Letters to the Editor

Readers write about US-Pakistani relations, overconsumption in America, and the flaws of some types of multiple-choice tests.

How to support stability in Pakistan and war on terror

Regarding your May 18 editorial, "As Pakistan goes, so goes a war": Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf now barely hangs onto power and seems to be in no mood to relinquish it. As a US ally, Mr. Musharraf helped capture or kill key Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. But he also had no qualms about pampering clerics and backing hard-line political parties in order to keep popular moderate forces at bay.

As a result, "Talibanization" continues to make swift inroads in Pakistan. Prolonged periods of military rule – supported by the US – have rendered society extremely violent and unruly. This has helped turn Pakistan into a center for terrorism.

If the world is to be saved from another 9/11, then finding a transitional leader for Pakistan cannot be a solution. The US must demand that Musharraf quickly implement a true democratic order. He must allow popular exiled leaders to return and permanently end the Army's interference in politics. Otherwise, the US and the West should block all military and financial support to Pakistan.

Muhammad Azam Khan
Lahore, Pakistan

Regarding your May 18 editorial on the US and Pakistan: As someone who was born in Pakistan and has seen the ups and downs of the relationship between Pakistan and the US, with its unimaginable consequences for Pakistan, I believe it is best for both countries to go their separate ways and find different partners.

The US has no shortage of willing partners, but Pakistan's needs are dire and its options limited. The country may not be able to deliver what the US demands, even if future leaders wholeheartedly want to. Pakistan's support for the US attack on Afghanistan did not just destroy Afghanistan; it also hurt Pakistan. Today, Pakistan needs friends that are more interested in rebuilding this nation of 160 million and less interested in seeking support for their wars.

Amjad Wyne
Washington

In response to your May 18 editorial about Pakistan's President Musharraf: I liked this editorial, except for the advice that the West should "manage" a transition of power in Pakistan. Pakistan has long been subordinate to the West. This is part of the reason why democracy hasn't taken root in that country.

The West would do well if it allowed the people of Pakistan to choose their form of government. Enough of "managing" Pakistan. Let that country manage itself. The real danger is that Pakistan may follow the footsteps of other countries that the West has "managed" – Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, and Liberia, for example.

M.K. Bhadrakumar
New Delhi

In response to your May 18 editorial about how the US should deal with Pakistan: I think your editorial makes too much of a failed turf war that was started by the opposition under the guise of defending Chief Justice Mohammed Iftikhar Chaudhry.

Unfortunately, they have politicized the matter and sought to overthrow the government under the pretense of an attack on the independence of the judiciary. Having lived in Karachi for 56 years, I would say that we expected violence to occur. Both the government and the opposition were armed, and neither side was willing to step back.

But since the incident, Karachi has resumed its business and is back to normal. What happened is history, and it certainly is not going to bring down President Pervez Musharraf.

Fazal Habib Curmally
Karachi, Pakistan

Consumption eats into happiness

In response to Jeffrey Shaffer's May 18 Opinion column, "For American consumers, how much is enough?": Mr. Shaffer asks, "How much is enough?"

Here are two more thoughts to consider before buying another "must-have" item: "If I own it, am I willing to take care of it?" and, "Do I have to own it to enjoy it?"

As my husband and I prepare to move and pick through 40 years of accumulated things, we seriously consider these questions, plus one more: "Are we willing to move it?"

So far, the answers to these three questions have usually been, "No, no, and no."

Kristin Ayer
Depoe Bay, Ore.

Regarding Jeffrey Shaffer's May 18 Opinion column on consumerism in America: My 6-year-old son wants a Game Boy. However, I am vehemently opposed to buying one for him. It is a waste of money. My son could be doing better things – he could be playing outside, reading books, cleaning his room, playing with his train set (and learning about geography at the same time), or playing his guitar.

And last but not least, how much is enough? My son has all kinds of toys, plays on our computer, watches TV, and watches movies.

Maybe I'm just a spoilsport, but as an affluent American, I feel strongly that my child should know that he lives better than probably 98 percent of the rest of the world. He has to understand that some kids in this world are starving to death while our society is reckless and wasteful and outrageously materialistic.

Jeff Churchill
Valparaiso, Ind.

Correct tests, then test students

In response to the May 17 article, "US students aren't history whizzes, but they're improving": The Department of Education should retrain its testmakers, and rescore the answers that eighth-graders gave to the question quoted in this article about why the Declaration of Independence was written.

It is quite possible that more than the 28 percent of students stated did answer correctly, since more than one of the multiple-choice answers given is correct. First, the document was written to appeal to other countries for help in fighting Britain. Second, it was also written to explain why the colonies were breaking away from Britain.

This example of the kind of multiple-choice tests that schoolchildren have to suffer through is one reason why kids are dropping out of school. Make sure the teachers know what they're teaching, and make sure that multiple-choice tests have only one correct answer – if that's the way we're going to evaluate students' mastery of a subject.

M.F. Donnelly
San Carlos, Calif.

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Any letter accepted will appear in print and on our website, www.csmonitor.com.

Mail letters to 'Readers Write' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to (617) 450-2317, or e-mail to Op-Ed.

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