Fouad Ajami: Pakistan Faces A Reckoning





Fouad Ajami is a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and the author of The Syrian Rebellion. 

“I felt hurt on opening my wardrobe and seeing my uniform, school bag and geometry box,” Malala Yousafzai wrote in a diary she kept in the Swat Valley in 2009. “Boys’ schools are opening tomorrow. But the Taliban have banned girls’ education.”

Today, as the Pakistani heroine, now 14, fights for her life in a British hospital, nothing less than the fate of modernity in Pakistan hangs in the balance.

Malala and her devoted father, an educator who ran afoul of the masters of the Taliban, knew the risks, but would not be deterred. The masked assailants, who asked for her by name on a school bus and shot her at point-blank range, came out of a culture of darkness that has wrecked the dreams of those who want Pakistan to be a normal country at peace with itself.

It is hard to believe now that the founding dream of Pakistan, born out of the partition of British India in 1947, was a secular one. The founder of this oddest of nations, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was a Bombay barrister who was a firm believer in British law and Indian nationalism. He had married his second wife outside the Islamic faith and had wanted nothing to do with the Mughal culture of North India that had yearned for a separate Muslim state.

It was one of modern nationalism’s great paradoxes that this most assimilated and modern of men would be the one to lead his people to the promised land of Pakistan. The creation of this polity came at the very end of Jinnah’s life; the man who moved to Karachi, from his home in Bombay, was old and ravaged by tuberculosis and lung cancer...

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