Mohsin Hamid writes in the New York Times:
Pakistan is both more complicated and less dangerous than America has been led to believe. General Musharraf has portrayed himself as America’s last line of defense in an angry and dangerous land. In reality, the vast majority of Pakistanis want nothing to do with violence. When thousands of cricket fans from our archenemy, India, wandered about Pakistan unprotected for days in 2004, not one was abducted or killed. At my own wedding two years ago, a dozen Americans came, disregarding State Department warnings. They, too, spent their time in Pakistan without incident.
Yes, there are militants in Pakistan. But they are a small minority in a country with a population of 165 million.
I spent a couple of months in Pakistan last year, and can attest to what Hamid says: most Pakistanis, like people from anywhere else, just want a peaceful, prosperous life, and have no desire to court conflict. The problem is that it is in Musharraf’s interests to portray Pakistan as a dangerous place, so that he can get the support of the West. So far, he has succeeded, but that may change. The next few months promise to be interesting.
Also read: my recent essay, “General Musharraf’s Incentives.”