Pakistani Politics 101: an interview with our correspondent in Pakistan

We would like to introduce our readers to Safiullah Gul, PRAVDA.Ru correspondent in Pakistan. Safiullah Gul recently took the time to answer the following questions regarding Pakistani politics.

In your opinion, how does the average Pakistani citizen view the current conflict involving Kashmir?

Average Pakistani see the conflict as a way out for Indian government accusing Pakistan of cross border terrorism for keeping the world media away from the ground realities that when India and Pakistan parted ways at independence from Britain in 1947, Kashmir's status was not resolved.

Then, facing a revolt from Muslims in the north, the state's Hindu ruler controversially decided Kashmir should become part of secular India rather than Muslim Pakistan, provoking the first of three wars between the two South Asian neighbours and now the current escalation and troops build-up on the borders. Moreover the issue of attacking Indian parliament was also concocted. Political analysts are of the view that as long as the current tension remains Vajpayee could hold fast to his PM seat as he was fast losing popular support after the Muslim carnage in Gujrat.

People in Pakistan say that the Kashmir issue should be resolved through negotiations and in accordance with the UN resolutions.

United Nations resolutions in the late 1940s and early 1950s supported Kashmiris' right to self-determination, but no plebiscite has ever been held.

Can you please explain to our readers the political situation in Pakistan? Which segments of society hold power? What kind of pressure is President Musharraf under? What kind of actions would the people of Pakistan like to see him take?

The political situation in the country had always remained fluid, for none of the elected governments completed its tenure and the country has seen marshal rule many a times. The establishment is thought to be the most powerful of the society and has deep routes tracking back into the British colonial era. It is thought that, for any government in the country, it is very hard to get into any tussle. At present, President General Pervez Musharraf is certainly under pressure from religio-political groups and the country’s political parties for his various steps taken to curb extremism and introducing constitutional packages, while keeping the 1973 Constitution in abeyance. After all, the people of Pakistan are fed up with the alleged corruption in the establishment division and the previous political parties in addition to extremism and want him to steer the country to the road of progress with an image of a moderate and peace loving country.

How does the average Pakistani feel about President Musharraf’s decision to cooperate with the United States in its war against the Taliban and Afghanistan?

There are two school of thoughts: one in favor, and the other against.

How is President Musharraf treated in the Pakistani ress?

The electronic media is state controlled and certainly gives more coverage to the president and his policies, whereas the print media is quite critical and is nether harsh nor too soft.

Can you tell us which political groups in Pakistan are supportive of the so-called “war on terrorism” and which groups are against it?

Most of the political groups are supportive of the president in the war against terrorism except a few socio-religious groups, for they say that it is not a war against terrorism but a war against Muslims.

Can you tell us something about attitudes toward the current conflict with India? Do people feel that there is less of a chance for war with India at the moment?

The people do not want a war; instead, they want a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir conflict keeping the country’s integrity intact. Massive international diplomacy has for the time being lessened the chance of war, but even then, one cannot say any thing about this, for the two countries have in the passed launched full scale wars against each other and, moreover, everyday you hear of minor skirmishes on the borders.

In your opinion, are there in segments of Pakistani society that would benefit from a war with India?

I am not sure.

In your opinion as a journalist, how does the Pakistani mass media objectively present the conflict to the Pakistani people?

There is no doubt that the Pakistani media is supportive of the state, but, if seen as whole, you would see that it is covering the whole Kashmir conflict in quite a balanced way, for you would even see the Indian point of view and their coverage.

Questions compiled by Justin Cowgill

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