Unfortunately, they’re worrying about the wrong thing.
In Islamabad, fabric seller Akhlaq Abbas scoffs at a young Pakistani’s dire predictions. “Pakistan is not a failed state,” the 61-year-old says. Sure, it has problems, although he doesn’t think that’s accidental. “Groups of people from abroad are working to destabilize Pakistan,” he said. “Outsiders — from India, Israel, America and Britain — are meddling. They send drones over our heads and kill people. Our troubles happen because outside forces want to hold Pakistan back.” (Notice that he fails to mention Al Qaeda,the Taliban, or Afghanistan).
It’s always someone else’s fault. That’s a fundamental ingredient of denial. Mr. Abbas’ apathy is probably the biggest reason that Pakistan is on the precipice of becoming a failed state, just like Somalia. Pakistan, a nation which was formed by Muslims who refused to co-exist with Hindus and other infidels in India after the withdrawal of the British in 1947, is a strange melting pot of middle class, moderate muslims and poor fundamentalists who are symapthetic to if not part of the Taliban. This latter group invariably blames “outsiders” for its plight and finds the xenophobic, repressive philosophy of the Taliban appealing. As long as the middle class of Pakistan keeps its collective head in the sand, the more likely it is that the Taliban will continue to gain ground there and drive out the essential components of its infrastructure, i.e. doctors, lawyers and teachers. This is what happened in Iraq at the height of the insurgency. Once this draining process starts, it tends to snowball and it is very difficult to turn around.
There are those who say with great, self-satisfied confidence that Pakistan is in no danger of breaking apart or being over-run by the Taliban. To me, this sounds like famous last words. There appears to be a general lack of alarm and business-as-usual in Pakistan these days, much like there was in Hawaii on December 7, 1941. This country needs to wake up and stop using its feud with India as an excuse to concentrate too much of its army along that border. Pakistan needs to roll its army through its northwest provinces, outlaw the Taliban, and take absolute control of its border with Afghanistan. Anything short of that is only going to delay the inevitable.
Instead of worrying about their country’s image and international reputation, Pakistanis need to start worrying about the kind of world their children, especially their daughters, are going to grow up in.