Last week’s mass protests in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, led by cleric-politician Tahir-ul-Qadri, were disciplined, well-organized and strategic, yet they failed because they “hit a brick wall made of Pakistan’s mainstream, democratic parties,” says a leading commentator.
“These parties, including members of the governing coalition and opposition, consolidated ranks to block what they viewed was an attempt to sideline them and detour Pakistan’s path to full democracy,” according to Arif Rafiq, an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute:
The events of last Thursday were indeed a victory for democracy, but a victory in a single battle in what will be a long war. Pakistan’s nascent democracy is not yet safe from military Bonapartism, judicial activism, or the moral bankruptcy and incompetence that pervades much, though not all, of its political class. The grudge match to determine the delineation of power in Pakistan continues. But at the same time, it is safe to say that there are fundamental changes in the attitude and behavior of Pakistan’s civilian politicians that bode well for democracy.
“We know that the military has denied any role in spurring this ‘revolution’ and, frankly, there is little evidence to counter its claim. However, the advocacy of unconstitutional solutions to Pakistan’s political problems smacks of the GHQ script used in 1958, 1969, 1977 and 1999,” says Rumi, director of the Jinnah Institute (above), a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.
“Today in Pakistan, a milestone is increasingly in reach: for the first time in its history, the country might have one democratically-elected government pass power on to another,” Rafiq writes for The Diplomat:
This potential achievement would not only be the product of a chastened military overwhelmed by insurgency and Musharraf’s excess. It would also be the product of a vigilant, pro-democracy civil society and independent media, and a wiser civilian political class. …At the moment, the greatest threat to democracy in Pakistan is not the military, but failing governance by the elected civilian leadership.
‘The next government must prove in short time that democracy and good governance are not mutually exclusive in Pakistan,” concludes Rafiq, who tweets at: @arifcrafiq. “It will be an uphill battle. If it fails, Pakistan’s democratic moment will prove to be nothing more than a fleeting moment.”