Monday, August 18, 2008


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.


Anonymous said...

This momentous, this is historic, this the the work of America and Britain and Saudi Arabia. Duh.

LFC said...

I have linked to this post on my blog.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations from an Indian. To have removed a military dictator in Pakistan by force of parliamentary consensus is indeed an occasion for celebration.

A consensus on another critical matter might not be so easy to construct. The contradiction between being a US ally and supporting Taliban insurgents was not removed by departure of Musharraf.

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Anonymous said...

August 19, 2008

What is the big deal about the resignation of Musharraf? I mean, a pro-U.S., "democratically-elected" dictator will be replaced by a pro-U.S., "democratically-elected" dictator.

-- As'ad Abukhalil

Manan Ahmed said...

With apologies to As'ad: the big deal is that a dictator is replaced, peacefully. How many time has THAT happened? Exactly? Pro or Anti US being irrelevant facts.

Anonymous said...


Fantastic post. I especially loved the paragraph about the people of Pakistan exercising Agency.

Funnily enough for a country in the news for all the wrong reasons, this nation has now twice set the example of achieving unprecedented change through rule of law and democratic process. While much blood was shed at the partition of India and Pakistan, the creation of Pakistan itself was achieved at the negotiation table - not a revolution - by a constitutional lawyer and sealed with votes in constituent provincial assemblies.

I sincerely wish that more Pakistanis would embraces this as the fundamental narrative of their country.

Do you mind if I share a link to your post on my facebook profile?

Anonymous said...

So Australian newspaper is reporting
that Saudi Arabian threaten to withhold 5 billion dollar oil subsidy if Musharraf was punished.

So how come Pakistan has high inflation if they are getting subsidized oil from Saudi Arabia.

freude bud said...

There are indeed some reasons to be optimistic as it appears that the rule of law has broad-based popular support in Pakistan.

But, and this is a big but, it won't mean much unless the Supreme Court is completely reinstated.

If it isn't, I believe the lawyers will continue their revolt ... the question is whether they can be ignored, ultimately.

This analysis also seems to completely whitewash the role of the military itself in Musharraf's decision to step down ... and I remain unclear as to what the big decision-makers there think of the lawyers' movement.

Anonymous said...

Supreme Court won't be reinstated until Zardari gets immunity from prosecution. He is afraid that the Chief Justice will reverse the earlier decision.

So much for rule of law.

Anonymous said...

August 23, 2008

Party Picks Bhutto Widower for Pakistan President

The country’s main ruling party officially put forward Asif Ali Zardari as its candidate for the Sept. 6 vote.

Anonymous said...

Pakistan trades "a pro-U.S., 'democratically-elected" dictator' for "a pro-U.S., 'democratically-elected' dictator."

Now let the war American wants begin in earnest.

Anonymous said...

Pakistan trades "a pro-U.S., 'democratically-elected' dictator" for "a pro-U.S., 'democratically-elected' dictator."


Unknown said...

Musharaff is alive and that is a great achievement for Saudies.
The judges will not be reinstated.
Nawaz must come out and become a genuine opposition

Anonymous said...

So, we have a candidate for President of Pakistan who is trying to insure American support by yelling loudest about the Taliban taking over Chicago. Nice to be a puppet President. As long as you push the Pakistani army to war, we will support you.

Anonymous said...

August 26, 2008

U.N. Envoy's Ties to Pakistani Are Questioned

WASHINGTON — Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to the United Nations, is facing angry questions from other senior Bush administration officials over what they describe as unauthorized contacts with Asif Ali Zardari, a contender to succeed Pervez Musharraf as president of Pakistan.

Mr. Khalilzad had spoken by telephone with Mr. Zardari, the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, several times a week for the past month until he was confronted about the unauthorized contacts, a senior United States official said. Other officials said Mr. Khalilzad had planned to meet with Mr. Zardari privately next Tuesday while on vacation in Dubai, in a session that was canceled only after Richard A. Boucher, the assistant secretary of state for South Asia, learned from Mr. Zardari himself that the ambassador was providing "advice and help." ...

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Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Pakistan to get $2bn aid package

ISLAMABAD: Federal Finance Minister Syed Naveed Qamar has said Pakistan will soon receive a $2 billion aid package, from both the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

Once the package arrives it will be deposited into Zardari's bank account in geneva for safe keeping.

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