Thursday, July 13, 2006

Some more on our neighbour

The Economist's survey seems to suggest that Pakistan is a perfect example of a country divided against itself. Its rulers prey on the citizens

The civilian elite, including a select group of English-speaking landowners and industrialists, whinge about this (Rajeev:the Army's power), but few seriously object. Living enchanted tax-free lives (Rajeev: the magazine states elsewhere that there are just 2 million tax-payers), under tight security, the rich have been courted by successive military and civilian rulers; landowners are especially prized for their ability to deliver the rural vote. Some 7% of the landowners hold over 40% of Sindh's land. Most invest little and squeeze their peasant share-croppers cruelly. A landowner in Sindh's interior told your correspondent that he would not provide his villagers with gas for cooking—though it could be had free from a local pumping-station—because he enjoyed a char-grillled meal on occasional visits to his lands.

and do their best to prevent any development that could threaten their position

Nor do all of Mr Musharraf's political allies actually want their compatriots to be educated. One minister, a rising star, was recently overheard vowing to stop any school being built on his land in Punjab; he feared that bookish serfs might demand a decent wage.

and fail to provide even the basics of civilization, so that even the cities are no refuge for the desperate

In the cities, and especially in Karachi, there is not much in the way of law and order. The rich can shield themselves from bother, by buying private security or favours from policemen, but their workers cannot.

and the common people then turn to Islamist extermists who wage war on the elite.

The second explanation for General Musharraf's half-measures is that he is afraid of the extremist groups. There may be only a few thousand active militants, but their potential support is much greater. The biggest jihadi newspapers, including several banned under different names, have print-runs of up to 100,000. Islamic extremists are the only political force in Pakistan easily able to rally a crowd. On February 14th, after JUD's Mr Saeed denounced cartoons of the Prophet published in a Danish newspaper, a mob rampaged through Lahore, burning hundreds of cars and foreign businesses as well as the Punjab provincial assembly.

Some of the differences with (parts of) India are of degree, not kind, but what a degree!

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