Pakistan’s troubles with extremism start not with the Islamic constitution adopted in the 1970s and the banning of alcohol by a government that needed the hardliners to shore up its feeble position; nor do they stem from the growing Islamisation under General Zia, when hardliners took over the military and its intelligence agency, channeling cash and arms to their favourite Islamist Mujahideen; nor when the government fostered the Taliban in Afghanistan during the 1990s; nor by a succession of governments unwilling to offer an alternative narrative to that offered by conservative clerics that foreign powers are to blame for Pakistan’s ills; nor by a moribund economy where state industries are propped up in order to provide jobs to relatives and no-one except the stupid and the poor pay taxes. No. Pakistan’s problems are caused by the International Monetary Fund, at least according to an op-ed piece in today’s Dawn:
In the past, post-colonial theorists have proffered the idea that Islamic fundamentalism is an oppositional discourse to imperialism and hence neo-imperialism. That is a limited thesis; a historical analysis that connects global pressures to reconstitute the state and to cut back on its welfare functions (as the IMF and the World Bank have often demanded of poor countries) goes further.
It reveals fundamentalism and, in Pakistan’s particular case, the rise of fundamentalisms, as inextricably connected to the pressures faced internationally.
There was a time, as an old-fashioned lefty, when I would have believed this kind of guff. Then I lived in the developing world. If countries like Kenya and Pakistan have problems it is not – after 50 or 70 years of independence – because of some colonial hangover. It is not the result of globalisation. And it is not the result of neo-liberal economic policies – whatever they are. It is the result of years and years of corruption and poor government.
To suggest otherwise is just patronising. Pakistan is a big enough boy to have built itself an atomic bomb. It has all the talent, ingenuity and resources to prosper and to become a world power. That it is not is not the result of IMF austerity measures. Pakistan didn’t even comply with the conditions of the last deal.
Blaming outside powers for your ills is easy. But it won’t change anything.