This weekend Shariq, Zohra, Zahed and I met up with Reza Aslan as he stopped by London on his way to Israel for his next book. He’s great conversation and we all talked at length about the American elections, current affairs and even the situation in Pakistan.
So Shariq says that the west should stop giving financial support to dictators in the Middle East on the basis that if they go then a crazy Islamist regime would take its place. Now, I do think that we should lean on countries that are receiving financial support to be more democratic. But I’m not convinced that they will be overthrown by more democratic goverments. I think we should want to see them eased into democracy and more liberalisation of the media in the way Pakistan has for the last 6-7 years since Musharraf took power. Benazir Bhutto, for all her bluster about democracy, never liberalised the country in the way that he did. As for Nawaz Sharif… forget it!
This article by Karim Sajapour, which compares Pakistan to Iran, sums up my fears perfectly
The army has always been the strongest bulwark in assuring that Pakistan does not go the way of Iran. But while the officer corps may be steadfast defenders of secular rule, the rank and file reflect Pakistani society. In the event of an Islamist political awakening, the army’s allegiances are not guaranteed. In Iran, apart from senior commanders, who were either killed or fled the country, the Shah’s powerful, staunchly secular army switched sides to Khomeini’s revolutionary government virtually overnight.
This is not to suggest than an Islamist awakening in Pakistan is on the horizon, or that Pakistanis must choose between an unpopular autocrat or a Taliban-style government. On the contrary, Pakistan’s liberals are brave to agitate for democracy, the rule of law, and the accountability of Musharraf, whose presidency appears beyond rehabilitation. But they should learn from Iran’s revolution that their means of agitating for political reform must be relevant to the political ends they hope to achieve.
What do others think? Shariq? Is the comparison to Iran relevant in this case?
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Filed in: Current affairs,South Asia