Thursday, August 23, 2007

Days of Sharab aur Gul . . .

It seems former Pakistani PM nawaz Sharif will soon retunr to the country from his coup-induced exile. Quite a bit to think about. I heard the editor in chief of Dawn on NPR this morning that he has yet to make sense of it. Why, the question is asked, would Musharaf accept the return of the man who he forced out of power? I myself can only speculate.

One of the critical things to remember about Pakistan is that it has always had this sort of love hate relationship with its own democratic institutions. Mohammad Jinnah Das envisioned a modern, secular, democratic state when he and the Muslim Leadue fought fot he foundation of Pakistan. India basically existed as a centrally controlled socialist state in its formative years, but has been a rather well functioning democratic state since. Pakistan's political history has shown a tendancy to cycle between military rule and nearly democratic rule. Long periods of stability in which the democratic institutions have prevailed tend to be the exception rather than the rule., with the military being by far the most powerful institution in the country. I often wonder if middle and upper class educated and western oriented Pakistanis look east across the divide with envy at their Indian counterparts.

Cosmopolitan residents of Karachi and Lahore, with ambitions to export Lollywood, create high-tech labour markets, and create a Pakistan that the world notices for being something other than a exporter of Islamic extremists Enter Nawaz Sharif. Musharaf has lost his credibility with the judiciary, is at constant threat from the Islamists, and is losing support among top military brass. Bottom line, as I have stgated in other posts, he is embattled. It seems that the time is ripe for Pakistan to retreat to its one political constant: sudden and abrupt change, initiated from the top down, replacing military leaders with civilian ones, until the time once more comes to dance the dance. Musharaf knows that his move culls favor with the mainstream, moderate democratic parties and their popular supporters. It is simultaneously an admission of the in creasing isolation that Musharaf is suffering at the hands of the myriad fractures currently disrupting the Pakistani landscape.

These guys are old hands. They know the drill, and Musharaf would much rather see his country in the hands of the likes of Nawaz sharif and Benazir Bhutto than the Imams of the Lal Masjid or the warlords of Wazirastan and Peshawar. Its the old Pakistani two-step, and its time to change partners.

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