Sunday, May 09, 2010

A Pakistani Take on the Times Square Bomber

This insightful look into the makeup of Faisal Shahzad by the Pakistani news service Dawn is an eye opener:

...As anti-US lava spews from the fiery volcanoes of Pakistan’s private television channels and newspapers, a collective psychosis grips the country’s youth. Murderous intent follows with the conviction that the US is responsible for all ills, both in Pakistan and the world of Islam.

Faisal Shahzad, with designer sunglasses and an MBA degree from the University of Bridgeport, acquired that murderous intent. Living his formative years in Pakistan, he typifies the young ...Pakistani who grew up in the shadow of Ziaul Haq’s hate-based education curriculum. The son of a retired air vice-marshal, life was easy as was getting US citizenship subsequently. But at some point the toxic schooling and media tutoring must have kicked in.

...Ideas considered extreme a decade ago are now mainstream. A private survey carried out by a European embassy based in Islamabad found that only four per cent of Pakistanis polled speak well of America; 96 per cent against.

Although Pakistan and the US are formal allies, in the public perception the US has ousted India as Pakistan’s number one enemy. Remarkably, anti-US sentiment rises in proportion to aid received. Say a good word about the US, and you are labelled as its agent.

...In part, Pakistan displays the resentment of a client state for its paymaster. US-Pakistan relations are transactional today but the master-client relationship is older. Indeed, Pakistan chose this path because confronting India over Kashmir demanded big defence budgets.

...The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, even as it brought in profits, deepened the dependence. Paid by the US to create the anti-Soviet jihadist apparatus, Pakistan is now being paid again to fight that war’s blowback. Pakistan then entered George W. Bush’s war on terror to enhance America’s security — a fact that further hurt its self-esteem. It is a separate matter that Pakistan fights that very war for its own survival and must call upon its army to protect the population from throat-slitting fanatics.

Passing the buck is equally fundamental to Pakistan’s anti-Americanism. It is in human nature to blame others for one’s own failures. Pakistan has long teetered between being a failed state and a failing state. The rich won’t pay taxes? Little electricity? Contaminated drinking water? Kashmir unsolved? Blame it on the Americans.

Unfortunately the writer of this piece doesn't hold out much hope that these corrosive attitudes are likely to change anytime soon. If he's right, America faces a political challenge in Pakistan an order of magnitude greater than the threat it faces from the Pakistani Taliban.

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