Signs of hope in Pakistan – America's prickly ally
It's difficult to make sense of Pakistan's pulsating political chaos, corruption, and instability. Yet pessimistic views of Pakistan, while endemic in the West, differ considerably from the perspective of Pakistani analysts who cautiously point to half a dozen hopeful developments.
Making sense of the pulsating political chaos in Pakistan is at times akin to peering into a kaleidoscope when the colors, crystals, and light are ever shifting, then trying to describe what you saw.Skip to next paragraph
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Earlier this month, an increasingly assertive Pakistani Supreme Court indicted the country’s prime minister, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, for contempt because he refuses to reopen a longstanding corruption case against his boss, President Asif Ali Zardari.
Just a few weeks before that, Pakistan was swept by rumors of a possible military coup against the president and prime minister. Those rumors were followed by talk of a looming judicial coup led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s Supreme Court.
There is a national joke circulating that the Pakistani Army decided against a coup d’état this time because the generals persuaded the Supreme Court to do their dirty work for them.
Adding to the uncertainty is speculation about whether there will be early elections this year with the countervailing buzz that elections won’t take place until 2013.
And today there are 40 active, functional, television news channels stoking the furnace of speculation and gossip – broadcasting 24/7.
Imagination can run wild amid these political uncertainties and instability. Pakistan has dozens of nuclear bombs. A 2009 Gallup poll showed that nearly 60 percent of the population in this Muslim country believes the United States poses a greater threat than Islamabad’s traditional enemy, India (at only 18 percent). Pakistanis overwhelmingly believe Israel was behind the 9/11 attacks on America.
Yet the US is stuck with Pakistan – in for a penny, in for a pound. Washington’s worst nightmare is the witches’ brew of a Taliban-dominated nuclear Pakistan led by radical mullahs eager to fan the smoldering political embers at home. While a Taliban-dominated Pakistan is probably unlikely, that could change in a nanosecond if an outside power were to meddle in the affairs of the world’s second most populous Islamic country.
Bruce Riedel, adviser to four US presidents, rightly warns, “The future of the global jihad will be decided in Pakistan more than anywhere else in the world,” making Washington’s quest for political stability in Pakistan an imperative.