Pakistan's Battle for Democracy
Image Credit: Wikicommons

Pakistan's Battle for Democracy


Last week, tens of thousands of protestors descended into the heart of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, demanding that the federal government make sweeping electoral reforms and then give way to an army and judiciary-endorsed caretaker government that would oversee general elections.

The protestors were dedicated, braving the cold, and, at times, rain, for four nights. They were disciplined, following their leader’s command and not engaging in violence. They were organized, staffing themselves with teams to handle emergency medical care, live tweeting, and music. And they were strategic, alternating between Urdu and English-language chants, with different messaging for domestic and foreign consumption. Yet, despite these strengths, they essentially failed.

The protests led by cleric-politician Tahir-ul-Qadri hit a brick wall made of Pakistan’s mainstream, democratic parties. These parties, including members of the governing coalition and opposition, consolidated ranks to block what they viewed was an attempt to sideline them and detour Pakistan’s path to full democracy.

On Wednesday, opposition leader and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif led a meeting with Islamist and ethnic nationalist parties — some of which had previously supported military interventions — to oppose the postponement of the elections and army involvement in the decision-making process. The next day, members of the federal government coalition met with Qadri and negotiated a face-saving settlement that allowed him to nominally claim victory before his followers without having achieved his most important demands. The federal government, meanwhile, avoided having to forcibly evict peaceful protestors from a sensitive area. Federal government spokesman Qamar Zaman Kaira, who the day before performed a brutal impersonation of Qadri in a press conference, spoke before the protesters, hailing them and their leader, and terming the day a victory for democracy.

The events of last Thursday were indeed a victory for democracy, but a victory in a single battle in what will be a long war. Pakistan’s nascent democracy is not yet safe from military Bonapartism, judicial activism, or the moral bankruptcy and incompetence that pervades much, though not all, of its political class. The grudge match to determine the delineation of power in Pakistan continues. But at the same time, it is safe to say that there are fundamental changes in the attitude and behavior of Pakistan’s civilian politicians that bode well for democracy.

A J Majumdar
March 22, 2013 at 18:49

Why bother? Which Islamic country except Turkey has the semblance of democracy? Are people still optimistic about the Spring?

lahori waqif
January 29, 2013 at 00:10

110% correct. if only M A Jinnah (ra) has heeded the advice of Allama Iqbal (ra) "dont let unionist penetrate and the take over "Muslim League".

[...] Democracy in Pakistan. [...]

January 27, 2013 at 18:36

[...] Democratic forces in Pakistan continue to fight an uphill battle despite a multitude of national challenges. [...]

January 27, 2013 at 10:29

Quote – " In 2007, Musharraf began secret power sharing talks with Bhutto backed by London and Washington. " – unquote.
-  well, that is the root of all problems in Pakistan.   The British, with their ally the Americans, remotely control  Pakistan, its foreign & defense policies towards India, and also its politics and move towards Democracy.  It should be clear by now that genuine Democracy in Pakistan will never be a reality, until and unless it suits British and American interests.

[...] Read Here – The Diplomat Rate this:Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPrintEmailDiggGoogle +1StumbleUponPinterestLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Posted in Pakistan and tagged Afghanistan, Asia, Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Caretaker government, China, Diplomat, India, Islamabad, Islamic extremists., opposition, Pakistan, Pakistani military, Politics, Qadiriyya, Supreme Court, Tahirul Qadri, Taliban, United States, Urdu [...]

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