Democracy’s Enemies in Pakistan

December 6th, 2011 at 9:08 am David Frum | 14 Comments |

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A horrifying act of sectarian terrorism targets Shiite worshipers in Afghanistan:

KABUL — Twin blasts at Afghan shrines on the Shiite holy day of Ashura left at least 58 people dead on Tuesday, with one massive suicide attack in Kabul ripping through a crowd of worshippers including children.

The attack in the capital and another in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif came a day after an international meeting in Germany aimed at charting a course for Afghanistan, 10 years after US-led forces drove the Taliban from power.

The Kabul blast alone killed 54 people, in the deadliest strike on the capital in three years. The Taliban condemned the attacks as “inhumane” and instead blamed the bloodshed on the “invading enemy”.

The explosion erupted at the entrance to a riverside shrine in central Kabul, where hundreds of singing Shiite Muslims had gathered to mark Ashura, with men whipping their bare backs as part of the traditional mourning.

Anti-Shiite violence, so common in Iraq, has been comparatively seldom in Afghanistan, where Shiites form only about 15% of the population.

However, anti-Shiite violence has been rising in Pakistan–and what befouls Pakistan seeps into Afghanistan too.

In October, a total of 39 Pakistani Shiites were gunned down by unknown and unpunished attackers in Pakistan. The attacks were all carried out in the vicinity of Quetta–the same place where a suicide bomber killed 57 people in September 2010.

Now take a look at a map.

Quetta happens to be just down the road from Kandahar, which is the capital of what you might call Talibanistan. Quetta has historically been Pakistan’s main operating base against Afghanistan, the headquarters for Pakistani intelligence operations. In both Pakistan and Afghanistan, the victims of sectarian violence have not only been Shiite, but they have belonged to an ethnic minority, the Hazara, who speak a variant of Persian and supposedly descended from the ancient Mongol invaders.

Who are the killers? How can they act with such impunity? What is the real attitude of the Pakistan army and intelligence services toward the killers? Those are some questions to keep in mind.

Also important to keep in mind: the Bhutto family that has dominated Pakistan’s civilian politics since 1971 (the current president, Asif Ali Zardari, is the widower of assassinated former PM Benazir Bhutto and thus the son-in-law of executed former PM and president Zulfikar Ali Bhutto) is both despised by the intelligence services–and also Shiite by origin, although they avoid mention of those origins today.

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14 Comments so far ↓

  • John Frodo

    The problem in Pakistan is that it is a medieval society supported by the Army. Same case in most the 3rd world, and moving to America.

    • armstp

      “a medieval society “

      You are one ignorant fool. Go back to your Fox News where you can have a few more brain cells leached out of your head.

      Sure Pakistan is not the most wealthy country in the world, but it is far from a “medieval society”.

      > Pakistan’s healthcare ranks 86th in the world, ahead of Malaysia. That is about middle of the road.
      > As of December 8, 2009, 652 companies were listed with the market capitalization of Rs. 2.561 trillion (US$ 30.5 Billion) having listed capital of Rs. 717.3 billion (US$ 12 billion) on the Karachi stock market. That is a real and credible stock and financial market.
      > Between 2001-07, however, poverty levels decreased by 10%, as Islamabad steadily raised development spending. During 2004-07, GDP growth in the 5-8% range was spurred by gains in the industrial and service sectors – despite severe electricity shortfalls – but growth slowed in 2008-09 and unemployment rose. Inflation remains the top concern among the public, climbing from 7.7% in 2007 to more than 13% in 2010. The country is growing actually at a pretty good rate and the economy is improving.
      > $464.9 billion GDP or the 28th largest in the world.
      Etc., etc., etc.

      • armstp

        Labor force data from the World Bank for 2007 indicates that 23% of Pakistan’s labor force has had tertiary (college) education.

        This compares with 61% in the United States, 32% in the UK, 20% in Malaysia, 33% in Singapore and 17% in Sri Lanka.

        It has no data for India or China.


        WASHINGTON: Pakistan is ranked as one of top countries that registered high growth rates in broadband Internet penetration among their populace, the latest worldwide data report for Q1 2010 to Q1 2011 says.

        Serbia leads all countries surveyed with a 68% annual growth rate from Q1 2010 to Q1 2011, according to July 2011 Bandwidth Report with data on worldwide bandwidth penetration.

        The figures were cited by Website Optimization, LLC, a leading website optimizing firm, sourced from Point Topic, a global broadband tracker, and reported by PRWeb.

        Pakistan, which has seen a boom in its promising telecom sector and information technology services in recent years, recorded around 46.2 percent growth of subscribers and is placed fourth on the ranking list.

        The closest South Asian country to Pakistan on the list of top countries is Sri Lanka at the 11th spot with its broadband penetration growing in 30s while India lags at the 14th place in terms of broadband growth.

        Globally, only Thailand and Belarus had greater percentage expansion than Pakistan, apart from top-rated Serbia during the period.

        Pakistan’s digital growth prospects have begun to look brighter lately.

        Besides having a large bilingual (English and Urdu) Internet conversant population, Pakistan’s software companies have carved a niche internationally in recent years.

        According to government figures, the country’s information technology exports totaled $1.4 billion in the last financial year.

        Experts say the IT industry, which adds thousands of skilled workers every year, has the potential to hit multimillion export target within next five to ten years. Additionally, mobile phone and wireless Internet usage are also expanding rapidly.


        Pakistan is about 5 years ahead of India on biometric database of its citizens.

        All the hype about Indian IT sector makes it hard to believe that it is Pakistan, not India, which has widely deployed biometric identification technology to issue multi-purpose national ID cards and e-passports to its citizens. Is this just another case of the proverbial shoemaker’s children going barefoot?

        DOESN’T sound like “a medieval society” to me.

    • Fart Carbuncle

      John, you are exactly correct but be warned: Obots outnumber you by at least 5 to 1 on this forum.

      Thus, the immediate attack that violates the terms of service: “…comments that are abusive, engage in personal attacks…any other type of ad hominem attacks (including comments that celebrate the death or illness of any person, public figure or otherwise) will be subject to removal…”

      • jakester

        As if you are setting a standard of decorum around here?
        Pakistan is far from a medieval society, as backwards as it is. Medieval societies tend not to have even telephones, save the internet , TV & a bombs

        • baw1064

          There’s a distinction to be made, though, between a society’s economic and technological level, and its social structures. I think the latter is very uneven in different parts of Pakistan. In the tribal areas, in contrast to the cities, I think it is largely a non-modern society, in terms of social structures. The social structures aren’t instantly changed by having more technology. For example, when we armed the mujahaddin in the 1980′s, we ended up with a tribal society with lots of modern weapons, which they tended to use in precisely the same way as they used the old-fashioned weapons they had previously.

        • jakester

          Pakistan was a sad product of decolonialization, millions died at first and then in the 1970s when East Pakistan broke away. Only if they were able to live in peace without religious strife. But even India has what, about 7 different main languages, but at least they managed to make common ground, ironically by using English as the language of government

        • armstp


          Yeah, there are a lot of “hilbillies” and uneven develop in the U.S. as well. …a few hillbillies right here on this post.

      • ConnerMcMaub

        The term “obots” is an ad hominem attack. You are violating the rules you claim to defend.

        • Fart Carbuncle

          Apologies; only used it to make a point. However, it ain’t as bad as “You are one ignorant fool. Go back to your Fox News where you can have a few more brain cells leached out of your head.”

        • armstp


          You are also a moron.

        • Fart Carbuncle

          You, sir, are making a mockery of the forum moderation.

  • Carney

    Tragicomically, the demonstrators’ poor English makes their sign’s headline seem as if they may be protesting killings committed BY Shia instead of UPON Shia.

  • Argy F

    Considering his role in history – one might hope that Frum would refrain from pontificating about this subject.

    Axis of Evil, indeed.