Has Pakistan turned its back on extremism?

Hello Chloe here,

You may have heard at the end of last night’s programme two Pakistani commentators arguing that their country has turned a corner this week. One of the things they argue is that victory for the two main opposition parties suggests that voters are moving away from the Islamist parties. The party of the late Benazir Bhutto, the PPP, says it is ready to form a coalition with Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N after winning the majority of the vote. Yet President Pervez Musharraf says he has no plans to stand down and will try to work with any new government.

But turn out was low at just over 30 per cent, and for women voters it’s been suggested that drops to around four percent. Many women were responding to threats of violence by religious militants who told Pakistani women they should not be allowed to vote. So has anything really changed ?

Those two commentators will be back tonight to take your calls : both Professor Iftikhar Malik, senior lecturer at Bath Spa University, and author of many books about Pakistan and Kamila Shamsie, novelist based in London and Karachi will be on for the whole hour..

27 Responses to “Has Pakistan turned its back on extremism?”

  1. February 20, 2008 at 14:33

    Pakistan in the current international situation shouldn’t be ruled by the military or the Islamists as both are a threat to continuing democracy. Pakistan has paid a lot of prices to return to democracy. There have been violent incidents leading to the death of Benazir Bhutto.

    There should be national reconciliation through the implementation of democratic rules. The winning parties should work together to further stability in the country and not to give an excuse to the military to have full grip of power again or to the Islamists to mount protests and attacks, making the country one of the most dangerous in the region.

    From the past events, Pakistan seems a resilient country; in that, despite political upheavals, the situation didn’t generate into a civil war.

    Concerning the call for the stepping down of Pt Musharraf, it seems that this will create further tensions as in Pakistan the army isn’t ready for a full withdrawal from politics. Musharraf is now a civilian president but his background is military. He as a president can be a bridge between the military and the parties going to form a government.

    The Pakistanis should congratulate themselves on having peaceful elections on the voting day after violent incidents prior to it. It seems that Pakistan s an emerging democracy is still far from having a “constitutional presidency” in analogy to constitutional monarchy. Looking for an alternative to Musharraf can just cause a rift between the major parties, as each will try to have one from its ranks.

    The Pakistanis have been patient enough to “bear” with him since he came to power in 1999. The current parties should bear with him until he finishes his term for a smooth transition from military rule to democratic one.

  2. 2 George USA
    February 20, 2008 at 14:34

    The situation in Pakistan is complex enough already without BBC injecting women’s rights into the mix.

    This outside influence is ill advised.

    The women of Pakistan are well able to defend and demand their own rights.

    The USA and UK would be well advised to limit media to avoiding the Westernization of Muslim women as topics in the news.

    Here is the reason: this only infuriates and threatens Muslim fundamentalist against Western Nations and actually accomplishes nothing for Muslim women at this time.

    The implied demand is to Westernize women’s sexual practices, which is not the issue from the BBC or US news perspective but is absolutely the issue for Muslim fundamentalists subliminal feeling of threat.

    Why toss a delicate topic into the main stream media that only motivates bombings and conflict?

    This is not the time for this topic in Western Media and ultimately Pakistani women, indeed Muslim women, will deal with it, not the USA or UK.

  3. 3 carlos King
    February 20, 2008 at 15:11

    Good day all,

    If Pakistan was a “real” country and not an anarchistic state I would be hopeful that they have turned their backs on extremism. But because Pakistan was created to fail, it will fail and fall, sooner than later.

    The only hope for Pakistan is reunification with India but because their leaders are so proud it will not happen. I hope and pray that the casualities will be few when the inevitable meltdown takes place but I am do not think so. As the bible says, a house built on sand will fall when assailed by stormy winds and choppy seas.

    Carlos, Kingston- Jamaica.

  4. 4 John in Salem
    February 20, 2008 at 15:36

    If Musharraf is either removed or is partnered with a civilian government but still doesn’t either negotiate with the extremists or get serious about driving them out, then what is the meaning of change? They’re not going to go away or give up just because there is a new government.

  5. 5 gary
    February 20, 2008 at 16:23

    Hello All,
    It is easy and fashionable for people who live in stable countries to crticize politicians in unstable ones. In the “perfect” view of many, President Musharraf looks decidedly imperfect; but I think these imperfections can be explained. I think he is decisive man trying to keep the country he loves from descending into anarchy. He is probably incorrect in this view. The recent election outcome suggests most Pakistanis are just ordinary reasonable people. They have rejected the extremes. They love their country too! I think now would be the time for President Musharraf to be that most unusual politician: the Stateman. The man who so loves his country that he is willing to trust its future to his countrymen. Trusted people are trustworthy!
    My last thought and prayer is for the the people of Pakistan: Listen to your neighbors, speak with them, accommodate their differences, love them as countrymen, and all will be well.

  6. 6 Paul
    February 20, 2008 at 16:33

    Finally, the Brave Citizens of Pakistan have legally reduced the power of the U.S. financed ‘our corporate compromised man’ and wanna be ruthless dictator, President Musharraf. In the end, the recent $10 Billion in U.S. military aid was not enough to enshrine his lust
    for supreme political power.
    Let us hope, the C.I.A.’s “The National Endowment for Democracy” plans for Pakistan, Fail.

  7. 7 VictorK
    February 20, 2008 at 16:45

    Carlos: I take it, then, that your position is that the British are to blame for this?

    Pakistan was created because India’s muslims wanted it. they could have remained a part of India if they’d wanted that instead. Your suggestion of re-unification with India is laughable on three counts. Firstly, I doubt if the Indians – who are well on the way to becoming a prosperous modern society – would want to take on the responsibility for a society like Pakistan, which has proved itself unstable, chaotic, violent, terror-ridden, corrupt and riddled with religious insanity. Second, the Pakistani military and civilian elite all have their snouts in the trough and are never going to voluntarily abandon all the wealth and privilege that their position entails. Lastly, when in the history of the entire world did you ever hear of muslims voluntarily submitting to the rule of non-muslims? Their history in India is just the opposite: invasion and conquest for the purpose of forcing non-muslims to submit to the rule of muslims. And do you seriously imagine that it is plausible that such a thing should happen at a time when Pakistan is the home of some of the most extreme and fundamentalist muslims on the planet?

    Put your hatred of Britain/the West to one side and re-consider the issues on their merits; and you will see why your post was mistaken.

    George: you are right, but for the wrong reasons. The BBC is entitled to raise whatever issue it thinks appropriate for discussion or investigate, including the rights of muslim women. It is not the place of the British government to limit the activities of the BBC or any other arm of the British media. The BBC should never ever shy away from treating a subject because doing so would cause offence to fanatics. That kind of appeasement went out with Chamberlain. It should, though, be conscious of a tendency of many Western liberals and liberal institutions to judge events in other parts of the world according to liberal values and liberal standards, as if these were universally true and applicable to all people. They aren’t. That’s not to say that there are no standards that are generally applicable (such as the right to life and property, or the basic duties of any government). But these are more natural rights and responsibilities, not liberal ones. Because women in the West enjoy equal rights is not in itself grounds for assuming that women in Pakistan should also have equal rights to their menfolk. The BBC, if it chooses to address such an issue, should ensure that one of the perspectives it is addressed from is the Pakistani one. Let’s hear from Pakistani women who want to argue the case for equal rights for women (which we will, anyway). But let’s also hear the case laid out for restricting or withholding rights from women, which obviously also exists but whose proponents are rarely given the opportunity to lay out their position, even though the evidence suggests that their view is in harmony with the outlook and values of Pakistani society.That people may go mad and start rioting if the BBC examines the rights of Pakistani women is neither here nor there.

  8. February 20, 2008 at 16:56

    What should Pakistam do more if you feel not enough as have been done till today?

    Pakistan have lost a good number of its war heros during the opration in trible araes and opration is still going on.

    Pakiatan has lost its internationally recognised political leader Benazir Bhutto in the conflict with terroists.

    Under the leader of president Musharraf ,Pakistan have control on insurgency to great extent what american done in Afghanistan, and Iraq is still facing unavoidable circumstances.

    Pakistan is not a failed state,as you talking about,Pakistan is nuclear power and will remained live forever.

    Pakistan is providing a unique help to the countries like United States and British against the war on terror.

    When you describe Pakistan as a failed state i think, you are committing a crime aganst humanity.

  9. 9 carlos King
    February 20, 2008 at 17:34

    Good day all,


    You have actually strengthen my point. Pakistan was created for failure by Britain initially and is being sustained for failuer by America. Neither America nor Britian is overly concerned about the welware of the Pakistani. As long as the region remains unstable American and Britian will remain the top dog. No other super power will ever emerge in that region. It is all about power! The Feudal Lords/Elites have their share, the Military has its share, the politicians have their share and the people are pawns in their hands especially the women.

    The mere fact that Pakistani has not totally imploded is a testament to the indomitable human spirit. It is such a pity the people can’t wake up tomorrow and reject their bankrupt leaders and their slavish religion. That is their only hope.

    Pakistan, Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan are all failed states and it suites the agenda of America and Great Britain. The is the endgame.

  10. February 20, 2008 at 17:44

    Who, or which organization controls Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and how does it play into the United States’ involvement in the election?

  11. 11 Will Rhodes
    February 20, 2008 at 17:47

    At what point do we in the west say that it is OK to allow the subjugation of women because they are Muslim? Women told, because they are women, that they should not have any right to vote in an election is preposterous! “If you vote – we will kill you” How is that in anyway civilised in any country, not just that of Pakistan?

    If this is because the men (certainly not all men, just those who believe in feudalism and fanaticism) of that country have a perceived idea that women voting and having that right will lead to a sexual explosion is unthinkable – yet it has been mentioned here.

    We, here in the west, should support women going out to vote for what they think is right – not tell them not to do it because it will hurt certain members of the opposite sexes feelings. If it is a matter of setting up two separate polling stations so that one is for men and one for women, this could be a compromise – but certainly not saying that women should not vote.

    The BBC, CNN, AL Jazeera etc have every right to report on the news – no news media should be excluded from bringing reports out of a country that are intrinsic to that countries standing in the world.

    A country cannot move forward when it is the military that has the final say on who governs – but that process does take time and the country has to feel that it can rely on the government not to exclude anyone. We have seen a massive change in Turkey, yes there are still protests there – but those protests are done in a way that is legal and does not, as far as I know, exclude any citizen from the electoral process. Yes, they do have to deal with the Kurds, but that is an internal problem for Turkey and we should be supporting her in identifying and correcting that problem.

    In answer to the post question – no, I don’t think that Pakistan has turned her back on extremism. While, within her boarders, you have extremists openly advocating the destruction of innocent people wherever they live, Pakistan will still be seen as a seat for those such.

    Extremism is a cancer that has been allowed to spread – it is now, too late in my opinion, that surgery will have to be used to remove they tumour. How and who will do that is still an open question.

  12. 12 Chernor Jalloh
    February 20, 2008 at 17:57

    Nothing is going to change in Pakistan as President Musharraf is not ready to backdown from politics and keep on looking after his family by any means.It is a good news to hear from the Pakistan Taleban not to interfere or disrupt in the elections in the American way.Musharraf,has sold Pakistan to the extremists and that has made many Pakistanis not to leave their places of work to go and vote for a man who is highly regarded as an American puppet.

    Musharraf feels that he is the right man to put an end to terrorism without knowing that he is destroying the little relation ship with the UK government for having too many Madrassas in his country wherein all sorts of extremists people from the UK and the world in general can come and learn how to make explosives to target the West which they strongly believe that the West is agaist Islam.The Afghan government is expressing resentments simply because the Pakistani army is not willing to pursue the militants that are hiding along the border with Pakistan and many of them slip through to assist their fellow Afghans to wage the so-called Jihad against the occupying forces.

    Iam just thinking how it can work,when some of the political parties finally decide to impeach Musharraf to get him out of power.And what ever methods that are taken against Musharraf by politicians in Pakistan he will remain in power and his links with the US in fighting terrorism will be an uphill fight too.

  13. 13 Elias Lostrom
    February 20, 2008 at 18:08

    One thing has always worried me and that is the fact that Pakistan has spent most of the time it has enjoyed as a free state under either elected or self imposed dictators. That such a place be a nuclear power that “sold” supermarket nuclear technology and harbours the Taliban and al Qaida is also disturbing and should be ringing alarm bells in all free countries.

    What corner has been turned??

  14. February 20, 2008 at 18:13

    Steve, USA (by email)

    Maybe not islamic extremism is the greatest risk (if you ignore all the bombings that took place during the campaigns), but something is VERY wrong with Pakistan. If you look at it’s history, it exists because Muslims and Hindus in the Indian subcontinent couldn’t get along. A huge population shift and many deaths happened in 1947-48 when both nations declared independence from the UK. But with India, it became a stable democracy, where Pakistan seems to be a banana republic, with a coup d’etat every decade, political assasinations, and a very poor and uneducated population that seems to be radicalizing. I don’t hold out much hope for Pakistan, just like I don’t have much hope for much of Africa, because the news is always the same.

  15. February 20, 2008 at 18:16

    Kwabena, by email

    The people of pakistan have made it extremely clear they want peace and no more islamic extremism and military dictatorship. The military and extremist must advise themselves and change their ways. I congratulate the pakistani people for choosing peace and true democracy.

  16. February 20, 2008 at 18:24

    What can bring full political stability in Pakistan is power sharing between the major parties and president Musharraf. Mounting a campaign to put him out of power can just create more political tension which Pakistan should do without after years of political turmoil.

  17. February 20, 2008 at 18:31

    What do we mean by extremism here? In the 1st place we should all be grateful to the Lord Jesus Christ for the present situation in Pakistan and stop inciting its people by the use of such unguarded words. These are a people who have had to graple with deep divisions on tribal and religious lines since independence and when one man, president Pervez Musharraf(an honest man who I sincerely believe loves his country very much) decides to use himself as the rallying point to foster unity amongst his people by making them all hate him enough to want him out of office shouldn’t we rather be concerned about encouraging the various factions to come together for once and bridge their deep gaps so that their unity of purpose and love for country will overide their individual interests? To me president Pervez Musharaf has succeeded for once in bringing his people together to ussher them into the true democratic process albeit at the expense of his life(I’m talking figuratively here). The man has carefully selected and carried out actions which has made him become “a stench” to his people so that for once they all are prepared to work together politically. How I wish the late Benazir Bhutto was alive today so that she can lead her party and meet Nawaz Sharif for them to come together for the common good of Pakistan. I am not saying here that the two parties should merge but that they should see themselves as one people who want the best for their country doing away with all forms of antagonism etc which had hitherto divided them and made them hate each other instead of loving one another. As for president Musharraf I salute him and doff my hat for him. He is a true soldier who has ‘died’ for his country. Congratulations sir. Please keep on the good work. However, please don’t hand over power to any of them if they don’t want to forget their parocuial self interests and think of Pakistan 1st and formost. To the rest of the world lets start working hard to make them forge ahead in unity and love instead of the useless phrases we are using now. We must not fail in this quest. Posterity will not forgive us all. Musharraf has been sacrificed for the light to begin to shine at the end of the tunnel. Lets all come together to help Pakistan to enter the light. This include the muslim fundamentalists also who we must begin to teach the true tenets of love,patriotism and bravery for man and country which is quite different from what they know now. Let the whole world know that if Pakistan fails and the muslim fundamentalists take over the whole world is in trouble beginning from Afganistan. Please don’t forget that the voter turn out is less than 30% and so the muslim fundamentalist should be seen as having won the election(40%) by their terror tactics. Do we want that or peace,love,development and hope for all people including the Pakistan.

  18. 18 Fahad Khan
    February 20, 2008 at 18:36

    Yes, Pakistan has turned its back on extremism, the way the US turned its back on Islamic extremism when it suited their needs. But the minute the US wants Pakistan to support another Taliban type group, they will, and when the US changes its mind again, they will point their finger at Pakistan again.
    The US only recently stopped supporting the Taliban as well, isn’t it so?

    And speaking of Pakistan’s elections, pro-Musharraf parties did win in Balochistan (PML-Q) and Karachi (MQM).

  19. 19 Elias Lostrom
    February 20, 2008 at 18:54

    Osama Bin Laden is probably living in style in Quetta…. This American speaker is right.. they need to let some outside assistance to get the guy.

  20. 20 Chernor Jalloh
    February 20, 2008 at 18:59

    Well done VictorK:You asked a question about the donations given to Africa by the Saudis or other Arab countries.I can tell you there is a Kuwait fund that was given to the Guinean government which was 15 million US dollars and do you know what happened?It was all embezzled by a clan of mafias.The Arabs are not like your government,whereby when ever an aid is giving to Africa you see CNN CREWS showing it over and over again to the entire world.

    Mr Gadaffi of Lybia,on his way to the AU summit in Accra,Ghana,last year he gave a brand new Mercedez Benz that worth millions of US dollars to the prime minister and some militry fatiqus to the unpatriotic army;he sent a delegation of experts to renew all the old fruit factories that were looted by the former and despotic regimes.I cannot tell you Victor the amount of money he has poured only for the youths and he is preparing to build big hotels in the capital,Conakry and roads too.Victor,how I wish you to read much about Africa and you will know how the Bush administration aid pacage to Africa is nothing compared to the one that he takes out of Africa.And if Iam not telling the truth ask people or read alot of news papers that come from Africa.The western media will never show the type of Aid Africa is getting from Arab and muslim countries.There is a saying,”give what you have to get what you want“.And that is the American Way of doing things.

    The US war on terror has gone to a length that it was deciding for all the muslims around the world to stop giving Zarkat(money that is obligatory for every muslim)which according to its dark foreign policy the money is landing in the pocket of terrorists.Islam will ever remain a religion to be reconed with and the fastest growing religion in the world,despite of some bad coins.

    There are so many Islamic aid organisations which help the poor and the needy in countries affected by disasters regardless of their religions and the CIA is suspicious of those charity workers and often labelled them as terrorists.

    The Ghanian government which was so hungry to host AFRICOM,Mr Bush has made it clear to him and to all Africans who love peace that he has no intentions of having a US military base in that country and any other one.

    I wish you the very best Victor and your American people,God bless America and save its people from being vulnerable in the hands of terrorists due to lies being made by anadministration Amen.

  21. 21 Adam from Washington, DC
    February 20, 2008 at 19:01

    Lebanon, Syria, Iran, and the Kurdish region of Iraq all have large populations of young people that are putting internal pressure (however unnoticeable from the outside) on their respective governments through passive resistance. What about the Pakistani youth? Whom do they support and what sort of internal pressures are the putting on their government?

  22. 22 George USA
    February 21, 2008 at 00:10

    Here is the USA there has been a plethora of leads to the tune of “We are fighting for women’s rights in Afghanistan, etc”

    This is a cheap lead, even a trite lead, for a reporter, but an expensive lead for the troops.

    Civil Affairs tries to bolster relations and decrease reasons for conflict through civil projects, rebuilding, medical clinics, and on going personal visits.

    Rather than under-cut our own war efforts for a rant story, wisdom is to defer the topics which increase conflict.

    Imposing Western Sexual practices is hardly appeasement.
    We are in a war, we have troops in the field.
    All discourse which fields more enemy combatants is counterproductive.

    The conflict in Afghanistan is centered not on the Westernization of women, but the protection of the USA and NATO countries.

    Anything that increases the conflict but does not achieve the purpose of the conflict is unhelpful to our troops and the ultimate resolution of the conflict.

    Imposing significant cultural changes is not why we fight. We are not fighting to Westernize Muslim women.

    In values a counter insurgency war cannot address or target moral, religious, tribal customs except when essential to the prosecution of the war.

  23. February 21, 2008 at 04:55

    Almost all muslim countries have fundamentalist problem at their backyard, the issue is the extent of the seriousness of the problem, Pakistan is no exception. The irony is, taliban is their own creation with the aid of CIA, now cold war is gone, some have morphed into other extreme groups

    The experiment has gone awry, it bite the hands that feed them and the situation has become more complex because there are many islamist factions with different agendas. Suicide bombing is a new phenomenon in Pakistan, you never hear this during the cold war. I guess, sadly the spreading of ideology of martyrdom has began to bear fruits.

  24. 24 Nick
    February 21, 2008 at 08:58

    I don’t think so, It is simply Pakistanis way of life.

  25. 25 A.R.Shams
    February 22, 2008 at 09:20

    Rejecting undeserving Islamist terrorism and military dictatorship ruling in the country Pakistanis should now have formed their coalition democratic government combined by those political winning parties that struggled hard for true democracy at all costs.

  26. 26 A.R.Shams
    February 22, 2008 at 14:42

    Since terrorism has become now an international issue, curving its pace should have been the task of UNO. Countries like Pakistan or else can collaborate with it. No individual country on its individual accord should undertake such a big responsibility of this dangerous fire-play.

  27. 27 Pakistani
    April 3, 2009 at 05:54

    Giving Aid to Pakistan ….Mr. Obahma and other leaders of the world and think tanks….do you really think this aid will go to 80% people of pakistan who are living below the poverty line….NO dear think tanks and all leaders.it will go to the curropt poltician’s accounts who have hijaked pakistan. Why do you not think before give it to them.At least give this aid in installments( which you are trying to do) get all the invoices back and send the team to see if they have opened schools, hospitals, parks, roads,( this is not 100 % possible to check everything if 70% is possible it will do some good to people of pakistan)We have corrupt politicians( most of them) have no system or any insititute except one strong insititute ARMY they eat our 70% budget every year.

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