Historical context, or systemic knowledge, is critical to the pursuit of understanding any complex issue. The long term, thirty year prespective provided by Pervez Musharraf this evening opened my eyes to what could be the causes of more recent events. As we were requested to silence our cell phones, and specifically not to tweet, at the beginning of my lecture, I took sporadic notes on the back of my hand.
“All Taliban are Pashtuns, but not all Pashtuns are Taliban.” Musharraf argues that the resurgence of Taliban activity since 2003 is because the coalition forces have not included the Pashtuns in the political process. The Pashtuns comprise over 40% of the Afghani population. Not being involved in the political process means that they’ve been driven to the city and hills; to effectively rebuild the prior national covenant, the Pashtuns must also be engaged in the political process.
On why Pakistan has nuclear arms: 80% of India’s military force is reportedly oriented towards the country. Pakistan has an “existential threat” to its existence.
On relations with Afghanistan: “They have always been bad.”
Why hasn’t Osama Bin Laden been captured? “I think he’s smarter than us […] Operations are going well, let’s see if we can get him.”
On the practice of stoning women to death, and what a recent act might do: “If you think by enacting laws you can change mindsets, that doesn’t happen. Not in developing countries.” It is not in all of Pakistan that people stone their neighbors, just in the backward wilds of some areas. Musharraf argues that misunderstandings forwarded by the media make this more of an issue than it is.
What kept surfacing in my mind was this: how does minimum viable democracy change from country to country and context to context? I feel that, all to often, we unfairly judge a country’s politics in comparison to our own standards of success and failure. Musharraf notes that when he came to power at the end of 1999, through a non-violent coup, the country was considered a failed state and that by 2006 the World Bank was praising the country for its economic progress.
The recording of the lecture, if made available, will be recommended.