Multiple crisis have come together in Pakistan: Author


New Delhi : Top Pakistani writer Ahmed Rashid, who has authored “Taliban” and the “Descent Into Chaos”, says multiple crises have come together in his country and civil society is very much on the retreat.

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Ahmed said his country was shocked by the reaction of millions of people supporting the killer of Punjab governor Salman Taseer and sympathising with those refusing to amend the blasphemy law.

“What I think really happened is that multiple crises have all come together. There is an economic crisis, which is of enormous magnitude, there is a political crisis and there is a foreign policy crisis – a lack of relations with India. With Afghanistan, things are very tense, there is terrorism and there are extremist groups which the army has not been able to curtail; and there are floods,” Ahmed said Sunday on the “Devil’s Advocate” programme hosted by Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN TV channel.

He said the situation in his country was as grave as the severance of East Pakistan to become Bangladesh.

Ahmed said the “Pakistan government, the army and the civil society were taken by complete surprise”. He said the “seeds of this was apparent to people like me for a very long time.”

“The fact is that we have had the Pakistani Taliban on our soil, the Afghanistan Taliban, other extremists groups and they have penetrated aspects of middle class, the educational establishments, military and the police. Taseer was killed by a policeman,” Ahmed said.

In an article in the New York Times after the assassination of Taseer, Ahmed wrote that perhaps “over 500 lawyers had lined up to defend Qadri the killer, when Salman Taseer’s widow could not even find one to prosecute”. Ahmed wrote that in Lahore, a city of 13 millions, not one “mullah” was prepared to read the funeral prayers.

In the interview, he attributed the situation in Pakistan to a “Taliban kind of thinking” and said “civil society was very much on the retreat”.

“It is very frightening. There is talk about more killings of human rights workers, NGO workers, journalists and others – but very few people are coming out and resisting,” he said.

Ahmed said it was shocking because the political parties did not respond to the situation the way they should have. “Not even the (Pakistan) People’s Party,” he said.

The writer said the “army was nervous”.

According to Ahmed, there was a very strong minority wing of extremists who were involved in wars on both sides of the border and who were pushing for the overthrow of the state.

“They want to bring about some kind of caliphate. And there is a very small liberal part of the society which is trying to express itself and which is trying to come back.”

“But there is a vast silent majority which is not expressing its view but which is certainly not extremist and realises that extremism is not the answer to economic or educational or job problems,” Ahmed said.