Pakistanis deserve break from riots, political strife

By Freedom New Mexico

A Pakistani disc jockey working the evening drive time received an e-mail request from a listener to play “Long Road to Ruin,” but decided not to play it.

“That’s not positive,” she told a New York Times interviewer. “No. It’s loud.”

Instead, she stuck with songs like “Don’t Stop the Music.” and Tom Petty’s “The Waiting.” “I want to keep it mellow but happy,” she said. “People in Pakistan deserve a break.”

People in Pakistan do deserve a break after three days of rioting that left the charred hulks of cars all over city streets and looted trucks along highways. Most shops were shuttered between Thursday and Tuesday and open for only a few hours then. Rumors of another assassination drove people inside and conspiracy theories abounded.

Whether Pakistan will pull through without major upheavals, including the possibility that its nuclear arsenal, reputedly secured fairly well by the military, might be subject to looting or worse, is almost impossible to say.

Unfortunately, the world’s major powers are virtually powerless to prevent a downward spiral. Prevention of further chaos must come from within Pakistan itself.

Perhaps disc jockeys refusing to play more negative songs just now will be part of it.

The more important steps must come from the government, such as it is.

It is encouraging that President Pervez Musharraf says he will invite Scotland Yard to participate in an inquiry into former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. But it is shocking that she was buried without an autopsy and the scene of the assassination was cleaned up, destroying whatever evidence a more painstaking investigation might have unearthed.

A full-blown international inquiry, similar to the one conducted after the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri might not come up with a definitive answer. But it would be worth doing nonetheless, if only to restore a modicum of credibility.

In a country with a history of democratic stability the postponement of an election might be troubling, but in Pakistan it simply means that vote-rigging by the government — Bhutto had reportedly planned to deliver a report on such machinations to two American politicians the day she was killed — will be done later rather than next week.

Some American politicians have urged President Musharraf to resign. That’s probably a good idea — eventually — but the perception of U.S. meddling, already widespread, would be healthy to avoid just now.

It goes against the grain to hope the military maintains its power, but since the military controls Pakistan’s nuclear weapons (and too much else), that may be the least-worst outcome to hope for.