Nobody can deny there is some freedom of the press in Pakistan, in tonight’s Daily Times you see a scathing editorial by Benazir Bhutto that directly criticizes Musharraf which originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal. The editorial is well worth reading, but Benazir does diminish the extremist threat a bit — things are different in Pakistan than they were when she left ten years ago. The Muslim Brotherhood, AQ, and the Taliban have had ten years to educate a new generation of jihadis, and the problem is much more widespread than Bhutto paints, but probably less so than most westerners think. As usual, the truth lies somewhere between the two perceptions.
The budget has come down from the National Assembly, and there will be much debate in the following days over it, if you hit the Times tonight you will see most articles are about the budget provisions, many of the fringe parties are yowling quite a bit.
In an interesting development 26 members of the PML-N (Nawaz, exiled ex-leader) and PPP (Bhutto’s party) defected today and joined the PML, Musharraf’s party. Some in Pakistan might be thinking past an election where Musharraf is not elected — the alternatives are not that appealing, but Musharraf continuing in uniform is not that appealing either. (As long as he is PM and Head of the military he has the power to declare emergency and martial law at any time.)
Meanwhile Musharraf states that he will stand for election in uniform again. Who’s best to lead Pakistan? That’s for the Pakistanis to decide in the coming election, however their choices are really less than ours in the US, crab as we might about our political class.
As an outsider looking in, I see Pakistan’s long-term problems being twofold: Energy and Education – when I say this I am looking not at next year, or even present politics which always seem more urgent than the future, but instead fifty years from now.
First, energy –
In the picture to the left you see workers buying diesel for office generators, needed for the power outage that caused riots today, but at other times for electric load-shedding so they can stay productive while the power is out.
Since the dawn of civilization, creativity, industry, and progress have flourished where energy was cheapest and most plentiful. (with some exceptions: where tyrants rule and free market capitalism is crushed then the energy wealth is held in the hands of just a few. Look around, you can see which countries I speak of.)
You can trace the advance of civilization as people learned to better harness energy. From energy’s orginal basic form of food with farming, to the means of transport and energy in most centuries until the present – water and the flows of mighty rivers, to the use of fire, and from that to coal, gas, oil, then nuclear. Where energy in any form was plentiful and cheap the people flourish. Where it is not, they live in misery in comparison.
Pakistan load sheds electricity, people in Karachi died today from record heat, people in Chitral died last winter from cold, air conditioning and heating are only possible when energy is plentiful and cheap. 21 Restaurants were fined for health problems, but bacteria grows where refridgeration is not full-time. To clean sewage and purify water takes energy, to pump water to terraced farms and to make fertilizer both take energy. Pakistan could be the breadbasket and the technology hub of the sub-continent with plentiful energy, or it could be a dire, dreadful country full of misery in fifty years without.
Jihadis and extremists grow where knowledge and critical thinking are absent. Thus they appeal to youths and the uneducated poor for the most part. Pakistan cannot continue to let only some have a chance at good education and expect to escape the blood-dimmed tide of jihad, for as people see now once Jihad is contained the dark crows come home to roost.