Omar Wairich has an interesting take on news that Pakistan’s Supreme Court has ordered the arrest of the country’s prime minister. He writes that we should see the hands of the generals who head Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies behind the Court’s move.
The ruling came as a large crowd massed in Islamabad, led by Tahir ul-Qadri, a charismatic cleric. Dr Qadri, noted for his taste in extravagant rhetoric and headgear, is demanding the government quit. Incensed, he says, by a civilian democracy that is high on corruption and low on governance, he would like a caretaker government to take over. The new set-up should have the blessing of the army and the judiciary, he added.
The script is wearily familiar to Pakistanis. During the 1990s, successive democratic governments were heaved out of office for various charges of alleged corruption. The pressure was applied from behind a thin veil by powerful generals.
Dr Qadri denies the military establishment backs him. But the rhetoric, with its enthusiasm for the state and contempt for democracy, chimes neatly with their long-standing views. Many also wonder about his suspiciously well-funded campaign.
The fear is that Pakistan’s fledgling democracy will be aborted through a “soft coup” mere months before the election, expected in May.
There are worries that the democratic process will be replaced with an unelected cabinet of technocrats, chosen by the military and the judiciary, as Dr Qadri wishes.
The court’s decision is seen as little to do with the niceties of the law. It is fundamentally about politics. In particular, unelected and unaccountable individuals, on the streets and in the courts, deciding that it is they, and not the people of Pakistan, who know what’s best for the country.
It has long been the case that Pakistan’s army chief and former ISI head, General Ashfaq Kayani, is the true ruler of that nation from behind a very thin curtain. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that his protestations of keeping the army out of politics and allowing Pakistan’s first ever democratic transition have been all along the lines of “these are not the droids you’re looking for” mind-tricks, primarily for Western consumption.
The CS Monitor has a good backgrounder on these events, which take place as Pakistan finds itself in a new face-off with India over the Kashmir border region and riven by internal unrest following the deaths of minority Shias in recent attacks by militants.