[A-List] Pakistan: more stable than you think
zaogir at pes.comsats.net.pk
Mon Dec 2 09:41:47 MST 2002
Dear Michael Keaney,
Iread your article of 10/10 today wherein you have given your views about
the likly outcome of election of October 10. Do you not feel to rewrite the
views afesh now when more than a months has since passed.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael Keaney" <michael.keaney at mbs.fi>
Sent: Thursday, October 10, 2002 5:08 PM
Subject: [A-List] Pakistan: more stable than you think
> The ubiquitous Anatol Lieven pops up simultaneously in Pakistan and in the
> 'Western commentary needs to cool down. The state is nowhere near
> Anatol Lieven in Lahore
> Thursday October 10, 2002
> The Guardian
> It is only natural that most western journalists in Pakistan for today's
elections are preoccupied with the power of Islamist movements and popular
> attitudes to the US.
> If you ask just about any Pakistani his or her opinion of US (and British)
> policies, you will get a diatribe about their folly, wickedness and, above
> all, hypocrisy.
> Similarly, in most instances, if you ask about Kashmir you will get some
> version or other of the official nationalist line.
> But if you begin by asking people what issues are most important to them,
> this election and generally, a very different picture emerges.
> Outside specific areas of Pakistan, most people say unemployment, followed
by issues such as education, health, sanitation and transport.
> The great majority don't even mention Kashmir, Afghanistan or the US
unless you ask about them.
> The socio-economic issues are not "sexy". Unlike terrorism and
"fundamentalism", they don't grab the attention of western audiences or
western policymakers. But it is mostly on these issues that these elections
> have been fought.
> Only the Islamist parties have adopted an anti-American platform, and for
the first time the six main ones have suspended their deep differences and
formed an electoral alliance. For this reason, and because of the increase
in anti-Americanism, they are expected to increase their vote considerably.
> But even if they more than double the number of their seats in parliament,
they will still have less than 10% of the total, and most of them will
almost certainly be concentrated in highly conservative Pashtun areas.
> In other words, the Islamists are nowhere near being a serious threat to
> These parties vary greatly in their radicalism. At the extreme end,
factions of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-Islam shade into the Taliban and groups which
support terrorism. But this is not true of the biggest by far, the Jamaat.
> As was demonstrated during the US attack on the Taliban last autumn, most
of these groups are unwilling, unable, or both, to put really large numbers
on to the streets to protest. It is unlikely to be different in the case of
an attack on Iraq.
> The recent terrorist attacks have been ugly, but again, they are no threat
to the Pakistani state or important western interests here.
> They are in fact minor when you consider the size of Pakistan, the misery
> much of its population, and the number of weapons floating about.
> For that matter, even ordinary crime, although bad, could be a great deal
worse. The murder rate in Karachi compares favourably to that in Washington
> DC and many other American cities.
In other words, western commentary on this country needs to cool down a
> Pakistan suffers from terrible problems, but if full-scale war with India
can be avoided - admittedly a big "if" - it is nowhere near collapsing as a
state, suffering an Islamist revolution, or giving its nuclear weapons to
> As an acquaintance in the Pakistani military asked me, "Do you really
think we'd cut off our family jewels and hand them to the first beard who
> Of course, shortage of water and other crises may well destroy Pakistan
eventually - but by the time that happens, much of the world will be in
> · Anatol Lieven is a senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace in Washington DC.
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