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Friday, May 22, 2009

Pakistan Is Not in Any Way on the Verge of a Theocratic Coup

Times are bleak for the state of Pakistan, if the international media is to be believed. Since April, the world’s newspapers have charted the apparently unstoppable march of the Taliban toward Islamabad — with daily reminders that their forces are “only 100 miles” and then “only 80 miles” and then “only 60 miles” from the capital. That Pakistan is a “failed state” or “on the brink” no longer even requires elaboration: it is the universal consensus among pundits and “area experts” alike.

News articles have begun to game out the fall of the regime: The New York Times, hardly alone in its hyperventilating, ran two stories in as many weeks about America courting the opposition leader Nawaz Sharif as a replacement for Asif Ali Zardari’s government. The counterinsurgency guru David Kilcullen, a former adviser to U.S. General David Petraeus, has suggested that the state could fail within six months, while Petraeus himself warns that the coming weeks will be decisive, and that the army may have to return to power to prevent a total collapse.

The monotonous drone of “failure” implies that the fragile democracy currently in place is not worth preserving. It encourages the marginalization of the civilian government and boosts the claims of both the military and the militants. Pakistan’s salvation has never been and will never be in the military’s hands. The country’s future lies with the millions of Pakistanis who are working to sustain democracy — and what must be defended is their resilience and strength, to prevent the self-fulfilling prophecies of failure.


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