Pakistan is in dire straits. It is a nation at a crossroads. Extremism is around the corner. The politicians are corrupt. The nukes could end up in the hands of bin Laden.
Pakistan is in dire straits. Its people demand accountability. Those who claim to protect it and make it prosperous seem busy keeping themselves in power. There is no hope for change since the people have no power. They are stuck under a dictator. If the citizens of Pakistan are to be real agents of change, they need a way forward. They need democracy.
In March of 2007, when lawyers came out on the streets, there were only two available narratives. Those who held a results-based approach argued that Musharraf's dictatorial regime was the best case scenario, the lesser of the two evils. The evil being, of course, justice, accountability and democracy. They raised the specter of rampant jihadism spreading through the populations. They pointed towards the economic development that had occurred on Musharraf's watch. They warned that Pakistan had some amazingly corrupt politicians. And that US needed a stable ally, a dependable ally, in our war against terror(ism).
Then there were those of us who trusted the people of Pakistan. We knew that jihadism is not some air-borne virus that people can contract by simply inhaling. We knew that it wasn't Musharraf who had brought about economic development but the people themselves. We knew that politicians are corrupt everywhere - including the US - so why the exception of dictator for Pakistan? We knew that a partnership can only be among equals. And the will of the people needed to be heard.
Ah. But this so-called Lawyer's Movement was a big sham, we were told. These are just elites. Where are the "people"? Why can't the Lawyers bring out the masses? Why do they insist on democracy and justice when the people are more concerned with food and security.
Well. Pakistan just had a slow-burning, people-powered, secular revolution and they forced a sitting dictator - who had the complete confidence and support of the only superpower in the world - out. Peacefully. Without any bloodshed. Without any crazy mullah grabbing the nukes and blowing up the world. Without inflation hitting 10,000,000%. Without any riots. With suicide bombings in Lahore. With two regions embroiled in near civil-war. With the same corrupt politicians in charge. With the unshakeable faith, the belief, that they deserved justice. That they deserved the right to have the power to act. That they were citizens of their country, not keeps.
This is unprecedented. This is historic. This is a momentous time in the history of this nation. It has successfully forced accountability - through peaceful and legal means - on its leaders. The people of Pakistan - lawyers and all - have exercised their agency.
And like every other such exercise - be it the election of 2000 or the upcoming election of 2008 in the US - the outcome is up in the air. And hence, the hope is not in the fate of this particular dictator, it is in the accountability to the Pakistani publics, of their representative. If we really want a secure ally in Pakistan, we would do our best to strengthen the people of Pakistan.
PS. If you are curious about Musharraf's speech, I live-blogged it. Well, most of it.
PPS. If you have further curiosity, you can hear me on Chicago's excellent Worldview with Jerome McDonnell.