PAKISTAN, October 18, 2011 - Although international observers worry Pakistan could fail, which would destabilize the region, possibly providing radical Islamists both a base of operations and access to nuclear weapons, they underestimate the strength of democracy and democratic institutions in the country.
The primary concern of Westerners is that with a strong Taliban presence in Pakistan, the Taliban and other radical Islamic groups could take over the government expanding extremist influence in Pakistan, allowing terrorists to access nuclear weapons. Theoretically this would allow terrorists to travel around the world carrying nuclear weapons in their backpacks.
Fears may not be ungrounded:
- In June, the Pakistani military announced that, a few days following the US operation to kill Osama Bin Laden, it had detained Brigadier General Ali Khan for alleged ties to Hizbul Tehrir (HuT), an Islamic militant group. Khan has spent 25 years in the military, serving with UN peace keepers in Bosnia.
- Various media outlets report that Pakistan officials frequently warn militants in tribal areas of imminent attacks, giving the terror suspects time to flee.
- In May, Pakistani Taliban insurgents stormed the Naval Air Station in Karachi and destroyed two surveillance aircraft supplied by the US. According to CNN and other sources, they acted with inside information on the layout and security of the station.
- In 2008, there were reports that radicals in the Swat valley of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa (KPK) province forced residents to follow strict Islamic law. dictating the common people to observe the strict laws of Islam. There was also a report of an attack on the General Headquarters of the Army of Pakistan in Rawalpindi by militant Islamists. Some sources report that those incidents did not take place, however.
Despite the presence of the Taliban and radical Islamists in Pakistan, the country is stable and during the 64 years since independence, Pakistan has developed strong democratic institutions, civil society, and respect for human rights.
The Pakistani Constitution provides for democratic elections and a bi-cameral parliament with the lower house of Parliament being the National Assembly, and the upper house the Senate.
The Pakistani public elects the National Assembly through direct elections, and those representatives select the Prime Minister. The legislature is an independent organization that works to formulate new laws according to the needs of the people of Pakistan.
Pakistan holds free and fair democratic elections. The election commission has powers to independently conduct elections of national and provincial assemblies. Over hundred political parties are registered by the election commission of Pakistan.
The Pakistani military is ruled by a civilian authority. The Army is a professional organization, consisting of millions of regular and reserve troops. Noted for its professionalism and dedication to the civilian government and democracy, it is the best institution in Pakistan. Domestically, the army works to keep Pakistani citizens safe and to protect the rights of the public. Pakistan’s army has participated in numerous peace keeping operations as part of the United Nations forces.
Pakistan also has active local governments and a vibrant civil society, active in all departments of the country. Local governments run the departments through the Union Council and at the village level in Pakistan. Civil society, including numerous unions and other types of organizations, are extremely active – without government interference – in the country.
Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are also working in Pakistan and civil society is growing rapidly. Educational institutions provide world class education to its students in all the basic and applied subjects. For women, there are many universities that provide education to only women. Pakistan produces more than 10,000 medical doctors each year, and an even higher number of engineers
Print and electronic media in Pakistan are extremely active and are also free from government control. There are approximately one hundred television channels providing news and entertainment. There are also hundreds of newspapers.
Pakistan is a stable, free democracy and is not threatened by radical Islam or the Taliban as some may think. While those groups do exist in Pakistan today, Pakistan’s democratic institutions and civil society are not at risk of failing to those radicals. Moreover, Pakistan’s army is strong enough to safeguard its weapons, including nuclear, from theft by radicals.
In every sense, Pakistan is a country that is progressing in every field of life, and is not likely to collapse and threaten the stability of the region or the world.
Read more from Qaiser Farooq Gondal here.
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