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Friday, October 05, 2007

Pakistan at Sixty - Tariq Ali

Back in the heart of Pakistan the most difficult and explosive issue remains social and economic inequality. This is not unrelated to the increase in the number of madrassas. If there were a half-decent state education system, poor families might not feel the need to hand over a son or daughter to the clerics in the hope that at least one child will be clothed, fed and educated. Were there even the semblance of a health system many would be saved from illnesses contracted as a result of fatigue and poverty. No government since 1947 has done much to reduce inequality. The notion that the soon-to-return Benazir Bhutto, perched on Musharraf’s shoulder, equals progress is as risible as Nawaz Sharif imagining that millions of people would turn out to receive him when he arrived at Islamabad airport last month. A general election is due later this year. If it is as comprehensively rigged as the last one was, the result will be increased alienation from the political process. The outlook is bleak. There is no serious political alternative to military rule.

I spent my last day in Karachi with fishermen in a village near Korangi creek. Shortcut Aziz has signed away the mangroves where shellfish and lobsters flourish, and land is being reclaimed to build Diamond City, Sugar City and other monstrosities on the Gulf model. The fishermen have been campaigning against these encroachments, but with little success. ‘We need a tsunami,’ one of them half-joked. We talked about their living conditions. ‘All we dream of is schools for our children, medicines and clinics in our villages, clean water and electricity in our homes,’ one woman said. ‘Is that too much to ask for?’ Nobody even mentioned religion.

[for the full essay click on the heading]

[thanks tbs for the link]


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