The assassination of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer last week highlights the destabilising effect of the “war on terror”.
The increasingly isolated liberal elite is locked in conflict with right wing Islamist groups over Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws.
Taseer was gunned down by one of his own bodyguards after he defended a Christian woman who has been sentenced to hang for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
His killer has been hailed as a hero and showered with rose petals by his supporters.
But far from being a conflict driven by fundamentalists, its roots lie in the fact that millions of Pakistanis feel abandoned by, and aiienated from, the rich.
Pakistan has been a loyal supporter of the “war on terror”.
It has allowed US drone aircraft to rain down hundreds of missiles upon villages along the Afghan border suspected of shielding Taliban militants.
The Pakistani army has relentlessly bombarded its own citizens in Waziristan and Swat with mortar shells.
Thousands of young men have been rounded up and tortured by the ISI secret police.
And, while the rich party the nights away, economic and environmental catastrophes are destroying millions of lives.
The water from last year’s floods has long since subsided but many remain displaced in stinking camps, stalked by dysentery and cholera.
The failure of the state to offer even the most basic help means that politicians of all parties are despised as corrupt.
The poor in the cities fare little better. Over the past three years, the price of basic foodstuffs, like onions, tomatoes and sugar, have risen by up to 300 percent.
Petrol, used by millions to generate electricity, is up by a third. Meanwhile, unemployment is spiralling downwards.
International Monetary Fund (IMF) demands for higher taxes and reduced subsidies is compounding the situation.
The IMF recently suspended promised loan payments as a penalty for Pakistan refusing to implement its programme.
Neoliberalism and imperialism have driven many into the hands of Islamist organisations that speak out against the US and pose as defenders of the poor.
Some now fear that Pakistan is on the brink of a civil war, and that the religious right will make a bid for power.
This would be a disaster. The streets would fill with blood as rival ethnic and religious groups fight for control.
But there would be blood on the hands of the imperialists in the US and Britain—who would recoil in horror despite bearing responsibility for the slaughter.