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Pakistan’s Politics and the Urban Middle Class

Posted on December 26, 2007
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Anonymous

Thailand’s parliamentary elections on December 23 provided fresh evidence (if evidence is still needed) of the futility of military intervention as a means of changing the fundamental political trends of a nation. The Economist recently referred to Thailand as “Southeast Asia’s Pakistan.” The fundamental problem in both countries is the same: an overbearing military, which often receives support from the urban elite and professional middle class, and argues that the poor peasants simply do not elect the right people.

Even now, as the Pakistani middle class is engaged in supporting civil society’s struggle for rule of law, the contempt for electable politicians is visceral and visible. While the criticism of politicians both in Thailand and Pakistan is often justified, the question we must address is whether politics can really be wished away.

Successful third world democracies are born out of cooperation between politicians with vote banks and middle class professionals with ideas about good governance. In countries like Pakistan and Thailand, however, such cooperation is scant. There is a tendency on the part of the professional middle class to look down upon the politicians with vote banks, which then creates a gulf between them and electable leaders. In the case of Pakistan, the educated urban elite have gradually turned against the very process of politics. The middle class dismisses all politicians who have a real chance of being elected with refrains like “They are all the same.” But after many attempts an alternative political leadership has also not emerged because vote banks are not easy to create or destroy.

First a word about Thailand, to enable the comparison with Pakistan. Thai voters gave the largest number of seats in parliament to the Peoples Power Party (PPP) which comprises supporters of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was overthrown in a September 2006 coup.

The Thai military barred Thaksin and 110 of his closest associates from contesting the polls. His Thai Rak Thai party (TRT) was also disbanded by the generals on grounds of “corruption.” Thailand has witnessed 18 military coups since 1932 and its meddling in politics has usually been supported by professionals who resent the country’s “feudal” and “corrupt” politics. (Sound familiar?). But Thailand’s PPP, which campaigned on a platform of ending Thaksin’s exile and exclusion from politics, won convincingly despite the military’s opposition. Quite clearly, Thai officials did not go beyond skewing the election rules against Thailand’s PPP and the actual balloting was not significantly rigged –something one hopes Pakistan’s rulers will bear in mind on January 8.

According to The Economist,

“Pakistan is not the only Asian country where a dodgy military regime is running a general election under dubious electoral rules in the hope of keeping out a similarly dodgy civilian whom it overthrew.”

Thailand’s civilian politicians, including Thaksin, are obviously not perfect and can be criticized for the same reasons that the Pakistani middle class is often disillusioned with Pakistani politicians. But isn’t the point of democracy to let people choose whomever they like and then vote them out of power upon discovering that their chosen leaders did not fulfil the people’s aspirations?

The problem is that the populist politicians like Thaksin (and in Pakistan’s case the Bhutto family or even Nawaz Sharif), whom the army and the professional elite dislikes, do not necessarily disappoint their own voters. As The Economist explains,

“Middle-class Bangkokians, who are as snooty about their country cousins as any metropolitan elite anywhere, often say that ‘uneducated’ rural voters… were bribed and tricked into voting for Mr Thaksin. But rural voters were quite rational in handing him landslide victories in 2001 and 2005. He was Thailand’s first party leader to promise and deliver a comprehensive set of policies aimed at the mass of voters. The allegations of corruption, conflicts of interest and vote-buying that surround him are serious but hardly unusual: such practices are endemic in Thai politics.”

In other words, the poor who vote for populist leaders actually benefit or think they benefit from their policies even though these might not impress generals or World Bank economists. If only the generals understood that there is no trickle down from F-16s and the urban professionals and business elites realized that their lifestyles and attitudes are part of the reason for the success of the populists, there would be no need for frequent coups to settle the dispute between professionals with ideas on good governance and politicians who control the vote banks.

In country after country, military backed efforts to change the pattern of politics in accordance with plans advocated by the urban elite have cracked whenever the rubber of high-sounding (and most likely theoretically rooted) politico-economic ideas has met the road of actual electoral politics.

During the 1960s Pakistan’s urban middle class preferred Ayub Khan and his top-down Convention Muslim League only to find that the party had no roots by the time of the 1970 general elections. After the peasantry had voted the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto into office, during the 1970s, the middle class preferred Air Marshal Asghar Khan and his Tehrik-e-Istiqlal (TI). The PPP was supported by the progressive intelligentsia until the 1970 elections but that support ended once Bhutto came to power. His real and perceived flaws became more important to the middle class than the need to persist with his party in the hope of eventually reforming it. The 1977 Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) campaign revealed that the anti-PPP vote bank was mobilized not by TI or Asghar Khan but by the Islamist religious parties.

After the end of Ziaul Haq’s military dictatorship in 1988, and a concerted decade-long effort by the military-intelligence combine to break the back of the PPP, Benazir Bhutto still commanded more votes than the middle class’s new choice, Nawaz Sharif. By the time Nawaz Sharif created his own vote bank, the urban professionals had turned on him and preferred Imran Khan and his Tehrik-e-Insaf.

Even now, on many English-language blogs it is clear that the educated elite that supported General Pervez Musharraf right after the 1999 coup has now shifted its loyalty to the anti-politician politicians (like Imran Khan and Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry) rather than putting their support where the majority of voters seem inclined. In the aftermath of the Musharraf regime’s attack on the Supreme Court there is opposition to military rule among the middle class but there has been no softening of attitudes towards the popular politicians.

“Politics,” said John Kenneth Galbraith “is not the art of the possible. It consists of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.”

But urban professionals in countries like Thailand and Pakistan fail to recognize the difficulties and realities of the political world. They want a planned and structured solution of all problems, backed by governance literature and economic theory. Votes are not won by these methods. Popular politicians may not rise to the “high” standards of the educated elite but they have a way of connecting with the people.

Pakistan was created as a result of a political process. Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a politician who worked in three political parties (The Home Rule League, Congress and the Muslim League) during his half century in politics and, of course, cannot be described as a “lota” for moving from being the “Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity” to the leading exponent of the two-nation theory. For the Muslim League’s success in the 1945-46 election, Quaid-e-Azam embraced every influential landowner who was willing to switch from Punjab’s Unionist Party until the eve of the election. Like any politician, he raised funds for the Muslim League and did not shun donations from the Hindu Seth Dalmia (who wanted to insure his investments in a future Pakistan) or Parsis like Rustomjee Fakirjee Cowasjee (father of columnist Ardeshir Cowasjee). The Quaid-e-Azam’s integrity is above board but the purpose here is to point out that there are some things inherent in the political process that are unfairly condemned when lesser mortals engage in them.

Participation in politics leads to one becoming a public figure and therefore vulnerable to attack. Even the most leading professionals can afford to lead a somewhat anonymous life by comparison. Rumours and allegations, both true and false, circulate about political figures—something not faced by physicians, engineers, accountants, businessmen, bankers, college professors or financial sector managers. Political figures can be ridiculed even when they are not at fault. (Remember the widely circulated video clip of a woman journalist-turned-politician being wrongfully touched at a rally and how it was circulated on the internet by educated Pakistanis for recreation?)

Pakistan’s middle class professionals have never paid the price paid by the political class for its role. Politics requires resilience. It can’t be easy to be jailed for long periods of time, harassed by the Intelligence services and being exposed to attack from all sides irrespective of personal conduct. The media eats the politicians alive. Gossip about them abounds. Their assets and property (even if legitimately acquired) do not have the protection of the law when they are in opposition.

Electable politicians have often reached out to professionals for help and support but consistently spurned. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto invited Dr Mahbub-ul-Haq, Pakistan’s leading development economist and a progressive humanitarian to join his government as head of the planning commission. He refused only to serve in the same capacity under the military dictatorship of General Ziaul Haq. Many of the professionals currently agitating against the excesses of the Musharraf regime served in it soon after the 1999 coup –including Javed Jabbar, Athar Minallah, and even Muneer Malik, to name a few.

The very fact that Shahid Javed Burki, Moin Qureshi, Dr Naseem Ashraf and others like them are willing to serve military regimes but not elected civilian ones shows the anti-politics prejudice of Pakistani professionals. The few who work with the political parties –Sartaj Aziz, V.A. Jaffery—serve in government but show no stamina for opposition. Contrast that with, say, Manmohan Singh and his consistent support for the Indian National Congress whether in power or in opposition.

Quite often, the middle class critique of Pakistan’s politics is based on rejecting its “feudal” nature. Urban professionals tend to describe any rural politician who owns some land as ‘feudal’, which is incorrect. Feudalism refers to a system of land tenure that creates reciprocal obligations upon Lord and Vassal. It exists in parts of Pakistan but in many cases, those described as feudals in Pakistani political discourse are simply influential landowners who succeed in politics by acting as intermediaries between poor peasants and the overbearing (and in many cases ‘external’) state machinery. Thus, the landed gentry of Sindh and Punjab do not “own” their peasants or sharecroppers. They earn their loyalty by creating a parallel system of dealing on behalf of “natives” with the civil service, police and military that usually comes from outside the local area.

We need an empirical contemporary study on the residual feudal influence in Pakistan’s rural politics. Many of the famous feudal names have been marginalized since independence but the myth of feudal dominance endures. Among those wiped out electorally (except for occasional inclusion in caretaker cabinets by the army): Khuhros of Larkana, Tiwanas of Sargodha, Daulatanas of Vehari, the Qazi Fazlullah family of Sindh, the Gardezis of Multan, the Nawabs of Qasur and the Mamdots of Ferozpur/Lahore.

It is interesting that even non-feudal rural politicians are identified by urban professionals mistakenly as “feudals.” Thus, Tehmina Daulatana who ran a school in Lahore before entering politics is identified through her relationship with the erstwhile Punjab Chief Minister and Ambassador to London rather than as an educator. Nisar Khuhro, a humble self-made lawyer from Larkana who studied in England on scholarship, is often confused with the feudal Khuhros because of the same last name. No one recalls that the Chaudhries of Gujrat and their rivals the Pagganwalas and Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar are not feudals but industrialists. The original feudals from Gujrat district, the Nawabzada family, has long been marginalized in politics.

There is no dispute about the undesirability of feudal influence in Pakistani politics, just the extent of its pervasiveness. Since Ayub Khan, feudalism has been used as an excuse to deny the validity of electoral politics. In the process, urban legends and the oft-repeated clichés negate the emerging political dynamic, which is the result of sub-divisions within feudal families due to division of inheritance as well as increasing urbanization. Also, a distinction needs to be made between dynastic politics and feudal politics. Quite often the two are mixed up in Pakistan’s urban political discourse.

Political dynasties are common to all democracies, including advanced ones. Some argue it has to do with name recognition and the sentimental dimension of politics. The US has had, and still has, several dynasties: The Adams of Massachusetts (including 2nd and 6th President), the Harrisons of Ohio/Indiana (incl 9th and 23rd President), the Tafts of Ohio (incl. 27th President and several Governors, Senators and presidential candidates), the Bush family of Connecticut and Texas (41st and 43 rd President and several other high offices) and the Kennedys of New England ( 35th President and several members of congress from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York). Several states have regional dynasties. Just google the names Long of Louisiana or Udall of Arizona/New Mexico and see how many members of these families have won governorships, mayoralties or seats in Congress in recent years.

If Hillary Clinton gets elected in 2008 and wins a second term as well, the US would have been ruled by a Bush or a Clinton for 28 uninterrupted years from 1988 to 2016.

Reform of the feudal structure in Pakistan is important and desirable. It is equally important to stop using it as an excuse to put off democracy in Pakistan, which unfortunately urban professional supporters of military rule have consistently done since 1958. If India, Sri Lanka and the US can evolve democracies with political dynasties so can Pakistan. Reform of land tenure and feudalism can be part of the democratic process, not something that must precede democracy. The remaining feudals would lose influence over time and after successive (and honest) elections. Considering that successive military regimes have failed to accomplish it, quite clearly a non-democratic approach to ending feudalism has not worked.

Instead of constantly judging politicians with an unrealistic yardstick, Pakistan’s urban professionals should embrace the political process. They can act as pressure groups within the major popular parties rather than a loose grouping that helps discredit popular leaders only to pave the way for further military intervention in politics. Politicians should be criticized by all means but the anti-politics mood of the middle class must give way to active engagement in politics with a view to change it.

Once military intervention in politics recedes and more normal politics starts, Pakistan political parties would be able to deal with intellectual dissent and even hold intraparty polls like their counterparts in India, South Korea, Indonesia and dozens of other third world countries with functioning or emerging democracies. It is difficult to expect embattled politicians, like Thaksin and Bhutto to reform their parties while also dealing with unending judicial proceedings, imprisonment or threat of imprisonment and exile. In Pakistan, for example, political parties have technically been banned or suspended for considerable periods of time (as they were from 1979 to 1985 and then again from 1999 to 2002) or have been subjected to hostile takeovers by the Intelligence services. Such circumstances are hardly conducive to democratic reform within the political process.

It is time for the metropolitan elites in political basket cases like Thailand and Pakistan to recognize that politics has its own dynamic. Instead of simply railing against “imperfect politicians” and thereby virtually advancing the argument for non-political solutions like coups d’etat, the educated middle classes should work with existing political parties and gradually advance the transition and transformation so eagerly sought by civil society.

33 Comments on “Pakistan’s Politics and the Urban Middle Class”

  1. manan ahmed says:
    December 26th, 2007 10:59 am

    Shouldn’t a paean to political participation – the messy bits of democracy as a wag once put it – carry a byline?

  2. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    December 26th, 2007 11:33 am

    @ Sage Suggestion to Anonymous,

    Title should be : Two Parallel Kermess

    “Pakistani Political Horse trade and the Urban
    middle class donkey market”

  3. Tiger101 says:
    December 26th, 2007 12:08 pm

    As a Thai, I totally agree with this article in that the elites should live in the real world – the world that politicians are imperfect.

  4. Daktar says:
    December 26th, 2007 12:22 pm

    This notion that educated elites are attracted to military rulers and the politicians (especially Benazir) are elected by peasants, is cute but not factually correct. Our politicians ARE the educated elites. Political governments are no less run and supported than military governments, including recent PPP and PML governments and including the ZAB government. Abdul Hafiz Pirzada, Kausar Niazi, Mubashir Hassan, and even the ‘urbanite’ feudals Khar, Jatoi, etc. were the urban, educated elite core of Bhutto. His daughter who niether has his brains nor charm depended on the educated elites even more. Selectively quoting elites who sided with military governments is easy because they did. But that does not mean that they sided any less with political parties. At the end its a battle within the educated elite class and some side with the military and some with the political parties. Many, in fact, side with both. There is a long list of people who switch sides and parties all the time. Actually, both Benazir and Nawaz Sharif are themselves in the list of people who at various times have been very comfortable having politics destabilized.

  5. Wasiq says:
    December 26th, 2007 12:35 pm

    I do not see the contradiction between someone being from the educated elite but primarily enjoying the peasants’ support.

    The real subject of this post is us –the educated professionals not engaged in politics directly.

    Just on this blog I have read abusive language against Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and anyone else in politics.

    The author’s arguments –that politics can only be changed through engagement in politics and that politicians with vote banks cannot be wished away –are very valid, as is the parallel with Thailand.

    It is interesting that the Indian Middle class criticizes mainstream politicians but works with them. Pakistan’s middle class criticizes politicians and wants them all dead, which only invited repeated martial laws.

    And the decision not to name the author is very wise. Now people must rebut the argument instead of resorting to personal attacks on the author.

    If the author’s name had been given as (for example) ‘Ghulam Ali’, there are many crazies here who would have torn poor Ghulam Ali apart and abused his entire family without addressing a single point of his well argued thesis.

  6. Daktar says:
    December 26th, 2007 12:47 pm

    Dear Wasiq,

    I for one do not disagree with the general thesis here that politics can only be done through politics and that the weaknesses of the politicians is no excuse to invite or accept military rule. It has been stated here on this blog and elsewhere many times. People can get abusive about politicians and about military rulers and even about singers here, but that is not the point.

    Where I am not convinced is when you say “the educated professionals not engaged in politics directly.” That is factually not correct, the entire political class in Pakistan IS FROM the educated elites. Even the so-called feudals in politics are also from this class. You don’t go to Oxford or LSE or Government College and then deny your educated elite roots!

    Similarly, the example of India in your message is not correct (I find that Pakistanis giving examples of India rarely are). Exactly like the Indian middle class, the Pakistani middle class ALSO criticizes the politicians and then ALSO works with them. Look up the list of people running in this election. Since PPP seems to be the author’s favored party, lets look at who is getting their tickets. I would suggest that this group is made of no less (maybe more) of the educated urban elites (Sherry Rahman and friends) than of the PML(Q).

    I do NOT find a problem with this. But I do have a problem with the author trying to deflect the justified blame away from the failures of our political parties to those in the educated elite who criticize them for those very failures.

    Yes, the educated elites should work with the political parties, but maybe the political parties should also listen to the legitimate criticism on them instead of being defensive and blaming the messenger.

  7. S.A.Mallal says:
    December 26th, 2007 1:16 pm

    An excellent article. THOUGHT PROVOKING. Must be commented upon after fair amount of thought and soul searching.

  8. Abid says:
    December 26th, 2007 1:27 pm

    Great piece of analysis.

    BUT, the reasons IMHO the educated middle class is NOT fully engaged in the Pakistani political arena

  9. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    December 26th, 2007 2:35 pm

    I agree with “Daktar” here (how much more anonymous one can get?). Our politicians, military officers (and hence future presidents and prime ministers) , and civil servants, they all come from the “educated classes”. I will go one step further; they come from “English medium educated classes”. This group has very little to do with the “poor uneducated class”, a class to which half of our population belongs. Every political crisis, to which military always seems to be part of, is a dispute within this “class”. The difference is that politicians do give a lip service to the poor. But they seldom do anything for the poor. Only if our “Upper middle class” (the O level and A level crowd) reaches down to our poor and pulls them out of their miseries, Pakistan would be a better place. But then again that might be asking too much from the self preserving “educated classes”.

  10. sidhas says:
    December 26th, 2007 3:24 pm

    I do not understand where you are getting with this post.

    If you are saying liberal urban intelligentsia is corrupt because of not standing on democratic principles and wavering all the time then, I agree. We do not have a large class that understand or stands for simple values of equality, freedom and tolerance. They probably equate liberalism with vulgarity.

    If you are saying that Politics is art of compromise and pragmatism then, I agree.

    However, this post seems to suggest to me that you are saying that forget about your newly found values, toe the line whether it is military or corrupt politicians.

    I also think your quote from Galbraith is a dis-service to his statement. He was not speaking to Pakistanis (us) and he was not suggesting to the readers that they compromise on core values (i.e. constitution and democracy). These people have a long successive history of constitutional democracy. They made compromises (mason-dixon line) but not trampled on constitution or suspended judiciary (mush and nawaz).

  11. Watan Aziz says:
    December 26th, 2007 4:38 pm

    Verbosity has met the logic and defeated it.

    I know this will not help to move the discussion forward, but perhaps we will have a serious conversation when the author returns from Mars.

  12. Abid says:
    December 26th, 2007 4:42 pm

    Sidhas, I think what Anonymous is saying:

    Que sera sera, what will be, will be!

  13. Wasiq says:
    December 26th, 2007 8:36 pm

    Sidhas,
    Mush is not a politician, just a usurper-General. His and others’ trampling on the constitution is what can be dealt with by sticking with the constitution and the political process.
    The author’s point is that the generals and their instruments are able to violate the constitution because the professional middle class tends to hate politics and politicians so much that they welcome military intervention at least in its initial days.
    This post rebuts the arguments of those who say they do not want Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif and PPP or PML (both of whom can win elections). Anonymous says that we should choose among the politicians who have popular support even if they have flaws so that the democratic-political process moves forward. Politicians will always have flaws and there will never be perfection in governance.
    If the process moves forward, new leaders and parties would be able to emerge. That cannot happen with frequent military interventions in politics and all of us sitting on the sidelines saying “all politicians are bad.”

  14. Eidee Man says:
    December 26th, 2007 9:38 pm

    A very well-written article. As others have mentioned, the educated classes tend to steer away from politics not only because they lack initiative, but also because they are genuinely afraid (and with good reason) of the consequences.

    For instance, there are several people I know who do a fair amount of social work (things like volunteering, procuring medicines for the sick, training unskilled youths, etc), who would like to venture into politics but do not because they are afraid of the likes of the MQM. One of them said that he does not care much about his life but he is afraid that his family members and friends might suffer because of his actions. For instance, everyone knows that Imran Khan’s family is pretty removed from politics, but they have recently been the targets of violence.

    But that being said, we all need to face up and confront these issues; I would like to remind readers of how Imran Khan managed to bring MQM’s terrorist activities front and center with a simple statement on television!

  15. Viqar Minai says:
    December 27th, 2007 12:51 am

    The underlying message of this article is isidious and deserves to be consigned to the trash can. At best it is an apology for the existing state of the sewer that passes for politics in Pakistan. A seemingly persuasive case is made that the urban middle class should hold its nose and choose from the menu on offer, as odious and unpalatable as it may be. This magnanimous act on their part may not benefit *them* immediately, but at least it will the *masses* with whom the tried and tested shady political leaders can “connect”; even do some miniscule good by them.

    Well if such charity and forgiveness be the order the day, why deny the generals and their supporting band of sycophants? Are they that much more corrupt than the admittedly corrupt politicians? Moreover, the little good that they managed to do is at least comparable to the achievements of the politicians who brought the nation to the very edge of bankruptcy every time.

    Why then should the civil society be up in arms about the “rule of the law”? Let it go, get involved in the political process, and things will work out in the longer run. Isn’t this, after all, what General Pakistan has been imploring the people to accept these past months?

  16. TURAB says:
    December 27th, 2007 2:06 am
  17. sidhas says:
    December 27th, 2007 2:06 am

    Wasiq,

    Thank you for your explanation. As I had said, we are being asked to toe the line because it is imperative for political progress. However, I would agree if the author is saying that we should not support military. Yes, we should accept and vote for lame democracy then no democracy.

    However, we must dis-associate with the corrupt politicians. I strongly believe that the urban or rural middle class must not compromise on core values (representative government with separatio of powers, indpendent judiciary, freedom of press, and explicit tolerance for minorities).

    I understand that sometimes political parties are dominated by a group and plurality of thought within a political party or even within the government lay dormant until someone comes to reignite it and rectifies the situation.

    Lekin bhai, yahan to ye halat hai ke koi siyasi jaamat ma sewae aik badmash “jaamat e islami” ke jamhoori qadroon ka paas nahi karti hai.

    Pakistani siyasi jamaatoon ka meh-ver/markaz — shakzsiyat ya qoom ya mazhab se buland hi nahi hota.

    Bhai pahalay to hum ko political parties ko reform karna hoga takay koi political party humaray maddad aur taawun ke qabil to bun sakay.

    In short, yes we must support democracy over dictator and we must oppose corruption equally. There has to be a check againts excesses committed by political parties.

    Does anyone know if we have law for political parties? under Electoral commision or as separate entity that says that there should be a constitution and a transparent elections within it.

  18. omar r. quraishi says:
    December 27th, 2007 4:15 am

    very well-said and well-written

  19. omar r. quraishi says:
    December 27th, 2007 4:23 am

    ‘anonymous’ — if you are interested in writing for us contact me at omarr.quraishi@thenews.com.pk

  20. Babar says:
    December 27th, 2007 4:54 am

    It is a very interesting article. However the fact that urban class always support army dictators is slightly over stretched. We had no role in any of the military coups and to my understand, all the agitation against dictator rules has also been urban driven.

  21. Junaid says:
    December 27th, 2007 6:11 am

    great piece of work, timely, factual and enlighting.
    there is no doubt there is clear divide in pakistan when it comes to urban and rural politic .whatever you call it ignorance, clash of interests or else but it is there and i had seen and experienced it & it should not be a surprise as well, there is clear difference in thought process, perception, and above all interests.

  22. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    December 27th, 2007 6:23 am

    @ lull created by politicians,

    What is the difference between Musharraf and
    the politicians, we have analysed every day now,
    Apart from very very few serious politicians, they are

    “Chorr ka bhai, girahcut ”

    The commentators are the worst elements in creating
    that lull, idyllists are the biggest hinder, those who are
    behind within ideologies. e.g.
    All the leftists are spread over with in 8 big or small
    political wings or major parties. They are blocking
    the whole structure of already very weak Politics.
    They are directly responsible for such corrupt impass
    as they do not openly pronounce their choice, they
    are afraid that if they announce communism, socialism,
    secularism, anti-religious as their manifesto or program,
    they will be liquidated in one go. Underestimation of
    their adverseries is the biggest fault of these leftist
    duffers.

  23. ann says:
    December 28th, 2007 11:06 am

    The author has part of sound reasons to criticize the Thai politics by comparing and contrasting that with Pakistan’s. Anyway, as a Thai, I must argue. Rural people and those have limited viewpoints controlled by their perception that Thaksin will give and has given them a small amount of money. They overall do not care about better education, or even working harder for better quality of life. What they focus on is how much money they will be given or lent to buy a new motorcycle or go to local casino. It is unbelievable that the campaign “Vote for Us and Your Pocket Money will Increase” definitely worked in the rural areas in Thailand.

  24. December 29th, 2007 7:34 am

    Very good analysis in the article.

    I suspect the trick is to somehow make the institutions stronger than an individual or pressure group.

    The Judiciary should be independent of the Executive, but answerable to the Legislature (called Trias Politica).

    Method for calling the executive to account e.g. the US empeachment process.

    Universal “Secular” education up until age 14 for all.

    Religious education to be a private matter after state school.

    Break the Armed forces from the habit of coups by making it a treasonable (non negotionable) offence …. whilst it may not stop the next coup, it will make them think long and hard, as any pretence of “saving the nation” will have been stripped away. I cite Argentina as an example of how this works.

  25. wilmar says:
    December 30th, 2007 6:13 am

    good article

  26. Thitirat Sandhu says:
    December 30th, 2007 10:42 am

    As an INDIAN(PAKISTANI SIKH) born in Thailand I was telling my children that, SIAM and Pakistan have the same fate, may be because we have the same Birthday, same Latitude,Longitude and having same Lagna.(lakhana -in Thai).Socially and Religiously we are both Double standard .My father still remembers his MULK ,Pind Jorha.Dist.Gujrawalla.He watches Pakistani television.His Mulk is Pakistan not Hindustan.

  27. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    December 30th, 2007 2:47 pm

    Voter’s responsibility

    @PPP and Bhuttos must be sanctionned
    the members for the outrageous attitude
    of imposing oligarchy,
    Don’t vote for PPP
    Don’t vote for any Bhutto
    Don’t vote for Zardaris
    Don’t vote for any Mukhdooms
    Don’t vote for any other PPPs

    remember your responsibility for promoting
    another PINOCHET type.

  28. AlicedeTocqueville says:
    December 30th, 2007 5:26 pm

    Hope you don’t mind an American butting in to the conversation; I’m trying to learn a little of Pakistan’s situation while hoping that “our” own government can somehow be stopped from meddling in yours. ( I always must put “-” because, of course, Bush was never actually elected, but, through multiple crimes fixed the elections of 2000 and 2004.)

    To sidhas, Bush daily tramples our constitution, and has criminially manipulated the judiciary also. We have the beginnings of a fascist dictatorship; the unholy alliance of weapons-makers and rightwing extremists. (Bush’s grandfather and great-grandfather, of course, having been enthusiastic money-raisers for Hitler.)

    There is no substitute for rigorous, universal, secular education, and respect for that. It has been down-graded in America, both by Christian fanatics as well as by our materialistic consumer “culture”, to the point that too many Americans no longer desire freedom, but rather, comfort, to the danger of not only our freedom, but that of any poor nation these thugs and thieves can get their weapons on!

  29. Ahmad R. Shahid says:
    December 30th, 2007 7:42 pm

    I think any international interference in Pakistan’s affairs would only increase. And that would be true for every country even if its America. The reasons are obvious. With the shrinking of the world into a global village, thanks to the all the advancements in telecommunication, every one has stakes in every other country in the world. No modern policy can truly succeed without taking into account other countries because in the modern world economies are so interlinked that they can’t really be separated. Also standards are being made uniform all over. Any modern standards defined for say communication are followed the world over. We have the same TCP/IP that communicates with computers all over. We have the same designs for the cars that are used all over. We have similar games with same rules played all over. We now have same channels watched all over. Ultimately the political systems would become uniform and so would the economic systems, the cultures and what not. With the passage of time every one would wear similarly, talk similarly and do similarly, a la Star Trek.

  30. SaabG says:
    February 19th, 2008 12:37 am

    Hi..
    I am an ordinary Pakistani-American. I supported Mr. Musharraf until he moved against the Pakistani Judiciary. Everyone is entitled to make a mistake and his mistake was when he moved against the judiciary, and as it

  31. shahbano says:
    March 14th, 2008 11:18 am

    why bay nazeer die, but in our heart she is alive.

  32. September 3rd, 2008 12:46 am

    thanks for this terrific analysis. listened to sabiha sumar’s interview with david brancaccio on NOW and was absolutely amazed by her insistence on how democracy is a “dangerous” concept for pakistan and how musharraf (and the military in general) are so “democratically-minded”.

    i find the arguments advanced by upper middle-class, educated, professional pakistanis (based both in pakistan and here in the u.s.) for military rule and against democratic elections to be quite staggering.

    your article however makes complete sense. thank you for articulating the messiness that accompanies democracy everywhere in the world and how that process can only be tidied up through practice, not abstinence.

  33. Khwaja Aftab Ali, Florida, USA says:
    June 13th, 2009 12:02 pm

    Who says there is no feudal in Pakistan. Rural Pakistan is control by the feudal, even in urban areas one can see the people who work hard and other who exploit the situation and make money in the name of Muslim saints or family lands. Our ruling class of so called politicians is from feudal and then industrialist follow them for power in authoritarian society. Law making body-the Majlish Shora, parliament -the senate , national assembly, provincial assembly and district council , every where the members are feudal, indusrialists, drug barons and /or Rtd. corrupt police officers with few Rtd, army officers as well. The writer of the this article and a leading scholar Dr. Aisha Siddiqa is also from feudal class with extra ordinary intelligence. I agree with some people that one should do some thing instead of suggestions. I have done some thing by leaving my home land as it

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