Full refund within 30 days if you're not completely satisfied.
B Y K A M R A N NA Z E E R
Pakistan is full of conspiracy theories about the recent terror plot in Britain
ARRIVED IN Lahore the morning that the latest terrorist plot was revealed. I was on a flight from Glasgow full of young British Pakistanis who, like me, hadn’t been to Pakistan for years, and who looked slightly alarmed when the cabin crew greeted them with a formal Assalaam-oalaikum. I had come to see family and friends, and in virtually every house I visited, people asked me about whether the terror plot was an invention. I took this for a joke on the ﬁrst few occasions, but soon I realised that people meant it. Everyone from teenage cousins to ex-members of parliament then went on to explain that the arrests and the publicity surrounding them were obviously an attempt to divert attention from Israel’s aggression in Lebanon. Like any conspiracy theory, this one draws on paranoia and a desire to shift the blame—in this case, to shift it away from British Pakistanis. But there are other elements in this reaction, and they reveal a lot about Pakistan’s encounter with the modern world. I had lunch with a group of cousins, all studying at university and some with hopes of studying abroad. I answered detailed questions about which mobile networks were the most popular in Britain and the features of the latest handsets. I struggled to articulate the difference between certiﬁed and chartered accountants. There was a fascination in Lahore with the “west,” which isn’t surprising on account of its relative wealth, but there is also a profound
belief in its ingenuity. Of course the Americans could engineer the events of 9/11 and blame al Qaeda. After all, they’ve led the revolution in computing. Their streets are tidy. Their water is clean. When I try to puncture this view of American omnipotence by pointing out the US’s failure to master Iraq and Afghanistan, I’m told that the US wants a civil war in Iraq, that it is looking for an excuse to stay for as long as possible. These views are an expression of the belief the west is at war against Islam— but one of the roots for them is an almost touching belief in the overwhelming power of the west. The other factor behind the conspiracy theories is that Pakistanis are bitterly aware that their newspapers and television do not tell the truth. Corruption is widespread in Pakistani society, and yet is rarely reported. People know how things really work, and the media tries to tell them that they
ket—previously, only three brands were allowed—and, as a consequence, prices have tumbled, payment installment schemes have come into place, and the evocative sound of motorcycle exhausts has grown, as has congestion. The number of cars has grown too, as changes in the banking sector have led to the creation of leasing arrangements. Property prices in the big cities, and elsewhere, are booming. Amid all of this, the conspiracy theories don’t die, but there’s also a sense of puzzlement about why Pakistanis abroad would plan terrorist attacks. There is broad support here for those fighting in Kashmir, as there was for those pursuing the Islamist cause in Afghanistan against the Soviets. But those battles are seen very differently. They are struggles for freedom, and for the spread of Islam. It’s difﬁcult to see plans to blow up civilian aircraft in Britain in the same way.
Pakistanis chat in a cybercafe in Rawalpindi
Kamran Nazeer is a writer and a contributing editor to Prospect
work differently. When government ministers announce new money to deal with problems of sewage and water supply, everyone assumes that the money will end up mostly in the pockets of ofﬁcials and middlemen—which is often true. Usman, who works for a pharmaceutical company in Lahore, told me that the retail price of medicines includes a premium built in to cover the cut taken by doctors for prescribing the products of any particular company. The media doesn’t report this but patients know—and have to buy the medicines anyway. In the seven years since I was last here, the country has certainly made economic progress. There’s been a liberalisation of the motorcycles mar-
The other puzzlement is about why Pakistanis living somewhere like Britain do not become completely “westernised.” I’m asked regularly about how easy it is to buy alcohol, about which techno DJs I like best. There’s almost a sense that, given that these delights are so readily available, surely most young people are unable to resist. This flows from the spread of “western practices” here in Pakistan. Despite ofﬁcial restrictions, it’s possible to buy alcohol even in small rural towns. I’m writing this article in an internet café, where every seat is against the wall and every computer surrounded by a wooden box, so that users can view pornography without worrying about peeping Toms. As older
10 PROSPECT September 2006
© FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
people in particular see it, if young people here are embracing western temptation so readily and at the risk of legal sanction, surely young British Pakistanis must indulge to excess. In the end, what I ﬁnd more puzzling is the reaction of British Pakistanis to the discovery that most of the plotters were from their own community. The conspiracy theories that you hear in Pakistan are also widely believed by British Pakistanis. It does seem that the sense of Muslim grievance in Britain has only deepened in recent months, with spokesmen defensively changing the subject to Lebanon or the lack of a public inquiry into 7/7. It’s unclear what it will take to redress this. In the meantime, I’ve been warned here that I’ll be interviewed intensively when I go back to Britain and that I really should come back more often— s if the British let me.
Ehsan Masood, Tahir Abbas and Shiraz Maher on the terror plot
B Y A NAT O L L I E V E N
Americans’ growing unease at US foreign policy is not reflected by the two parties
strategy of the Bush administration lies in ruins. The battering of the Lebanese state by Israel, with US support, came only months after US leaders vowed to support and defend that country as a beacon of democracy and progress in the middle east. The doublethink in US policy does not relate only to the contrast between the language of democracy and the disasters in Iraq and Lebanon. Even more striking is that this public Anatol Lieven’s latest book, co-authored with John Hulsman, is “Ethical Realism: A Vision for America’s Role in the World” (Pantheon)
HE FOREIGN AND SECURITY
Did one person write the whole of Shakespeare? Who wrote the books of the Bible? Three researchers at the University of Adelaide have come up with a statistical approach which could help to resolve these puzzles. Matthew Berryman, Andrew Allison and Derek Abbot have published some of their ﬁndings on New Testament authorship. Their analysis is based upon inter-word spacing, deﬁned as the word count between a word and the next occurrence of the same word in a text. So in the previous sentence, for example, the count between the ﬁrst appearance of “word” and the second is four, between the second and third three, the third and fourth seven, and so on. This is calculated for every single word throughout an entire text. Now comes the subtle bit. Words are ranked according to how much their individual counts vary around their average. So the top ranked word is not the most frequently appearing one, but the one whose word count is, in a sense, the most irregular. This ranking of words, the so-called “sigma ranking” is how an author leaves a characteristic signature. He or she can be identiﬁed by the slope of the line when the sigma ranking is plotted against the logarithm of the ranking. Testing it on Dickens’s Great Expectations and Barnaby Rudge, and Hardy’s Jude the Obscure and Tess of the d’Urbervilles, the
technique shows decisively that the two pairs of books were written by two different authors. In New Testament terms, analysing not an English translation but the original Greek, the same author appears to have written both Luke and Acts of the Apostles. Sigma ranking has applications far outside author identiﬁcation. It has already been shown that words with the highest sigma ranking tend to make better search engine keywords, as opposed to words with high hit counts. And given that DNA sequences can be viewed as possessing a four-letter alphabet (A, C, G, T), it is also being used in genome identiﬁcation.
NHS 99.995% SUCCESSFUL
The Healthcare Commission, which regulates the NHS, has published ﬁgures showing that in the year to July there were 41,000 “medical errors” in prescribing medicines and drugs in 173 (out of 259) NHS trusts in England. This resulted in 36 deaths and 2,000 cases of “moderate or severe harm.” This is less alarming than it sounds when seen in the perspective of one death for every ﬁve trusts, and an average of one case a month of moderate or severe harm. With a best estimate of over 80m drugs and medicines being administered, the failure rate is one in 2,000—or a success score of 99.995 per cent. The Cruncher
rhetoric is diametrically opposed to America’s actual strategy in the middle east, admitted privately by many ofﬁcials, which is a reversion to the pre9/11 norm: US and Israel reliance on autocracies in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and elsewhere to hold down their own people. This is the strategy which Bush and the neoconservatives insist was proved to be bankrupt by 9/11; and whose proponents have been dismissed by Bush as racists because
they supposedly don’t “believe that Muslims can self-govern.” America’s pre-9/11 strategy was based on a commitment to maintain stability in the middle east—a tenuous and unsatisfactory stability, but stability nonetheless. The problem is that this strategy is now combined with a parallel US and Israeli strategy that is in effect promoting anarchy. In the case of the latest Israeli attack on Lebanon, this is deliberate.
PROSPECT September 2006 11