Watching Cairo from Kabul and Karachi - Asia Society

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Watching Cairo from Kabul and Karachi

Hassan Abbas, Asia Society, Feb 7, 2011

The spectacular developments in Egypt are being projected and interpreted in Asia in a variety of ways. By and large, authoritarian and dictatorial regimes are downplaying the message emanating from the courageous people struggling at Cairo's Tahrir (Liberation) Square, whereas democratic states are generally supportive of the anti-Mubarak movement.

Intriguingly, Afghan media have been sparing in their coverage of the remarkable series of protests in Egypt. Reasons range from a lack of public interest to concerns for stability. Apparently, it also suits the Karzai government that Afghans should remain unaware of this news. However, it is likely that the news about Egypt and Tunisia (even though it will reach a larger audience a bit belatedly) will ultimately influence Afghan politics in a positive way.

The situation is somewhat different in Pakistan, where the media are more vibrant and assertive. Although Pakistan had its own version of a "liberation movement" in 2007-08 leading to a comparatively independent judiciary and return of democratic order, ordinary people are still feeling frustrated and are anxious for change. Many Pakistanis, as evident from comments on Facebook and Twitter as well as local media, are yearning for a similar display of people's power in Pakistan as economic crisis, unemployment, and state incompetence (apparent through poor governance) are hugely distressing.

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