It Could Be Worse Than Pakistan… Sort Of

There are fresh political conflicts in Pakistan.

How much is this really informed by the events of this past month? What happened to Benazir Bhutto is a horrible tragedy. But what’s really changed for ordinary people in Pakistan? Were the “elections” going to be free and fair? Did Musharraf’s shedding of the military uniform really mean anything substantive about his relationship or influence with the military? Did the official end of emergency really loosen the general’s grip on power in any real way? Was Bhutto – a dynastic heir who probably had her brother killed to preserve her political power – really the force of democracy in any real sense? Had Pakistani democracy really even grown past the series of cults of personality and legacy in which it has been steeped since the country’s inception? Perhaps even more importantly, would a truly “democratic” process in Pakistan lead to peace and tolerance? Or would the sympathizers of Jihad and Islamic militancy win out? I don’t claim to be an expert, but these elements do seem to have grown in recent years and they seem to be more politically engaged than the millions of ordinary Pakistanis who have other priorities like survival.

Makes you want to help, doesn’t it? But it’s very unclear what if anything we can do, since we have squandered whatever good will we had in the world, especially in the Muslim world.

I suppose we can take heart at the open demonstrations against the government – not only on the streets, but in bar associations and universities – in Pakistan. Sure, heads are rolling, but not fast enough or numerously enough to quell the protests completely.

At least it’s not Burma.

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