Pakistan's Future

10.25.12

Checking in on Malala

The Huffington Post reported today that Malala Yousafzai's father "vowed Thursday that she would return home after finishing medical treatment abroad despite new insurgent threats against her."

While it is encouraging to see her alive and recovering, I fear the Taliban is in the region to stay. With the United States looking like it will indeed commit to a withdrawal from Afghanistan by 2014, rising isolationist sentiment (especially regarding the AfPak region) within the United States, and a general reticence to remain within the crossfire of a culture war, young women like Malala may have to be on their own.

The New Republic's Leon Wieseltier can take it away.

Civil society is not the answer; it is the arena. A debate about the correct interpretation of shariah is not the solution, because shariah itself, its political prominence, its claim to perfect authority, is the problem: you cannot break the grip of religion by remaining within its universe. The program of the Taliban is political, and it can be met effectively only by another politics. The attack on Malala Yousafzai was a political failure: of the callowness and the corruption of Pakistan’s government, and of its insane system of dual power, in which the army and the intelligence services collude with the medieval butchers, who do not dream of peace. The shooting on the schoolbus in Swat should disabuse Westerners eager to quit the struggle of their illusion that we may quit because we won; and also Pakistani and Afghan politicians (notably the dashing and counterfeit Imran Khan, and what Pankaj Mishra moistly calls “his quest for a moral Pakistani state and a righteous politics”) of their nonsense that the Taliban will agree to live and let live. Our triumphalism about terrorism is premature. The revolutionary turbulence in the Arab world has given even Al Qaeda new openings. Bin Laden is dead. Bin Ladenism is not. In some places it is almost as alive as General Motors.