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What's At Stake In Elections In Venezuela And Pakistan


This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Elections come up in Venezuela this weekend and Pakistan next month, two very different places of critical importance to the United States and to their regions. More on Pakistan in a few minutes.

We begin, though, in Venezuela, where socialist President Hugo Chavez defied American power and used oil, ideology and charisma to support leftist allies in Central and South America, propped up the communist regime founded by his idol Fidel Castro in Cuba and, following his death last month, left his successor with a number of political and economic challenges.

If you have questions about what's at stake first in Venezuela, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk about npr.org. Later in the problem, Americans utopias: Disney World, Burning Man and Occupy Wall Street. Mike Daisey will join us. But we begin in Caracas and NPR's Juan Forero, and thanks very much for being with us today.

JUAN FORERO, BYLINE: Thank you, it's a pleasure.

CONAN: And it's the last day of campaigning. What's going on?

FORERO: Well, it's the last day, today's the last day that both campaigns can go out and have rallies. So the big rally is really Nicolas Maduro's rally. That is - he's the president who took over after Chavez died, and he's basically barnstorming around the country, and tonight he ends his campaigning here in Caracas. It should be a very big rally. I expect tens of thousands of people.

CONAN: And what about his opponent, Henrique Capriles Radonski?

FORERO: Capriles was already here in Caracas just a few days ago. I was at that rally. It was a very strong show of force. Since then he's been out in the countryside, which is where the government is stronger. So he's out in the provinces doing his campaigning on this last day.

CONAN: Now you mentioned the chosen successor, Nicolas Maduro; the opposition leader, Capriles Radonski. Listening to your reports over the past few weeks, though, the most dominant figure in this campaign seems to be Hugo Chavez.

FORERO: Oh yes, no doubt. I mean, it sometimes feels as if Hugo Chavez is still on the ballot. Remember this man first won office in 1998, and he's been in one presidential election after another. And now he's gone. But Maduro is campaigning almost as if he is Chavez.

I mean, one of the slogans here is: We are Chavez. He often calls himself the son of Chavez. And the other day he came out to say that he was praying in church, and a little bird came in and circled his head, and it was Chavez reincarnated, who told him to keep going, that you're doing a good job and that victory is within reach.

CONAN: And at least according to most analysts, the little bird seems to be right.

FORERO: Yes, I would say so. The polls show that Maduro has been comfortably ahead. Capriles may be closing in. Maduro is not a very good or seasoned campaigner, but clearly the government has the edge here. I mean first of all, it's because of Chavez. The sympathy is just huge here, and the government really orchestrated for a good week, you know, all kinds of memorials and so forth after Chavez died. That received wall-to-wall coverage on state television.

And still you see on state TV - and we're talking about half-a-dozen state TV stations. We're talking about documentaries and ads and so forth where you see Chavez constantly. So that's a very potent weapon for the government. But then the other thing is just simply the resources that the government uses here. The government comes out and buys appliances for people and food and so forth, and so all of that is something that really the opposition can't match.

CONAN: And the opposition, this is a group, well, they united around Capriles for the last election, where he lost to Mr. Chavez by what, about 10 points or so. But this is a group that's been, well, at each other's throats historically.

FORERO: Well yeah, this is an opposition that has had a very hard time. Remember that the opposition more than a decade ago tried a coup to get Chavez out of power. That failed. And then a couple of years later, they tried a recall referendum, and that also failed.

Now the opposition has changed dramatically since then. A lot of the leaders in the opposition at that time are gone, long gone. They're out of the country, in fact, many of them. And so we have an opposition, I think it's much larger. It also is more representative of the Venezuelan population. I think you see people from all walks of life in it. And it did unite behind Capriles in this campaign.

Capriles is a pretty telegenic and young campaigner. He is good on the stump speech. And so that has, that has had an impact. There was, you know, a real sense that he had a shot against Chavez last year. He did lose by 10 points in the end, but it was really the strongest showing that any opposition politician had had during the whole Chavez era.

CONAN: And as I understand it, some in the opposition say, well, he's got a terrible problem. The election is less - what, a month after the death of Hugo Chavez, but maybe this is a blessing in disguise.

FORERO: Well yeah, some people are saying that because what's happened here is that really Venezuela is in just awful shape. The economy is completely dysfunctional, and you have problems from electrical blackouts, which are particularly noticeable out in the countryside. You have food shortages, and you have just horrendous rampant violent crime, particularly in the big cities. Caracas is one of the world's most violent cities.

And so these are all serious, serious problems that the government hasn't been able to get a handle on. And if Capriles were to win, he would no doubt be blamed for the worsening situation because many people here do feel that it's going to get worse before it gets better.

CONAN: And then what about Mr. Maduro? Should he succeed in following his boss, Hugo Chavez, he's going to face these problems.

FORERO: Well, Maduro does have huge shoes to fill. I mean first of all Chavez had a real personal, mystical, religious, almost cult-like connection with his people, you know, and I mean his people, the masses of poor in this country who saw him almost as a god or at a father figure at the very least. Maduro doesn't have that gift. Few politicians have that gift. And so that's something that Maduro is missing.

And the other thing which we haven't seen yet, this hasn't become an issue yet, is will Maduro be able to hold together the coalition that is Chavismo. Chavismo is the Chavez movement, and Chavismo is made up of all kinds of groups.

You know, there are real sort of revolutionary, leftist, pro-Cuba, you know, down with America kind of people. There are also businessmen who have made a lot of money off the Chavez government. There are military figures. There are functionaries of all kinds. And there are just simply, you know, opportunists who have gotten close to the government and so forth.

So this is a big group, and there are also different lines, you know, within this group. In other words, there are different leaders in Chavismo who all have their own groups, who all have their own interests. The question is: Will this man be able to hold that whole thing together as Chavez did. I think that remains to be seen. We may, you know, have some kind of crises in the future in the weeks or months ahead.

CONAN: And a lot of people are asking if Mr. Maduro will be able to afford or be willing to continue the foreign policies of Hugo Chavez, for example providing oil to Cuba and selling oil at very low prices to countries that will embrace his ideology however reluctantly.

FORERO: Well yeah, remember that Venezuela is sending Cuba 100,000 barrels of oil a day, you know, and the cut-rate deal for Cuba. This has been very important for Cuba because Cuba, you know, found a great benefactor in Venezuela when the Soviet Union collapsed, and of course there were all those tough years in the '90s for Cuba. But lo and behold, along came Hugo Chavez, and that has helped them stay afloat.

And yes, Venezuela has spent handily in a lot of other countries, but Venezuela also makes a lot of promises that it hasn't been able to keep in terms of money and projects in Brazil and in Ecuador and, you know, all over the region. The numbers here, the books are opaque. It's hard to really get a sense of what they've spent, what they've promised and so forth.

But most economists agree that the spending is going to have to be cut dramatically because Venezuela really ramped up spending last year for the election. I mean, they gave away homes and apartments and so forth. The housing policies in this country have been a disaster. But they really picked up the construction ahead of that election. That cost a lot of money.

And there were a lot of other things, a lot of other goodies for people, and that also really hurt the bank book here. And so now Venezuela is facing a really serious deficit, and of course it's facing, you know, all these series of problems that we talked about. Those are all going to take, you know, a very organized government, and it's going to be very difficult, I think for this government to get all those things taken care of.

CONAN: And as they look ahead to those problems, this is a - well, Mr. Maduro's term would be another, what, five, seven years?

FORERO: Yeah, it'll be a six-year term. The terms are six years. So we're talking about Maduro serving over the next six years. So Chavismo, which began in 1999, beginning of 1999, will go through the end of 2018.

CONAN: And the question always was would Chavismo survive Chavez, and I guess we'll start to find out. But there's also the question of Hugo Chavez's outsized role amongst the other left-leaning governments in Central and South America. Is anyone emerging to take his place there?

FORERO: Well, the guy who's gotten a lot of attention is Correa, Rafael Correa in Ecuador. He was a very close friend of Hugo Chavez, very fiery, you know, and definitely interested in building sort of a bulwark against the United States. He's an interesting character because he is an economist trained in the United States, very smart, very sharp.

And the thing about Ecuador that might be, you know, quite different from Venezuela is it's not a chaotic place. In many ways it's a country that works. You know, they've been able to build schools and do all kinds of things. They have tangible things that they can show. But on the other hand, Correa also has, you know, some of the negatives that you saw in Chavez.

You know, he's been trying to corral the press and the opposition and so forth. So, you know, and he of course has the fiery, fiery rhetoric. The problem with Correa is of course he's from a very small country, doesn't have the kind of resources that Venezuela has. So it's never going to play the kind of role that Venezuela did in Latin America and beyond Latin America as Chavez's government did.

CONAN: And indeed it was invitations to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran to come and visit, to Iranian ships to come and port their ships in the Caribbean, those kinds of actions meant to, well, essentially poke his finger in the eye of the United States. But at the same time, of course Hugo Chavez's Venezuela sold an awful lot of oil to the United States.

FORERO: Venezuela did sell a lot of oil to the United States although the amount of oil sold to the United States has dropped a bit. In other words, what's interesting about Hugo Chavez is that it's become more dependent on oil sales to the United States because Venezuela produces little of anything else, but the United States, because it's drilling more in the United States, producing gas and also because Canada's producing more, and countries like Colombia and Brazil are producing more, then the United States is less dependent on Venezuela.

It's kind of an interesting thing that most people don't know about, but yes, no doubt. I mean, Chavez wanted to poke the eye of Uncle Sam, and he definitely did so, apart from the leaders you mentioned. I mean, Chavez was close to Gadhafi, he went to visit Saddam Hussein, Lukashenko from Belarus, also (technical difficulty) Chavez many times...

CONAN: Juan Forero, I'm afraid we're going to have to end it there. Thanks very much. Pakistan coming up, TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

This is TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan. One month from today, Pakistanis go to the polls to elect their new parliament. In the country's 65-year history, Pakistan's seen three military coups and constant instability. So this could be an historic election, the first transition from one democratically elected government to another, ever.

There are thousands of candidates who must be vetted through an unusual screening process. There's danger, too. Just today, the Taliban gunned down a candidate for the Provincial Assembly. If you have questions about what's at stake in Pakistan's election, give us a call: 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org.

NPR's foreign affairs correspondent Jackie Northam just returned from Pakistan, her most recent visit last month, and she joins us here in Studio 3A. Nice to have you back on the program, Jackie.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: Thank you very much, Neal.

CONAN: And this most recent violence in Hyderabad - and this is for the provincial assembly there, not for the main assembly in Islamabad.

NORTHAM: That's right. But I think it sort of highlights what, you know, we can expect in the lead up to the parliamentary elections next month, certainly. This is not an isolated incident. This one was in Sindh Province, but in all of the four provinces, we are seeing violence. This was with the MQM Party, which was affiliated at one time with the ruling Pakistan People's Party. But there are other parties that are being targeted.

And one of them, particularly, is called the Awami National Party. And this is a secular party that did very well in the last elections, and is very much anti-Taliban, anti-militancy, same as this party that was targeted today. And the Taliban have made no bones about it, that they are going to go after these people, which has made any sort of electioneering extremely difficult, extremely difficult.

The interesting thing about the Awami National Party, though, is this is a group that actually is trying to get peace negotiations going with the Taliban, and, you know, obviously, that's not working. They're being targeted.

CONAN: And there has been, as you say, violence and, what, tens of thousands killed in Pakistan. We tend to focus on the violence in neighboring Afghanistan - tens of thousands killed in Pakistan.

NORTHAM: Absolutely, yeah. And a lot of that is due to militancy, Taliban or affiliated groups going after anybody that they see as heretics, anything like that. But the other thing that we're just seeing so much more, something like in Karachi, just plain old criminality. And the violence is - every night, there's, you know, another 15 people killed, 20 people killed.

But we're also seeing a real uptick in sectarian violence in many pockets of the country: Karachi, the commercial hub down in the south, but also in Baluchistan, Quetta area, and that, some really serious attacks. Just when I was there, there were almost 90 Hazara Shiites - that's sort of an ethnic Hazara group - that were killed in one blast. And, certainly, it had been a month or two just before that when an equal number were killed. So we're seeing a lot of violence there right now.

CONAN: Shiites very much a minority in Pakistan.

NORTHAM: Absolutely. Yes, indeed.

CONAN: Now, we have, of course, the people in power, the government of Mr. Zardari, the successors to Benazir Bhutto, they seem to be in trouble.

NORTHAM: Oh, they are, definitely. And actually, President Zardari, Asif Ali Zardari, was Benazir Bhutto's husband, certainly. And to everybody's surprise, he not only became president of Pakistan, but he also remained in power. But, you know, the government has faced a lot of challenges and not done well in tackling them.

If you look at corruption, it is absolutely rampant, across the board. If you look at the economy, it's completely in the doldrums. It's just plummeted, you know. Nothing is working. Energy crisis: you know, there's very few parts of the country that have energy all day, electricity all day. Many parts of the country don't. People have to sit in gas lines.

And when I - you know, when I drive around town in that, you see them. They'll sit for three hours just waiting to get petrol, fuel for their car. Oddly enough, they kind of accept that, and it's - which is rather astonishing if they're having to do it repeatedly and that, but there is an anger building when you talk to people. There is an anger building.

And these are elections. This is the time to change that. They think the economy is going to be the primary focus of the elections, but there could be other things, as well. But again, the Zardari government, the government in power right now, has not handled it very well. And so there's a very good chance that they're not going to see another term.

CONAN: And the party touted to take the most seats in parliament is that led by Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister.

NORTHAM: That's right, prime minister twice already, yeah. And he's a businessman, certainly, and his family are all entrepreneurs and make a lot of money. They've done marvelous things in Punjab Province, which is where...

CONAN: Which is the most populous province.

NORTHAM: Absolutely, yeah, most of Pakistan, like 60 percent, I believe, and they've done a lot: big highways overpasses, things like that. But they don't really - they haven't done enough work on education or infrastructure, or that type of thing. But anyway, it looks like his party will get back in again. You never know. This is Pakistan. But that looks like the case.

CONAN: A parliamentary system - of course, no one party is expected to win an outright majority. So the largest parties are given the opportunity to cobble together a coalition, and it looks like Mr. Sharif's party's likely to get the most seats. Let's see if we can get some callers in on the conversation. If you have questions about what's at stake in Pakistan, 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. And let's see if we can start with Ted, and Ted on the line with us from Norfolk, in Virginia.

TED: Yes, good afternoon. How are you today?

CONAN: Good, thanks.

TED: Good. Imran Khan, former cricketer, actor, so on and so forth, what can you tell me about him? I mean, is he an outsider looking to come in? I mean, does he have any kind of a chance to win? Just, you know, trying to find out more about him. I came across his name, and I'm curious.

CONAN: Not just a former cricketer, the Babe Ruth of Pakistan.

NORTHAM: (unintelligible) Yes. And he's also, for many Pakistani women, he's awfully easy on the eyes, they like to say. So for the men, it might be the cricket side. For the women, it's his looks, certainly. You know, he does have some support there, certainly, and where he garners most of it is from the youth.

You know, I've talked to - whenever I've talked to, you know, college students or people who've just left college and that sort of thing, they're pinning their hopes on him because they see him as some sort of fresh start. Now, a few months ago, he was - it seemed like you heard a lot more about him. He was part of the mix, as far as politics goes.

Last time I was there - I just came back, you know, about a month ago, and that seems to have waned somewhat, and - not really sure why. He is pulling in crowds, but I don't know if he's got that much of a track record. It's really hard to sort of separate where his popularity as the cricketer, good-looking cricketer, or the politician, how that diverges. So we'll have to see.

I think he will get some votes, obviously, but I don't think he'll be able to take over Sharif. The other person worth watching here is, of course, General Musharraf again.

CONAN: Pervez Musharraf, the former - well, dictator, let's put it that way.

NORTHAM: I think that's probably the easiest way, and that's how many, many Pakistanis see him. He actually ousted Nawaz Sharif from power in the '90s, and then took over the country. He came back just a couple of weeks ago, and it was very interesting. They had bail set, ready for him, just in case he was arrested on sight, which did not happen.

But he's trying to get - insert himself back into politics again. I don't think he stands much of a chance of getting very far, but again, this is Pakistan. We'll have to see.

CONAN: And as we look at these various characters, we're talking about their politics in terms of inside Pakistan - for example, Imran Khan noted as an anti-American campaigner.

NORTHAM: Right, and that's very popular. And, you know, I'm always stunned by the anti-Americanism in Pakistan. I don't think it can ever get worse, and every time I go back, it has somehow. So that's a popular platform to run on right now. But the fact of the matter is, you know, the military, primarily, you know, it is an ally of the U.S. in the war on terror, if you like, and that type of thing.

And it's the military, at the end of the day, that really calls the shot in Pakistan. And so the politicians might have one platform, certainly, but it doesn't mean that country will turn fully against the U.S.

CONAN: The president of Pakistan, titularly commander-in-chief, yet that has never been the case, except when it was Mr. Musharraf or another general.

NORTHAM: Who was - yeah, who was head of the military, as well, as it turns out. So, yeah.

CONAN: Yeah. And the politics of the country, this is a very diverse place. We mentioned Punjab over by the Indian frontier, the richest and most populous place. But Sindh, you also mentioned. There is the Northwest Frontier about which we hear so much, up around Peshawar, and the approaches to Afghanistan. But there is also, you know, areas of very great poverty.

Karachi, a sprawling city, we've heard so much about that from Steve Inskeep's reports from that city, but a very poor city, too.

NORTHAM: Well, indeed. And, you know, a lot of these areas, let's face it, are ungoverned, or they're not governed by the federal government by any stretch. If you look at Baluchistan, these are vast, open areas. And they're run by tribal leaders, to the most part. You know, there's always been talk of separatism, as well, because - in fact, there's a separatist movement there, and the army's tried to do something about it.

So, you know, it is a country, in name, but again, vast parts of it are ungoverned, and, you know, the disparity between the rich and the poor is quite astonishing, amongst its many other problems.

CONAN: Get another caller in. This is Leslie, Leslie with us from West Bloomfield in Michigan.

LESLIE: Yes, hi. I think you asked the wrong question at the beginning. It's not what is at stake in Pakistan. It's like what isn't at stake in Pakistan. I think everything's at stake. But my main concern is women's issues. There's been a surge of women getting killed or hurt, you know, acid in their faces for doing things that we in the United States take for granted like getting an education or, you know, dressing Western - in Western clothes. Are there any female candidates, and how are women's issues playing out in the election? And I'll take my answer off the air.

CONAN: All right, Leslie, thank you.

NORTHAM: Certainly, there are women candidates, and don't forget Benazir Bhutto, she was, you know, prime minister of the country as well, and popular and was - and then ousted and she was making a comeback, unfortunately, before she was killed. And there are, you know, female politicians in many parts of the country and some of the really conservative, sort of, Pashtun areas, and that, there are even women candidates which really, as you can imagine, is very, very dangerous.

Women's issues, it's a very slow process. And if we think back to that 15-year-old girl, Malala Yousafzai, just trying to make sure that, you know, she could go to school while the Taliban came and shot her, you know, pointblank in the head. So that give you some sort of gauge as to where in that part of the country how women are - or females are treated, you know. But Pakistan is very interesting in many other ways. There's a real intellectual band of women there, as well.

There's a very cosmopolitan group of women and everything else - very smart, educated women who are business people and everything that we expect here in the West. So they do have that, but in many other parts of the country, in particular the conservative areas, it's just the women, as you say, have no rights, and it doesn't look like it's improving. There's no motion to improve there.

CONAN: The Pashtun areas, again, that's closest to...


CONAN: ...Pakistan. In fact, they, of course, straddle that border.

NORTHAM: Yeah. And you see that in Karachi too, because a lot of the Pashtuns are getting driven out, you know, the militants and their families are getting driven out, and they're heading down to Karachi, which is why there's a lot more violence now in Karachi.

CONAN: And Quetta, which, of course, is in Baluchistan.

NORTHAM: Baluchistan, yeah. Again, a very sort of isolated province, if you like, very much conservative, terribly. That's where, you know, the heart of al-Qaida is supposed to be situated still, and that's - so yeah. You know, they're really hardcore there.

CONAN: And as we talk about the distinctions between the various areas, Pakistan, of course, we forget a state created just 65 years ago.

NORTHAM: Yeah, indeed. And it's always been, you know, very, very difficult, trying to this - collectively trying to (unintelligible) to identify itself, you know, as a nation and that - but it has been besieged by challenges all the time, all along the way, you know? It's sort of stuck geographically. It's in a hard neighborhood. And it's just - yeah, it's just, you know, a democracy is very, very new to it, but it's getting on its feet, you know, slowly but surely. Hopefully, these elections will be a turning point as far as the military goes. We'll just have to wait and see, though.

CONAN: Those elections are scheduled one month from today. NPR's Jackie Northam is here after her most recent visit to Pakistan. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. And Kendall is on the line with us from Allentown.

KENDALL: Hi. Thanks for taking my call. I'd like...

CONAN: Go ahead please.

KENDALL: I'd like to ask about Pakistan's nuclear weapons and how that figures into this transfer of power.

CONAN: Interesting, Jackie, Nawaz Sharif campaigning on - at least one of his planks of his campaign is that he was the man in office when Pakistan detonated its first nuclear device.

NORTHAM: Right. And that gives you an indication how they feel about this, to be a nuclear power. They're still developing their nuclear weapons, in other words, creating more of this - prolifer - I mean I talked to somebody about this the other day. They said I think, you know, shouldn't the U.S. government be worried, and it's like, let me tell you, that's the number one thing, you know, when Pak - when talking about Pakistan is the nuclear weapons. The biggest fear is not necessarily the Taliban that they're worried about, will somehow take these, apparently, disassembled weapons and put them together again and explode them.

What they're worried about is disgruntled scientists, you know, just taking things out of the lab or, you know, selling it to other countries, like we saw with A.Q. Khan. The nuclear issue is huge there. It's a point of pride for the Pakistanis, certainly, but it's a real point of worry and at times very much - a point of contention when you're talking about the U.S.

CONAN: Kendall, thank you.

KENDALL: Thank you. Have a great day.

CONAN: You too. And we talked about the tough neighborhood. There is still continuing friction with India, to put it mildly, over Kashmir and many other issues. We tend to get - again, for the American point of view, tend to think about the war in Afghanistan, the presence of American forces still there. They're going to be withdrawing hoping to pull those - the equipment out through Pakistan if they can. It would be a lot cheaper than flying it out. But Pakistan has always had its eyes not to the west in Afghanistan, to the east and India.

NORTHAM: Yeah. And they fought wars, the two countries, you know, since the two separated - created two separate countries. And I think there are, you know, a lot of people, again, in the administration that worry that they are going to war again. We saw a few years ago with the attack in Mumbai by Pakistani militants, that came very close to another all-out war again. And as I laughingly said the other day, and that's when they sent me back to Pakistan...


NORTHAM: ...just in case. But the point is now you're dealing with nuclear weapons and that. And, yeah, I think the leaders of the two countries were able to say, no, let's not do it. Certainly, in India. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is very much a technocrat. He understood what it would do to the economy and that - so they did not take this any further, but everybody knows it's just - it could happen next time, and it could be something as a miscommunication or a single shot fired over this disputed area of Kashmir.

It takes so little to set this off again, and that is a real concern, and it is a bigger concern when you're dealing with two countries that have nuclear weapons and deep animosity.

CONAN: And in the Pakistani election, how does India play into that? Are they - is Pakistani nationalism a major factor?

NORTHAM: Yeah. It really is. And again, this is why you're talking about Sharif with the nuclear weapons and that. But certainly, Pakistan kind of has this - again, this sort of collective chip on its shoulder when it comes to India. It's just because India is bigger. It's more developed. Its economy is getting along. It's got its own myriad of problems, certainly, but that does become part of the election campaigning - India, certainly, and nationalism. There's no question about it because - and if you're talking about the nuclear weapons, again, it's a real point of pride, and that's something that they can sell.

CONAN: And the United States, we mentioned, is the popular campaign against the United States, perhaps unless you're trying for a promotion within the Pakistani army.


CONAN: Nevertheless, American influence on the wane.

NORTHAM: American influence is definitely on the wane there, yeah. And, you know, the thing is that everybody has to stay engaged here because, as you suggest - said, they have to bring all those equipment out of Pakistan - Afghanistan right now, and the Pakistani route is the cheapest. It's the easiest, logistically, to do it that way. And we saw once before where the Pakistanis were angry with the U.S. about drone attacks and bombings and...

CONAN: They shut down all the routes.

NORTHAM: They shut down all the routes, and it's astonishing how that can just stop everything, and it just messes everything up. So they have to, you know, everybody has to stay engaged here. And the Pakistanis are getting good money for using those roads as well, frankly, so.

CONAN: NPR's foreign correspondent Jackie Northam just back, well, I guess a month ago, from Pakistan, and looking ahead to the elections in that country one month from today. Thank you very much for joining us. Jackie Northam with us here in Studio 3A. So what do Disney World, Burning Man and Zuccotti Park have in common? Mike Daisey. He joins us after a short break. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.