Monday, May 08, 2006

Letter from a frontline state

An op-ed piece in today's International Herald Tribune by a returning Pakistani expat.
For a returning native, Pakistan offers a kaleidoscope of images that defy the West's stereotypes. American audiences are used to seeing Pakistan as poised on the brink of nuclear conflict with India, hosting Taliban "jihadist" militia, with a military-dominated government that has a tenuous hold on its fractious component provinces. Violent riots and screaming bearded crowds shouting anti-U.S. and anti-Western slogans make their way into evening news broadcasts.

Pakistan is often depicted as a failed or failing state that is an unreliable ally in America's "war against terror." At the same time, the United States, in particular, appears to wish that Pakistan's president and army chief, Pervez Musharraf, would wave his powerful swagger stick and remove Al Qaeda from the border region near Afghanistan.

The reality of Pakistan today is far more complex.
It's not really a failed state. The economy is slowly revving up. Modernity is creeping in. Relations with India are improving, and that "liberal autocrat," Gen. Musharraf, is doing his best.
Modernity is taking hold in Pakistan today. Yet, it must live side by side with a basic religiosity and awareness of local cultural values and sensibilities. Mosques fill up regularly during the day while chic coffee houses and eclectic cuisine restaurants throb with activity in the evening.
While it may be that in an Islamic society, going to a mosque and a chic coffee house are mutually exclusive, that's hardly true of a Christian culture? Or a Hindu one, for that matter ... is it? Just a tangent, something that caught my eye in the article ...

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