Pakistani people see hope


by Fe'reeha
25th February, 2008 at 10:28 am    

Fe’reeha is currently in Pakistan, and reporting from there

I spent all last week talking to the people on the streets of Pakistan. I traveled to Islamabad, Lahore and was on the roads in Karachi. As far as I can see even most cynics are embracing themselves for change in Pakistan.

A general feeling on the ground for Pakistanis is of hope and aspirations. After the turmoil of almost a year, the general public is hoping for stability and economic progress from the new government. A naïve but well founded reason to hope against hope.

The repercussions of the morning after are still there. Remember the famous nursery rhyme lines:

All the men horses and all the King’s men
Could not put Humpty Dumpty together again

We know now that King’s men are gone. It’s time for the horses.

Pakistan’s capital Islamabad is currently a hub of political activity. The winning parties are having discussions on forming government. A large number of independent candidates emerged as winners this election so horse trading is undoubtedly rife.

Even Nawaz Shareef, leader of PML-N announced last week that the run away bigots of his party would be embraced if they decided to return to their parent party. But most analysts have written off the future of President Musharraf at last. He seems to be on borrowed time.

I almost feel sorry for the man and then I have to rebuke myself out of it. If he leaves in peace, that would be setting a new trend in the Army-trampled political history of Pakistan.

But no matter how the new government would be formed, it would face major challenges and bear the heavy burden of people’s expecations.

Judiciary:
Today, a large rally of lawyers in Islamabad is tantamount to the fact that people who have struggled against the establishment would not forget the promises that were made to them.
Restoration of the deposed judges (who were removed under PCO by President Musharraf on 3rd November) was an important promise of the PML-N which came out as second largest party in the national assembly.

Security and Peace:
While fear appeared to have kept many people from the polls, security and peace is the major desire of the majority of Pakistanis. The natural hope of people from the new political situation is of peace and an end to terrorism which has been plaguing the country in the last few years.

Basic food items
The first priority on Pakistanis’ priority list: price control of staple items. Politcal paralysis has played havoc with management of the economy in the last six months and Pakistanis have had to struggle with soaring fuel prices, shortages of basic food stuff and gas and worsening power cuts.

Foreign policy
Many have said the vote was an indictment of Musharraf’s policies. President Musharraf was always considered Washington’s most important Muslim ally in its fight against al Qaeda. The rout of his allies in Pakistan’s parliamentary election could herald the end for his policies.


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  1. Pakistan bans YouTube

    [...] but I simply choose not to view them. It is surprising that in this democratic country where recent elections spurred hopes for change and development that the government has been so closed minded about an Internet [...]




  1. Rumbold — on 25th February, 2008 at 10:47 am  

    Fe’reeha:

    “I almost feel sorry for the man and then I have to rebuke myself out of it. If he leaves in peace, that would be setting a new trend in the Army-trampled political history of Pakistan.”

    I do feel that Musharraf has not got enough credit for the elections. Essentially a military dictatorship allowed free and fair elections to take place, which resulted in the election of those who could well try to oust him. For that, if for nothing else, Musharraf deserves a proverbial round of applause.

  2. Junaid Mumtaz — on 25th February, 2008 at 11:22 am  

    Growing up in Pakistan we almost on a daily basis heard stories about a man called Asif Zardari, The amount of money he was making as being the husband of the PM, Hence the name of MR 10 %, there were number of kidnapping cases in Pakistan where the name was mentioned on a number of occasions . Surrey Mansion, duty-free scandals, submarine kickbacks, money laundering, Swiss bank accounts, offshore companies, the list is endless. Mr 10% now is representing Pakistan in crucial discussions with the Americans, Mr 10 % is now deciding which party will join ppp in forming the new government, Mr 10% is now talking about freedom of press, Mr 10 % is now giving his expertise on how to handle the war on terror, Mr 10 % is now saying he will change the world , Mr 10 % will decide who the next PM will be , quite interesting a dummy Pm which will be controlled by him,

    This goes to show the point that Musharaf highlighted, that there is no back up in the country, with the defeat of the Cycle, the countries future is being managed and being controlled by probably the most corrupt man in the history of the nation if not in the subcontinent. Whats the future, will my country be represented by Asif Zardari or Amin Faheem at the world economic forum or will Asif zaradari or Amin Faheem will address the United Nations as the head of the state? It’s amazing how the Pakistani race has totally forgotten what the same people did twice in there previous setups, and most importantly the reputation of the man that is still under money laundering charges in Europe.

    The decision of the people of Pakistan to elect ppp on a totally sympathy vote will be regretted in the very nature future. The decision is respected and I give credit to the q league for accepting the decisions where as Mr Zaradari sorry mr 10 % is still crying about the supposed rigged elections, come on legend you owe an apology for false accusations. HAHAHAHAHA just saw the most unreal thing on Geo , some leader said “ Hamaray muhtram zaradari saab” Totally muhtram dude like radically muhtram .nottt.

    May god help every one, and like my house mate said keeping inflation in mind this time around it could be Mr 20 %

    GEO ZARADARI KAY SATH

  3. sonia — on 25th February, 2008 at 11:29 am  

    Thanks Fe’reeha.
    I’m curious as to the timing of the YouTube outage, my first thoughts were that perhaps the reasoning went sth along the lines of..’we dont want too many people uploading videos of whats happening on the ground onto YouTube..’

  4. Avi Cohen — on 25th February, 2008 at 11:50 am  

    At the end of the day the West is pinning its hopes on two leaders whose governments have been sacked each time for corruption. When and not if – when this fails the people in Pakistan will blame the West.

    The average person in the street will hate what is going to emerge from people that have looted the country 4 times in the past and now will be looted again for a 5th time.

    In order for this to work the West needs to be strict on stopping corruption and stop these people having Western Bank Accounts into which money can be paid.

    Worst of all a Family Dynasty has been put in place rather than democracy.

    For all those calling this democracy don’t forget that the PPP selected its leader not via a vote but via a will left by Benazir. So the beacon of democracy as people saw her actually dictated who in her family would take over in the event of her death.

    People shouldn’t applaud this.

  5. Sid — on 25th February, 2008 at 12:14 pm  

    Which people? People like you who live in liberal western democracies in the west and dictate to the people of Pakistan that they should carry on living in a military dictatorship which is accountable to none but one single ex-general? That it should continue to work with non-elected, Islamist groups while giving the impression that it attacks Islamist politics by bombing women and children in Islamabad mosques, all with the tacit support of the USA for which it is a beholdden arse-lackey? This is what you applaud, presumably?

  6. sonia — on 25th February, 2008 at 12:17 pm  

    i think we should send Avi Cohen to live in Saudi Arabia – what do you say Sid? :-)

  7. Sid — on 25th February, 2008 at 12:24 pm  

    The strange thing is that Avi’s anti-democracy, pro-dictatorship apologia is the order of the day in the Pakistani diaspora outside of Pakistan. Am I right?

  8. Sid — on 25th February, 2008 at 12:36 pm  

    Beuller?…Beuller?…

  9. Sofi — on 25th February, 2008 at 12:59 pm  

    I cant see the hope but then I am not exactly sitting in Pak right now. For two allegedly corrupt parties to take power…. Lets hope they develop a clear conscience or something..

  10. Avi Cohen — on 25th February, 2008 at 1:35 pm  

    Well Sid and Sonia lets see what happens. Maybe then when Mr. 10% starts we should send yopu two to live there because that is what you wanted to support.

  11. Avi Cohen — on 25th February, 2008 at 1:38 pm  

    Sid – Also you are in denial about the corruption of these two leaders. At least I recognise that Bhutto was convicted of money laundering – that is whom you love as a leader of a country. Someone who wouldn’t be fit to lead any western democracy.

    You want for others what wouldn’t be fit for you. Lets send Mr 10% your bank a/c details so you can learn what it is like to be robbed of your money.

  12. Sid — on 25th February, 2008 at 2:21 pm  

    Avi

    Systemic, patronage-based corruption was part of the political culture in Pakistan before democracy was underway and it will be well into the future. That’s a fact of life. And unfortunately, this is the case with India and Bangladesh as well and many other democracies around the world.

    However, democracy cannot be blamed for political corruption. At least voters can vote out the corrupt and the incompetent and vote in policies that honour due process and accountability.

    Just out of interest, what kind of alternative process are you proposing for Pakistan.

  13. Avi Cohen — on 25th February, 2008 at 4:27 pm  

    Sid – For a Muslim you spectacularly fail to understand the dynamics of the Muslim World. You approach is right out of the Blair and Bush Doctrine. In fact you could be eithers son such is your loyalty to their thinking.

    Democracy took hundreds of years to develop in the West and you and they are trying to fast track it and it is constantly failing. Instead of learning from this approach you want more of the same.

    Pakistan like most of the Muslim World needs to develop the basic institutions first. The judges you so love in Pakistan are the same judges who themselves are part of the corruption problem.

    Most people are ill-educated and won’t vote out their corrupt leaders as we have seen.

    Thus when the mess occurs they blame the western system of – yes you got it – democracy.

    If you actually read what I said I wasn’t blaming democracy but the mad rush for democracy at any cost in countries not ready for such a system.

    So do you honestly think this time Pakistan’s experiment with democracy, the PPP and PML-N will be any better than last time? Hell no. Most people are already worried as they unlike you can see what is coming. Talk to most people from Pakistan and they wil tell you their relatives are worried and have no faith in these leaders.

    How can democracy thrive when the parties themselves are family dynasties?

    Surely you can see that for democracy to grow the parties need to vote for their leaders and not have them imposed.

    Would the USA or UK find it acceptable for the people of Pakistan to select who may run in elections in the USA or UK? Why then is it acceptable for Pakistani’s to have the West prefer candidates for democracy?

    Shouldn’t the West set an example and say these people have a tainted record and new leadership needs to emerge?

    Hell no – you just want people to vote and screw the outcome or how that destroys peoples lives. Because they get to vote. Brilliant logic.

    Instead of working to develop institutions to help people and get them to a point that democracy will flourish.

    In 12 – 24 months time we’ll be here debating the corruption of your democratically elected leaders. Then say it was worth it when people react against the West.

  14. SalmanRush — on 25th February, 2008 at 4:32 pm  

    Sid,

    The thing about democracy in South Asian countries is that the politicians that espouse democracy typically have been benefiting greatly from the type of corruption that you describe. For instance, Nawaz Sharif made a ton of money ransacking banks in Pakistan for loans and reinvesting the proceeds. Kinda corrupt, I think. So “democracy” in South Asian is a farce with the corrupt deposing the corrupt through the “vote” of the South Asian working man. The new order merely continues exploitation of the system.

  15. Sid — on 25th February, 2008 at 4:40 pm  

    I’ve explained any number of times why democracy is the ONLY way for Muslim, feudal, patronage-based dynastic polities in Pakistan and Bangladesh to create stable, secular polities.

    Conspiciously, Avi you have emphatically argued against democracy and chosen to avoid my question. So I’ll ask again, what kind of alternative process are you proposing for Pakistan?

  16. Avi Cohen — on 25th February, 2008 at 5:11 pm  

    Sid – you cannot grasp what you have advocated is the feudal election of corrupt politicians.

    As I have said previously my chosen process is to build the foundations of institutions needed for a stable and growing govt in all these countries. Namely education, justice for all etc. This is the same way things developed in the west.

    Your way is a shortcut and its only route is to disaster. a disaster you don’t have to live with.

    Explain to me why when these two corrupt politicians have been ousted 4 times between them will they change this time?

    What you cannot grasp is that democracy needs certain fundementals to bed in. Those aren’t in place so what chance democracy?

    As most Pakistani’s say over here he may be a dictator but at least he was starting to get rid of corruption. Instead you – Sid – are campaigning for those responsible for the corruption itself just because they pay lip service to democracy. Way to go.

    If dear old Benazir was such an advocate of democracy as you proclaim why the hell did she pre-select an undergraduate to take over from her? Why not a vote for a leader?

    Why is it the head of the PPP will be in Oxford studying and not doing whaqt the head of the PPP is supposed to do which is run the country? Hey Sid some democracy you are advocating. Lets face it Sid you have more access to the head of the PPP than people in Pakistan.

    How would you feel if Blair when he stepped down had said his son would be taking over and as his son was at University his son then said he was spending most of his time in the USA to study and he would appoint a few chosen people to run the country? That’s the democracy you are pushing and then you wonder why people feel annoyed at what they are being given. Horray for this casue Sid said it is ok. You wouldn’t live by this but you expect others to because hey its democracy cause they got a vote for candidates appointed by the USA and UK. Gotta love your logic Sid.

    Democracy by voting for a corrupt feudal family – yippppeee show me where to sign up!

  17. Sid — on 25th February, 2008 at 5:17 pm  

    OK, Avi, you don’t like democracy. You’ve laboured that point ad nauseum. Now for the difficult part:

    What are you proposing as a viable alternative?

    As I have said previously my chosen process is to build the foundations of institutions needed for a stable and growing govt in all these countries. Namely education, justice for all etc. This is the same way things developed in the west.

    And how is the executive bodies that control these institutions, commonly known as the ‘gabment’ going to be selected in your master plan?

  18. Avi Cohen — on 25th February, 2008 at 5:37 pm  

    Sid – with respect you fail again to actually read what I have ever said. I haven’t said I don’t like democracy. You are the one prattling on and on about your point.

    What I have said time and time again is democracy develops and isn’t imposed. Get it? Democracy develops and isn’t imposed.

    How those bodies develop is with the help of external bodies and countries. Rid countries of corruption, develop education which then brings about a justice system. Then you get to people being able to select a leadership.

    You are being very evasive about actually answering the point that you wouldn’t accept your godfather Tony imposing his son on the UK as leader. Yet you accept it for Pakistan because people get to vote for him. Why then is it ok for them but not you?

    Simple question?

    Even the USA has accepted that democracy cannot be imposed. But in the grand world of Sid that hasn’t hit home yet.

    The West has to help the process by refusing to help corrupt 3rd world politicians hoard money in western banks. Tell me how Banzir and her husband were able to hoard billions into Western Bank accounts. Why did old Nawaz do the same?

    If you want to build democracy then stop the corruption not put them in place to take even more. Maybe then the people won’t hate you for making their lives a complete and utter misery.

    Sid – I have been told by a few people now of your lovely Benazir’s Husband when she was in power driving up to homes he quite liked and making the people sell at way below market price, they could either sell and get a little bit or he’d just take it. That is what you have just given the people of Pakistan Sid by supporting this nonsense.

    How would you feel if it was your home that was taken in such a way?

    My master plan is the same as the plan that is being advocated by many US Politicians, The World Bank, the UN etc. Heck we must be all wrong cause Sid knows best.

  19. Sid — on 25th February, 2008 at 5:52 pm  

    Avi

    Actually, I haven’t once said that democracy should be imposed on Pakistan. The recent elections, the dismantling of Musharraf, the rejection of single-issue Islamist agendae all suggest that that this isn’t Iraq we’re talking about.

    You’re also guilty of trying to misprepresent me, because I haven’t said that democracy is all about elections.

    I have always suggested democracy means the following:
    1) A secular democracy
    2) Creation of an indepennt judiciary
    3) Creation of strong electoral institutions
    4) A free press
    5) An electorate that wants to vote its leaders in and out of power

    Unless you can tick those off, elections don’t feature too highly in that list, as you can see.

    Democracy by voting for a corrupt feudal family – yippppeee show me where to sign up!

    A massively popular feudal family pitted against a less popular elitist technocrat. Not great choices, but nobody said democracy building was nothing if not a messy, evolutionary process.

    Some people argued from your point of view when they disallowed the FIS’ electoral victory when they were legimately voted to power in Algeria. Back then it was the “West”, the same people you always decry whenever some issue or other comes up. Funny eh?

    I haven’t said I don’t like democracy.
    Why didn’t you say so in the first place? I’m glad we both agree that its the only viable method of governance in this day and age.

    But soft! World Bank! erk!
    You decry “the West” constantly and then you go and endorse probably the worst top-down, parochial institutional cack-handers of them all. If its not black then its white and then back to black again for you. ;-)

  20. Sid — on 25th February, 2008 at 6:04 pm  

    Sorry, (1) should be “A secular constitution”
    Equating “state religion” with “Islam” is an idiotic anachronism.

  21. milhouse — on 25th February, 2008 at 11:05 pm  

    Avi @ 17 said: “As I have said previously my chosen process is to build the foundations of institutions needed for a stable and growing govt in all these countries. Namely education, justice for all etc. This is the same way things developed in the west. Your way is a shortcut and its only route is to disaster. a disaster you don’t have to live with.”

    What about the USA – all free male suffrage since about 1850, the UK – almost all male suffrage since 1867, India and Sri Lanka – continuous electoral democracies since independence (apart from the 1972 Indira Gandhi screw-up). All these countries’ experience of electoral democracy began at the same time as low literacy rates, high corruption, poorly functioning judicial systems, lack of civil rights, and severe internal problems at times reaching the level of civil war.

    Elections have not been (and still are not) a panacaea for all these countries’ problems – you need the other stuff that Sid mentions @20. But elections have been instrumental in bringing about economic and political progress in these countries by forcing their elites at least periodically to compete for the wider population’s support, and by faciliating peaceful transfer of power between Governments.

    If you think Pakistan now is not ready for democracy, then you’d have to believe that 21st century Pakistanis are in some concrete way inferior to 19th century Americans and Brits and 20th century Indians. Don’t know about you Avi, but my personal experience doesn’t lead me to believe that.

  22. Sajn — on 25th February, 2008 at 11:27 pm  

    Interesting that despite all the accusations and the years spent in jail, Zardari has never actually been convicted. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?

  23. Fouad — on 1st March, 2008 at 6:44 am  

    GIVING PRESIDENT MUSHARRAF A CREDIT FOR ‘FREE ELECTIONS!” Laughable proposition! Why on Earth should he get credit for giving us what was the ‘NATION’S DUE RIGHT’he had usurped for 9 years!

    NOT EVEN A SINGLE CHARGE HAS BEEN PROVED IN ANY COURT IN THE WORLD AGAINST ASIF ALI ZARDARI! HOW CAN A MAN BE LABLED CORRUPT AS LONG AS HE HASN”T BEEN ‘CONVICTED ‘ in Any COURT! CORRUPTION CHARGES AGAINST POLITICIANS ARE A FAVOURITE TOOL OF AUTHORITARIAN REGIMES AND MILITARY DICTATORSHIPS IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD FOR DEPOLITICIZING THE SOCIETIES SO THAT THE MASSES’S ‘WON’T QUESTION’ THEIR LEGITIMACY! THIS IS WHAT PAKISTAN’S AUTHORITARIAN ELITE HAVE ALWAYS DONE TO THE MASSES’S MEN/WOMEN WHEN THEY COULDN’T ELIMINATE THEM PHYSICALLY LIKE BENAZIR.

    Rest Assured if the PPP and their allies DON’T LIVE UP TO the Pledges of their mandate they too would be swept away in months !

    Fouad

  24. andy cool london — on 1st March, 2008 at 8:54 am  

    I am tired of people putting down the Musharraf govt. It’s better the devil you know then the devil you don’t. Keep Mushy on and let him oversee what these others do. I bet within one year we will be screaming for Mushy to kick the govt out. Where to then? I feel for the whole of Pakistan but it’s not the politicians, every Pakistani must first look at themselves and correct their own failings. No point to look at the bigger picture, start with our own houses. Pakistan Zindabad Always!!!

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