The Peculiar Nature of the Pakistani Liberal

By Anjum Altaf

Like no other political assassination in Pakistan, the recent brutal murder of Salman Taseer should throw into sharp relief the nature of the Pakistani liberal, a condition whose complexities and conflicts belie the simple narratives reflected in headlines like “Pakistani reformer dead” or “Setback for liberals in Pakistan.”

Salman Taseer reflected the essence of a certain segment of Pakistani liberaldom – liberals who are highly educated, articulate, erudite, dynamic, successful, affluent and well connected. It is from this group that the most could have been expected in the struggle for reform, but they have been marginalized to the point of irrelevance.  Seen through the lens of conflicted loyalties and aspirations, this phenomenon becomes less opaque: No matter how progressive, the stereotypical liberal harbors a visceral antipathy for the “enemies of Islam,” which leads to knee-jerk responses blind to what is progressive or retrogressive within the implementation of Islam itself or what is in the long-term interests of the majority of the population.

The principal manifestation of this was the response to the Islamization of society that began at the tail-end of the Zulfiqar Bhutto era and acquired momentum under Zia ul Haq, with wholesale changes in the realm of education. Very few of Mr. Bhutto’s liberal supporters resigned in protest or were able to articulate the long-term implications of the transformation of education into indoctrination. Rather, there was a vague acceptance of the argument that a little more Islam was harmless in a Muslim country.

Feeding this, and also providing a rationalization, was an unremitting hostility towards India, for which the liberal leadership committed the nation to “eat grass” if necessary. Anti-India sentiment also required the construction of a particularly Muslim nationalism, and for the inculcation in the population of a new, distinct identity. There was little protest by liberals against the extensive use of public media for such an endeavor; jokes about the “mullah in the idiot box” circulated in private, but never came together in a liberal counter-offensive of any significance.

A similarly muddled attitude prevailed towards the Taliban, who, as long as they were seen as fighting for the greater glory of Islam against godless communists, deviant imperialists or oppressive neighbors, were in fact the beneficiaries of much sympathy. It was only when the Taliban arrived at their own gates that the implications of such sympathy began to be recognized.

At the same time, the stereotypical liberal found it impossible to resist the attraction of political power. Leading liberals joined hands with political parties that were, at best, unprincipled, or of unrepresentative governments for whom principles mattered not at all. It is believable that such liberals genuinely felt they could be more effective as reformers from the inside than from the outside, but whatever the intentions, they did not bear fruit – their track records were marked by acquiescence, accommodation and the usual hardball politics of power and patronage.

There was also a certain hubris, dating back to before the creation of Pakistan and running through Zulfiqar Bhutto and Musharraf (who had delusions of being the next Ataturk): the belief that their intellectual endowments would always allow liberals to outsmart the unsophisticated fundamentalists when the chips were down. Instrumental accommodations with retrogressive forces were always fair game, because they could of course be trumped when the time came to do so.

The conflicted stance rendered this segment of liberals completely ineffective in terms of the leadership of political reform that was needed by the other segments, the foot soldiers, of liberalism. They left themselves no alternative but to resort to the occasional, brave gesture – gestures that were grand but could not substitute for a coherent and cumulative political strategy and achieved little except to salve the egos and sustain the illusion of liberal beliefs.

The obliviousness the Pakistani liberal class showed to the nature of the long-term relationship between religion and politics has had tragic consequences. Their complicity, naiveté, blindness and hubris paved the way for three cohorts of graduates to complete a high school education resting on dogma and indoctrination; a takeover of institutions and media by conservative forces; and the empowerment of political parties with a literal religious message and agenda. Little surprise then that even as they participated in power and governance, the space for liberals continued to shrink, until even their own guards turned their guns against them, to then be celebrated as heroes by “educated” citizens of the country. It was also little surprise that the forces with which the liberals had aligned themselves, and for whose welfare they deployed their considerable skills and accomplishments, failed to rise to their defense.

On closer examination, the Pakistani liberal turns out to be a breed apart. The easy transfer of ideological labels – “conservative,” “liberal,” “progressive,” “reactionary” – across political and social contexts obscures the nuances and complexities necessary for understanding the juncture at which we have arrived in Pakistan today.


  • Vijay
    Posted at 00:03h, 10 January Reply

    Two points:

    1) The most important insight of your piece is to be found in the last paragraph.

    2) From your reference to Musharraf I am given to think that you don’t think much of him. The impression that I get from his recent public relations blitz is that his thinking isn’t befuddled by the same “liberal” clichés that one finds within the Anglicised minority of Pakistan and the Subcontinent at large. By this I mean, that Musharraf isn’t fooled by the slogans of Western nation-building paradigms – Undiluted Parliamentary Democracy as the cure of all ills and such like. His interaction at the Council on Foreign Relations is worth a watch – ( I found him surprisingly clear-headed, especially when it came to dealing with the question of India’s apparent superiority on account of its democratic credentials. He seems to be the only one who has a nation-building vision for Pakistan, in that sense he really is a political animal. All the others are either clueless and misinformed (Imran Khan) or in it for the money (Zardari-Nawaz Sharif). I’d be anxious to know what you make of Musharraf.

    • Anjum Altaf
      Posted at 12:32h, 10 January

      Vijay: The way he came and the way he left suggested he couldn’t tell the difference between national and personal interest. What he did during his extended period at the crease didn’t reveal much of a nation-building vision. The way he scuttled peace with India via Kargil suggested he didn’t care much about national interest. I can only refer you to Ibn-e Eusuf’s fable on this site:

      Musharraf’s stance on democracy is not based on any theoretical understanding. It is the same perspective adopted by all military rulers in Pakistan who fend off foreign criticism with the line that we are different and I know better how we ought to be governed. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

    • Vijay
      Posted at 20:04h, 10 January


      I’ll just say that a distinguishing element of political vision is the “I know best” attitude that you dismiss. If political order anywhere has to be built it requires men of vision and political will. It is a slightly different story in the West, where statecraft is so institutionalised that you need little more than a glorified manager at the helm of affairs to ensure that things continue as they always have. Although, even in that context I would say it pays to have a political animal at the top rather than a CEO.

      In the non-Western world, where the stakes are so high, societies can thrive or die depending on sound political leadership or lack thereof. This isn’t merely a Musharraf-specific argument, it is a general argument.

      I am not really in a position to speak of the quality of Musharraf’s political leadership when he was in power. Perhaps you are better placed to make that judgement. I should add however that one doesn’t need an advanced theoretical understanding of Western social science to come to a political assessment that Parliamentary Democracy is unsuited to the Subcontinent – the impulse is enough.

      PS: I don’t have sympathy with your point about Musharraf being unsuited for political office because he was the army chief and seized power in a coup. This strikes me as a particularly limp-wristed argument. In the Subcontinent, where intellectual colonialism has ensured that an unfamiliar discourse has been tacked on an unwilling populace, you get your political leadership where you can. If it comes form the Army, so be it. And yes, I would swap Manmohan for Musharraf any day.

    • Anjum Altaf
      Posted at 20:12h, 10 January

      Vijay: It isn’t that the guy didn’t have a shot at it. Ten years wasn’t enough to show what he could do?

      I presume you look fondly upon this kind of bold action to initiate discussions:

      Pakistan had trained militant groups to fight against India and “the government turned a blind eye because they wanted India to discuss Kashmir”, the former Pakistani President, General (retired) Pervez Musharraf, has said in a candid admission.

      And you admire the intelligence of one who thinks Kashmir and not the welfare of the citizens is the core issue of Pakistan:

      To a query on whether the Pakistani security forces trained the militants, General Musharraf said: “The West was ignoring the resolution of the Kashmir issue, which is the core issue of Pakistan. We expected the West — especially the United States and important countries like Germany — to resolve the Kashmir issue. Has Germany done that?”,0

    • Anil Kala
      Posted at 16:15h, 10 January

      I tend to agree with Vijay. Musharraf is not only the best bet, he is the only bet for Pakistan. You are really paranoid about him. He did scuttle peace talk via Kargil but then at that he wasn’t on nation building mission; he was general of armed forces. Pakistani economy had turned around during his time and in time he would have tackled religious groups as well. He is really pragmatic and open minded, so what if he subverted system for his own good, who has not?

    • Anjum Altaf
      Posted at 18:32h, 10 January

      Anil: I am aware that Musharraf has a fan club in India but I do not follow this logic. The chief of the armed forces is NOT supposed to be on a nation building mission? He is entitled to set back the country, violate international accords, and get hundreds of innocent people killed so that he can then show what a nation-builder he can be?

    • Anil Kala
      Posted at 13:37h, 11 January

      Do you really think primary objective of chief of armed forces is nation building and not to check mate nation’s main adversary?

    • Anjum Altaf
      Posted at 14:11h, 11 January

      Anil: Yes, I do. The actions of the chief of the armed forces have to be guided by the interests of the nation and cannot subvert the policy of a representative government. It is for the representative government to decide who is an adversary and what kind of relations to pursue with other countries; this is not an independent prerogative of the chief of the armed forces.

    • Anil Kala
      Posted at 16:41h, 11 January

      I totally disagree

      I think you are answering that with the benefit of hindsight. First of all in Pakistan Chief of forces is also head of state in some matters, particularly issues pertaining to India. Secondly Kargil was not initiated to scuttle peace process with India but was a bold military initiative under continuation of policy of thousand cuts. To judge Musarraf as if he was political head of country is completely wrong.

    • Anjum Altaf
      Posted at 20:18h, 11 January

      Anil: We are at opposite ends on this so we should let some other opinions weigh in. In the meanwhile, the gap might be narrowed if you let me know the basis for your belief that in Pakistan the chief of forces is also the head of state in some matters. I was not aware of any such provision.

      There would be few in Pakistan who view Kargil as a bold military initiative either ex-ante or ex-post. Boldness devoid of good sense is not a characteristic to be admired. You are much too generous. Musharraf also had a long innings as head of the country later and I don’t quite see what you find outstanding in his performance.

    • Anil Kala
      Posted at 04:01h, 12 January

      I totally agree, let somebody else also express his views on this matter.

      Since you did not stop at above but continued to make remark on my observation it is only right that I too should make my statement clear. The observation about Musarraf being head of state in some matter was not meant to be a matter of fact statement, it merely alluded to a political reality that matters relating to India are always subject to ratification of armed forces in Pakistan. This is my understanding of Pakistani politics from reading newspapers and watching many commentators on television.

      You are also making many subjective statements… there will be few Pakistani…. How do you know that?
      Boldness devoid of good sense …… how do you know that? Is it just because the adventure misfired?

      I regard track record of Musarraf a lot better than many democratic prime ministers. Not that I am advocating return to dictatorship but this sham democracy is leading Pakistan nowhere. Besides I would like to know from you who else is in a position to lead Pakistan better or do you think present arrangement is working fine?

      Apparently Musarraf evokes similar kind of response as Mikhail Gorbachev did. The whole world was surprised at the choice of Russian people..

    • Anjum Altaf
      Posted at 14:27h, 12 January

      Anil: Even if what you state is correct, ratification of a policy is not the same thing as initiating a policy. Subverting or countermanding the policy of the government is a violation of the constitution.

      Musharraf was removed unceremoniously by Pakistanis despite the many distortions he introduced, the deals he struck, and the damage he did in order to ensure his survival. Was there evidence of overwhelming support to retain him? Is there evidence of overwhelming support to welcome him back as the head of a new movement?

      Do you believe the adventure had a chance of succeeding? Which of the earlier adventures of the Pakistani armed forces were crowned by success? I get the sense that you desperately wanted the adventure to succeed so that it could have furnished the evidence you seek of Musharraf’s brilliance. I am glad the evidence was not forthcoming. Musharraf’s performance in what was supposed to be his area of expertise was enough of a pointer of how he would do in a domain where he did not have a clue. Please remember that Pakistanis had seen three chiefs of the armed forces try this before Musharraf.

      What exactly in his track record appeals to you? And do you not think that over 30 years of military adventurism has anything to do with the fate of democracy in Pakistan? No, the present situation is not working fine but the alternative to that is not military rule.

      Gorbachev was a member of the Communist Party and was elected its General Secretary by the party politburo following the process by which leaders were chosen in the USSR. He did not become head of state via a coup. Musharraf was not the choice of the Pakistani people; he forced himself upon them by violating the constitution. This, and what he did to consolidate his power, derailed the political process in Pakistan and inflicted severe damage to the country. This was no different from what Zia and Ayub had done before him.

    • Anil Kala
      Posted at 15:51h, 12 January

      I don’t think we are talking the same thing.

      I am just curious, you say that present arrangement is not working and alternative is not military rule (I did not offer that as an alternative, I had Musharraf as a civilian leader making to parliament through election in mind). If present arrangement is not working military alternative is not answer……

      What is the answer?

    • Anjum Altaf
      Posted at 16:16h, 12 January

      Anil: The first point is to understand how the present situation came about. It was the result of a deal struck by Musharraf to prolong his rule against the desires of the citizens. And during his rule, he had exiled the leaders of the two main political parties vowing never to allow them back. In their absence he had gathered around him the dregs of the Pakistani political system and nurtured the religious parties to power in two provinces in his support having first declared the religious credentials of madrassas as equivalent to college degrees so his new support base could contest elections. He has admitted to sending militants into Kashmir to get India to talk and he had a bizarre policy on Afghanistan that he switched around 180 degrees without consulting the representatives of the people when he got a phone call from Washington. The present mess is not independent of Musharraf; it is a direct outcome of his arbitrary rule.

      Second, nothing prevents Musharraf from contesting elections as a civilian under the rules of the game. He has formed a party (even the dregs have deserted him) and we will be able to see how he fares when the next elections come around.

      The answer is to muddle through as one does in a parliamentary democracy. The onus is on civil society to prevent the political process being derailed by self-anointed saviors and to press for the reforms needed to straighten out the mess. There is no magic wand.

  • Arun Pillai
    Posted at 19:27h, 10 January Reply


    I’m sorry but I, too, agree with Vijay and Anil. I don’t know whether he will do similar things again, but he has been speaking quite sensibly in public forums. He is also an intelligent and competent guy. And the fact that he could come in as a civilian might change things considerably regarding his internal allegiances and outlook. As Anil says, he seems to be the only bet.

    • Anjum Altaf
      Posted at 19:47h, 10 January

      Arun: Looks like you folks might be willing to swap him for Manmohan Singh!

  • Arun Pillai
    Posted at 19:50h, 10 January Reply

    Very funny! But no way. My only complaint with Manmohan Singh is that he has been too weak.

    • Anjum Altaf
      Posted at 20:08h, 10 January

      Arun: Why not? Decisive, competent, no-nonsense, open-minded, nation-builder, not fooled by Western platitudes – what more could you want? Any one standing in the way won’t know what hit them – probably a rocket. Will train and send guerillas into neighboring countries to teach them a lesson. Will sack the Chief Justice if he fails to do the bidding. Will tell the Washington Post women get raped to get foreign visas. Will really put India on the map. Think again, you can have him for free – presently unemployed.

  • Vijay
    Posted at 20:19h, 10 January Reply

    Looks like Anjum isn’t playing ball today 🙂

    • Anjum Altaf
      Posted at 21:13h, 10 January

      Not on this one, mate. We have had four of these men of vision and political will with their “I know best” mantras. Even fooled Samuel Huntington for a while.

  • Hasan
    Posted at 03:13h, 11 January Reply

    Anjum, would you want to elaborate a little on the “juncture” at which we stand today. How do you analyze it?

    • Anjum Altaf
      Posted at 14:24h, 11 January

      Hasan: In the context of this post, the juncture can be characterized as one marked by the death of reason. The set of issues that are off the table and on which there can be no discussion has increased to the point that intellectual discourse is endangered. In fact, one can not even talk about identifying the issues that one cannot talk about. Without a discourse that can be conducted in an environment free of fear, no compromises are possible; issues would increasingly be settled by intimidation or elimination. And, if that is the case, then you know which way the tide is running. When the side unwilling to argue using reason is swelled by college graduates and by lawyers (who, ironically, are trained to argue using reason and evidence), the writing should be clear on the wall. This cohort is now in its twenties and thirties; within ten years it would be in positions of leadership in the country. A new equilibrium would be established at that time in which some people would not have a place.

  • Hasan
    Posted at 04:28h, 17 January Reply

    Anjum, I completely agree with you. The short paragraph you have written sums up a lot. I don’t know what to do about the jitters in my spine. But this cohort cannot sustainably lead a country in today’s modern world; they will self-destruct. Don’t you think so too?

    • Anjum Altaf
      Posted at 16:08h, 17 January

      Hasan: There is a distinction between inability to lead a country in the modern world and self-destruction. I agree on the former but am not so sure on the latter. When we think of the really anarchic basket cases the names that come to mind, rightly or wrongly, are those of Sudan and Somalia. These have been muddling along at the bottom for quite some time. There is no reason that Pakistan won’t do the same unless there is foreign intervention because of its strategic location.

    • Hasan
      Posted at 02:47h, 18 January

      The basket case scenario is sort of what I mean by self-destruct. If Pakistan is reduced to a “basket case” this cohort is also reduced to the same. My view is that in doing what they are doing, they are ultimately destroying themselves. Their view of the world cannot prevail in modern times. Either they destroy themselves and the country with it and it stays dead or if there is some luck, there might be a “re-birth” after some sort of catastrophe.

    • Anjum Altaf
      Posted at 14:25h, 18 January

      Hasan: You have to look at it from the perspective of that cohort. They may not be interested in integrating into the world; recreating the golden era of Islam might be the highest priority. What might appear to you as a basket case might to them be the pinnacle of achievement. Iran can be considered an example of this phenomenon if you wish to stay with Islam; otherwise one can cast a sobering glance at Burma and North Korea.

      One must mention, in all fairness, that the responsibility of actually turning Pakistan into a basket case rests squarely on the shoulders of the cohort that you fear less.

  • Hasan
    Posted at 02:18h, 20 January Reply

    I do agree that those who appear to be “enlightened” have a big role in reducing Pakistan to its existing state of affairs. Would you say that Iran is a basket case?

    • Anjum Altaf
      Posted at 03:20h, 20 January

      Hasan: Iran is not a basket case in economic terms because it has a lot of natural wealth. But it is ruled by a set that has little interest in being part of the world and has not self-destructed because of the isolation. It has survived for a long time. The new Pakistan could follow the same pattern.

      By the way, I wouldn’t debase the term ‘enlightened’ by using it for these characters. Let’s just call them the sans beards.

  • Hasan
    Posted at 01:52h, 22 January Reply

    I wonder if the new Pakistan could survive like Iran. It does not have the same natural resources, is more heterogenous, and does not have a long-standing national identity like Iran does. I also would guess that in 1979 when the Iranian revolution took place, it was easier to undo the foreign levers of power that were entrenched in Iran. It would be very difficult for anyone in Pakistan to do that nowadays without an outright conflict that Pakistan could survive.

    The thought of an inappropriate use of the word “enlightened” did cross my mind…therefore I worded it as “appear to be enlightened.”

    • Anjum Altaf
      Posted at 13:08h, 22 January

      Hasan: In that case we are back to the Sudan/Somalia model. They have survived for considerable time in a condition of anarchy. Now, finally, Southern Sudan is separating. Perhaps, we will see a similar process of fragmentation in Pakistan after a period of anarchy. The external powers might also favor that solution.

      I noted your wording but I was averse to conceding even the appearance of enlightenment. Just a case of strong feelings, I guess.

  • Hasan
    Posted at 23:49h, 22 January Reply

    That is my point. The Sudan/Somalia model is not really survival. If as you say, the cohort that is ostensibly to be “feared less” is heavily responsibly for reducing Pakistan to its state of affairs; and the cohort that is ostensibly to be “feared more” is certainly adding to the mayhem, then there is no one to untangle a mess that is getting more tangled all the time. Forget progress, I can’t see how the country can slow the decline. I wonder if one should think about a new Pakistan arising out of a sort of “rebirth” from anarchy; a real revolution creating a new society and government that is progressive and integrated with the modern world. Is that just a fantastic delusion?

    • Anjum Altaf
      Posted at 03:29h, 23 January

      Hasan: Miracles are always possible but just looking at the hard evidence one would have to say it is a fantastic delusion. In which set of actors do you see the potential to lead a progressive movement integrated with the modern world? The sabotage of education has snuffed out that prospect.

      When you say that Sudan/Somalia is not really survival you have to specify survival for whom? Suppose a Taliban-like group takes over. They need nothing from the external world and they would drive out those that do if the latter do not flee on their own – not for nothing do all the present-day leaders have their abodes and capital assets abroad; they only retain their running expenses in local currency. The new ruling group would be able to survive in an Afghanistan-like environment if they are left to themselves. Of course, the more likely scenario is neither this nor a real revolution. Rather, it is one in which Pakistan would fragment and independent countries would start the cycle afresh.

  • Anil Kala
    Posted at 05:14h, 23 January Reply

    I think you two together (Anjum & Hasan) are presenting a too pessimistic picture of Pakistan. First of all Pakistan is not Sudan or Somalia in nature of its constituents. It has a culture going back five thousand years. Second, you ignore power of a maverick leader and also that people react to possibilities. In a hopeless situation, the reaction of people to change may be very dramatic that is why revolutions occur with the help of common folks.

    My view is that situation will get worse and then something very dramatic will change the face of Pakistan.

    • Anjum Altaf
      Posted at 16:41h, 23 January

      Anil: As I have said, a miracle is always possible but looking at the evidence one can’t be optimistic. One aspect to keep in mind is the moment in history. Almost every possible leadership has had its turn and failed or been rejected – the feudal elite, the Westernized modernizers, the military strongmen, the democratic socialists, the hardline left. The only ones left untried are the religious forces and in desperation the people are turning to them in the hope of justice and relief. If you look at the Pakistani landscape the maverick leader looks like Sufi Mohammed or Baitullah Mehsud.

      In my view, if a revolution does occur it would be a theocracy led by someone like Mullah Omar aided by a militant jihadism of the type associated with Bin Laden. But, I really don’t think it would come to that. The way things look to me, Pakistan would fragment before that stage is reached and each part would go its separate way. In the long run that may not be a bad outcome (after all, Bangladesh is better off as a country by itself than to be hitched to a suicidal Pakistan) as long as the separation is not as bloody and tragic as the first partition of the subcontinent.

    • Anil Kala
      Posted at 05:35h, 24 January

      No, not Baitullah Masud or Sufi Mohammed. At core people are practical, desert fake leaders as quickly as they accept them. All it needs is desperate situation and someone who shows them an alternative which in their perception makes sense. At the moment situation isn’t as desperate as you make it, after all most are getting their two meals and most are not threatened extermination. Sure the drift is towards anarchy but that tipping point has not reached yet. Pakistan will never end up as Somalia/Sudan, these people have seen better times they will not tolerate chaos for long.

    • Anjum Altaf
      Posted at 15:45h, 24 January

      Anil: You are more hopeful than I am. Zia ul Haq was a fake leader, as fake as they come. Yet, people did not desert him – he died in power. Equally great civilizations like Egypt get stuck with fake leaders for decades. The latter half of the Mughal dynasty was over a century and half of anarchy and people tolerated it even though they had seen much better times in the earlier half of the empire.

      You have to articulate what makes sense in the perception of the people of Pakistan at this time and what kind of leader appeals to them. Of course, there are different groups within the country but their relative strengths are very different and getting more lopsided with every passing day. Simply by a process of elimination you can arrive at the kind of leadership that would be able to energize the emotions of the population.

  • Hasan
    Posted at 04:50h, 24 January Reply

    Your fragmentation scenario is exactly what I am saying – self-destruction. And your independent states restarting the cycle afresh is exactly what I mean by “re-birth.” Call it a revolution or neither this nor that – the result is the same, a crushing grind on the helpless masses. A systemic failure leading to a new system.

    I don’t know whether to hope it happens soon or to hope it never happens. For the Westernized transplants or the brutish mullahs – how could they let there be such a heavy human cost? Are they both just different versions of the same malaise?

    • Anjum Altaf
      Posted at 15:29h, 24 January

      Hasan: In that case our perceptions are very similar. I am afraid the helpless masses are in for a rough time. In my view, having it happen soon would be better because that at least would promise a hope for change and competition amongst the new units might lead to a better future for all. At least, the stupidity of one need not necessarily sink all. Think back – why did Bengal have to suffer for Punjab’s obsession with Kashmir? Imagine Balochistan on its own with its small population and large natural resources – could it not be like one of the Gulf states? And, yes they are just versions of the same malaise because they are only concerned with devouring the carcass – they just attack it from different angles.

  • Hasan
    Posted at 05:14h, 24 January Reply

    Anil: They say it is darkest before dawn; that nothing can stop an idea whose time has come. The right time and right place will create the right leader. One can hope it happens. Sadly, it might not also. The truth is that none of this is a plan or a strategy. Pakistan needs a strategy. After a while, when an individual, a family, a company, a country, or even a civilization has strayed so far from its desired course, that it becomes just too much to change direction to get back on track. Right now, forget the effort to get back on track, Pakistan is being pushed off the track. The people who can do something are in an abysmal minority.

  • Arun Pillai
    Posted at 17:27h, 24 January Reply

    This discussion sounds very bleak but, who knows, maybe if these things come to pass, it will be for the best eventually. I am reminded of a quote of Woody Allen’s: “More than any time in history mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. Let us pray that we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 02:58h, 25 January

      Arun: Woody Allen is a very clever man; he always has an ace up his sleeve. When one gets to a crossroad, there are always three paths to choose from. Woody has kept one in hand. Let’s hope Pakistan stumbles on the third one. Yogi Berra, on the other hand, was much more straightforward but he was not given to existential angst: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

    • Hasan
      Posted at 03:50h, 25 January

      I wonder if Woody Allen ever knew of suicide bombers who choose extinction. What about the ‘wisdom’ of those who trained them. What happens when the prevailing wisdom being taught is martyrdom. What happens when to be wise is to be confined to religious texts. The choice of that wisdom is being played in Pakistan.

  • hmani
    Posted at 00:55h, 07 March Reply

    Musharraf had 10 full year to something,he screwed it worse than Zia and all the Bhuttoes, for pete sake give it up. He comes to American T.V. and says things(like Benazir did) so that USA will be suckerd into another 10 years in wilderness, USA wants a way out ,you heard story of one kerala Nair who accidendly got hold of a tiger tail, he died holding the tail,could not let go of it.for fear of being eaten alive.I f you want me to give you one reason why Pakistan is fast becoming a failed state is-Its unremitting,unrelentting irrational hatred for India and blind love for Arabic Islamic values. Both are unreal and taking it down monarchy, being disowned finally by USA will finally do Pakistan In, I will shed tears for it when it was founded by M.A. Jinnah, he had great vision for it. Your remark it took 150 years finally to do in Mugal empire was apt, but it won’t take that long for Pakistan, it has been already 63 years, already too long. It was born in great hope, but going the way somalia, the sadness is it will cause terrible upheaval in India, which does not bode well for Indians, that is sad.

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