Mail Call: Pakistan's Problem

Readers of our Jan. 21 cover story on Pervez Musharraf's future unanimously blamed him for all of Pakistan's problems. "He destroyed national institutions so he can stay in power," said one. "Discontent is spreading," wrote another. A third opined, "The biggest threat faced by Pakistan is Musharraf."

Pakistan ' s Unpopular President
I think that "Toward The Dark Ages" would have been a more suitable title for Fareed Zakaria's Jan. 21 cover story "In the Dark Hours." Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf destroyed every institution in the country to remain in power. He didn't even spare the judiciary. Sacked Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Supreme Court Bar Association president Aitzaz Ahsan and their companions are still under house arrest. Lawyers' protests are getting stronger every day. Even retired Army generals have been asking for Musharraf's resignation. Bomb blasts are killing innocent people. Basic necessities of life are out of reach for Pakistan's poor people. Questions are being raised about the country's nuclear assets. It's time for America and Europe to review their policies toward Musharraf and listen to the people of Pakistan.
Hasan Raza Gondal
Birmingham, England

For now, it would seem, Pakistan is surrounded by insurmountable odds. We have a serious food shortage (wheat, rice, sugar, cooking oil), an energy crisis, falling gas supplies, social and political chaos, burgeoning sectarian conflict and a quagmire of economic stagnation. As if that weren't crisis enough, suicide bombers have killed more than a thousand people in the course of the last year. As a result of this mayhem, the common man finds himself unwittingly entangled in daily torment. Discontent is spreading while our political leaders have been doing their best to exploit the unrest by playing the blame game.
Mehreen Ali
Peshawar, Pakistan

The biggest threat and problem faced by Pakistan today is Pervez Musharraf. He has managed to make a real fool of policymakers in the West by somehow convincing them that he is their only option in the fight against terrorism. The reality on the ground is that he is completely isolated and has surrounded himself with a handful of ruthless, callous and gluttonous cronies who are happy to tolerate him as long as they have his blessing in looting the country's wealth. Between them, these rogue elements have forced this nuclear state of 160 million people to its knees. Civil society is in revolt. While Musharraf talks endlessly about his imagined economic miracle, the middle classes are forced to queue up for hours outside food shops to buy the most basic necessities—flour, rice, sugar and cooking oil. Musharraf has systematically destroyed the major national institutions that could challenge his authority and his illegitimate rule. The new Army chief needs to be reminded that the armed forces imposed this monster on the nation and it is their moral obligation to take him out, sooner rather than later, to stop the disintegration and collapse of Pakistan.
M. Noman Sheikh
London, England

Western leaders face a dilemma: they cannot openly and publicly talk tough with President Pervez Musharraf because that might push him toward the extremists. Confident as he was of being indispensable, the general has been praising his armed forces and speaking highly of Pakistan's economy and the stability of his rule. Every now and then, the Army has waged limited strikes in the tribal areas but it does not go decisively after the extremists. The Army's efforts have forced the tribes into abandoning their customary anti-establishment stance and come up with offers of a so-called truce just to buy relief from those strikes. Musharraf's recent admission that his Army was not specifically looking for Osama bin Laden speaks volumes about his strategy.
R. K. Sudan
Jammu, India

In his interview with Fareed Zakaria, President Musharraf opines that Benazir Bhutto was "very unpopular with the military, very unpopular." With his own popularity nose-diving to a level that could be termed "most unpopular," Musharraf ought to know that Pakistanis hate the Army today just as much as the people of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) hated the Army during the civil war of 1970.With Musharraf at the helm in what is clearly an illegitimate presidency, Pakistan could well be headed to a situation where it will be the people vs. the Army.
Ghulam Rasool
Karachi, Pakistan

Considering the Clinton Campaign
Bill Clinton was re-elected despite accusations of financial corruption, renting out the Lincoln Bedroom of the White House to secure political donations and alleged sexual harassment of Arkansas state employees. It was later confirmed that he used the Oval Office to have sex with a 21-year-old intern, and that he lied and used his staff and even his wife to cover all this up. Now Americans are once again considering putting the Clintons back in the White House ("Let Hillary Be Hillary," Jan. 21)? Why?
Todd Proctor
Turku, Finland

Hillary Clinton in tears in New Hampshire? That should disqualify her from the highest office in America. If the prospect of losing in a primary election so affected her, how would she react to an international crisis? We have seen able women leaders around the world, and America had its own "Iron Lady" in the Madeleine Albright. Hillary's tears might do well at a charity fund-raiser or in the cocoon of New York politics, but won't suit the president of a superpower.
Csaba P. Keszthelyi
Budapest, Hungary

Germany ' s Technological Edge
Your Jan. 21 article "The Factory Of Factories" about Germany's success in machine-tool technology reveals that country's leadership in reindustrialization and its avoidance of the American or Japanese manufacturing models. Yes, German companies don't believe in popular mantras like Six Sigma or Toyota's Lean-Manufacturing principles. Instead, they still believe in technology rather than systems. Germans have proved their capability over the years in this area despite their growing labor costs. Another strength the Germans have over other European countries like France is labor unions that work hand-in-hand with employers even though this means leaving many labor disputes unresolved. But Germany's coldhearted policy against skilled immigrants from developing countries makes it outdated in this new world order of globalization. Even Japan is now granting citizenship to many skilled foreign workers, while Germans continue to be plagued by xenophobia.
Suresh Kumar Parappurath
Bangalore, India

On the Streets of Baghdad
Rod Nordland's article "Baghdad Comes Alive" (Nov. 26) is an uplifting firsthand assessment of the status of Iraq. You don't have to look far to see the failures of this war, but Nordland's experience reveals that Baghdad is stabilizing. I'm not naive enough to believe an end to the war is imminent, but after the five years of fighting that has polarized both Iraq and America, it's good to hear that life in Iraq is showing signs of normalcy. Fear, the driving force behind every war, has been constant for soldier and citizen alike. For the war to end, the people of Iraq must be able to function without fear, which it seems they are beginning to do. A night out to eat, or a visit to the Baghdad zoo, is no longer a life-threatening prospect. The progress of stability in Iraq is reaffirmed by the rise of Sunni volunteers, working alongside U.S. and Iraqi government forces. This alliance, within the fragile social system of Iraq, is especially hopeful. In order for the United States to leave Iraq safely, it must ensure that Iraq will not have to endure civil war and further destruction. Now that normal life has returned to the streets of Baghdad, let's hope that Iraq's social unrest can be repaired.
Adam Sylvain
Rochester, New Hampshire

Seduction, U.S. Style
Unfortunately, what is written in "The Italian Love Affair" (Nov. 26) is true, but unhealthy. At the root of the love many Italians have for America is our eternal will to be subjugated, our lack of identity and the parochial opinion that what is foreign is always the best. Even the documents produced by our government offices now abound with English words. This is foolish, and has nothing to do with real admiration for the United States. No other European country does this. The French and the Spanish translate everything into their languages. It's only the Italians who say "skyline" instead of orizzonte and "brainstorming" instead of riflessione collettiva.
Sergio Sammartino
Rome, Italy

Mauro Suttora's report on the Italian fascination with the American way of life offered a one-sided and lighthearted view of how the United States is perceived abroad; Suttora based his evaluation only on positive indicators such as movies, music and art. But his story made me wonder how many Italians know how the United States fares when it comes to quality-of-life issues such as America's faulty health-care system, its lack of gun control, and many others like drug trafficking, illegal immigration, the death penalty and racism, not to mention the government's spending of billions of dollars on the lengthy, bloody and clueless War on Terrorism. The problem with Italians, particularly today's young people, is that they have been absorbing the mass-marketed aspects of American culture and have been dazzled by the high standards of living possible in America.
Giulio Cicconi
Teramo, Italy

Hardships of Entering America
The Bush administration and its bureaucratic security measures and strict visa entrance standards convey such a bad image of America worldwide that many of us are restraining ourselves from visiting the United States ("America the Unwelcoming," Nov. 26). But don't get the wrong idea. We love the United States in many ways. For instance, we are always deeply moved by the breathtaking beauty of American landscapes and we feel at home when we spend time in the country's very attractive urban places like New York City. But despite America's cheap currency, we, as French citizens, prefer to avoid the risk of harassment and humiliation involved with the travel restrictions, which too often trample on the basic human rights of people entering the United States. For the time being, we think it wiser to visit other countries. We strongly believe that climbing high Swiss mountains is much less risky than being intrusively scrutinized by overzealous customs agents at Kennedy airport. So thank you, Fareed Zakaria, for your honest article underscoring how unwelcoming America has become.
Pierre Tran
Lovagny, France

Patronizing France?
I was appalled by the patronizing tone of Denis MacShane's Dec. 17 article on France ("Is This the New Look of France?"). Writing off President Nicolas Sarkozy right now seems rather hasty and giving tips about solving the country's debt by selling EDF is, I think, quite unrealistic.
Denis Mckee
Reims, France

Reflecting on the Rising Price of Oil
Oil's mad rush north of $100 per barrel marks a pivotal transition ("How Hot Money Is Pushing Oil," Nov. 26). This dramatic jump in price—more than 30 percent since last September—has sent the world a chilling warning. In the meantime, conventional wisdom keeps pointing the finger of blame at the exceptional demand from Asians, thanks in part to the meteoric growth of China's economy. There are other factors also: an untimely shortage of reserves in the United States, OPEC's reluctance to push up daily production, the weak greenback that continues to slide steadily downwards, and the jittery political situation in Iran. Notwithstanding the fact that each of these reasons could be a contributing factor, we seem to forget that the rich nations continue to ignore their excessive and extravagant consumption and the energy they waste to maintain their luxurious lifestyles. When the affluent learn to use less oil, up-and-coming nations will become more efficient in their energy use, too. The search for alternative, renewable energy sources will speed up, and no one will worry if the price of oil shoots up to $200.
Tan Boon Tee
Penang, Malaysia

A Field of Mirrors to the Rescue?
Your article quotes physicist David Mills as saying, "A field of mirrors 91 miles square could power the entire United States" ("It's All About Energy, Stupid!" Nov. 26). Your writers then add: "Though that field is unlikely to ever be built—strong enough transmission lines don't exist …" Apparently they do. The World Bank has published a technology review of an innovation in power trans-mission called high-voltage direct current (HVDC). The article, by Swedish and American researchers, can be found at worldbank.org, the World Bank's Web site. Of course, traditionally all electrical transmission is by AC, alternating current. Older technologies meant that direct current, DC, could be sent only short distances with low voltages. The World Bank claims that new DC cables made of extruded polyethylene that transmit higher voltages could now make economic sense over as little as 60 kilometers. A graph in the aforementioned article shows AC costs exceeding DC costs beyond about 650 kilometers. Most important, though the initial electricity loss on a DC line is higher, it does not increase with distance. On AC systems, by contrast, the longer the line, the more you lose. There is no inherent limit on the length of a DC cable. Already there is a line in the Democratic Republic of Congo that is 1,700 kilometers long. Perhaps someone should inform Mills.
Alan Lew
Rihov, Czech Republic

NEWSWEEK is absolutely right that the development of renewable energy resources "is especially attractive in California, where public utilities are required to get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources." However, a California law (which I authored in 2006) requires that 20 percent target to be reached by 2010, not 2015 as NEWSWEEK REPORTED. As your story rightly points out, renewable energy sources can and will be developed when and where the market exists. California's "20 percent by 2010" is an ambitious but achievable goal—a catalyst that spurs investment and drives innovation. The next logical step is a commitment to 33 percent by 2020. Legislation to that effect has cleared the California State Senate and awaits action next year in the California State Assembly. Stay tuned.
State Sen. Joe Simitian
Palo Alto, California

Correction
In his Feb. 11 column, "The Wrong Experience," Fareed Zakaria wrote that Hillary Clinton "won't say" whether she supports an initiative, proposed by Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, William Perry and Sam Nunn, to reduce America's nuclear arsenal. In fact, Senator Clinton has supported the initiative.

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