Without intervention, just a few more boys would be born than girls. If you compare the number of girls actually born to the number that would have been born had a normal sex ratio prevailed, then 600 ,000 Indian girls go missing every year. This is less distorted than the sex ratio in China, but whereas China’s ratio has stabilised, India’s is widening, and has been for decades. Sex selection is now invading parts of the country that used not to practise it. India’s sex ratio shows that gendercide is a feature not just of dictatorship and poverty. Unlike China, India is a democracy: there is no one-child policy to blame. Although parts of the country are poor, poverty alone does not explain India’s preference for sons. The states with the worst sex ratios— Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat—are among the richest (see article ), which suggests distorted sex selection will not be corrected just by wealth or government policy. But it can be corrected. Parents choose to abort female fetuses not because they do not want or love their daughters, but because they feel they must have sons (usually for social reasons); they also want smaller families—and something has to give. Ultrasound technology ensures that this something is a generation of unborn daughters, because it lets them know the sex of a fetus. Sex selection therefore tends to increase with education and income: wealthier, better educated people are more likely to want fewer children and can more easily afford the scans. But whereas sex selection may be understandable for a family, it is disastrous for a nation. It is an extreme expression of an attitude that says daughters are worth less than sons—a belief that is damaging both to women and to the next generation, since healthier, better educated mothers have healthier, better-educated children. If sex ratios stay the same, 600 ,000 missing girls this year will become, in 18 years’ time, over 10m missing future brides. Robbery, rape and bride- trafficking tend to increase in any society with large groups of young single men. And because in China and India men higher up the social ladder find wives more easily than those lower down, the social problems of bachelorhood tend to accumulate like silt among the poorest people and (in India) the lowest castes. This is unjust as well as damaging. Over time, the problem may right itself—as the experience of South Korea, where a sex ratio that was highly distorted in the 1990 s and is now approaching normality, suggests. In India, attitudes are changing. According to the latest census, “female literacy, improving general health care, improving female employment rates [ are] slowly redefining motherhood from childbearing to child rearing. Census 2011 is perhaps an indication that the country has reached a point of inflection”; and in the worst-affected areas, sex ratios are becoming less distorted. But governments need to hurry the process along. Cherish the girls India and China, to their credit, are trying to do so. India, for example, bans ultrasound scans from being used merely to identify a fetus’s sex; it also makes sex-selective abortions illegal. But gendercide cannot be reduced just by coercive laws. In middle-income places, ultrasound scans are becoming basic prenatal procedures; it is all but impossible to stop parents from getting to know their child’s sex. If a government cracks down on legal abortions, families will get illegal ones—risking the life of the mother, as well as that of her unborn daughter. Far more effective would be to persuade parents that their daughters are worth as much as their sons. Changing social attitudes is a difficult thing for governments to do; but ensuring that girls get their fair share of education, and women their fair share of health care, would be a start.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Pakistan’s new face? “TYPICAL Blackwater operative,” says a senior military officer, gesturing towards a muscular Westerner with a shaven head and tattoos, striding through the lobby of Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel. Pakistanis believe their country is thick with Americans working for private security companies contracted to the Central Intelligence Agency; and indeed, the physique of some of the guests at the Marriott hardly suggests desk-bound jobs. Pakistan is not a country for those of a nervous disposition. Even the Marriott lacks the comforting familiarity of the standard international hotel, for the place was blown up in 2008 by a lorry loaded with explosives. The main entrance is no longer accessible from the road; guards check under the bonnets of approaching cars, and guests are dropped off at a screening centre a long walk away. Some 30 ,000 people have been killed in the past four years in terrorism, sectarianism and army attacks on the terrorists. The number of attacks in Pakistan’s heartland is on the rise, and Pakistani terrorists have gone global in their ambitions. This year there have been unprecedented displays of fundamentalist religious and anti- Western feeling. All this might be expected in Somalia or Yemen, but not in a country of great sophistication which boasts an elite educated at Oxbridge and the Ivy League, which produces brilliant novelists, artists and scientists, and is armed with nuclear weapons. Demonstrations in support of the murderer of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, in January, startled and horrified Pakistan’s liberals. Mr Taseer was killed by his guard, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, who objected to his boss’s campaign to reform the country’s strict blasphemy law. Some suggest that the demonstrations were whipped up by the opposition to frighten the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government, since Mr Taseer was a member of the party. Others say the army encouraged them, because it likes to remind the Americans of the seriousness of the fundamentalist threat. But conversations with Lahoris playing Sunday cricket in the park beside the Badshahi mosque suggest that the demonstrations expressed the feelings of many. “We are all angry about these things,” says Gul Sher, a goldsmith, of Mr Taseer’s campaign to reform the law on blasphemy. “God gave Qadri the courage to do something about it.” Pakistani liberals have always taken comfort from the fundamentalists’ poor showing in elections and the tolerant, Sufi version of Islam traditionally prevalent in rural Pakistan. But polling by the Pew Research Centre suggests that Pakistanis take a hard line on religious matters these days (see chart 1). It may be that they always did, and that the elite failed to notice. It may be that urbanisation and the growing influence of hard-line Wahhabi-style Islam have widened the gap between the liberal elite and the rest. “The Pakistani elites have lived in a kind of cocoon,” says Salman Raja, a Lahore lawyer. “They go to Aitchison College [ in Lahore]. They go abroad to university…A lot of us are asking ourselves whether this country has changed while our backs were turned.” The response to another death suggests that the hostility towards Mr Taseer may not have been only about religion. Two months later Shahbaz Bhatti, the minister for minorities, was murdered for the same reason. Yet his killing did not trigger jubilation. Mr Taseer’s offence may have been compounded by the widespread perception that he, like most of the elite, was Westernised. His mother was British, he held parties at his house, and he posted photos on the internet of his children doing normal Western teenage things—swimming and laughing with the opposite sex—that caused a scandal in Pakistan. The West in general, and America in particular, are unpopular. It was not always thus. Before the Soviet Union left Afghanistan, around a third of Pakistanis regarded Americans as untrustworthy. Since then, a fairly stable two-thirds have done so. The latest poll on the matter (see chart 1) suggests that Pakistanis see America as more of a threat to their country than India or the Pakistani Taliban. It was carried out in 2009 , but anecdotal evidence confirms that the views have not changed. “America is behind all of our troubles,” says Mohammed Shafiq, a street-hawker. That may be because America is thought to have embroiled Pakistan in a war which has caused the surge in terrorism; or because many Pakistanis, including senior army officers, genuinely believe that the bombings are being carried out by America in order to destabilise Pakistan, after which it will grab its nuclear weapons. Four horsemen From the complex web of factors that have fostered intolerance and violence in Pakistan, it is possible to disentangle four main strands. The first is Pakistan’s strategic position. Big powers have long competed for control of the area between Russia and the Arabian Gulf, and the unresolved tensions with India have dogged the country since its birth in 1947. Nor has Pakistan tried to keep out of its neighbours’ affairs. It was America’s enthusiastic ally in the war to eject the Soviet Union from Afghanistan in the 1980 s, which it sold to its people as a jihad . “We used religion as an instrument of change and we are still paying the price,” says General Mahmud Ali Durrani, former national security adviser and ambassador to Washington. Pakistan helped create the Taliban in the 1990 s to try to exert some control over Afghanistan. And with much trepidation on the part of its leaders, and reluctance on the part of its people, it has supported America in its war against the Taliban over the past decade. By trying to destabilise India, Pakistan has undermined its own stability. “ When the Soviets went away,” says a senior military officer, “we had a very large number of battle-hardened people with nothing to do. They were redirected towards India. The ISI [Inter- Services Intelligence, the main military- intelligence agency] was controlling them…20:20 hindsight is very good, but this decision was perhaps wrong.” According to the officer, after al-Qaeda’ s attacks against America on September 11 th 2001 the army decided to wind down the policy. “We started taking them out. But many of them said, ‘ Nothing doing.’ They had contact with people in the Afghan jihad , and they joined those people again.” Because the Pakistanis were helping the Americans in their fight against the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani jihadis turned their fury on the government. The second strand is the unresolved question of Islam’s role in the nation. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founder, made it clear that he thought Pakistan should be a country for Muslims, not an Islamic country. But since then, according to General Durrani, “Every government that has failed to deliver has used Islam as a crutch.” Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, for example, though fond of a drink himself, banned alcohol. Zia ul Haq, his successor, tried to legitimise his military coup by pledging to Islamise the country. The relationship between religion and the state is not an abstruse question of political philosophy. A treatise on the Pakistani constitution published in 2009 by Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s number two (who is believed to be in North Waziristan), argues that the Pakistani state is illegitimate and must be destroyed. This tract is widely read in the madrassas from which the terrorist groups draw their recruits. Its popularity exercises Qazi Hussein Ahmed, the grand old man of the Jamaat-e-Islami, the most fundamentalist of the political parties, for the Jamaat works within the state, not against it. He argues that Pakistan’s failure to adopt an Islamist constitution “has given the Taliban and such extremist elements a pretext: they say the government will not bow to demands made by democratic means, so they are resorting to violent means.” The third strand is the uselessness of the government. Democracy in Pakistan has been subverted by patronage. Parliament is dominated by the big landowning families, who think their job is to provide for the tribes and clans who vote for them. Except for the Jamaat-e-Islami, parties have nothing to do with ideology. The two main ones are family assets—the Bhuttos own the PPP, and the Sharifs (Nawaz Sharif, the former and probably future prime minister, and his brother Shahbaz, chief minister of Punjab) own the Pakistan Muslim League (N). The consequence is dire political leadership of the sort shown by Asif Ali Zardari, who is president only because he married into the Bhutto dynasty. When Pakistan desperately needed a courageous political gesture in response to the murders of the governor and minister, the president failed even to attend their funerals. Pakistan’s rotten governance shows up in its growth rates (see chart 2). In a decade during which most of Asia has leapt ahead, Pakistan has lagged behind. Female literacy, crucial as both an indicator of development and a determinant of future prosperity, is stuck at 40 %. In India, which was at a similar level 20 years ago, the figure is now over half. In East Asia it is more like nine out of ten. Given the government’s failings, it is hardly surprising if Pakistanis take a dim view of democracy. In a recent Pew poll of seven Muslim countries they were the least enthusiastic, with 42 % regarding it as the best form of government—though, since the country has spent longer under military than under democratic rule, the army is at least as culpable. The armed forces’ dominance is the fourth strand. Tensions with India mean that the army has always absorbed a disproportionate share of the government’s budget. Being so well- resourced, the army is one of the few institutions in the country that works well. So when civilian politicians get them into a hole, Pakistanis look to the military men to dig them out again. They usually oblige. Terrorism is strengthening the army further. In 2009 it drove terrorists out of Swat and South Waziristan, and it is now running those areas. Last year its budget allocation leapt by 17 %. Nor are the demands on the armed forces likely to shrink. Although overall numbers of attacks are down from a peak in 2009 , they have spread from the tribal areas and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), along the border with Afghanistan, to the heartland. Last year saw an uptick in attacks on government, military and economic targets in Punjab and Karachi, the capital of Sindh province. Since then, security has been stepped up; and with the usual targets—international hotels, government buildings and military installations—surrounded by armed men and concrete barriers, terrorists are increasingly attacking soft targets where civilians congregate, such as mosques and markets. Exporting terror Pakistani terrorism has also gone global. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan ( TTP, or Pakistani Taliban), announced when it was formed in 2007 that it aimed to attack the Pakistani state, impose sharia law on the country and resist NATO forces in Afghanistan. But last year Qari Mehsud, now dead but thought to be a cousin of the leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, who was in charge of the group’s suicide squad, announced that American cities would be targeted in revenge for drone attacks in tribal areas. That policy was apparently taken up by Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistan-born naturalised American who tried to blow up New York’s Times Square last year. That prompted an increase in American pressure on the army to attack terrorists in North Waziristan. The army is resisting. The Americans suspect that it wants to protect Afghan Taliban there. The Pakistani army says it is just overstretched. “We are still in South Waziristan,” insists a senior security officer. “We are holding the area. We are starting a resettlement process, building roads and dams. We need to keep the settled areas free of terrorists. It is not a matter of intent that we are not going into North Waziristan. It is a matter of capacity.” The growth in terrorism in Punjab poses another problem for the army. “What we see in the border areas is an insurgency,” says the officer. “The military is there to do counter- insurgency. What you see in the cities is terrorism. This is the job of the law- enforcement agencies.” But the police and the courts are not doing their job. One suspected terrorist, for instance, a founder member of the Lashkar-e- Jhangvi, was charged with 70 murders, almost all of them Shias. He was found not guilty of any of them for lack of evidence. In 2009 the ISI kidnapped 11 suspected terrorists from a jail in Punjab, because it feared that the courts were about to set them free. So where does this lead? Not to a terrorist march on the capital. Excitable Western headlines a couple of years ago saying that the Taliban were “60 miles from Islamabad” were misleading: first because the terrorists are not an army on the march, and second because they are not going to take control of densely populated, industrialised, urban Punjab the way they took control of parts of the wild, mountainous frontier areas and KPK. Yet even though they will not overthrow the Pakistani state, the combination of a small number of terrorists and a great deal of intolerance is changing it. Liberals, Christians, Ahmadis and Shias are nervous. People are beginning to watch their words in public. The rich among those target groups are talking about going abroad. The country is already very different from the one Jinnah aspired to build. The future would look brighter if there were much resistance to the extremists from political leaders. But, because of either fear or opportunism, there isn’t. The failure of virtually the entire political establishment to stand up for Mr Taseer suggests fear; the electioneering tour that the law minister of Punjab took with a leader of Sipah-e-Sahaba last year suggests opportunism. “The Punjab government is hobnobbing with the terrorists,” says the security officer. “This is part of the problem.” A state increasingly under the influence of extremists is not a pleasant idea. It may come out all right. After all, Pakistan has been in decline for many years, and has not tumbled into the abyss. But countries tend to crumble slowly. As Adam Smith said, “There is a great deal of ruin in a nation.” The process could be reversed; but for that to happen, somebody in power would have to try.
THINGS FALL APART : With The Rise Of Militant Islam, Pakistan Reaps What For Years The State Has Shown
ON MARCH 2 the minorities minister, seems to have been killed for the same reason that Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, was assassinated on January 4 th. Both had called for the harsh law on blasphemy to be changed. After Mr Taseer’s death, Mr Bhatti, a Christian, was a rare prominent politician to condemn the governor’s murder. He was only too aware of the risks. But, he said, his faith gave him strength. What is loosely known as the “Punjabi Taliban” immediately claimed responsibility. It is an assortment of Muslim extremist groups, some of whom in the past have had the help of the army’s undercover arm, the Inter- Services Intelligence (ISI), in waging a low-level guerrilla war in Indian- occupied Kashmir. The Punjabi Taliban are now distinct from that lot. Yet people are not inclined to take things at face value. The ISI itself is widely believed to be responsible for everything from the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in late 2007 of fundamentalist chat shows on cable television. But in terms of conspiracy theories, the ISI can give as good as it gets. Hamid Gul, a former head, says Mr Bhatti’s killing is “another Raymond Davis-style attack”, referring to the row between America and Pakistan over a CIA contractor who killed two Pakistanis (see says, want to destabilise Pakistan so that they can somehow make the case that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are not safe in Pakistani hands. “This is a tried and trusted intelligence tactic. I should know.” Others recognise the Punjabi Taliban as a Pakistani phenomenon—one of the consequences of a rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism which manifests itself in increasingly violent ways. Indeed, today’s crisis has been long in the making. Over three decades, political and military leaders have appealed to Islam as a source of strength. Zia ul Haq, the military dictator who ordered the killing of Bhutto’s father (Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a former president and prime minister), introduced favoured Islamist political parties and promoted orthodox Muslims in the armed forces and bureaucracy. Decades of conflict in Afghanistan have pumped guns into Pakistan, and foreign money has funded extremists. In the 1980 the Afghan resistance to Soviet occupation engendered conditions that later fostered both the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda, with consequences for Pakistan today. All the while, money has been flowing into Pakistan from the Arabian Gulf to support a hardline version of Islam, pushing back Pakistan’ s more tolerant Sufi-based form. Raheeq Ahmad Abbasi, of the Tehreek Minhaj-ul-Quran, a non-sectarian Muslim body, says that of around 20 000 000 None of this would have mattered so much had Pakistan’s governments performed better. But the failure of both civilian and military rule to provide decent education, health care or robust levels of economic growth has fed frustration among the young. In Pakistan, where the politicians have governed no better than the soldiers, democracy has only intermittent appeal as a rallying cry. Religion appeals more; hence the spread of militant Islam. At its violent extreme is a network of Islamist terrorist organisations which, according to Amir Rana of the Pak Institute for Peace Studies, breaks down into three broad parts. Al-Qaeda provides the ideology. The “Pushtun Taliban” is a loose-knit alliance of groups along Pakistan’s north-western border who rose up in opposition to America’s war against their ethnic brothers next door in Afghanistan. It provides the logistics and the hideouts. Meanwhile the Punjabi Taliban increasingly provides the foot-soldiers for terrorism. Khaled Ahmed, author of “Sectarian War”, a new book on religious violence in Pakistan, says all three elements work closely together. Pakistan is of increasing interest to al- Qaeda’s leaders at a time when they must be disappointed that militant Islam has played almost no part in north African uprisings. In 2009 Qaeda’s number two, Ayman al- Zawahiri, an Egyptian, produced a book on Pakistan’s constitution entitled “The Morning and the Lamp”. It argued that the state was illegitimate and should be destroyed. Mr al-Zawahiri is widely believed to be lodging with the Pushtun Taliban. The Pakistani army allowed the networks to flourish for a while, because they supported the Afghan Taliban, ISI allies. But in 2009 by America, it pushed them out of their strongholds of Swat and South Waziristan and into the remote badlands of North Waziristan, where they have been left to their own devices. The Punjabi Taliban grew out of a combination of ISI support for anti- Indian militants, anti-Shia feeling in central Punjab and Gulf money in south Punjab. Southern Punjab, a favourite area for rich people from the Arabian Gulf, is now thick with well-funded religious institutions. Mr al-Zawahiri’s tract has been widely distributed in seminaries there. The Punjabi Taliban poses a greater threat to the Pakistani state than does the Pushtun Taliban. Three-fifths of Pakistanis live in Punjab. The province is the army’s main recruiting ground. It could not carry out the sort of operation there that it mounted in Swat and South Waziristan. Foreigners looking nervously at this nuclear-armed state wonder whether militants who murder ministers might one day take over the government. That seems highly unlikely. The country’s political system may be weak, but its bureaucracy and armed forces are strong, and they would not allow it. However, although Pakistan’s state is not going to be overthrown, the country’ s nature is changing. Until recently, Pakistan was a joyfully argumentative and outspoken place. Now Pakistanis are falling silent. Only one among a group of academics and students at the University of Punjab discussing the fundamentalists’ control of the campus was prepared to be named. When asked why the university had organised no ceremony to mourn Mr Taseer, who was its chancellor, Samee Uzair Khan, an assistant law professor, said: “If somebody as big as Salman Taseer can be killed, how can we be safe?”