Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lieven: Chapter 1: Understanding Pakistan

Lieven sets great store by Pakistan's kinship networks.  He tells us that whether run by civilians or by the military, the state is weak, and society is strong.  The military, he postulates, derives its strength from being like an extended clan.  He attributes the Pakistan's 2002 Gini Index of 30.6 (a relatively low value signifying greater income equality) to the obligations placed on the elite by kinship. (He doesn't tell us that the Gini Index was 41 in 1997-98, which strains his hypothesis.) 

Lieven says that "this is a cultural system so strong that it can persuade a father to kill a much-loved daughter, not for having an affair or becoming pregnant, but for marrying outside her kinship group without permission".  He also attributes to it the widespread practice of first cousin marriage, quoting a statistic that even among Pakistanis in Oxford, England, 59% of marriages are with first cousins; cousin marriage being one of the most important expressions of honoring obligations to one's kin.

(Lieven attributes the same kinship system to India; but he fails to note that among most Hindus, first cousin marriage is not allowed.)

The upshot is that Pakistan is very conservative - stuck in the mud  - and unlikely to have a revolution of any kind, Islamic or other.  This preoccupation with a violent revolt that overthows the Pakistani state and replaces with an Islamic fundamentalist order is, in my opinion, misplaced.  Lieven, like most Occidentals, thinks of the Pakistani Army as modernist.  From the Indian point of view, however, the Pakistani Army is fundamentalist to the core, with a modernist veneer necessarily in place in order to keep Western aid flowing in.   Pakistan's nukes are already in the hands of Islamists.  As Retd US Col. P.W. Lang writes 
Pakistan's military keeps it's existing and future nuclear capability out of the larger world game.  As has been discussed at SST many times, Pakistan either has or will soon have the real world CAPABILITY of ranging Israel's target set.  They have around 100 fully engineered and manufactired deliverable nuclear weapons.  They have aircraft and missiles (Shahiin 2 improved) that would do the job.  The missile launchers are fully mobile.  The US has zero control over this nuclear strike force.   Logically, the willingness of the Pakistan military to keep this "piece" off the chess board is a major boon to the US.  We do not want to see that willingness change to something else.
This Pakistani stance is not because the army is not Islamist; it is because it pays, and pays well.

Regarding Pakistan as a failed state, Lieven notes the first obituary was written in 1983, by Tariq Ali, Can Pakistan Survive? The Death of a State.  He says that Naxalites in India control a larger fraction of the territory than the Taliban ever did in Pakistan. He notes that Afghanistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Burma have had long insurgencies that have proportionally lasted longer, covered more territory and caused more casualties than the Taliban in Pakistan. Therefore "when compared to Canada or France, Pakistan inevitably fails.   When compared to India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka, things ...do not look so terrible."  If Pakistan was a state in India, it would rank somewhere in the middle in development, or "if India was only the 'cow-belt' of Hindi-speaking north India, it probably wouldn't be a democracy or a growing economic power either, but some form of impoverished Hindu-nationalist dictatorship, riven by local conflicts."

Lieven's analysis is deceptive, but I think demolishing it is not worth the time (exercise left to my few readers?).   Oh, and he translates "Bhai-sahib" (as one might use to address a bus conductor) as "Brother-Lord".  ("Brother-sir" would be better, no?)

I haven't finished the first chapter yet, so maybe more later.

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