Will Pakistan finally buckle? After a week that has witnessed some of the boldest and deadliest militant attacks against the Pakistani state and the headquarters of its most potent institution, the army, the question is asked increasingly widely. The short answer is no. But the country must brace itself for many more months, if not years, of traumatic conflict, especially as the army launches a major offensive in South Waziristan. This will deepen the conditions of chronic insecurity and political dysfunctionality to which its people have long been accustomed.
Shaikh how explains how a sense of optimism that pervaded Pakistan in 2008 as a result of a new government, a seemingly improved relationship between civilian and military leadership, and U.S. support has dramatically faded. Relations between the government and the military are once again fraught and earlier victories against the Taliban are now contrasted by the organization’s ability to regroup. Ultimately, Shaikh argues that Pakistan still does not have a sense of itself as a nation and its attitude toward militant Islam:
While larger numbers of Pakistanis may well stand opposed to militancy, popular ambivalence over the state’s relation to Islam continues to thwart the prospects of translating this opposition into a coherent strategy to fight the militants. And with the militants in no doubt about what they stand for, it is now more urgent than ever for government and society to open up an honest debate about what precisely Pakistan stands for.