by Jason Burke
The Observer, Sunday 15 March 2009
Courtesy: The Guardian
The west can no longer afford to impose its values and notions of democracy on countries that neither want nor need them
First for the good news: Pakistan is not about to explode. The Islamic militants are not going to take power tomorrow; the nuclear weapons are not about to be trafficked to al-Qaida; the army is not about to send the Afghan Taliban to invade India; a civil war is unlikely.
The bad news is that Pakistan poses us questions that are much more profound than those we would face if this nation of 170m, the world’s second biggest Muslim state, were simply a failed state. If Pakistan collapsed, we would be faced by a serious security challenge. But the resilience of Pakistan and the nation’s continuing collective refusal to do what the west would like it to together pose questions with implications far beyond simple security concerns. They are about our ability to influence events in far-off places, our capacity to analyse and understand the behaviour and perceived interests of other nations and cultures, about our ability to deal with difference, about how we see the world.
Pakistan has very grave problems. In the last two years, I have reported on bloody ethnic and political riots, on violent demonstrations, from the front line of a vicious war against radical Islamic insurgents. I spent a day with Benazir Bhutto a week before she was assassinated and covered the series of murderous attacks committed at home and abroad by militant groups based in Pakistan with shadowy connections to its security services. There is an economic crisis and social problems – illiteracy, domestic violence, drug addiction – of grotesque proportions. Osama bin Laden is probably on Pakistani soil.
For many developing nations, all this would signal the state’s total disintegration. This partly explains why Pakistan’s collapse is so often predicted.