* Manan Ahmed published in the guardian.co.uk,
* Friday June 27, 2008
The migration of thousands of Pakistani men to Gulf states since the 1970s has had a huge impact on the character of the country
“Pakistan is in a leaderless drift four months after elections”, concluded Carlotta Gall in the New York Times on June 24. Just two days later, comes news that “Baitullah Mehsud, the head of the Pakistani Taliban” has killed 22 members of an intermediary peace committee between the State of Pakistan and Mehsud. I guess there are some leaders in Pakistan, after all. Pakistan’s “Talibanisation” in the northwestern rural regions and the stalled lawyer’s movement in the major cities appear, at first glance, to reflect a deep chasm within Pakistani society. This division, if one should call it anything, is routinely understood as a manifestation of moderate v extreme Islam. But that raises the question of why it manifests itself along rural/urban, and class lines.
Extremist ideology, as we have learned in the last 8 years, is just as prone to attract highly-educated members of the professional class as unemployed, frustrated youth. We have to delve deeper into Pakistan’s recent past if we are to understand the crisis it faces at the present. Sub-continental history is dotted with intermittent mass movement of people – usually triggered by famine, war or worse – replete with attendant tales of distress and misery. In my reckoning, the early 1970s saw the another key migration that has so far received little analysis. It involved vast numbers of men from the rural and semi-urban parts of Pakistan moving to the emerging oil-based oligarchies in the Gulf. Continue reading