For more than half of its existence, since its formation in 1947, Pakistan has been ruled by the military. A poet lamented, “Now each day is fair and balmy, Everywhere you look: the army.” The country hasn’t done much better with civilian leaders. Almost all of them have been notoriously corrupt. Today, another general, Pervez Musharraf is at the helm. He seized power in a 1999 coup. A former supporter of the Taliban, he quickly switched sides after September 11. Musharraf is now a valued US ally. But the situation inside Pakistan is fraught with instability. The majority of Pakistanis are illiterate and live in poverty. Islamic fundamentalism is strong. Matters are further imperiled by an ongoing conflict with India over disputed Kashmir. The fuse to potential catastrophe is short. Both countries have nuclear weapons pointed at each other.
Pervez Hoodbhoy is professor of physics at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad. He writes and lectures on South Asian issues. He appears on major news programs in Pakistan and around the world