Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Region's Pakistanis divided

by Stephen Magagnini and Dorothy Korber from The Sacramento Bee

The crisis tearing Pakistan apart is playing out in Northern California's Pakistani communities, where leaders Monday debated whether President Pervez Musharraf is a dictator gone mad or a pragmatist trying to maintain order. Irfan Haq, a businessman with a Ph.D. in economics and leader among Sacramento's 2,000 Pakistani Americans, said Musharraf is better than those who came before him – and that the declaration of emergency rule may be a necessary evil on Pakistan's rocky road to a pro-American democracy ... "the roots of radicalism were planted when 4 million Afghan refugees came after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan." Along with the Afghans – pro-Taliban who stocked many of Pakistan's madrassas, or religious schools – came Wahhabi Saudis sympathetic to al-Qaida, Haq said ... Zak Vera is a Davis doctor whose father, a political scientist, taught democracy in Pakistan. Until literacy comes to the people, Vera contends, Pakistan, like other poor Third World countries, "is not ready for democracy." Vera and his wife, Shereen, provide scholarships and sewing machines to poor Pakistani villages on humanitarian missions.

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