Indian Decade

Pakistan the Next Egypt?

Pakistan’s government is unpopular. But don’t expect to see scenes like those in Egypt and Tunisia.

Could the recent developments in Tunisia and Egypt have repercussions for Pakistan? It may not have an authoritarian regime, but Pakistan's military establishment is closely identified with the United States, it is dependent on the US for vast arms transfers, and it doesn’t enjoy much domestic support.

Still, tempting as the comparisons may be to both Tunisia and Egypt, important differences remain. Pakistan, despite long periods of authoritarian and military rule, has actually enjoyed civilian rule, albeit sporadically. Consequently, Pakistanis have had the opportunity to usher in elected regimes, although frequently they haven’t been allowed to vote them out (the all-powerful military apparatus has all too often exercised that particular prerogative). Even so, the military has also, on occasion, stepped aside and allowed democratic regimes to return to power, while zealously guarding its own privileges.

But despite this chequered history, and myriad current problems, it’s hard to envisage a society-wide upheaval cutting across sectarian, class and regional lines against the current government. Consequently, though the regime may fail to meet the expectations and demands of a significant segment of the population, there are enough avenues of social and political protest still available across Pakistan. So a popular, civilian insurrection just doesn’t seem imminent.

Instead, despite periodic bursts of sectarian, ethnic and militant violence, the current political situation is likely to survive. That is, of course, until the military decides it’s time once again to send it packing.