'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pakistan in the Eye of the Storm 

From today's Independent:

"Pakistan is going through the worst crisis of its history," according to a leaked letter signed by the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the main opposition leader. It is a view shared by Imran Khan, another opposition leader, who says that the political and economic meltdown "is leading to a sort of anarchy in Pakistan".

"How does a country collapse?" the former cricketer asked. "There's increasing uncertainty, economic meltdown, more people on the street, inflation rising between 25 and 30 per cent. Then there's the rupee falling."

Pakistan is experiencing power cuts that have led to hourly blackouts, a doubling of basic food prices and a currency that has lost a third of its value in the past year. "The awful thing is there's no solution in sight – neither in the war on terror nor on the economic side," Mr Khan said during a visit to London. Heightening the sense of national emergency, the government yesterday turned to the International Monetary Fund for $15bn (£9.3bn) to cope with a balance of payments crisis caused by a flight of capital, after previously saying that applying to the IMF would be a last resort.

Almost every day there are retaliatory attacks against police and soldiers and Western targets. Hundreds of soldiers and an unknown number of civilians are losing their lives. The national parliament rejected the US influence on the government by adopting a resolution last night calling for an "independent" foreign policy and urging dialogue with the extremists.

The credit crunch and the global recession are placing unprecedented pressures upon the fabric of Pakistani society, so much so that the ability of the state to maintain order is now in question. It is apparent that quite a number of major countries, including Pakistan, Mexico, Argentina and possibly even Brazil, among others, face destabilization as the global economy slows. But only Pakistan finds itself involuntarily situated along the front line of the so-called war on terror. Somehow, one doubts that the projection of US force into the country will serve to alleviate the problems there.

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