The BBC reports that there have been two major explosions in Karachi near the US Consulate, killing at least two people, and injuring dozens others. This comes a few days ahead of US President George Bush’s impending visit to Pakistan, as part of a South Asian tour, which included Afghanistan and India.
Mr Bush is not scheduled to visit Karachi, yet the attacks are surely cause for concern. Various factions co-exist uneasily in Pakistan, from military loyalists to the Taliban, to forward-thinking political groups yearning for a free state. Pakistan holds the alleged killer of Daniel Pearl, Omar Sheikh, in its’ prisons and has run various takedown operations against members of the IIF (Islamic International Front), while tolerating the machinations of other members like the Lashkar-e-Toiba from Muridke.
Despite security concerns, the economic potential and growth rates of Pakistan have rarely been as promising as currently indicated by statistical, economic and social indicators. The large volumes of aid that have flowed into the country in recent years have had some positive benefits, despite the traditional siphoning off of funds, common to countries striving to fill gaps.
Pakistan exhibits to a fuller degree problems endemic to developing countries that have not realized their full potential or find limited opportunities to do so. Challenges like corruption, crime (terrorism) and an alienated populace turning to other authoritarian structurea separate from the state are all efforts at filling governance, economic or social gaps.
China and India have enabled a faster realization of their potential, despite grappling with many of the same issues in varying scales, primarily because of a cross-section of the populace enabling this transformation through an open society. Pakistan has lacked the mechanisms to leverage its resources – intellectual, material and geopolitical. Actually, it has applied it’s geopolitical situation quite adeptly, although it needed a ‘sugar daddy’ and a bipolar global condition to realize the same.
Given the new world order, where the Anglophone world is pitted against societies in flux and decay (although one might posit that decay leads to rejuvenation, and applies to all societies), Pakistan, like many other near-autarkies, is being forced to reassess it’s positioning and choose which side of the fence it must land. As President Bush himself famously said, “You are either with us or against us”, and thus far, General Musharraf has straddled the divide adroitly.
All the same, a time is fast approaching wherein each must do his part, and every atrocity, every xenophobic act draws the time closer – whether it is a despicable act like the London bombings (carried out by people inspired and likely coordinated by Omar Sheikh) or paranoia over globalized business transactions like the ports deal. Pakistan, one believes, is acutely sensitive to the choices that lie ahead, choices that will be driven as much by energy dynamics as by ideological preferences.
At this juncture, the visit of the man currently at the fulcrum of world affairs to the region, and thereby to Pakistan is pertinent. On the one hand, unless some hard questions are asked, and answers given, it will be seen as supporting a military regime that has done not enough to bring terrorists to justice and shut down it’s own ties with them. On the other hand, the Pakistan government needs all the encouragement and well-intentioned support it can get to be able to make a difference within it’s own polity as well as set an example to the rest of the Islamic states.
Will President Bush’s visit be just another honorific gesture, to be recorded as an event in the newspapers, or will strategic decisions be undertaken, to be enshrined in the annals of history?