How Long Can This Go On?
The question of how long the political, religious, and economic struggles in the Middle East will last has confronted the region for centuries. The answer is seemingly “forever,” based on what has happened both in larger countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan and in smaller ones such as Dubai and Bahrain.
Afghanistan has been a battleground for years. Russia, Britain, the United States and its coalition allies, the Taliban, al-Qaeda . . . the list of countries and groups that have fought across the Afghan landscape is long and varied, as have been the issues involved.
One of the most significant issues in Afghanistan is the people's quest for self-determination. That is at the heart of the twenty-first-century unrest in the Middle East: people trying to gain control of their own destinies.
The United States launched an offensive in Afghanistan in October 2001 to find and destroy terrorists who sought a safe haven in the country after the September 11 catastrophe in New York City. It enlisted the aid of several countries in the Middle East to eradicate them from their own borders. That effort has contributed to a decade of unrest in the region as individuals, political groups, and governments take sides in the war on terrorism.
Afghanistan faces a long rebuilding process as it emerges from years of war. The international community is providing humanitarian relief and assistance, security, financial aid to fund infrastructure projects across the country, and political support for a democratic framework. Projects such as those being conducted in Afghanistan are being duplicated throughout the Middle East as the current century progresses.
Pakistan is on the eastern fringe of the Middle East both geographically and politically. Like Afghanistan, it is a battleground in the war against terrorism. Western countries rely on Pakistan as an ally in their effort to rid the region of terrorists, while the Pakistani government struggles to determine exactly how much help it wants to provide.
Pakistan has one of the more complex government structures in the Middle East. It is best described as a federal parliamentary system. The president, who is elected indirectly, is both the head of state and commander in chief of the Pakistani Armed Forces. The prime minister, also elected indirectly, is the head of government. There is also a cabinet of ministers comprising members from both chambers of the federal legislature to assist the prime minister.
Pakistan is more closely involved with Asian countries than with the Middle East, although it has a pronounced relationship with Turkey. The unrest in the Middle East prompted Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to visit Turkey in April 2011 to discuss its effects on both countries and their specific economic and cultural bilateral dealings.