‘Pakistan on the Brink’

‘Pakistan on the Brink’ by Tariq Ali for The Nation, March 30, 2000

Pakistan today is a complete mess, a sad example of what can happen when a once-favored “frontline state” is reduced to the status of a cold war orphan. In his recent brief visit President Clinton urged a quick return to civilian rule, but in fact few Pakistanis mourn Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s overthrow last October of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s corrupt and oppressive pseudo-democracy. The poor and the secular-liberal intelligentsia pray that the new military regime will prevent a slide toward further chaos. These hopes are likely to be dashed, since the regime is paralyzed by internal divisions. Mohammed Aziz and Mahmoud Ahmed, the two key generals flanking Musharraf, are known for their sympathies with the fundamentalist Taliban.

Several tests confront the new strongman of Pakistan: Will he be able to modernize the economy and end the corruption and violence that plague the country’s major cities? Has he the will to disarm the fundamentalist militias, which have been fighting a sectarian civil war for nearly three years, without disturbing the unstable equilibrium within the army? Will he be able to make peace with India? These are the questions that a US President visiting a decaying protectorate would have addressed if he were genuinely interested in the welfare of the country. read more