walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
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Utterly Routine Horrors in Pakistan

Eighty-four Shiites were murdered by evil fanatics in Quetta, Pakistan, last week, and, sadly, this kind of thing isn’t really news anymore. There are so many murdering fanatics on the loose, and the government is so utterly unable—or, as many mutter darkly, unwilling—to deal with the problem that it is essentially open season on anyone whose religious beliefs, conduct, or political ideas rub the nutjobs the wrong way. When the dateline is Pakistan, thug bombs pregnant woman is no longer news.

Here are some things that would be news from Pakistan: angry citizens, infuriated by the incompetence and indifference of the authorities, take to the streets and rip down mosques where terror is preached in the name of religion. Bigoted imams calling for murder are tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail. The secret services, truly sorry for their past support of these dubious characters, deluge the public with a flood of information about the suspicious financial dealings of fanatical leaders and their sexual escapades, photos attached. Petitions circulate that Pakistan stop calling itself an “Islamic” Republic until it has done something worthy of the name. Civil servants leaking to reporters details about the vast influx of Gulf money supporting fanaticism. Million-person Shi’a-Sunni-Christian-Hindu marches against religious intolerance.

There are enough people in Pakistan who hate these thugs, the crimes they commit, and the damage they do to Pakistani society, its image, and its economy, to take action against them and to win. But they aren’t as well organized as the bad guys. Many hope that, if they stay silent, they can live their own lives in peace. There is also fear that certain elements of the deep state will come down on the side of evil at the key moment. The wanna-be good guys are also divided by Pakistan’s history of ethnic rivalry, dynastic politics, and economic and social polarization.

There is a real country in Pakistan that is struggling to emerge: an outward looking, modernizing, tolerant, and entrepreneurial Pakistan that could be one of the world’s success stories. It’s no longer news that this Pakistan is being strangled by the bad guys; real news would be signs that at long last the Land of the Pure is living up to its name, and up to the hopes its great founder, the redoubtable Ali Jinnah, had for it.

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