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 SEEKING IDENTITY------PAKISTAN

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MAJOR(R)KHALID NASR
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Number of posts : 23
Age : 67
Location : LAHORE , PAKISTAN
Registration date : 2007-12-14

PostSubject: SEEKING IDENTITY------PAKISTAN   Mon Dec 17, 2007 1:32 pm

Pakistan Think Tank

Sunday, 10-07-07






Articles, Opinions and News

Pot Shots From the Enemy: Our Disordered House
Pakistan: Seeking a new identity, not democracy

Editor's Note: Our disordered house, gets pot shots from our enemies; but, may be there is some truth to that. God save our enemies for pointing to our flaws and instilling in us a desire to do better. Criticism of our enemies may hurt but it helps us to be a better nation. This Indian angst has been peculiarly acute since the Kargill losses of the Indian Army, which were pretty hard to swallow, inspite of the glorious victory portrayed in Indian propaganda, which even some Pakistanis have begun to believe. Unlike, the Indians, who find nothing wrong with their nation, inspite, of abject poverty, a gashing economic gap between the rich and poor, corruption, rampant HIV, a disintegrating culture under Western influences, filth and cow dung laden streets, et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum; we Pakistanis agree with all the criticism levelled at our nation and society, and in doing so move on through mayhem, rackets, fist-fights, lathi-charges, split-heads, tear gas, and other hulla gulla and keep hoping for a better tomorrow and in spite of all chaos, somehow keep dragging this boat named Pakistan, through all turbulences and tribulations. Here is a pot shot worth reading...

Pakistan: Seeking a new identity, not democracy

"Democracy in Pakistan is like a lamb entangled in a thorny bush. The bush symbolizes American interests in Pakistan, the Army's greed for political power, ISI mischief, the judiciary's spinelessness, the bureaucracy's machinations, the feudals' and Islamists' resistance to progress and unprincipled politicians. The voter is powerless."

The above was the glum assessment about the future of democracy in Pakistan by analyst Samuel Baid in the summer of 2006.

While much of Baid’s pessimism continues to stand on fertile ground, events since March 2007 have offered Pakistan an opportunity for a transition to democracy.

At the one end, the lawyers’ agitation, which began after the suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in March and espouses a pro-democracy agenda, is indicative of the waning clout of General Musharraf among the swelling urban middle-class, liberal intelligentsia and increasingly vocal press.

This "constitutional wave," as one analyst puts it, can be viewed in the broader scheme of the Pakistani judiciary’s detestation of the Army for the latter’s addiction to absolute power and propensity to interfere in matters of governance.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Musharraf regime’s near client-sponsor relationship with the Bush administration along with incidents like the Bajaur bombings and the Lal Masjid crackdown have angered the religious establishment and alienated the middle class.

As prominent analyst and academic Walter Andersen explains, the current scenario in Pakistan is one in which these above-mentioned groups "want a change in the way power is exercised."

The question is how far do these groups want to stretch the rubber band of Pakistan’s power structure – do they want to preserve order and maintain periodic pressure leading to a gradual transition or do they want a dramatic showdown with the military establishment?

At the present moment, it appears that these groups seemed to have settled for the first option.

For instance, while the religious-leaning political grouping the MMA - which is fairly divided in terms of the role of Islam and its interpretations for structuring society – has tended to be vocal against the so-called anti Muslim and pro-US agenda of the government, it has also fallen in line with the General on certain key issues such as supporting the 17th amendment in 2003.

Similarly, the rumblings by the lawyers, which increasingly looked like threatening the normative understanding of power in Pakistan, relaxed after the reinstatement of Chaudhry – although a rejuvenated Supreme Court has grown more pro-active and interventionist reflecting legal concerns and public sentiment.

This, in effect, implies that these agents of change in Pakistan have chosen the path of a long transition which includes a process of looking within and redefining its hitherto myopic and anti-India national identity – an important aspect of this is renegotiating the role and the power of the Army.

Even for the eternal optimist, it is pure naivety to believe that the military will relinquish its economic and political stranglehold over country and its role in key policy areas, such as security and foreign policy - despite the so-called transition to civilian rule with the General doffing the uniform and working with the PPP.

As an example to highlight the gains that the army enjoys for its role as the primary political actor and guarantor of the security of Pakistan is the estimated $100 million a month that it receives from the Americans to fight the Taliban. Therefore, what is more likely is a situation in the long run where the Pakistan Army retains some element of power through certain constitutional changes.However, this would require patience and astute political leadership that at the moment is sorely lacking in Pakistan – observers often quip about the Pakistani political class comparing them to the national cricket team, which so often resorts to recalling retired captains to hold it together.

Thus the road to the Eldorado of democracy for Pakistan has to be an incremental one, with the military setting the boundaries of what is politically feasible and the political class, civil society and judiciary bargaining to make inroads into the realms of power.

However, the real threat facing Pakistan during this transitionary process could be the radical elements that could seize the opportunity offered by a political vacuum, public disenchantment and rising anti-US sentiment.

Moreover, while democracy may be sought after and normatively understood as good, considering the enormous social, ethnic and regional divisions within Pakistani society coupled with the strength of the radical Islamists, the decaying education system and the Talibanisation of large sections of the society, it would only be foolhardy to take for granted that democracy would be the elixir for all of Pakistan’s ills.

While the time is ripe for change, Pakistan faces a monumental task of social engineering and political restructuring.

The reason that the present opportunity is unlike many others in the past is that it is premised on the people’s desire to reshape Pakistan’s identity looking inside-out.

So although the military may clutch to power with the specter of the Indian threat, it is not necessary that the same-old cry of wolf will ensure public retreat and acquiesce to its authority.

Most importantly, the redefinition of its identity would sooth the 60-year-old existential angst that it suffers from, and will also allow it to renegotiate its international role and relationship with countries like the US, India and China.

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