Friday, December 28, 2007

Readers' Guide to Pakistan News

It's hard to understand reports about Pakistan. Big-time pundits, who should know better, are spewing opinions without access to facts. So, Boston Brahmin decided to write this Readers' Guide. You need to read this guide in order to understand the news and spot those clueless op-eds:
  1. Journalists in Pakistan are muzzled and intimidated. If you are a reporter, bad things can happen to you and your family, and you have no recourse. The news you see from Pakistan is constrained not to report or analyze events in a way that exposes the reporters to action. Many journalists report from abroad, and even there, they and their families are not safe. So the only news you see has effectively been vetted by the people who hold the power in Pakistan.
  2. The people who hold the power in Pakistan are the landed gentry (a few hundred families, in a nation of 160 million), senior military officers, and the very rich. If you have the right connections in Pakistan, you can do anything; if you are an ordinary person, you have no rights. The political system has no checks and balances; the police, the intelligence agencies, and the courts are all subservient to the people who hold the power in Pakistan.
  3. All political activity is monitored by the intelligence services. If you are a politician of any importance, you are assigned minders, your telephone and family are under surveillance, and you are followed. It is inconceivable that you are assassinated and the intelligence services have no idea what happened. Of course, the intelligence services may not share their knowledge with anyone, but they have a pretty good idea.
  4. The current election process is completely rigged: Nawaz Sharif is banned from running; the king's party (PML-Q) gets to use government resources to campaign; the election commission and the supreme court are both staffed by Musharraf's cronies; and of course, the intelligence services are on duty to make doubly sure nothing untoward happens. No one in Pakistan believes in this process. Only the Americans support it. Which means:
  5. Support from the U.S. is the kiss of death for any politician in Pakistan.
So, please keep in mind these facts as a background to any news coming out of Pakistan.

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