Islamabad: Though Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has dismissed the possibility of protests similar to what is happening in some Middle Eastern capitals taking place in his country, there is a belief in the minds of many Pakistanis that the threat exists.
Citing diplomats and Pakistani officials, the New York Times reported from Islamabad that Pakistan contained many of the same ingredients for revolt found in the Middle East.
In addition, Pakistan has an economy hollowed out by bad management and official corruption; rising Islamic religious fervour; and a poisonous resentment of the United States, Pakistan’s biggest financial supporter.
"If no one expects Pakistan to be swept by revolution this week, the big question on many minds is how, and when, a critical mass of despair among this nation’s 180 million people and the unifying Islamist ideology might be converted into collective action," the NYT said.
"Some diplomats and analysts compare the combustible mixture of religious ideology and economic frustration, overlaid with the distaste for America, to Iran in 1979," the dispatch said, adding, "Only one thing is missing: a leader."
As it has been for all of Pakistan’s more than 60 years of history, Parliament today remains dominated by the families of a favoured few, who use their perch to maintain a corrupt patronage system and to protect their own interests as Pakistan’s landed and industrial class.
The government takes in little in taxes, and as a result provides little in the way of services to its people.
“Ninety-nine percent of Pakistanis are not affected by the state — it doesn’t deliver anything for them,” Farrukh Saleem, a risk analyst, was quoted as saying.
They see the rich getting richer, including “the sons of rich, corrupt politicians and their compatriots openly buying Rolls-Royces with their black American Express cards,” Jahangir Tareen, a reformist politician and successful agricultural businessman, was quoted as saying.
At the core of Pakistan’s problem are the wretched economic conditions of day-to-day life for most of the people whose lives are gouged by inflation, fuel shortages and scarcity of work, the NYT dispatch said.
Food inflation totalled 64 percent in the last three years and the purchasing power of the average wage earner has declined by 20 percent since 2008.
Joblessness has soared. The true unemployment rate was 34 percent, meaning 18 million people, mostly young, are officially seeking jobs in Pakistan.
First Published: Friday, February 04, 2011, 18:15