Pakistan: Beyond Gloom and Doom

OPINION: Beyond gloom and doom — Saleem H Ali
Daily Times, March 27, 2009

To use the dominance of a few thousand militants in a narrow valley as somehow suggestive of a larger movement towards Talibanisation of the whole of Pakistan is preposterous. I am not saying this out of crass patriotism or starry-eyed optimism but rather after a deliberate analysis of historical precedent

On March 23, 2009, the day Pakistanis were commemorating sixty-nine years of the resolution that gave birth to the idea of an Islamic state on the subcontinent, a jihadist suicide bomber struck in the heart of Islamabad near Sitara Market. At that moment, I was sitting in a hotel in Muscat, flipping through the news channels from Sky News to BBC to CNN to Al Jazeera, and was alarmed to find immediate live coverage of the incident and commentary that suggested that the country was about to fall to the Taliban.

All the channels also featured long documentary pieces on the rule of Maulana Fazlullah and his minions in Swat, with a note of foreboding that the valley was only a hundred miles from Islamabad. Video images were then shown of how drug dealers were being flogged in public. Polished English reporters winced at the sight of the criminals in pain.

No doubt corporal punishment is disturbing but most Pakistanis are not cheerleading for the Taliban either. However, what is most surprising is that the same kind of punishments which the Taliban are carrying out in Swat have been practiced for years in some of the West’s closest allies like Saudi Arabia and not a tear is shed on that since they are well-shielded by greater geostrategic interests.

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