Problems and Opportunity in Pakistan

Cross posted at TownHall

The recent media coverage in Pakistan regarding the film of a young woman being beaten by religious fanatics of Swat district has shocked and angered many around the world and within Pakistan. As a nation, Pakistan is a study in modernity and backwardness existing side by side, and coming into contact and conflict.

The plight of the woman is one where the Taliban have come to dominate her area, and she was beaten for being in unescorted by a male family member while in the presence of an unrelated male. Of course, this was after she refused the marriage offer of a Taliban fighter. Her refusal and the beating are likely related.

What is also remarkable is the level of public outrage and governmental action this has triggered. President Zardari and his Prime Minister have ordered an investigation, and Chief Justice Chaudhry held a series of legal hearing where he took government officials to task for failure to act decisively prior to the film of the beating becoming a national phenomena. While the breakdown of government rule, and episodes of brutality from the Taliban there, are unfortunate, they are galvanizing government and civil society resolve to address this situation. In doing this, the government and society are being compelled to look closely at the impunity by which extremists operate with in this area, and what the implications are for Pakistani society.

President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani, and Chief Justice Chaudhry are all focusing their attention on this compelling case, and the larger issues that are behind it: addressing extremism, breakdown and reestablishment of government authority, the dangers of the Taliban, etc. On the other side, small fundamentalist political parties are being forced to reveal their defense of this beating which many condemn as brutal and excessive. Conspicuously silent is the leader of the PML-N, Nawaz Sharif.

Problems can be turned into opportunities, and Pakistan is no exception. There are problems, but via President Zardari, his Prime Minister, and the Chief Justice, they are now getting the attention they deserve.