A good chunk of the recently released WikiLeaks documents deal with the problem of a nuclear-armed Pakistan in the grip of radical Islam. Despite the billions of dollars in US aid they receive, they are unwilling to cut ties with the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
One diplomatic cable on the New York Times site is called Will Extra Aid Persuade Pakistan to Cut Ties to Extremists? American diplomats discuss whether giving Islamabad more money will lead them to cut ties with the Taliban.
The author concludes:
There is no chance that Pakistan will view enhanced assistance levels in any field as sufficient compensation for abandoning support to these groups…
Islamic terrorist groups like the Taliban are key element of Pakistani security. They provide a hedge against India by securing Afghanistan and by causing problems for India in Kashmir.
Pakistan is tragedy writ large. It is a nation that was born in chaos of partition and embraced radical Islam to survive.
Shame by Salman Rushdie illuminates the birth of this tragedy. This was the book that Rushdie wrote just before The Satanic Verses – and one that’s far more critical of Islam.
Shame is a fable set in a country that’s “not quite Pakistan”. It chronicles the political history of the country. In the book, the dictator Zia ul-Haq, who brought sharia law to the country, is portrayed as General Raza Hyder. Like the real Zia ul-Haq, he overthrows democracy and uses Islam to unify the country and suppress the people. But the shame of a country born in violence cannot be undone.
Shame is the first book by Rushdie that I ever read and his best. It’s a savage parody – magic realism but grounded in reality. And perhaps key to understanding Pakistan and why American efforts to democratize it are doomed.