Pakistan: A Hard Country by Anatol Lieven

  • If you want to overthrow and capture a state, you need either a mass movement on city streets that seizes institutions, or a guerrilla movement in the countryside that seizes territory, or a revolt of the junior ranks of the military, or some combination of all three. No movement relying chiefly on terrorism has ever overthrown a state. The
  • A fundamental political fact about Pakistan is that the state, whoever claims to lead it, is weak, and society in its various forms is immensely strong
  • So the nature of Pakistan as a ‘negotiated state’, in which authority is a matter of negotiation, compromise, pressure and violence, not formal rules, is exemplified by the area of law and justice.
  • Pakistan works at one level which is informal. You could call it the informal moral economy, which keeps hitting back against the elites. Attitudes to the law are part of this … One thing that ordinary people here fault the state’s Anglo-Saxon legal system for is that there is no compensation. Yes, they say, the law has hanged my brother’s killer, but now who is to support my dead brother’s family – who by the way have ruined themselves bribing the legal system to get the killer punished? Both the traditional justice systems and the Shariah are all about mediation and compensation, which is an important part of their appeal for ordinary people.
  • “May God save even my worst enemy from disease and a court case,” as a Punjabi saying has itpakistan-a-hard-country-by-anatol-lieven
  • In this busy throng, by far the most exotic sight was the lawyers, who were all dressed in their uniforms of black jackets, white shirts and dark ties, on a day when the temperature in Karachi touched 45° centigrade – like penguins in hell
  • Elitism is one of the curses of Pakistan’s official judicial system, but also the source of whatever progressive elements it contains
  • the campaign for the Shariah is not so much about the content of the law as about popular access to the law, the speed of the law, and who gets to enforce the law.
  • Political violence aside, most of Pakistan is not in fact very violent or crime-ridden by the standards of many US cities, let alone those of Mexico or Brazil. In fact, given levels of poverty, the level of ordinary crime (as opposed to crime stemming from politics, religion or ‘honour’) is in many ways remarkably low.
  • charitable donation, at almost 5 per cent of GDP, is one of the highest rates in the world.
  • There is no sight in Pakistan more moving than to visit some dusty, impoverished small town in an arid wasteland, apparently abandoned by God and all sensible men and certainly abandoned by the Pakistani state and its own elected representatives – and to see the flag of the Edhi Foundation flying over a concrete shack with a telephone, and the only ambulance in town standing in front. Here, if anywhere in Pakistan, lies the truth of human religion and human morality.
  • Most forms of Pakistani Islam for their part are traditional and conservative – far too conservative to support a revolution, and far too diverse to submit themselves to a monolithic version of Islam
  • adherence to a radical Islamist network like the Jamaat provides a sense of cultural security, a new community and some degree of social support – modest, but still better than anything the state can provide. Poverty is recast as religious simplicity and austerity
  • Sufism and Sufi shrines play a very important role against this, by bridging Sunni and Shia
  • pacific moderation has led to a US strategy of supporting Islamist Sufis in the Muslim world against radicals – whereas in reality a more helpful strategy in the ‘war on terror’ might be to use the FBI to support American Methodists against American Pentecostals
  • Pakistani military almost has a new variant of an old British army adage (about marriage): lieutenants need not speak very good English; captains may; majors should; colonels must.
  • It would be hard to find a more different set of men than Generals Ayub, Yahya, Zia, Musharraf, Beg, Karamat and Kayani in terms of their social origins, personal characters and attitudes to religion. Yet all have been first and foremost military men.
  • and if the US ever put Pakistani soldiers in a position where they felt that honour and patriotism required them to fight America, many would be very glad to do so.
  • This does not mean that the ISI knows where Osama bin Laden (if he is indeed still alive), Aiman al-Zawahiri and other Al Qaeda leaders are hiding. It does, however, suggest that they could probably do a good deal more to find out.
  • The pattern has worked like this. Every new Pakistani government comes to power making two sets of promises, one general, one specific. The general promises are to the population, and are of higher living standards, more jobs, better education and health services, and so on. The specific promises are to smaller parties and to individual politicians, who are offered individual favours to themselves, their families or their districts in return for their political support.
  • Dishonesty can be like flour in salt or salt in flour. It’s a question of the proportion
  • So one of the biggest factors holding Pakistan together is fear.
  • Rather, therefore, than an early disintegration, the greatest threat would once again seem to be that long-term ecological degradation – especially in the area of water resources – will over time so increase tensions between different regions, and so reduce the ability of the regional elites to contain these tensions, that national government becomes unworkable. By this stage the situation may have become so bad that effective provincial government will also be unworkable.
  • As usual, Pakistan is stumbling along, worse in some ways, better in others.
  • Like so many colonial creations, Quetta sometimes seems like a ship moored to the land on which it sits, rather than growing from it

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