Wake up, Pakistan!

Published: October 15, 2012
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The writer is a London-based lawyer and tweets @ayeshaijazkhan

The writer is a London-based lawyer and tweets @ayeshaijazkhan

The brutal attack on Malala Yousafzai by the TTP and the subsequent claim by its spokesman that she would be attacked again if she survived should leave no doubt in anyone’s mind as to what Pakistan’s number one problem and biggest obstacle to progress is. Any activist, politician or religious leader who dares to speak out against this barbaric and regressive ideology is immediately labelled “an agent of the West” and thus fair game to eliminate. Whether the person in question has spent time in the West, as in the case of Benazir Bhutto, or not — as in the case of Malala — is quite irrelevant. What is relevant is that these thugs want to take over the state and will use fear to do it as they do not have an ideology that could appeal to voters. They use religion as an excuse though they equally target those who understand religion far better than they do, such as the eminent Javed Ghamidi, who had to leave Pakistan due to threats for his rational and enlightened interpretations of religion.

It is time now to wake up. Malala does not need offers of financial assistance to pay her medical expenses from the government or opposition leaders. There are plenty of private sources who would be more than willing to do that. What the government and opposition need to do is to name, condemn and act against these monsters. There can be no more state patronage of such forces, whether by the military or the bureaucracy. There must be zero tolerance for labelling people as “slaves/agents of the West” or “anti-state or religion” in the media as this creates the environment which emboldens such people to act. And the civilian government, too, must realise that unless it delivers basic necessities to the people, it will continue to be demonised and the necessary mass required for this collective action will be difficult to gather. What we have seen thus far has been a pathetic display of warped priorities from nearly every institution of state and I would like to address these in turn.

Let’s begin with the military. As the most powerful institution of state, it has not only consumed the lion’s share of our resources but has also relied heavily on US aid to build itself. Of the $30 billion Pakistan has received in US aid since 1948, half has gone to the military. Pakistan had legitimate security concerns and needed a strong army. Therefore, if it used US aid to build its army, there is nothing wrong with that. But what is wrong is the misinformation spread by military mouthpieces and particularly by those politicians backed by the army. In the early 1990s, this role was played by Nawaz Sharif and today it is played by Imran Khan. The military seems to have a strategy to discredit civilian governments by labelling them as “sell-outs” and too close to America. Yet, the reality is that Pakistan has been far more closely allied with the US during military dictatorships than during civilian rule. So what is the hoopla about? The same approach is used on the drone issue. Having provided the US with bases to operate the drones from, the military is now making all the anti-drone noises through its preferred politician. For its part, the civilian government is too weak, too incompetent and perhaps, increasingly too unpopular to explain the reality to the people. As a result, confusion abounds regarding sovereignty and whether or not it is our war. When this clash occurs between two key institutions of state, the military and the civilian government, the terrorists benefit.

Yet, the military and the civilian government are not the only ones clashing. There is a clash equally between the judiciary and the executive. After General (retd) Pervez Musharraf deposed a sitting chief justice and a lawyers’ movement eventually led to the restoration of democracy, it was most unbecoming of President Asif Ali Zardari to go back on his word to restore the chief justice. Dilly-dallying on that issue not only alienated the PML-N that was willing to work together with the PPP after the euphoric return to democracy, but precious time was lost battling the judiciary instead of terrorism. By the time the judiciary was finally restored, President Zardari had sidelined some of the most competent members of his party in favour of those who had given him bad advice. The judiciary, too, for its part, seems to have held that delay against the president and contrary to high expectations of those of us who supported the movement for the establishment of a just and impartial Court, it appears often that we may only have gotten a petty populist one.

This clash between the executive and judiciary has kept the country fixated on most superfluous matters. While the Court has pursued the matter of the Swiss letter at the expense of many other more pressing concerns, the PPP government has also remained defiant and refused to cooperate such that the country can move on. While jailbreaks releasing terrorists in Bannu or Shias killed in Quetta remain low priorities for the judiciary to intervene, purging the handful of dual nationals in parliament seems to be high on the to-do list. Resources are disproportionately expended on picking easy targets which have no net positive effect on Pakistan, while more pressing concerns remain unattended. The Election Commission of Pakistan, for instance, equally zealous to disempower dual nationals, takes a cowardly line on empowering women and acquiesces to constituency politicians from areas where women are denied the right to vote.

Priorities are so skewed in terms of what is important and what is not. While both the judiciary and the bureaucracy remain soft on the question of terrorism, the PPP core has its bearings in the right place when it comes to terrorists. Surely, both the ANP and PPP have suffered the loss of party workers and leaders to this fight, too. But, unless people are at least given basic security, electricity and water, it is difficult to expect them to support the government. Instead, resentment grows when politicians from the ruling coalition travel in SUVs blocking roads en route to palatial homes, all the while paying a pittance in taxes. Unfortunately, those in the opposition don’t offer better alternatives. If they can’t even appropriately acknowledge Pakistan’s most fundamental problem, how will they ever fix it?

Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (38)

  • Oct 15, 2012 - 11:28PM

    The political will to take on extremists by horn is missing in all parties ruling coalition and opposition alike

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  • wallis
    Oct 15, 2012 - 11:59PM

    This author has written an article about Malaia, just see how active this media is about Malaia, even the govt has shown its concern over malaila, although so much is happening in Pakistan, their were other girls with malaila who got injured but the media is not talking about them.

    Where was this same govt and media when Arifa Kareem the youngest Microsoft Professional was in the hospital?

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  • Parvez
    Oct 16, 2012 - 12:10AM

    Very well put.
    The British put China to sleep with opium and they were advised never to allow them awake, but history has its own rules.
    We with the aid of our enemies ( ? ) have put our-self to sleep with something that goes under the name of religion. Let us hope history also comes to our aid.

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  • GogglesWalaJinn
    Oct 16, 2012 - 12:33AM

    Madam, if Pakistan does not wake up now, it will go in deep coma.

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  • gp65
    Oct 16, 2012 - 12:45AM

    Ms. Khan,

    Malala’s courage is exemplary and if the mindset in the country was not that we should kill people who we disagree with and who offend us, Malala would be safe today.

    This brings me to your last OpEd where you were arguing for the need to restrict free speech in a way that no-one is offended. Well Malala’s free speech DID offend the Taliban who feel it is kufr for young girls to get scientific (as distinct from madrassah education). You also said that any speech that offended someone’s religious feelings should be classified as hate speech. Would you then say going by your own logic that Malala was using hate speech (since clearly Taliban’s religious feelings were offended) and it was Malala’s fault for offending the Taliban?

    See the slippery slope you can end up on if you restrict someone’s speech just because you are offended? Someone will turn around and restrict your speech because they are offended.

    I hope Ma’m that you will take this into consideration, the next time you try to justify muzzling people you disagree with.

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  • Nagri
    Oct 16, 2012 - 1:31AM

    Excellent article. Love you

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  • Hasan
    Oct 16, 2012 - 2:18AM

    excellent article…under political rule, pak has always better policies and foreign alignment. Our score target should be these agencies and establishment that has poisoned the country with false propaganda from within. Shameful.

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  • gp65
    Oct 16, 2012 - 2:20AM

    @wallis: “Where was this same govt and media when Arifa Kareem the youngest Microsoft Professional was in the hospital?”

    Malala was an activist fearlessly speaking up for the right to education for other women. She was shot by Taliban precisely for that reason. How do you compare her with Arifa Kareem who though brilliant did not speak up on behalf of others nor was targeted because of that? In any case, what is your point? That the gruesome attack on Malala should be ignored because Arifa succumbed to cancer due to no-one’s fault?

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  • Mirza
    Oct 16, 2012 - 2:30AM

    A nice Op Ed, balanced and factual. The problem is clear. There is no unanimity among the ruling coalition, army, judiciary, rightwing parties and mullahs. Every institution wants the coalition govt to fall and fanatic terrorists are their soldiers to kill PPP and ANP leaders. Unless these rightwing supporters realize that Pakistan is more imp for them than personal agenda, nothing good can happen. All the institutions must come out in the open and state their stand against these brutal terrorists. Pakistanis have to use common sense that who is with the terrorists and who is the victim of terror. Why is it that all leaders which have been murdered belong to progressive parties not the rightwing parties?

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  • Majid
    Oct 16, 2012 - 2:39AM

    This is true. It was biggest mistake of all done by Zardari against Pakistan’s stability to alienate PMLN which was ready to work with PPP by refusing to restore justice. If PMLN had been in the govt together with PPP, things could have been different for Pakistan. Nobody knows how badly I had wished for PMLN to not to leave govt :(

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  • d
    Oct 16, 2012 - 3:02AM

    i just watched Sheikh Rashid defending the taliban on cnbc. it was as if i was witnessing a father defending his own son for causing an accident while drunk driving. our political parties realy need to start internal dialogue to establish where they want to go from here. they’re not taking this seriously.Recommend

  • Tahir Ali
    Oct 16, 2012 - 3:52AM

    We can keep on blaming our military, politicians, judiciary and the people for lack of will and failing to defeat the militants. Even in this piece, the author has attributed this failure to institutional clashes and military, as always, has been portrayed as the biggest evil. My simple question is, while everything is wrong with us, why have the US / ISAF forces, with most sophisticated weaponry, been unable to defeat the Taliban even after a lapse of 11 years?
    According to the author, “Of the $30 billion Pakistan has received in US aid since 1948, half has gone to the military”. Admitted but if that is the gauge, USA has spent over US$500 billion in last 11 years, yet failed.
    Despite this major failure, the Americans and their so called writers never ridicule and taunt their forces the way we do, despite the fact that over 4000 soldiers / officers have laid down their lives while fighting the terrorists. If this evil is to be eliminated, the people must support the military or face the consequences. This is a wake-up call.

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  • imran
    Oct 16, 2012 - 4:22AM

    @d i saw that programe too what he said is thruth which is hard to diegest people like u u have to talk with them at some point ,otharwise this war will never end and m and u talking same thing after 10 years

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  • imran
    Oct 16, 2012 - 4:26AM

    @majid which world u liv must not be palnet earth ?ur logic is laughable nothing more

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  • F
    Oct 16, 2012 - 5:45AM

    Wouldn’t want to know what you are capable of if awake! At least we know who you are asleep.

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  • Shahbaz Asif Tahir
    Oct 16, 2012 - 6:02AM

    TTP is a group of criminals, who are being trained in Indian embassies,
    in Afghanistan, and then being sent to create disruption, chaos, in Pakistan.
    They have nothing to do with the Taliban, who are in Afghanistan. The TTP is
    being trained and funded by the enemies of Pakistan, to cause the type of brutalities
    as discussed in the article.
    Javed Ghamdi is not a scholar. He is a deviant, who has caused harm and
    confusion to the youth of Pakistan. His aqidah, on several essential aspects of Islam,
    have caused several scholars of the highest eminence to reject his views. Those who
    have spoken against him, are Dr Israr Ahmad (RA), and Mufti Taqi Usmani. His ideas
    point out to his lack of understanding of Arabic language. His ideas are appreciated
    by the secular, mindset with limited credentials and understanding of Islam.

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  • Raw is War
    Oct 16, 2012 - 7:45AM

    @ Shahbaz Asif Tahir

    you r daydreaming.

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  • pmbm
    Oct 16, 2012 - 8:10AM

    A society that has no code of ethics, where nobody wants to follow the law, has eliminated distinction between right and wrong, what else can be expected.
    The lawyer writer does not realize that jail break ,sectarian killings, eliminating the menace of “taliban” is the responsibility of the executive branch of the government controlled by so called “progressive ” parties for 4 years, not the judiciary. They should be rounding up the culprits and bring them to the court.

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  • Oct 16, 2012 - 9:38AM

    This makes sense.

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  • Imtiaz Hussain
    Oct 16, 2012 - 10:23AM

    Indeed a great article, prompting us to realize the need of the time, “To stand for an enlightened, well educated and moderate Pakistan”. We do have to stand against the odds of extremism and fundamentalism to make ours a great and emerging country, well connected with the rest on the globe. Aysha is very right while, she says that at the heart of the issue is the realization & acknowledgement of this fundamental problem affecting us all, not only by general masses but also people at the helm of affairs, that is the only way, we can make progress ahead!

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  • Jat
    Oct 16, 2012 - 10:57AM

    @Imtiaz Hussain: “Indeed a great article, prompting us to realize the need of the time, “To stand for an enlightened, well educated and moderate Pakistan”. “

    Enlightened and moderate Pakistan is an oxymoron.

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  • Feroz
    Oct 16, 2012 - 11:34AM

    After 65 years of Independence you still want to debate the kind of country you would like to have. Are you Rip Van Winkle who has just woken from deep slumber ?

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  • Shahzad
    Oct 16, 2012 - 12:32PM

    I have noticed one thing common in your articles. Can you let me know why your every article become Imran bashing in the end?

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  • Oct 16, 2012 - 12:44PM

    You dont question the military hard enough – why did they want a strong military? To fight who or whom?

    You have to go back to 1965 and begin to hold every general accountable for the decisions they have taken in the name of Kashmir to build their palatial houses.

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  • wallis
    Oct 16, 2012 - 1:36PM

    Offcourse everyone has sympathy for this girl, but their are also NGOs in Pakistan which are working for the uplift of education in Pakistan and they travel in the rural areas of Pakistan to educate people. Was this girl the only 1?

    Their were other girls with Malaila who got injured,why isn’t the media crying about it?

    When you are in the govt you have to care for all your people ,not just for perticular group of people.

    Its useless to argue with morons like you guys.

    Even a common citizen in Pakistan has enough sense and they understand why this is happening?

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  • Parvez
    Oct 16, 2012 - 1:40PM

    People comparing the Malila incident with Arfa Kareem are either ignorant or more so, deliberately trying to muddy the waters.

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  • waqar amjad
    Oct 16, 2012 - 2:52PM

    one small point i want to make et is read by a very few..
    majority of pakistan does not read it…
    that is a reality which readers should accept

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  • Truth-seekerr
    Oct 16, 2012 - 4:17PM

    @wallis:

    Please smell the coffee.

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  • James
    Oct 16, 2012 - 5:29PM

    @wallis:
    Malala was the primary target.The other girls were just collateral damage.Would they have been injured if Malala was not in the bus.Baitullah Mehsud was killed by a drone missile.Does anyone know the names or number of people who died along with him

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  • James
    Oct 16, 2012 - 5:40PM

    @Shahbaz Asif Tahir:

    Are they a group of criminals or hardcore Islamic fundamentalists.What will make them supporters of kaffirs.You make the allegation that India is involved in training the TTP.The TTP was once the beloved of the Pak army and the common enemy was India..Have you any proof of your allegations.It wont be necessary to parrot the story that we have 16-30 consulates in Afghanistan as this is false.Lets assume that what you say is true.What will India gain if the taliban take over Pakistan and are in charge of nuclear weapons.They will be a bigger threat than the present entity

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  • gp65
    Oct 16, 2012 - 7:20PM

    @wallis: “Their were other girls with Malaila who got injured,why isn’t the media crying about it?
    When you are in the govt you have to care for all your people ,not just for perticular group of people.”

    IT is clear that you are just trying to muddy the water here. First you compared Arifa KArim and I responded. Now it is the other 2 girls. You basically simply want to somehow distract the attantion from Malala.

    You accuse the media of differentiating between the other 2 girls and Malala but hold government responsible for that? Makes no sense. Also the ther 2 girls were not activists, they were not directly targetted but were collateral damage which is why the media is interested in Malala.

    As far as NGOs who work for women’s education – unclear what your point is. They too are being targeted and if you are not aware for a while now one NGO after another is either leaving PAkistan outright or reducing their footprint. The Taliban have made their intent about women’s education very clear by blowing up hundreds of school.

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  • Who Cares???
    Oct 16, 2012 - 10:55PM

    @Tahir Ali:

    “We can keep on blaming our military, politicians, judiciary and the people for lack of will and failing to defeat the militants. Even in this piece, the author has attributed this failure to institutional clashes and military, as always, has been portrayed as the biggest evil. My simple question is, while everything is wrong with us, why have the US / ISAF forces, with most sophisticated weaponry, been unable to defeat the Taliban even after a lapse of 11 years?
    According to the author, “Of the $30 billion Pakistan has received in US aid since 1948, half has gone to the military”. Admitted but if that is the gauge, USA has spent over US$500 billion in last 11 years, yet failed.
    Despite this major failure, the Americans and their so called writers never ridicule and taunt their forces the way we do, despite the fact that over 4000 soldiers / officers have laid down their lives while fighting the terrorists.”

    The most rational comment here, and is worth repeating. Perfectly conveyed my thoughts.

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  • Shahbaz Asif Tahir
    Oct 17, 2012 - 12:46AM

    @James:

    The Pakistan army supported the Taliban, who are stationed in Afghanistan.
    To this date, they have not fired a single bullet, at the Pakistan army.
    The TTP, have nothing to do with the Taliban. They are various groups of crimnals,
    who using the name of the Taliban are committing atrocities in Pakistan. The Pakistan
    army has ample evidence of their training in Indian embassies in Afghanistan. These
    embasies are there to pressurize and squeeze Pakistan, through these outfits, and
    create anarchy in Pakistan. Much of the ammunition caught is of Indian origin.
    You can assume what ever you want, but the truth is this. This is the reason why
    Imran, has been asking for a halt in military operations, to get tribals on the Pakistan
    side, isolate these elements, and then eliminate them. Today there is so much confusion
    that it has resulted for Pakistan, already 40,000 lives, $70 billion damage already,
    a weak corrupt, insane,looter, of a President, whose shameless attitude has brought
    humiliation to every Muslim, from Pakistan.
    Shame on India, and shame on Indian mentality, and shame on the secular,
    liberal, bigotted mind set.

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  • Tahir Ali
    Oct 17, 2012 - 12:58AM

    @James:
    Permit me to answer.
    – Extremism thrives in the environment of anarchy, disillusionment, poverty, illiteracy, general discontent and lack of governance as they provide environment for breeding and recruitment for extremist groups like Taliban. India also wants the same – so commonality of interests.
    – By using these militants, (1) India has been able to bog down one third of Pakistani forces on the western border. (2) It is draining resources of Pakistan and Pakistan Army. (3) India, in collaboration with other anti-Pakistan agencies is trying to replicate the US strategy followed against the erstwhile USSR in the early nineties, where by, the country was internally destabilized, made economically unviable and when the situation was ripe, she was asked to hand over all nuclear warheads deployed outside Russian Federation in Central Asia. The instability ultimately led to USSR’s disintegration. The Indians are only using the militants to create environment of instability, paving way for the international community to act against Pakistan and seek some sort of control over Pakistan’s nukes.
    – In my reckoning, the same militants would be used in future by India and USA to pursue their ‘containment of China strategy’.
    – Your perception that TTP was once the ‘beloved’ of Pakistan Army is misplaced. In the eighties the Mujahideen were not only very close to Pakistan but funded and trained by USA. I would not equate them with the present TTP.

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  • Manoj Joshi, India
    Oct 18, 2012 - 5:14PM

    There cannot be overnight wonders and democracy will need time to take roots in The Islamic Republic of Pakistan in a rather challenging environment where religious fundamentalist groups and terrorist organisations still hold a sway in the corridors of power. The nation has to fight a rather challenging war against religious fundamentalism to make democracy take strong roots in the Islamic Republic and this certainly cannot be an easy going. This does not in any way mean that Pakistan does not have the potential to become a democracy but for the fact that they as a nations shall have to face the strongest challenges and at times their can be certain setbacks too which all have to be taken in the stride. The citizens of Pakistan have to now come forward to make democracy a success in their own country. A new horizon towards a Moderate, Progressive and Democratic state where the majority and the minorities co-exist amicably. Malala Yousafzai no doubt has shown a way by her display of courage as a young girl. Frustration is poignant among the religious fundamentalists hence such a dastardly act has been committed which cannot and should not go unpunished. The United States of America has used Pakistan taking advantage of their political weakness and making them dependent on the US aid and now when they have better avenues to look forward to Pakistan is being left out to face the problem of terrorism. The acts of the fundamentalists who are opposed to progressive ideas is most condemnable but the US too cannot get absolved as it is they who have in the past supported the Mujaheddin against Communist regime within Afghanistan. The US now has other vested interests in Asia hence they are changing their strategy.

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  • Oct 19, 2012 - 7:31PM

    @Shahbaz Asif Tahir:

    “TTP is a group of criminals, who are being trained in Indian embassies,
    in Afghanistan, and then being sent to create disruption, chaos, in Pakistan.”

    Mr. Taahir when you think that TTP is the agent of India ( perceived enemy) then it is all the more necessary to wipe them out urgently. But none of the political parties, or the army is initiating any step to confront TTP. PML – N as well as Imran Khan both are against any operation in North Waziristan the safe heaven of Taliban.
    what can be the reasons per se ?.. Think a new conspiracy theory.
    Manufacturing of conspiracy theories should be given the status of industry.in Pakistan

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  • Shahbaz Asif Tahir
    Oct 20, 2012 - 12:35AM

    @p r sharma:

    Imran Khan, whom I fully endorse, says, speak to the tribal leaders, and various
    groups, and mind you, they do want to discuss peace, and trust his sincerity.
    In this way the TTP, will be automatically isolated, and if needed consequently
    eliminated. How ever with the present state the tribals, are and rightly so, unwilling
    to fight a war, which never was, and never ever can be our war. It has been
    thrusted to weaken Pakistan economically with several other implications.
    The TTP, who are crimnals are meant to cause anarchy in Pakistan. They go about
    in the umbrella of the Taliban, committing atrocities, resulting in hatred against the
    Taliban, who have nothing to do with this,
    Unlike the liberal, secular agenda, this is a reality, and not a figment of my
    imagination. It suits India, since a war, cannot happen, as Pakistan is a nucleur power.
    It suits those who wish to see Pakistan, denucleurized, and India is definitely playing
    its game. I wonder why so many Indians, like you are concerned with our internal
    issues. All the best.

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  • Manoj Joshi India
    Oct 24, 2012 - 9:49PM

    The Islamic Republic of Pakistan or for that matter South Asia that includes Republic of India, The People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and Bhutan as well as Nepal all can adopt certain Western concepts of democracy, liberation of women, accepting the girl child with the same joy as one does when a male child is born in the family, emphasising on the education of the girl child as much as that of a boy in the family and doing away with the social evil of dowry. Westernization is acceptable to the limit wherein it does not cross the thin line of morality and decency. The political systems of the West are fine and most acceptable however changing ones culture in totality with regard to dressing, celebration of festivals etc is perhaps taking things too far. South Asia is a rather diverse region when seen from the point of view of ethnicity hence one finds a very composite culture which is most diverse and customs most varied and society that is heterogeneous hence every festival has its own style of celebration and gaiety be it Eid of the Muslims, Deepavali and Dussehera or Holi of the Hindus; besides various other Hindu festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi, Basant Panchami, Shravani etc; Christmas and Easter of the Christians, Pateti and Navroze of the Parsis and various other religions that are practiced in South Asia are celebrated in their own way and style with utmost gaiety and passion. Every festival is different from the other. Hence such a society which has traditions and conventions running since time immemorial cannot be molded in the Western mold. Western values have to get modified when implemented in South Asia. Pakistan too should get progressive and modern as well liberal but the culture of that Islamic nation cannot and should not be erased. After all one should not throw the baby along with the bath water.

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