Excellent and Current Introductory Article on Pakistan

Continuing along jujube's theme of highlighting good practice in media coverage of Pakistan...Paul Rogers, who is a very very good writer on Pakistan and other South Asian spaces, has a new article out on Open Democracy whose nominal purpose is to cover the 'sources of turmoil,' in Pakistan. However, he offers a social analysis combined with political economy that is very helpful if you want to start to understand what is going on in Pakistan for its own sake rather than where the nuclear weapons are or where the US is bombing.  To wit:

More deeply, assessments of potential support for the Taliban in western Pakistan almost invariably miss the nature of a deeply divided society. The main source of power in most of Pakistan lies in two areas: a fairly small number of very wealthy families that may often be in competition with one other but also compose an elite that sees itself as born to rule; and (guaranteeing the elite's social and political power) the Pakistani army that has ruled the country directly for much of the country's sixty-one years of the time since independence, and acted as a power behind the throne on other occasions (see Ehsan Masood, "Pakistan: the army as the state", 12 April 2007). 

The army's officer class is drawn partly from the elite families; but it has its own power-base that stems both from its troops and sheer firepower, and from the large economic enterprises it controls (see Ayesha Siddiqa, Military Inc.: Inside Pakistan's Military Economy [Pluto Press, 2007]). The army's strategic outlook makes it in key respects more focused than the civilian elite on the perceived threat to Pakistan from India, as well as more determined to maintain maximum influence in Afghanistan, not least by promoting Islamist movements.

This axis between Pakistan's elite families and army may never be completely stable. But the power they together wield and the wealth they represent are part of Pakistan's deep socio-economic divisions. Beneath them are smaller landowners and members of the business and middle class, and far lower on the social scale a huge majority of the population survives with meagre resources or access to state services. It is from these families that millions of boys are sent to the thousands of madrasas that provide their only source of education (see Nadeem Ul Haque, "How to solve Pakistan's problem", 24 April 2009).

Even if you disagree with the analysis, notice that he actually offers links to other books and articles you might want to read and tells you what thery're about and where he's drawing from.  It's almost like it's possible to write in the media in a way that demonstrates care for whether you eventually learn something or not ;)

By: on 4 May 2009