August 28, 2007

WHERE THE WAR ENDS:

Struggle for the Soul of Pakistan: The nation's efforts to straddle the fault line between moderate and militant Islam offer a cautionary tale for the post-9/11 world. (Don Belt, September 2007, National Geographic Magazine)

If there is an address, an exact location for the rift tearing Pakistan apart, and possibly the world, it is a spot 17 miles (28 kilometers) west of Islamabad called the Margalla Pass. Here, at a limestone cliff in the middle of Pakistan, the mountainous west meets the Indus River Valley, and two ancient, and very different, civilizations collide. To the southeast, unfurled to the horizon, lie the fertile lowlands of the Indian subcontinent, realm of peasant farmers on steamy plots of land, bright with colors and the splash of serendipitous gods. To the west and north stretch the harsh, windswept mountains of Central Asia, land of herders and raiders on horseback, where man fears one God and takes no prisoners.

This is also where two conflicting forms of Islam meet: the relatively relaxed and tolerant Islam of India, versus the rigid fundamentalism of the Afghan frontier. Beneath the surface of Pakistan, these opposing forces grind against each other like two vast geologic plates, rattling teacups from Lahore to London, Karachi to New York. The clash between moderates and extremists in Pakistan today reflects this rift, and can be seen as a microcosm for a larger struggle among Muslims everywhere. So when the earth trembles in Pakistan, the world pays attention.

Travel 8,000 miles (13,000 kilometers) across this troubled country, as I did recently, and it becomes obvious that, 60 years after its founding, Pakistan still occupies unsettled ground.


Posted by Orrin Judd at August 28, 2007 7:30 PM
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