Thursday, October 25, 2007

Newsweek, NBC Nightly News make alarming report on conditions in Pakistan

A cover story on this week’s Newsweek (“Where the Jihad Lives Now”) calls Pakistan the world’s most dangerous nation (it isn’t Iraq). The link for the story is this.

NBC Nightly News tonight had a detailed report by Richard Engel covering the story. The three minute spot showed the town of Peshawar, about 200 miles west of Islamabad, with a home in which Osama bin Laden lived, and supposedly the town is the “birthplace of Al Qaeda.” The spot discussed the rapid growth of madrasah ‘s, and showed one with about 800 students, who spend hours memorizing the Koran. There are about 20000 of these in the country. A headmaster of one of the madrasahs characterized the United States as the “enemy” intending to make “slaves” of Muslim (e.g., “family slaves”). (NBC and MSNBC normally work closely with Newsweek.) The CIA unclassified public link and map for Pakistan is here.

The spot also showed a bit of coastal city Karachi (where much of “A Mighty Heart” dealing with Daniel Pearl takes place), where Osama bin Laden was known to frequent before 9/11. Extremism has found roots in many poorer neighborhoods of that city, with threats against businesses that sell western movies and music, and (to enforce visual conformity) barber shops that shave beards (although shaving sometimes has been reportedly used in purification rituals).

The story reminded us that Pakistan is a nuclear nation, in conjunction with the attempt on former prime minister Bhuto last week in Karachi.

In my own information technology career, it was common to encounter men who had come from Pakistan, often before 1980. During the 80s and 90s there was almost never any discussion of Muslim religious ideas in the workplace, and workers seemed well integrated into American capitalism, consumerism, and workplace technology and professionalism. Many physicians in PPO’s come from Pakistan and India both. One worker told me what IT jobs were like in Pakistan as far back as 1970, where there were many programmers for few jobs (no females worked) and where the number of compiles or tests allowed to get a job running was limited.

(See blog entry on Ignatius article Oct. 18.)

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