A Prescription for Pakistan?
(Photos by Robin Holland)
This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with historian Juan Cole and journalist Shahan Mufti about what’s next for Pakistan as violence between Taliban rebels and the Pakistani army continues to roil the country’s northwest and displace hundreds of thousands of civilians.
Cole, who blogs at Informed Comment, suggested that government and media reports portraying the Pakistani Taliban as a major threat are exaggerated:
"To take this threat – which is a threat locally to the federally administered tribal areas [and] to parts of the northwest frontier province – and to magnify it and say, 'Whoa, the Pakistani army is six months from falling, the Taliban is going to get their hands on nuclear weapons,' the kinds of things that are being said in Washington are just fantastical, [like] some sort of science fiction film... I think it’s cynical, and I think it’s a way for Washington to put pressure on the Pakistani civilian and military elites to do what Washington wants them to do... Saying that Pakistan is unstable, or it’s about to fall, or the nukes are in danger – all of this sort of thing – is a signal to Islamabad that you had better get serious about this because it matters to us, so this is Washington strong-arming Pakistan."
Mufti, who reports on Pakistan for GlobalPost, agreed and said that the Pakistan’s military offensive against the Taliban rebels is likely at least partially due to American pressure:
"The Pakistani army feels strong pressure to show that they are performing. So whether they’re being heavy handed [or] they’re using a lot of fireworks, it’s to prove a point to the United States. The government as well as the army, who are recipients of large American aid but also clients of the American military, feel an obligation to perform [or] at least to put up a show that they are performing, and that they’re performing well... People are obviously concerned with how their lives are changing, but this threat of the state failing – nobody in that country takes that too seriously."
What do you think?