The Tragedy of Pakistan


Zujaja Tauqeer in Jacobin:

[W]hat was supposed to be a rare feel-good moment for a beleaguered nation has in recent weeks acquired an additional perverse significance: with 100 people already killed, the 2013 elections will go down as the bloodiest in Pakistani history. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), more commonly known as the Pakistani Taliban, has for the last decade agitated against the previous two governments of Pakistan for their role, however tepid, in attacking militant havens in the country. The wrath of the TTP, previously reserved for government installations and security forces, has now descended upon the general public — the political candidates and voters participating in the 2013 elections, especially those belonging to the three main secular parties of Pakistan.

This particular crescendo of pre-election bloodshed is different from the usual sort of cannibalistic violence that commonly rages in the country, the kind which occurs when one segment of society feels justified in deeming another segment ‘wajib-ul-qatl’ — worthy of death — for believing in the wrong prophet or praying the wrong way. This election season has changed everything; even the right kind of Muslim is no longer safe from being targeted. Nor has the integrity of this pro-West citadel in Asia ever been so precarious or under assault. According to Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, the TTP is embarking on a concerted campaign to “end the democratic system” in Pakistan and bring errant political parties in line with Taliban demands, especially regarding Pakistan’s stand with the West in the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

The secular parties of Pakistan, which at the start of elections were castigated as representing the status quo of corrupt, inefficient politics, have now recast themselves as heroic, pro-democracy forces, particularly the Awami National Party which is the last line of Pashtun resistance to Taliban control in the northwest. The parties and their supporters are hastening to give meaning to the senseless deaths, particularly of the numerous children that have died despite having nothing to do with the electoral process.

At times like these, when martyrs for democracy are being readily supplied in the fight against the Taliban, it is critical to examine the rhetoric around the survival of democracy in Pakistan which anti-Taliban forces have rallied around. Simply by virtue of taking place these elections will not signify the growth of true democracy to Pakistan or the end of the Taliban threat.