July 22, 2010

Making friends in Pakistan

Regular readers of this blog wont be surprised to hear that I've been banging on about ways to do something useful in Pakistan. Just for a change, this time, I've been at it over at Foreign Policy's afpakchannel. There are some quotes in there that haven't seen the light of day before. Such as:

"Of all the terrorist attacks carried out so far, no American culprit has been caught, no one from Britain and no Israeli. All those who have been apprehended belong here. And with great sorrow, I say that they have been men with beards (religious men)," said one speaker, who holds a high-profile position within Pakistan's religious education establishment."


One of Pakistan's highest-ranking religious officials said of extremists; "In religious garb they organised hatred into a force. Now it is an organised force. These people are in society... The attacks on army installations were done by their followers who are in the army."

As well as:

In a madrassa in the rural hinterland of Punjab, an elderly former Barelvi leader with still considerable influence within the community's nationwide network said Barelvis should arm and organise a militia to take on the Taliban. "Our ideology is lying in its grave. And before long, if we do nothing, our lifeless bodies will be joining it," he said in Punjabi.

Read the whole thing here.

A few months ago, I read Hilary Synnott's International Institute for Strategic Studies report Transforming Pakistan. I thought at the time that Sir Hilary's suggestion that the international community basically take it on itself to transform Pakistan was unrealistic and an even bigger disaster waiting to happen. However, I'm beginning to think that a major game change is needed and the only question remains who the real domestic partners should be. The best option, and the most willing potential allies, are the general public. The question is how to approach them and how to tool the options avaiable to the international community so that they actually work effectively.

To see someone else expertly demonstrate what kind of mess we are talking about here, read (and watch) this great bit of reporting from Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times.

"..in Pakistan, the lack of a workable tax system feeds something more menacing: a festering inequality in Pakistani society, where the wealth of its most powerful members is never redistributed or put to use for public good. That is creating conditions that have helped spread an insurgency that is tormenting the country and complicating American policy in the region"