Tuesday, August 24
French Revolution, Pakistani style
Altaf Hussain, exiled leader of Pakistan's MQM (Muttahida Quami Movement political party) is calling for a French-style revolution in Pakistan. Here is his idea of revolution:
He called on "patriotic generals to initiate martial law-like steps against federal politicians" and legal proceedings against those "who save their crops and divert floods towards the localities as well as villages of the poor".Anything else Pakistan's military can do for you, Mr Hussain? Peel you a grape?
In a country where most leading politicians are also titled hereditary landlords, he called for a French Revolution-style redistribution of land between the classes in response to unprecedented destruction.
Somebody please send that man a history of the French Revolution but the Cliff Notes is that France's downtrodden knew the king's troops were not going to revolt for them. So they did it themselves. A difficult concept to get across, to be sure, in a land where even the peasants think like a pasha.
Tarbela, Pakistan -- Everyone here remembers the Americans.Why stop with fixing your potholes? How about if we wipe your butts for you?
They came with their blueprints, their engineering know-how and their money. By the time they left in the early 1970s, they had helped build a world-class dam that kept parts of Pakistan dry this month while vast stretches of the country drowned.
"This dam gives great benefit to the nation, and if not for the Americans it would never have been constructed," said Syed Naimat Shah, a local contractor.
But Shah hasn't seen any new assistance from the Americans in decades, and apparently many Pakistanis haven't, either. The U.S. government has provided about $18 billion in civilian and military aid to Pakistan since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks made this country America's most essential, and vexing, ally. Yet according to a Pew Research Center survey released last month, half of Pakistanis believe the United States gives little to no assistance here.
For Obama administration officials, that's a source of deep anxiety -- and frustration. Pakistan is at the center of U.S. hopes to turn around the flagging Afghan war, but persistent anti-American feelings limit the extent of Pakistani cooperation. On her visit to Pakistan last month, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton mused that Americans must wonder "why we're sending money to a country that doesn't want it."
Pakistanis insist they are not ungrateful. They just don't see any tangible impact from the massive sums the United States spends. Unlike assistance from decades ago, the money from the post-Sept. 11 era, Pakistanis say, tends to vanish without a trace.
"Everyone here hates the American government," said Shah, a spirited 71-year-old with a stark white beard and a sharp tongue. "I haven't seen a penny of this U.S. assistance."
Analysts say there are many reasons: poor coordination with the Pakistani government, a lack of understanding of Pakistan's needs and a reluctance to produce iconic projects, lest they become targets for terrorists. ...
Word has begun to spread in Tarbela that the Americans are coming back, and former mayor Firdous Khan said he would welcome them.
He said he admired the American engineers who helped build the dam for their ability to get things done without delay, and without demanding a bribe.
But decades later, surveying his town's potholed streets, its archaic sewer system and its vast population of unemployed young men, Khan's mind turns to regret: "I just wish they had stayed."
No, Madam Secretary, we're not wondering why you're giving money to lazy, shiftless people who're mad that Americans don't perform to their expectations. We're wondering why we're giving money to lazy, shiftless people in Washington who don't respect the tax dollars they're entrusted with. That's what we're wondering about.
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