NYT: As Fears Grow Over Pakistani President, U.S. Woos Rival

May 1, 2009

As Fears Grow Over Pakistani President, U.S. Woos Rival

This paragraph is the only real background on NS in the article, and could at best be called counterproductive or misleading:

Mr. Sharif, 59, represents the Pakistan Muslim League-N, a coalition that includes a number of Islamist groups. He was prime minister twice during the 1990s, and received hero status in Pakistan for ordering nuclear weapons tests in 1998.

(Either my headache is more severe than I thought or they changed that in the last twenty minutes from “Muslim League of Pakistan” to PML (N)—there goes 25% of my rant!)

Anyway PML (N) is not a coalition, though presumably they are referring to the APDM which was made up of every party—Islamist, secularist, feudalist, opportunist—which actually wanted Musharraf out at the end of his reign.

His ties to Islamists are nothing but pure political calculation. The PPP and PML have each taken their turns flirting with the religious parties or the military or the West or the Saudis, and neither party has ever had even the slightest hint of an ideology beyond their own political survival, the humiliation of their rivals, and the advancement of the material well being of every hoodlum willing to rob the country blind under their banner.

These two off the cuff aspersions posing as biographical notes are the sort of media fearmongering I don’t get. If this were typical NYT South Asia reporting (read the Hindu, call up Sonia, send out your summary and call it a day) I might understand. But even though there was a month or so last year where Benazir could do no wrong, this article is pretty harsh on the current state of the PPP and President 10%. So if you’re going to bring this up (rather than saying that NS and his party represent the Punjabi feudal elite’s interests or something else vaguely social sciencey) you could at least do the balancing thing:

Nawaz is currently in a pro-democracy coalition (though not an electoral coalition) with an inter-sectarian Islamist party whose factions all hate each other but hate the secular state more (and whose biggest factions didn’t even participate in the last election) along with some crazy almost-Commie secularist Pathans and a crazier athlete turned megalomaniac politician. The ruling party under its recently martyred heiress oversaw the creation of the Taliban. Nawaz conducted nuclear tests in a deliberate provocation of India. Benazir smuggled nuclear plans to North Korea in her handbag.

I’m just saying, if you want to scare us, go all the way. Americans are constitutionally predisposed to relate to scenarios of total depravity.* Fulfill that need.

(The exact same two points—sharia and nukes—were also used as the entire background in a nearly identical article a month ago.)

As for the news itself, if it’s just a case of America deciding it needs a new dance partner, then it is tragic. If it’s us saying to Zardari that he needs to work with all centers of influence and power, it’s great. The article suggested it’s a little of each.

Personally, I would appeal to both of them—and to Imran Khan and the military leaders and the religious parties and every 5th grade student in the country—by saying that the balance of their legacy is extremely negative, and that if they can’t just once put aside their selfish, desperate pursuit of every last pai left to be pocketed they are going to lose their country for good and it will be their fault and history will remember.

* If you find that sentence insulting, you probably didn’t understand it. If you find anything else in the article insulting, you probably belong to a Pakistani political party and were meant to.

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