Doom and gloom is to be expected in a country dominated by rapacious politicians and brutal dictators. Democracy has been strangled in Pakistan, the rule of law violated at will and the poor left oppressed. At the same time a particular class has been patronised so it can gather all the spoils. Religion has been exploited to give the unempowered a sense of belonging, to make the unprivileged think that they are equals in an inequitable society.
Gen Ziaul Haq, aided and abetted by the US, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, encouraged the forces of obscurantism to further his illegitimate rule. Our intelligence agencies pursued a policy of ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan that created Frankensteins we could no longer control. ‘Talibanisation’ entered the nomenclature and, for a time, the country was held hostage by semi-literate clerics and their armed supporters.
But things are getting better. The law and order situation in the NWFP has seen a marked improvement since the army took on the Taliban in Malakand. A report in this newspaper, relying on statistical evidence, illustrates that more may have been achieved in three months than what Gen Musharraf could muster over several years. It is now becoming increasingly clear that Mr Musharraf played a double-game with the West, keeping the threat of Talibanisation alive to force Washington and London into thinking that he was indispensable.
His rule as dictator, and favoured ally of the Bush administration, was marked by deals and bargains with the enemies of Pakistan. He could have thrown down the gauntlet, as the current government and army chief have, but he instead kowtowed to the militants and pushed Pakistan to the brink of ruin. What we have seen in the last few months reinforces the idea that where there is a will, there is a way. It has finally sunk in that the Taliban cannot be mollycoddled — they must be defeated. The Pakistan Army has now taken to the battlefield in right earnest and the Taliban are on the run. If the engagement doesn’t lose momentum, the people of Pakistan will emerge victorious.