Divided Democratic Forces and Civil Society are to Blame for an Impending Implosion

Posted on February 26, 2009
Filed Under >Shaheryar Azhar, Politics
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Shaheryar Azhar

(A commentary analyzing the conditions that led to the now open confrontation between PML-N and PPP after the Supreme Court’s verdict disqualifying Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif from electoral politics).

There we go again…

The seeds of this impending implosion were laid in the very victory of democratic forces on February 18, 2008 when a free and fair elections brought eight-years of General Musharraf’s illegitimate rule to an end. The seeds lay in the split in Pakistan’s civil society and democratic forces that took place at the very moment of their victory. These seeds were:

  1. Inability of large part of the ‘lawyers movement’ to realize that a credible election just took place despite their call for its boycott. That the basis of this election was none other than the ‘political deal’ hammered out between PPP and General Musharraf that they had vociferously decried. Instead of realizing this new political reality and reaching out to the other side for hammering a bargain, they opted for continuation of their confrontational politics as if they were still battling General Musharraf.
  2. Inability of the leadership of PPP, particularly President Zardari, and its coalition partners (MQM and ANP) to fully appreciate that ‘the deal’ itself was made possible by the struggle of the lawyers movement and other democratic forces and they also needed to reach out to them and somehow bring them in the fold.

For each to have accommodated the other, it was imperative that the NRO and ‘the deal’ itself should have been accepted on one hand and the judiciary, including Chief Justice Chaudhry restored on the other.

Of such short-sightedness are political blunders made. All those who have supported one position or the other, instead of the compromise, are also guilty. This is a collective failure on our part, not just of the political players.

Pakistan is straight heading for a train wreck and the biggest losers will be the (divided) civil society and democratic forces notwithstanding their heroic 60-year struggle.

There is still time for both sides to pull back. Relevant questions each will ask are following:

  1. Could President Zardari be isolated from a good portion of its leadership and thus the divide between the democratic forces bridged this way?
  2. If not, would the lawyers movement (with help from political opponents of Zardari) pull back its threatened ‘march and sit-in’ and offer some kind of a compromise?
  3. Is there a possibility of ‘cooler heads’ in both camps to prevail on each other and a middle ground found?
  4. Would General Kayani see in this confronation a chance for him personally to enter the corridors of power illegally and thus destroy the remaining Pakistan?

I would plead that each of us work for Option # 3 and avoid the zero-sum game that the infantile Pakistani establishment and political forces inevitably can not stop from playing.

Shaheryar Azher is the Moderator of ‘The Forum’, where this commentary was first shared.

32 responses to “Divided Democratic Forces and Civil Society are to Blame for an Impending Implosion”

  1. Aqil says:

    Musharraf Zaidi has hit the nail on the head in today’s opinion page of The News:

    http://thenews.jang.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=165 350

    Especially the following two paragraphs:

    “Faraz has been dead for six months, but he has left behind a legacy that will last much longer than the manufactured heroism of press conferences and on the coattails of real martyrs. American think tanks, experts and newspapers are now united in their embrace of the fierce urgency of Pakistan. But the starting point for real change in Pakistan is not money. It is heroism. Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry is not the greatest jurist in the world. He is not the most impressive either. But he is the moral fibre of a country that has killed, denied, denigrated and destroyed its heroes consistently for over sixty years. He is no Faraz, but he has the moral fibre that Faraz helped personify through his words.”

    “The Atlantic Council, Steve Coll and the Washington Post are spot on about one thing. Pakistan’s problems are not Pakistan’s alone. They are only wrong about the origin of these problems. It is not financial, or diplomatic, or ideological. It is moral. There can be no change in Pakistan without the restoration of the judiciary. No amount of money, or Predator drones can do for Pakistan and for the world, what the reinstatement of Pakistan’s morality can. The restoration of Pakistan’s judiciary and the repeal of dictatorial powers for the President are not internal matters for Pakistan. They are the seeds of an existential crisis that has the potential to upend India’s ascension as a global power, the potential to derail whatever success 17,000 additional troops might hope to achieve in Afghanistan, and the potential to flush billions of dollars of American taxpayer money into the black hole where so much else resides. Pakistanis cannot take any conversation about their country seriously, without the restoration of the judiciary at its core. It is time for the rest of the world to get on board.”

  2. Aqil says:

    Sure meengla, being an effective administrator doesn’t make one a visionary, and Shahbaz is not known as a visionary.

    However, based on common sense, the following is true:

    a visionary who is also an effective administrator is better than a person who is an effective administrator but not a visionary.
    And an effective administrator who is not really a visionary is better than someone who is neither a visionary nor an effective administrator.

    So being an effective administrator is not irrelevant, not withstanding the PPP’s lack of interest in providing better governance.

  3. meengla says:

    Actually, this ‘Jiala’ can’t wait for the change of guard in Islamabad! Let the ‘Sher e Punjab’ form govts. in Islamabad and all 4 provinces. If that brings stability to Pakistan then so be it.
    PS. Being an effective ‘administrator’ does not make one necessarily a good visionary ‘leader’ just as a great philanthropist does not make Sattar Edhi a nuclear physicist.

  4. Aqil says:

    @Riaz Haq wrote:

    “In the wake of the court order, the confrontation between Zardari and Sharif is likely to increase distraction from the nation

  5. REALIST says:

    The silent majority of the country needs to wake up and take control in its hand through brand new leadership of individuals who are competent, educated, and most importanly loyal to Pakistan. Nothing else is gonna work.

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