The country is largely quiet in the run up to the elections in the assembly – where President Pervez Musharraf is likely to be re-elected to another five year term. After election he’s committed to removing the uniform and ending his dual-role as head of the military and president to take on just the duties of president.
Quickly after the election he will need to scramble for new allies, as his old coalition will likely crumble after the general elections for new members and representatives. Like all past elections it is largely personalities running rather than true platforms with commitments – beyond the terrorism in the lawless frontiers, Pakistan needs land reform, energy, better protections for individual rights including women, more hospitals and doctors, and they need more trade and less provocation with India, Afghanistan, and Iran.
Editorials are mostly decrying the violence against the media and lawyers Sunday, but rounds of the blogs in Pakistan show that the Islamabadi’s are mostly against the lawyers creating the violent scene in the comments sections anyway.
In Pakistan land is in the hands of a few, and the government – if someone wants to build a new shop or a mosque, encroachment is often the only route. Most days I disagree with Angela Williams, but in her column yesterday she speaks to the feudal nature of Pakistan without land reforms – she strays well off course to bash the war in the final paragraph, but otherwise the editorial details one of the major flaws in modern Pakistan. (To speak to her final point – if the war’s going badly, why was this the most peaceful Ramadan in Iraq since 2004, why did the entire countryside of sunni tribes rise to drive out Al Qaeda? Why has Al Qaeda returned mostly to Pakistan?)
In the cities the foreign-language pashto and farsi schools are shrinking as more and more Afghan refugees return to Afghanistan. In Karachi police defused a bomb set under a high-tension electric pylon, and across the country people are in a frenzy of shopping for Eid ul Fitr.
In the Frontier, attacks continue against miltary bases with the latest Al Qaeda-Taliban tactic being night attacks in the hopes that the return fire will hit civilians. They are trying to draw the complacent army into a fight, and trying to get them to do things to rise the tribals against the army. Meanwhile the Taliban are blowing up girls schools, beheading women, and they continue to close down barbers and CD shops (unless they sell that Osama video and pay protection money!)
The marketplaces in the frontiers where they operate are largely gutted ghost-towns, and the people will not put up with that too much longer. In Usta Mohammed, and other places where the violence has gotten too out of hand the army is patrolling, but only when they are asked by the tribals to do so.
UPDATE: Suicide Bombing in Bannu , North Waziristan, kills 15, burqa-clad passenger in a rickshaw is suspected of setting it off. This could be a Jamia Hafsa student.
UPDATE: 100 Girls Schools closed in frontiers after a teacher is shot for not wearing a burqa.