The murder of Benazir Bhutto highlights Pakistan’s position as the most dangerous nation on earth, says Jim Jacobson, head of Christian Freedom International. The country “is an unstable nuclear weapons state, infiltrated by terrorists and hostile to the West,” he explains.
With Bhutto’s death, the dream of a democratic Pakistan recedes even further into the future. The most America can hope for in the short term, warns Jacobson, is that “Pakistan not explode, spreading nuclear weapons and terrorists throughout South Asia and the Middle East.”
Since 9/11, Washington has invested $10 billion in Islamabad, but appears to have received little in return. The country remains an economic and political wreck. Even before Bhutto’s assassination, Pakistan remained far from true democratic rule. Worse, the Pakistani military has little control over the provinces bordering Afghanistan, which shelter the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces, perhaps including Osama bin Laden.
However, the problems in Pakistan run even deeper. “Like so many Muslim states, Pakistan persecutes members of minority religious faiths,” Jacobson explains. The basic issue is not democracy, “but a tolerant culture willing to protect vulnerable groups and individual conscience,” he says.
Respect for other faiths is the proverbial canary in the mine, the true test of whether a society is ready for democracy. By that standard Pakistan lags well behind. The government routinely discriminates against Christians, Hindus, and others. Those who question Islam are imprisoned for blasphemy while Christian communities are denied essential services.
Moreover, observes Jacobson, “Violence against religious minorities is rife.” Churches are bombed and believers are murdered. “Yet the state favors the perpetrators over the victims,” explains Jacobson, rarely bringing anyone to justice.
Thus, it should come as no surprise that Pakistan is an inconsistent partner in the war on terrorism as well as the crusade for democracy. Explains Jacobson: “Pakistan simply does not have the basic social building blocks upon which a liberal and free society is built.”
The U.S. has little choice but to deal with Pakistan, given its strategic position. However, the abominable murder of Benazir Bhutto demonstrates that policymakers must look beyond political and military considerations in dealing with Pakistan and similar states.
Jacobson concludes, “Unless Americans can encourage the development of the sort of civic institutions that we take for granted in the West, countries like Pakistan will remain violent, unstable, and dangerous.”
For more information about Pakistan, visit www.christianfreedom.org
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