Pakistan: It’s Complicated

In an attempt to understand why Pakistan has made the front page of the Washington Post and the NYTimes over the past two days, I did some researching. The following is a summary of what I read–and it took me long enough just to establish the broad, take-home points in my mind. One definate that I can say with confidence: things are complicated. Nuclear arms; Al-Queda; the choice between a weak, fragile democracy with nukes or a strong, controlled military regime with nukes; Kashmir; Bhutto; where did the Constitution go? I’m going to revisit this stuff and try to get more in depth. Stay posted. Anyone else have insight?




CrisisWatch recently publicized a list of nine conflict situations that have deteriorated during the month of October. Pakistan ranked high on the list, being at risk for escalating conflict in the unfolding month of November.

Currently under the military dictatorship of Gen. Pervez Musharraf—and more recently his emergency rule—Pakistan suffers from thirty years of corruption, drugs, military rule, rising Islamist extremism and a general decline in education and health standards. Religious extremists play an increasingly important role in providing education and other services to the poor, resulting in the radicalization of areas of the country.

Pakistan’s Kashmir conflict with India has caught the world’s attention with both states employing high-profile nuclear brinkmanship. The conflict in Pakistan’s Balochistan region is less well-known. Musharraf’s government has used increasing force to impose force over the region in which Baloch militants are demanding political and economic autonomy citing the absence of real democracy in Pakistan.



Provincial elections are supposed to be held later this year or in early 2008. Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan on October 18th to lead her party—the Pakistan Peoples Party—in the parliamentary elections scheduled to begin early 2008. Benazir Bhutto has twice served as Prime Minister of the country before living in exile for 8 years due to corruption charges that some say were politically fabricated. If she can win a change in the law, she will run for prime minister for a third time, something now legally barred.

Bhutto’s triumphant return to crowds of hundreds of thousands was literally blasted into chaos by two bomb explosions that killed 140 of her supporters and nearly missed her bus. Bhutto remains a polarizing figure with an outspoken stance on terrorism, publicly criticizing suicide bombings as being against the teachings of Islam—a unique stance among Pakistani politicians. Some argue that allegations of her corruption, her pro-American agenda, and the questionable murder of her brother in 1996—a time when Bhutto ruled and her brother may have been challenging her power in the Pakistan Peoples Party—is jeopardizing the hard-won progress in grassroots democracy within the country.

Gen. Musharraf declared emergency rule on Saturday, November 3rd justifying the move with pro-democracy and anti-terrorist jargon. It is difficult to imagine that the suspension on the Constitution, the dismissal of the Supreme Court (the Supreme Court could bar Mucharraf from another term as president), the silencing of privately owned television stations, and the arrest of human rights activist and other lawyers will have any affect on the tribal regions of Pakistan where Al-Queda and other groups reside. After a meeting with Musharraf, Western diplomats say their fears that the general was vanquishing his political rivals more than fighting terrorism were reinforced

Protests to Musharraf’s emergency rule began on Monday and have continued today. Some 3,000 protesting lawyers (out of Pakistan’s 12,000 lawyers) have been rounded up by authorities in clashes with batton-weilding police officers. The ousted chief of justice of the Supreme Court urged people to continue defying the emergency rule. “The lawyers should convey my message to the people to rise up and restore the Constitution,” the chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, told dozens of lawyers on speakerphone at a meeting of the Islamabad Bar Association before his cellphone line was cut. He urged them to go to “every corner of Pakistan and give the message that this is the time to sacrifice. I am under arrest now, but soon I will also join you in your struggle.”




9 Responses

  1. From what I can understand, the supreme court delayed a ruling on Musharraf’s legitimacy for presidential candidacy. The supreme court had to approve Musharraf’s bid as a candidate, however four months have passed, and in that time the election was held, and he won by a significant margin. Now, the Supreme Court has something like 9 more days to decide. If they vote against him, he will be ousted. So you can see it two ways: 1. he has put the court under house arrest so that they cannot vote against him in the next few days, or 2. since the election is over and he won, if he got ousted now, no one would be in power, and there would have to be a snap election. That could create serious upheaval and other problems.
    I think he’s doing this under the guise of keeping “order” in the government, but really trying to keep himself in power.
    Musharraf has put the supreme court and democracy activists under house arrest and treated them in a manner similar to terrorists. That is what the lawyers are protesting and it has escalated to brutal beatings by the police.
    This is just what I’ve understood from talking to a friend for the past 10 minutes, who is interested in foreign affairs. What else have people heard? Also, how does this relate to Bhutto’s return? I’m still unclear on that connection.

  2. From a BBC News article Oct 10 2007:

    “With the presidential election held successfully, the first phase of the election process has been completed and now general elections will be held in a transparent and free manner.”

    However, Gen Musharraf’s desire to serve a second term as president is being challenged in the Supreme Court, which is due soon to give a ruling on the matter.

    It has said that results of the presidential vote can become official only when it has ruled on complaints that he is not eligible to serve another five-year term.

    His opponents say it is unconstitutional for the head of the army to stand for president.


    Ok, so it what your friend says makes sense.

    I agree though: how is all of this connected back to Bhutto’s return? I did read that she would run for Prime Minister for a third time if she can get the law changed that only allows a president sit for 2 terms.

  3. Thank you for untangling some of this! Blake’s and my initial reaction, when reading last weekend a NYT article on the state of emergency, was that Musharraf sounded like an allegory of Bush — stripping civil liberties in the name of purported terrorist danger. Of course, the specificity of Pakistan’s situation is the relevant and more difficult subject; thank you for allowing me to grasp some of it here.

  4. General Musharraf’s aides said the general planned to give up his uniform and become a civilian president when the newly formed Supreme Court validates his victory in the Oct. 6 presidential election.

  5. Child Labor United States

    WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Bush on Wednesday told CNN he would in person “facilitate” peace negotiations ‘tween the Palestinians and Israelis. This type of overlap has different major advantages: it is wholly free for any Kenyan to use (in most d…

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  7. AOA. hamara Pakistan in nazuk halat say sirf is liye guzar raha hay kyun k nichay say lay kar uper tak crupption hay or jis insan ko koi ohda mil jata hay wo samajhta hay k bas mera dor aakhri hay ma jo marzi karun koi tenshan nahi,har koi apna sochta hay,awam ki koi parwa nahi hay ,,, koi Kanun nahi hay AMEEER k liye … Kanun hay to sirf gareeb ooor baybas insan k liye…… koi ya nahi sochta k hmaray Buzurgon nay is Pakistan ko bananay k liye kitni kurbanian di hain……..KAAAAAASH k hum sab ko ye samajh aa jayeeeee…….MALIK ADEEL

  8. corruption ka aik he elaaj ha !
    jo prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h) nay farmaya
    ” Rishwat dainy walla
    aur Rishwat lainy wala dono jahanummi hain”
    Rishwat lainy wally ko sar-aam phaansi milni cahiye.

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