Pakistan is Sinking: Time For Tough Love?

Walter Russell Mead in The American Interest:

ScreenHunter_13 Sep. 05 14.23Beset by so many problems from so many different sources, Pakistanis struggle to make sense of their country and the world. Conspiracy theories are rife; the raucous and rambunctious media (especially the Urdu media) is better at expressing anger than analysis. A strong civil society is struggling to emerge, but the enormous internal disparities in wealth and education make it hard for strong and effective groups to emerge. Like idealistic 19th century Russian aristocrats and students, the educated idealists who direct many Pakistani social movements are so distant from the world of the poor that their efforts, commendable and well intentioned as they may be, are often irrelevant to the problems of the masses.

A recent example shows how this works. While I was in Pakistan, there was massive press coverage of “Diplomagate.” Pakistani law requires that members of parliament must have college degrees. It turns out that dozens of legislators had fake degrees, and the Good Government crowd raised holy hands in horror. It wasn’t just that the fake graduates were what in the American South we used to call ‘pig-ignorant,’ though some of them were. It was that they had perjured themselves to take their seats. There was a mass hue and cry to detect the fakers, expel them from parliament, and even to recover the salaries and expenses they were paid under false pretenses.

OK and fair enough, but a law that requires MPs to have university degrees doesn’t make much sense in a country where half the population can’t read at all and most adults have less than four years of school. And Americans can’t help but reflect that neither George Washington, Benjamin Franklin nor Abraham Lincoln could have taken a seat in the Pakistani legislature.

More here.