Pakistan has always been a focal point in the news media, but I feel like some pretty hefty stories and statements have surfaced in the last few days. Here are the ones I found most noteworthy:
- David Kilcullen, U.S. CENTCOM adviser to Gen. David Petraeus warned, “The Pakistani state could collapse within six months if immediate steps are not taken to remedy the situation.” Kilcullen told the Washington Post Sunday, “Pakistan has 173 million people, 100 nuclear weapons, an army bigger than the US Army, and al-Qaeda headquarters sitting right there in the two-thirds of the country that the government doesn’t control.”
- Pakistan was also raised in an interview with former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright on Friday’s Real Time with Bill Maher [click to 3:20 in the clip below]. She noted, “For me, Pakistan has everything that gives you an international migraine. It has nuclear weapons, corruption, poverty, extremism…[Bill Maher interjects: “Crazy Muslims”]…well it certainly has enough of those, and also a weak government…”
- Dawn also reported that Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram suggested that Pakistan is “perilously close” to becoming a failed state and that its government is “pretty disfunctional today.”
- Speaking of our government, an article in Friday’s Foreign Policy ranked President Asif Ali Zardari as the world’s fifth biggest loser [just to give some context, Bernie Madoff was number three and Josef Fritzl was first]. The FP’s David J. Rothkopf wrote, “Locked in a bitter struggle with opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, Zardari showed his weakness by capitulating to demands to reinstate Pakistan’s former Chief Justice per Sharif’s demands…He’s on the ropes, his opposition is gaining strength, and meanwhile fraught, dangerous, complex Pakistan is hardly being governed at all.”
Let me just note that none of these statements are very suprising or new. In fact, ever since Newsweek’s infamous cover story deemed Pakistan “The Most Dangerous Place on Earth“, similar labels have been thrown about, sometimes with gleeful abandon. However, maybe because it’s Pakistan Day, maybe because I read the aforementioned stories in quick succession, but I was left feeling especially indignant today. I often wonder if Pakistan would be as singled out by pundits and the media if it wasn’t such a strategic U.S. security issue. It is not that I don’t agree with several of the assertions, [in fact, I was quite amused reading the FP Zardari ranking] – I have acknowledged our weak governance issues, our economic problems, and the danger of rising extremism frequently on this blog.
However, there is a major difference between highlighting the negatives and focusing solely on the negatives. Pakistan is a nation that has many positives – and they pertain mostly to our people. In the past few years, our media has become increasingly influential – and for the most part sees themselves as a check on the establishment. And, despite how you may feel about its outcome, the Long March showed what a stronger civil society can help accomplish in Pakistan. Technology tools like Twitter, Facebook, and the overarching blogosphere have also created a new class of citizen journalists. As for me, I am constantly inspired by the people I have interviewed and the organizations I have spotlighted. What is both amazing and overwhelming is that I really never run out of positive figures or work to highlight. Pakistan is far from perfect, but amid the chaos there are still pockets of light that keep me optimistic. Happy Pakistan Day, everyone.