Pakistan's War of All Against All

The alliance in the fight against terrorism between Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf and the United States is imperative not only for America, but for Pakistan-a Muslim-majority nation whose social fabric is being torn apart by militancy and lawlessness. But will an exclusive focus on military power ultimately prove to be counter-productive?

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, perhaps the country's most credible human rights body, argues that while "the violence now deeply embedded in society is to be rooted out over the coming years," that task "presents bigger challenges than merely picking up, detaining, and torturing those who authorities claim are militants."

In opposing how the war against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban is fought, many in Pakistan's minuscule middle class find themselves aligned with people they abhor: extremists whose distorted religiosity violates the tolerant version of Islam prevalent in this region. Many upwardly mobile urbanites thus find themselves caught on the horns of a dilemma: how to reconcile aspirations for a better lifestyle, as symbolized by America, with increasing abhorrence of US policies.

Those on the religious right have no dilemma: they just hate America and its policies outright, and oppose all things "un-Islamic," including television, films, radio, and even indigenous forms of dance and music. Interestingly, computer technology is exempted, as it can be used to further the extremist cause.