August 22, 2008
The Guardian

Pakistan Is At Last Finding Its Voice

by Mohsin Hamid

Given the bleak economic and security situation in Pakistan, it is easy to forget that 2008 has also been a year of positive events for the country. February's elections proved that it is possible to hold free and fair polls in Pakistan, that in such circumstances undemocratic leaders such as Musharraf and his allies will be trounced, and (yet again) that the notion of broad public support for the parties of the religious right is a myth.

In the subsequent six months, the electorate has demonstrated another quality: patience. Despite sky-high inflation and crippling power shortages, Pakistan has not witnessed the sort of destabilising mass protests that history has shown Pakistanis to be capable of. Rather, frustrated though they are, people are prepared to wait. Seemingly by popular consensus, the democratic setup is being given time to find its feet.

Similarly, the resignation of President Musharraf is not only a sign of politicians implementing a core demand of their constituents but also a remarkable departure from the past. Consider how the country's first three dictators left power: Ayub Khan passed the baton to his successor as army chief; Yahya Khan departed after a catastrophic military defeat; Zia-ul-Haq died in a suspicious air crash. But Musharraf has given way to an elected government after being told firmly, yet with considerable restraint, that he must go or face the constitutional process of impeachment.

The volatility of Pakistan's history makes me cautious of claiming that something fundamental has changed, but I suspect it may have. Last year, images of Pakistani lawyers in suits clashing with staff-wielding police officers made the newspapers for good reason. It is significant that in a country where those in power (soldiers, tribal chiefs, bureaucrats, landlords, the wealthy) have traditionally mistreated the weak with impunity, the demand for the rule of law has gained mass support.


Declan Walsh, "Pakistan: We Are No Longer Your Killing Field," Guardian, March 27, 2008

M K Bhadrakumar, "U.S. Tightens Its Grip on Pakistan," Asia Times, May 10, 2008

Peter Spiegel and Josh Meyer, "U.S. debates going after militants in Pakistan," Los Angeles Times, August 23, 2008

[An independent, "pro-Western" Baluchistan, stretching across the present territories of Pakistan and Iran is included in the plans for the Greater Middle East.--Come Carpentier de Gourdon, "Afghan variable in Asian geopolitics,", August 25, 2008]

[Mainstream Pakistan is resolutely moderate but the western concept of the anti-terror fight is deeply unpopular. Zardari wrote in the Washington Post this week: "We stand with the United States, Britain, Spain and others who have been attacked. Fundamentally, however, the war we are fighting is our war. This battle is for Pakistan's soul." . . .

"He [Zardari] is coming with the blessings of the Bush administration," said Tariq Fatemi, a former Pakistani ambassador to Washington. "They feel he will provide a political face to the military operations.--Saeed Shah, "Outcry as Pakistan's unpopular 'Mr 10%' prepares for power," Guardian, September 6, 2008]

[He may be a pliant partner for the west, but with his record of corruption, Zardari is the worst possible choice for Pakistan--Tariq Ali, "Asif Ali Zardari: the godfather as president," Guardian, September 7, 2008]

[Zardari's first major policy statement was a vow to continue waging the so-called "war on terror" in northwest Pakistan. . . .

90% of Pakistanis oppose the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, which they, like most Europeans, see as a modern colonial war to secure U.S. domination of Central Asia's energy. They despised Musharraf for sending 120,000 Pakistani troops to fight pro-Taliban Pashtun tribesmen in northwest Pakistan, killing thousands of civilians in the process, and for enabling the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan.

Now, Zardari, who was helped into power with Washington's financial and political support, appears set on the same course.--Eric Margolis, "Pakistan's new president is a clone of Musharraf," Edmonton Sun, September 14, 2008]

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