driving factor is religion as much as how religion and politics (as well as a number of other extremely important things, like inheriting a colonial apparatus) intersect.

I don't think such a simple equation is very effective. For example, the Iranian revolution, contrary to what you read about in the Western press, was the result of both a democratic movement and an Islamist movement. You might take a look at Reason Freedom and Democracy is Islam by Abdolkarim Soroush.

Any suggestions for advocacy,

Any suggestions for advocacy, Dr. A?

Well the background you gave on the NWFP conflict was pretty good :) I think it's better for people who do analysis and learn to be engaged on that front and provide that. I don't think anything short of a democratic mass movement (which intellectuals can obviously be a part of, but probably should not lead imo) will do much to change things.

As for getting involved in mass movements, I think one would need to be more in tune with events in Pakistan (or wherever one is talking about) to know. For example, in India, I would say that bolstering the micromovements that are happening in places as diverse as Nandigram, Delhi, against Coca-Cola in UP (and Colombia and US campuses), Goa, etc. might do a great deal of good. But I don't know of similar things in Pakisan (not because they're not happening but because I just don't know about them).

The current conflict in the

The current conflict in the Northern Areas has most decidedly not been a part of Pakistan's story since Independence: the military withdrew from cantonment in the Northern Areas in 1947, and thereafter sovereignty was constantly negotiated and renegotiated between tribal chiefs and government officers from the centre. These current problems started in the 1980s with arms flows,drug smuggling and radicalisation as part of the effort against the Soviets. Tribal chiefs of the Pashtun nation are conservative and not radical, and have decades worth of experience in negotiating with the State, but military strikes -- notably aerial bombing with high rates of collateral damage -- makes these negotiations impossible. Guerrilla wars are hard to win, and this one is neigh-on impossible with the current perspective of rooting out the Taliban. Thus, military disengagement, particularly from air strikes, is going to be an essential prerequisite to solving this mess.

As to the question of how to actually change hearts and minds among the Pentagon and the State Department, the answer is I don't know. I agree that I don't see any difference in the line between Democrats and Republicans (see Obama's bombing rhetoric earlier), and so that's why I use the 'US' shorthand.

Not that we're actually doing this, but I think we need to educate policy-makers so that there is at least some space for contextual knowledge in the formation of policy. I agree that the Bush Administration is stumped as to what to do, and the Democrats have no other alternatives, so this is as good a time to talk about more 'radical' viewpoints like military disengagement, in fact if not in rhetoric.

Just not OK with throwing up my hands, and I will if I have to think about the cogs of the US state apparatus in regard to foreign policy. Any suggestions for advocacy, Dr. A?

It’s this existential problem

It’s this existential problem that has plagued Pakistanis since day one.

I'm not an expert on Pakistan, but from what little I know, I think to address the failures of the Pakistani state this way is to gloss over that exclusionary politics by which a small elite in West Pakistan (largely whatchamacallits--the name for the migrants from India that I can't remember--and people in Punjab) attempted to promote itself are what plagued Pakistan from day one. A lot of the problems that exist today, from the unstable political structure to the awful process by which Bangladesh emerged to sectarianism to any number of other things can be traced back to that mode of going about things, I think (and I don't know where that originated). Why did it take them 8 years to write a constitution?!?!?!

I'm sure there are other points at which things could have changed too (e.g. under Z. Bhutto, if he had built up more coherent institutions and especially his own political party), but my point is mainly that I don't know that the "existential" problem was wholly insurmountable, had they actually grappled with it rather than trying to repress it. For example, attempting to impose Urdu on East Pakistan was needlessly inflammatory and in my opinion unnecessary. Generally speaking, a little conciliation probably would have gone a long way.

Doing nothing isn’t

Doing nothing isn’t necessarily going to bring about democracy or stability.

Well let's say, moving in the direction of less interference. Non-interference is more what I mean by "nothing" than sitting on your hands. But is that possible, and if so, how? Would it even be beneficial?

the power-sharing does stink. In yet another brilliant foreign policy move, the US has become convinced that placing Bhutto along side Musharraf will restore democracy and stability. Democracies necessarily involve elections, and Bhutto is not all that popular outside the fanaticism of PPP cadres. My guess is that power-sharing plans (as in a rigged election) will be established in six months when the State of Emergency is rescinded.

Voters aren’t stupid. And they will be very pissed off, especially as Benazir will slavishly follow the US line.

Be more specific here. Where you say "US" here, you largely mean "Bush Administration," I assume. It remains to be seen what a post-Bush foreign policy will look like, to what extent these idiots (and they are idiots about foreign policy) will influence the next administration and by implication those that follow. Or to what extent a more traditional conservative approach (like Bush the Elder and Clinton) will be followed that's serving the same imperial interests, more or less, but is a little less crazy (i.e. and consequently, it's probably more effective at attaining US ends).

Ultimately, it comes down to a bit more realism about the situation in Afghanistan: yes, it’s falling apart; no, it’s not just about militants crossing the border — the current push is like Laos and Cambodia, and we know how well that ended.

Yes, but this is obvious and, likely, whoever follows this lot into office will be smart enough to know this, given that I can't think of anyone who might be President next in either party who seems to be have the potential to be as pathetic at comprehension (and i assume the choice of president will heavily influence the administration). Though I could see maybe Giuliani doing it for cynical ends, but only maybe.

Tell us more, in other words, and how it might be effected, whether covertly or overtly :)

I think the other thing that needs to be done is showing the US that opposition to this civil war is the leading issue among the people. I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t know that — which is one of the reasons for the elite bargains.

Again, assuming that this administration is too far gone to listen to someone like you, who needs to know this, for what purpose, how will they come to know it, why is it important, and what will it change? I'm asking this because as i mentioned above, i'm starting to think that the less the american government and economic hegemony are involved in the world, the better, so maybe there's a way to just convince them that everything's fine? :)

It's clear that the US

It's clear that the US administration isn't sure how to respond to the state of emergency declared by Musharraf, but there aren\'t any responses that offer much here. Doing nothing isn't necessarily going to bring about democracy or stability.

The conflict that is "spreading" throughout the Northern areas has been present since Pakistan's creation, certainly, if not before. The War on Terror has only added more countries and players to that conflict.

Let's suppose that, in pursuit of the "true democratic sentiment" idea you mentioned (and which ironically echoes Wolfowitz and the Administration in it's naivete), everyone withdraws and lets things play out. My bet is a larger civil war, or at least multiple civil wars as the Balochis, the Pashtuns and others inside Pakistan attempt to carve out their own space and control over resources, people, and laws. That changes and destroys the very nature and idea of Pakistan. It's this existential problem that has plagued Pakistanis since day one. Oh, and during that civil war or wars, you can bet that these groups will look outside Pakistan\'s borders for arms, supplies, and ideology.

the power-sharing does stink.

the power-sharing does stink. In yet another brilliant foreign policy move, the US has become convinced that placing Bhutto along side Musharraf will restore democracy and stability. Democracies necessarily involve elections, and Bhutto is not all that popular outside the fanaticism of PPP cadres. My guess is that power-sharing plans (as in a rigged election) will be established in six months when the State of Emergency is rescinded.

Voters aren't stupid. And they will be very pissed off, especially as Benazir will slavishly follow the US line.

As to the other stuff, I agree that the foreign policy of the US has always been bad, but the job of area studies people is to tell them exactly how it is so and why. Ultimately, it comes down to a bit more realism about the situation in Afghanistan: yes, it's falling apart; no, it's not just about militants crossing the border -- the current push is like Laos and Cambodia, and we know how well that ended.

I think the other thing that needs to be done is showing the US that opposition to this civil war is the leading issue among the people. I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't know that -- which is one of the reasons for the elite bargains.

Kawaa Sahab: Are we talking

Kawaa Sahab:

Are we talking about a particular country here, or two abstract and rather meaningless concepts, one relating to cardinal direction and the other too religion? Both are vast, complex and can only be taken at a more concrete level.

And Islam was founded in the 7th century when the ‘West’ was a feudal, backward nothingness… so what influences could the first Muslims possibly be worried about?

Except for Turkey, there are no democracies in the Muslim world. India and Pak are the same people, but one has democracy and the other is struggling. The difference is religion.

Islam was founded in the 7th century by the Prophet who was an Arab and wanted the Arabs to maintain their own culture. The other Monotheism (Christianity) was a strong hold of the surrounding areas -- Byzantine (modern day Turkey), Egypt, and other area around Arabia were all Christian. It is my contention that Christianity was trying to take over the minds of Arabs and dominate them just as the Pagan Europeans have been subdued by Christianity.

Prophet Mohammad knew that the Multi Deity worshiping Arabs would meet the same fate as the Europeans if he did not come up with an ideology to combat the menace of Christianity. Thus he Arabized Christianity along with the Pagan Arab beliefs (Allah, pilgrimage to the Kaaba).

So Islam was created to preserve Arab culture. It is really nothing more than that in my opinion.

Unfortunately, Islam has been frozen in past beliefs and there does not seem much chance of a reformation any time soon. Christianity is no better. Conflicts are inevitable.

kawaa, see, this is the kind

kawaa, see, this is the kind of stuff you're dealing with. Good luck getting them to understand what "democracy" might mean beyond a surface level election that was rendered undemocratic the second Sharif was deported (if not earlier). Also note that there seems to be very little understanding that people in a country like Pakistan don't really, nor should they have any, real reason for caring about U.S. foreign policy ends other than to make sure that U.S. policies don't f"£k up their lives.

The general, Pakistan’s president, justified his crackdown as a defense against Islamic militants, but his desperate and reprehensible actions — suspending the constitution, rounding up judges, beating and jailing lawyers and journalists — will embolden extremists. They will also fuel anger and mistrust among Pakistani moderates.

After winning a sham ballot last month, General Musharraf was awaiting a Supreme Court decision on whether his election, while still serving as army chief of staff, was legal. Jane Perlez and David Rohde reported in The Times that the dictator asserted military powers after getting word that the court would rule against him. A phone call at 2 a.m. Pakistan time from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dissuaded the general from taking similar action during last summer’s mass political protests, but this time nothing could induce him to back down.

Returning Pakistan to civilian government has been a declared goal of the United States since General Musharraf seized power in 1999 in a bloodless military coup. He has repeatedly broken promises to move in that direction, using his power vindictively and squandering popular support by forcing rivals into exile and intimidating anyone who tried to stand up to him. Most of the time, Mr. Bush, who says he cannot win the anti-terrorism war without General Musharraf but clearly can’t win it with him either, acquiesced in his misdeeds.

-snip-

The United States is increasingly left with bad options. Cutting off aid would only make it harder to enlist Pakistan’s military in the anti-extremist fight and renew doubts about America’s reliability as an ally. The United States should at least condition that money on Pakistan’s performance in the anti-terrorism fight, on some form of accountability and on shifting more of it toward building political parties, courts and schools. It should also consider discussions with India, Iran, China and Saudi Arabia on how to prevent further instability in Pakistan.

Ultimately, democracy, not dictatorship, is the best hope for a stable Pakistan. Reviving General Musharraf’s back-room deal with the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, however distasteful, may be a way back from the abyss if it includes a real commitment to elections by the general, if Ms. Bhutto insists that the eletions be open to all parties and if Mr. Bush gives her strong backing.

The current conflict in the

The current conflict in the Northern Areas has most decidedly not been a part of Pakistan’s story since Independence: the military withdrew from cantonment in the Northern Areas in 1947, and thereafter sovereignty was constantly negotiated and renegotiated between tribal chiefs and government officers from the centre.

Yes, as you point out, the current conflict been relegated to simply tribal leaders and the Afghan war "spillover effects," but that doesn't mean that it's been conflict free since the military "withdrew" (and I don't think it's entirely true that the zone was demilitarized in 1947 as you suggest. Have to check up on this to see if it's true.)

In terms of "sovereignty" being "negotiated between tribal chiefs," do you mean the Frontier Crimes Resolution? If so, I find some aspects of this really old ordinance [correct word?] and I am not sure how much of it can be defined as "sovereignty."

And Islam was founded in the

And Islam was founded in the 7th century when the ‘West’ was a feudal, backward nothingness… so what influences could the first Muslims possibly be worried about?

I correct myself. I meant Christian influences, not Western.

Patelji! So good to see you

Patelji! So good to see you again!

Are we talking about a particular country here, or two abstract and rather meaningless concepts, one relating to cardinal direction and the other too religion? Both are vast, complex and can only be taken at a more concrete level.

And Islam was founded in the 7th century when the 'West' was a feudal, backward nothingness... so what influences could the first Muslims possibly be worried about?

It's a good question. And I

It's a good question. And I don't know, but I am arguing that if we want to see obstacles on the road to democracy, we need to look at what the Army is doing in the North first and all the elite bargains, deals, legal challenges, etc. second.

I hope that the US is able to rethink its strategy -- not necessarily away from imperialism but away from breathing down the neck of the Musharraf regime and making it obvious that they are calling the shots (literally, as in picking targets). The government is going to go after militants, no question, as they have picked the fight, as in India. But what keeps the militants armed, supplied and with numbers growing is the way in which these objectives are actually America's objectives first. That needs to chane, and I hope the Administration realises it.

So, I don't know otherwise -- protest? The sepahi state will be out in full force, and disturbance on the streets will be smashed down quickly. And these elite bargains give me the creeps: if Benazir Bhutto is declared PM, how is that democratic?

Just think we need to be putting our strength as bloggers (ha!) into pressuring both the US and the Musharraf regime.

Thank you for the

Thank you for the discussions. Shanta Devarajan, Chief Economist of the World Bank South Asia Region, comments on his blog (http://endpovertyinsouthasia.worldbank.org/) about the situation in Pakistan and also has an upcoming discussion session with students on poverty in the region. Shanta encourages your important comments and questions to be posted here:
http://endpovertyinsouthasia.worldbank.org/call-young-people-lets-end-po...

Well, forgiving that this is

Well, forgiving that this is essentially a spam comment on this thread, I put up a comment on your website. It is apparently being moderated. Just for reference, here it is again, in case the good people at the World Bank don't approve it.

Hello,

Thank you for putting up this blog post and offering to engage in dialogue.

1. I attended in New Delhi the Independent People's Tribunal on The World Bank Group a month of two ago. The preliminary report from the event, which is available here, has a number of strong accusations against the World Bank and its affiliated organizations. I have to ask how you respond to these claims that the World Bank has exacerbated social and economic problems in India through its activities over the past decades, rather than helped?

2. Why are poor people in rural areas being displaced in order to secure land for industrial developments by companies like POSCO, Tata and others? What do you think should be done about this?

3. In what ways does the World Bank attempt to influence policy at the centre, at the state, and at local levels in South Asia, if at all, and to what ends? If you can give examples they would help.

4. Why are there farmer suicides? What do you think can be done about this?

5. Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka are currently in the middle of wars or unstable, while large swathes of India are enmeshed in various struggles from Maoist to regional autonomy-based. Is it possible for people-friendly economic development to happen in the region with this set up and, if so, how?

6. India has an extraordinarily unequal society in terms of wealth, with some of the wealthiest people in the world and hundreds of millions (going by measures aside from how many dollars a day people live on) who are extremely poor. What sort of development strategy would you prescribe that would address this problem?

Thanks very much for your time.

Thanks for your input, Dr.

Thanks for your input, Dr. Anonymous. Your comment on the End Poverty in South Asia blog appears there: http://endpovertyinsouthasia.worldbank.org/call-young-people-lets-end-po...

The US needs to retreat from

The US needs to retreat from its short-term objectives of chasing Taliban-friendly tribesmen all over the mountains and consider the long-term stability that comes from a state that is able to sort out its affairs on its own. That autonomy would allow a more vibrant and lasting democracy, and more effecttive action against extremist elements.

Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like the U.S. is going to renounce imperialism in favour of local autonomy any time soon. So what is the prescription in the meantime (serious question)?

That autonomy would allow a

That autonomy would allow a more vibrant and lasting democracy, and more effecttive action against extremist elements.

Islam and democracy are not compatible. In fact Islam itself was created (you may disagree with this, but I can explain) to ward off influences from the West.

So in a sense Islam is to be admired for standing firm. However, with Islam or the West being unable to change, the course is one of collision.

Mass movements in Pakistan

Mass movements in Pakistan will either be brutally crushed or will lead to a change in military leadership… the latter happened in 1969-1970 against Field Marshal Ayub Khan. The problem is though that all the groups that were involved were utterly destroyed at the hands of Zia ul Haq. There is no student politics, consequently, no powerful labour unions. And the political parties and self-interested and deeply compromised.

It makes sense to me that you're frustrated, but, as they say, past performance is not always indiciative of future results :) It seems like there were several points at which things could have gone differently--at the very beginning; during the Bengali rights movement; under Z. Bhutto; etc. Why they didn't, I can't tell you, but unless your argument is that Pakistan is incapable of changing and eternally damned to some combination of military rule and demagogic politics, I don't see any other way out than a mass movement focused on building institutions. Maybe they need disciplined social democrats (i.e. electoral communist parties)--I don't know.

Anyway, I'm not usually a big defender of the liberal state, but I will say that in comparison to what's transpiring now, it certainly seems a better option.

I think you should just talk to as many people in Pakistan who actually make sense (there are almost always a few people who make sense) and find out what they think. That would be a good starting point.

a slipped finger and

a slipped finger and then--well, so much for the long response i had written ;)

anyway, what do you think of the power sharing arrangement thing? it seems like it's still happening, though it may have shifted from an overt deal to something a little more backhanded? it's pretty fishy that, as of yesterday, bhutto's party was the only one not being rounded up.

as for what the u.s. administration can do, i don't see any point in pressuring this administration and possibly any american administration to give up their war on terror and in exchange do anything else (my preference would be nothing, which would be a formidable accomplishment on the part of whatever president managed to bully that through--i hope they get a peace prize).

i think the one point you made that another administration, though not this one, could follow is not being so overt in their bullying. EVERYONE knows that the U.S. is calling the shots, and aside from the fact that that's gross (but would it be less problematic if it was less overt? :), it's extraordinarily bad foreign policy.

Of course why do i care, given what i said above? I don't know.

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