The Demons That Haunt the Pakistanis

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — These are emotional times in Pakistan, particularly since President Obama told its leaders last week to fight harder against Islamist extremists, and expanded a deeply unpopular covert air strike program in Pakistani territory.

After Mr. Obama’s speech at West Point, newspapers and talk shows here were full of heated commentary that those demands would push Pakistan further toward disaster. “Approval of increasing drone strikes in Pakistan,” blared one headline. “A very difficult time is approaching for Pakistan,” a former foreign secretary intoned on television...

... “The real terrorists are not the men in turbans we see on Al Jazeera,” said the psychiatrist, Dr. Malik H. Mubbashar, vice chancellor of the University of Health Sciences in Lahore. “They are wearing Gucci suits and Brit hats. It’s your great country, Madam.”

I asked him to spell it out. “It’s coming from Americans, Jews and Indians,” he said. “It’s an axis of evil that’s being supervised by you people.”

This is not such an unusual view in Pakistan, even if the tone was particularly harsh. At 62 years old, Pakistan is something of a teenager among nations, even in its frame of mind — self-conscious, emotional, quick to blame others for its troubles.

It was born in 1947, in a bloody, wrenching partition from India in which hundreds of thousands were killed. That traumatic event left deep scars on the psyches of both nations, and locked the countries into a perilous rivalry in ways that foreign observers often fail to understand.

But while India closed itself off, eliminated its feudal system and developed its economy, Pakistan kept a corrosive system of feudal privilege and went through decades of political upheaval. And India still looms large in Pakistan’s collective imagination.

“We didn’t heal very well after the partition because we didn’t deal with it,” said Ishma Alvi, a psychologist in Karachi...

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