With protests sweeping the Islamic world, Pakistanis wonder if mass despair and religious ideology could lead to similar scenes in their country, according to a dispatch published in The New York Times Friday. Although Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has dismissed such a possibility, the newspaper, citing diplomats and Pakistani officials, reported from Islamabad that Pakistan contained many of the same ingredients for revolt found in the Middle East. In addition, Pakistan has an economy hollowed out by bad management and official corruption; rising Islamic religious fervor; and a poisonous resentment of the United States, Pakistans biggest financial supporter. "If no one expects Pakistan to be swept by revolution this week, the big question on many minds is how, and when, a critical mass of despair among this nations 180 million people and the unifying Islamist ideology might be converted into collective action," the Times' correspondent, Jane Perlez, wrote. "Some diplomats and analysts compare the combustible mixture of religious ideology and economic frustration, overlaid with the distaste for America, to Iran in 1979," the dispatch said, adding, "Only one thing is missing: a leader." Whats lacking is a person or institution to link the economic aspirations of the lower class with the psychological frustration of the committed Islamists, a Western diplomat was quoted as saying. Our assessment is: this is like Tehran, 1979. As it has been for all of Pakistans more than 60 years of history, Parliament today remains dominated by the families of a favored few, who use their perch to maintain a corrupt patronage system and to protect their own interests as Pakistans landed and industrial class, the Times pointed out. The government takes in little in taxes, and as a result provides little in the way of services to its people. Ninety-nine percent of Pakistanis are not affected by the state it doesnt deliver anything for them, Farrukh Saleem, a risk analyst, was quoted as saying. People are looking for alternatives. So were the Iranians in 1979. There is little question that the images from Egypt and Tunisia are reverberating through Pakistani society, and encouraging workers to speak up and vent frustration in ways that were unusual even three months ago, the Times said. At the core of Pakistans problem are the wretched economic conditions of day-to-day life for most of the people whose lives are gouged by inflation, fuel shortages and scarcity of work, the dispatch said. They see the rich getting richer, including the sons of rich, corrupt politicians and their compatriots openly buying Rolls-Royces with their black American Express cards, Jahangir Tareen, a reformist politician and successful agricultural businessman, was quoted as saying. Food inflation totaled 64 percent in the last three years, according to Sakib Sherani, who resigned recently as the principal economic adviser at the Finance Ministry. The purchasing power of the average wage earner has declined by 20 percent since 2008, he said. "Families are taking children out of school because they cannot afford both fees and food," it said, adding: "Others choose between medicine and dinner." At the same time, joblessness has soared. The true unemployment rate was 34 percent, meaning 18 million people, mostly young, were officially seeking jobs in Pakistan, Sherani said. Many of these jobless young men are products of religious schools, known as madrasas, run by radical clerics who favor Islamist teachings and an anti-Western creed, the Times said.