Pakistan’s democratic institutions—a president, a parliament, a prickly judiciary—generally struggle for recognition and relevance. But not at the moment. The country recently saw three major campaign rallies just days apart. (Elections are slated for 2013, though they could be moved up.) First, Shahbaz Sharif—the chief minister of Punjab and brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif—led his party, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), in an impassioned rally.
I. MY ROLE ON September 11 was to be a reporter for The New Republic. I was in downtown Brooklyn, and from my rooftop I watched the first tower crumble, and then I ran downstairs to the street with pen and notebook and plunged into the crowds fleeing over the bridges. I spoke with one person after another, asking what they had seen. They told me. I compiled my report.
The recent chief-of-station (COS) cover-shredding brouhaha between the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate marks an ironic and possibly important shift in the historic affection that Langley has had for Pakistan’s premiere intelligence service.
Americans for Job Security is a corporate front group. It has spent millions on behalf of campaigns to repeal the estate tax and take down the Employee Free Choice Act. This week it unrolled a spot that can’t help but be described as racist. The ad targets Bill Halter, who is running in the Arkansas Democratic primary against Senator Blanche Lincoln. It features Indian actors—in Indian outfits, with Indian accents, with images of India behind them.
You may think the president is without gumption in his dealings with some of America's enemies. I think it's a more complicated tale, although I disapprove of much that he has done and more that he hasn't in the area of foreign policy. But in one place, at least, he has kept his word and honorably so. You may recall that during the campaign (and even prior to it) Obama fixed on targets in Pakistan as a focus of our military power. The Republicans who are honest at nothing ridiculed his position.
It is always nice to read a relatively sanguine piece about the political situation in Pakistan. Sabrina Tavernise's excellent New York Times dispatch makes one important and usually obscured point: Its politics and economics are far more local than national; regional, ethnic and cultural differences are very deep. The mullahs of Swat may be calling for the downtrodden masses to unite, but here in Punjab, religious leaders are still firmly tied to the upper crust. In my travels in this province, none of the mullahs were talking about revolution.
Earlier this spring, Nawaz Sharif threatened to topple Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari's government. Since taking power in September, Zardari had been promising to reinstate Iftikhar Chaudhry, the chief justice of the supreme court, whom Pervez Musharraf had sacked on March 9, 2007. But Zardari, who feared that Chaudhry would try to either curb executive power or dredge up corruption cases, balked repeatedly. This annoyed Sharif--and many of his fellow countrymen--to no end.
Last month, a little-known British historian named Andrew Robert swas swept into the White House for a three-hour-long hug. He lunched with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, huddled alone with the president in the Oval Office, and was rapturously lauded by him as"great." Roberts was so fawned over that his wife, Susan Gilchrist,told the London Observer, "I thought I had a crush on him, but it's nothing like the crush President Bush has on him." At first glance, this isn't surprising.