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'A Matter Of Faith' For Pakistan

A radicalizing effect at work?
A look at any major Western newspaper will have you believe that the world worries a lot about the security challenges posed by the complex jihadi conundrum in Pakistan. With Obama's special envoy, Richard "Bulldozer" Holbrooke, visiting the region, much ink is being spilled to prescribe policy solutions.

While much of the current discourse is focused on bureaucratic solutions, more sophisticated weapons for the military, more development aid, "smart" diplomacy, and regional cooperation, nobody is worrying about the change that Pakistani society has undergone.

In two revealing pieces in "Newsline," Pakistan's leading newsmagazine, Muhammad Hanif and Pervez Hoodbhoy present a fine sampling of the problems Pakistan is facing.

Hanif is a Pakistani journalist whose novel, "A Case of Exploding Mangoes," is billed as a "political thriller" but is in fact a satire of what has happened to Pakistan since one of its former military dictators, General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, decided to become the "godfather of the jihadi movement," in the author's words.

His insightful cover story "The Power of the Pulpit," tells us why some of the Western bureaucratic policy prescriptions for Pakistan might not work. In an effort to be the bastion of Islamic fundamentalism, the Pakistani state has forced its society to undergo what now appears to be unmitigated radicalization.

In a piece aptly titled "The Saudi-ization of Pakistan," Pervez Hoodbhoy, a physics professor and liberal public intellectual, laments the gradual shift of Pakistani polity away from its South Asian roots toward the Arab world. His otherwise alarming description and analysis, however, ends on an optimistic note:

"In the long term, I am convinced that the forces of irrationality will cancel themselves out because they act at random whereas reason pulls only in one direction. History leads us to believe that reason will triumph over unreason, and the evolution of the humans into a higher and better species will continue. Using ways that we cannot currently anticipate, they will somehow overcome their primal impulses of territoriality, tribalism, religiosity and nationalism. But, for now, this must be just a matter of faith."

-- Abubakar Siddique

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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