While the United States reels from the terrible and soul-searching questions following the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and John Roll, a U.S. district court judge, a deeper and more terrible soul-searching occurs on the other side of the globe.
In Pakistan, the governor of Punjab province fell by the gun of his own bodyguard, who opposed the governor’s progressive views on eliminating religious blasphemy laws.
More shocking than the assassination was the reaction among the Pakistani public. Unlike the American public, which in every corner rained condemnation upon Jared Lee Loughner, the man accused of shooting Giffords, Roll and 18 others in Tucson, Ariz. on Jan. 8, Pakistani people were fractured between supporting the assassination and demanding a Western concept of justice for the killer.
The U.S. cannot afford to support those who condone the killing and must increase its support for the current progressive civilian government in Pakistan. This is important for ground-up and top-down change in Pakistan, as well as for the security of the international community.
On a local level in Pakistan, American support for the civilian government would improve the rule of law. According to a New York Times report, one of the killer’s most vociferously supportive groups is young Pakistani lawyers. These lawyers’ support reflects the curriculum of Islamic law taught sporadically in Pakistani schools.
A parallel system of justice is forming that endorses the killing of public officials in the name of religious cause. Yet a theocracy is not desirable for social order. With the backing of young lawyers and radical political parties like Dawat-e-Islami, Pakistan could move in the same direction as Iran.
American support will also help on the local level by promoting a free and open media. The assassinated governor held a portion of the Punjabi media market, which came under fire of extremists. Therefore, a free and open society in Pakistan depends on the government’s ability to protect the press.
On the national level, support for the civilian government will bring political stability. The current president recently lost several important members of his ruling coalition. If the government collapses in the wake of the assassination, chaos would result.
A significant contributing factor to this chaos would be the strength of Pakistan’s military. Pakistan would not be able to afford regression into the hands of a powerful institution with a history of aggressive tactics and rough international temperament.
The international community would also benefit from a strong Pakistani civilian government. When Pakistan becomes isolated and suspicious of its security, it tends to aid radical Islamic militias to undermine perceived enemies. Cooperation would allay this concern.
A cooperative Pakistan would be more willing to put down radical militias in its border regions, which would reduce the necessity of controversial American drone strikes. A firm government could also improve Pakistan’s relations with India, as President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed interest in cooperation despite flame-feeding by conservative politicians.
A stronger rule of law in Pakistan could also improve global nuclear security through the overseeing of nuclear scientists, one of which shuttled nuclear technology to North Korea in 2000 with the blessing of the army.
Increased American aid to the current Pakistani government is critical to the success of the country’s society, government and foreign relations, as well as the furtherance of global peace.
Pearce Edwards is a sophomore political science and history double major from Albuquerque, N.M.