In the Arena

Pakistan Implosion

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The assassination of Pakistan’s Minorities Minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, coming hard on the heels of the assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, should set alarm bells ringing throughout the U.S. Government. Both men were moderates, who wanted to amend Pakistan’s absurd blasphemy law

Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person or makes any gesture in the sight of that person or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

Strictly read–and with the growing number of religious extremists in Pakistan, the strictest possible readings are not outside the question–this means that a Christian making the sign of the cross or a woman who chooses not veil herself could be indicted on charges of blasphemy.

The fact that Taseer’s assassin has been celebrated is very depressing. The fact that Pakistan’s lawyers, who used to be a force against the military dictatorship and for reform, tossed rose petals at the killer is catastrophic.

Once again, Pakistan is the most dangerous country of the world. It has 100 nuclear weapons and it seems to be slipping into anarchy. No one is sure how much of its military favors the Islamist path. Several Pakistani friends of mine, people closely associated with the government, are despairing. I truly hope that the U.S. has contingency plans for taking control of Pakistan’s nukes if the Islamist coup that everyone fears come to pass (if we don’t, I expect that India won’t be shy about taking military action).

Meanwhile, on the other side of India, in Bangladesh (which used to be East Pakistan), the brilliant and noble Mohammed Yunus, who pretty much invented the micro-credit lending circles that have lifted hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of women out of poverty has been deposed as the director of the Grameen Bank, the central micro-credit institution in Bangladesh. This is an outrage, an act of sleazy politics, that only adds to the pervasive sense of pessimism I have about Mohammed Jinna’s 1947 disastrous creation, the partition of India based on religious belief.