Pamela Constable: "Playing With Fire"
It’s been more than sixty years since Pakistan was founded as an experiment in Muslim democracy. Despite a history of free elections and democratic institutions, the South Asian country has largely failed to live up to its potential. Most ordinary Pakistanis live in slums or primitive villages, working for low wages making bricks or planting crops. Faced with political corruption, lack of social mobility and joblessness, many Pakistanis have turned to radical Islam. Washington Post foreign correspondent Pamela Constable writes about the people of Pakistan, their country of contradictions, and why it remains critical to U.S. interests.
Foreign correspondent at the Washington Post, author of "Fragments of Grace" and co-author of "A Nation of Enemies: Chile Under Pinochet."
Author Extra: Pamela Constable Answers Questions
Ms. Constable stayed after the show to answer a few more questions.
Q: Is there a case for just walking away from Pakistan and essentiallly telling India and China to deal with them?
- From Paige via email in Ft. Lauderdale
A: I would not advocate "walking away" from Pakistan, given the long relationship between the two countries, the large numbers of Pakistanis living in or immigrated to the US, and the common interests we share. I think rather than leaving it to India or China to deal with Pakistan, it would be more useful for the West to keep pressing Pakistan to develop stronger democratic institutions, spend more money on social needs and less on defense, and turn away from its traditional view of India as a dangerous enemy.
Q: Can you expand on the role of tribal customs in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan, particularly the Pashtun connection?
- From Randal via email in Michigan
A: Tribal customs in Pakistan are not limited to the Pashtun tribal areas. They are more broadly a parallel system of justice and community rule that exists in many rural areas. They compete with the state, perpetuate oppressive practices against women, and hold back the rural poor from developing in terms of its education and living standards. Some civic and legal groups are working to modernize rural justice and practices, but progress has been slow and the tribal system still wields enormous power over people's lives.
Read an Excerpt
Excerpted from "Playing With Fire" by Pamela Constable. Copyright 2011 by Pamela Constable. Excerpted with kind permission of Random House.