Monday, August 2, 2010

No Vigils for Pakistan

It really has been a terrible week for Pakistan: terrorist attacks, floods, damning leaked documents, a plane crash, unrelenting violence in Karachi and damaging diplomacy from Cameron in India to boot.

Out of any number of talking points resulting from these events, I’ll choose three:

1. Extraordinary Misfortune
These really are strange times for Pakistanis when even the rains are against us. Eagerly awaited monsoons have overstayed their welcome, washing away villages already hit by vicious acts of terror. Malakand, amongst other northwest districts, has borne the brunt of the devastation. There is widespread displacement and impending spread of disease as the government and military begin a recovery effort hampered by an underperforming economy and overstretched institutions.

The plane crash, in its own right, has left the country in shock. For a relatively new aircraft, flown by an experienced ex-PIA pilot, to crash into Margalla was unprecedented. It’s a tragic end for the 152 passengers, which included promising members of the Youth Parliament, in Pakistan’s worst-ever plane crash – the first since the Multan Fokker accident and the most devastating since the Zia explosion.

2. Pakistan’s Deteriorating Image
There will be no candlelight vigils across college campuses for the crash victims or the 1000+ washed away – and countless displaced – in one of the worst natural disasters in the country’s history. Nor will there be a moment of silence for Pakistanis, those vile exporters of terror.

Cameron’s diplomatically incorrect comments and the Wikileaks ‘revelations’ have only served to compound the international public’s fear of the Pakistani connection. Indeed, the country is vilified to an irrational extent – NYT’s Tom Friedman proclaims that Pakistan's “double game goes back to 9/11. That terrorist attack was basically planned, executed and funded by radical Pakistanis and Saudis.” Five Rupees has a response here.

Fortunately, though, there are voices lending sanity to the discourse. David Miliband calls Cameron a “cuttlefish spurting out ink” in his piece in The Independent. Jawed Naqvi, meanwhile, has a counterpoint in Dawn, where he contrasts Cameron with Kaiser Wilhelm of Prussia. Mosharraf Zaidi, on the other hand, has a great column in The News on the Wikileaks incident.

3. Finally, a note for Mian Iftikhar Hussain – the man who’s come closest to mirroring Pakistan’s plight. An outspoken critic of the Taliban and militant groups, Mian Iftikhar lost his son in a terrible assassination and was then targeted by a suicide bomber in the subsequent funeral. Now, as the KP Information Minister, he’s had little time to recover as he seeks to mobilize support for flood victims and the devastated region.

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