Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Project Syndicate's View of Pakistan

Pakistan’s Mubarak Moment

Shahid Javed Burki

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan’s domestic situation is becoming increasingly precarious. Indeed, serious questions are now being raised as to whether the country can survive in its present form.
Such questions stem from a growing fear that Islamist groups might once again make a serious bid to capture the levers of power in the country. If that is not possible because of the presence of a large and disciplined military, the Islamists might attempt to carve out some space for themselves in which to establish a separate system of governance more fully aligned with what they view as the principles of Islam.
Islamist groups’ previous attempt to create such a space was successfully countered by the military in 2009, when it drove insurgent forces from the sensitive district of Swat and the tribal agency of South Waziristan.
Today, however, Pakistan’s military may not be prepared to act with the force and conviction it showed last time. Its resolve to counter the Islamists’ growing influence has been weakened by two unfortunate events: the recent assassination of Salman Tasser, the governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, and the deaths last month of two young men allegedly at the hands of an American official named Raymond Davis.
Taseer’s murder led to large public displays of support for the alleged assassin on the grounds that he had taken the life of a politician who had questioned the content of the “Hudood ordinances.” These laws, originally promulgated by the British in colonial India and made more draconian by a succession of Pakistani administrations, make any comment considered to be disrespectful toward Islam or the Prophet Muhammad an offense punishable by death.

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