The Sources of Pakistan's Insecurity

By Shuja, Sharif | Contemporary Review, Summer 2007 | Go to article overview

The Sources of Pakistan's Insecurity


Shuja, Sharif, Contemporary Review


PAKISTAN today is at critical crossroads and many crucial issues that will determine the future of Pakistan have come to the fore. Forty persons were killed and over 200 others were injured in different parts of Karachi on 12 May, when the attempt of Justice Iftikhar Ahmed Chaudhry, the suspended Chief Justice of Pakistan's Supreme Court (CJP), to enter the city from the airport to address a pro-democracy meeting was violently resisted by the pro-Musharraf Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the dominant partner in the ruling coalition of Sind. Mr Chaudhry, who has vowed to fight his removal, had come from Islamabad to address lawyers of the provincial bar association. He could not leave the airport and ultimately flew back to Islamabad in the evening after giving up his plan of addressing the meeting. Since Mr Chaudhry's suspension, lawyers, incensed by what they perceived as an assault on the judiciary, have staged rallies and boycotted court proceedings across the country. Opposition political parties have also taken up the cause. So have foreign countries. The EU has criticised restrictions on the media but a spokeswoman for the Pakistan Foreign Office rejected this on 12 June: 'we do not need any outsider to come and tell us what we need to do. Every country has made and followed its own norms for media'. She also rejected the speculation that a visit by a top official from the US State Department was an attempt to mediate between the government and the opposition.

The international community needs to recognise that the underlying cause behind the current political unrest is not the CJP's ouster or the politicisation of that issue. It is the popular discontent with General Musharraf's military regime that has taken over the CJP issue to provide itself with a political icon to sustain the upsurge in favour of the restoration of democracy in Pakistan. It is argued that the reason why the movement in support of the CJP seems to strengthen day by day is that finally the people of Pakistan are fighting for something rather than just against something. Obviously, the people are now fighting for the restoration of democracy. As many Pakistani analysts have observed, the larger issue is whether the rule of law and order will prevail or the whims and impulses of a military dictator.

The current political unrests are targeting the exit of General Musharraf, the Army's Chief of Staff and the military regime. Also at issue is establishing civilian control over Pakistan's army in a democracy. The army has three options: 1) perpetuate Musharraf in power, even at the risk of a civil war; 2) depose Musharraf and replace him with another General as military dictator; and 3) facilitate free and fair general elections and the emergence of a civilian democratic government and thereafter return to barracks. The Pakistani army should recognise that it is part of the civil society and not a colonial army in occupation of Pakistan.

Pakistan's current political and societal profile is shaped by the cultural and historical influences of the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia as well as the British colonial legacy and the nation and state-building challenges of the twenty-first century. Religion and nationalism combined to create the demand for the separate state of Pakistan when British rule in the Indian sub-continent was being brought to an end, but these could not serve as the enduring bases of nationhood. Pakistan found it problematic to establish a participatory, pluralist and decentralised political framework incorporating linguistic, ethnic and regional diversities and economic disparities. Additional challenges were posed by the rise of Islamic extremism and militancy, which had implications for Pakistan's domestic politics and foreign policy.

For decades groups that the United States considered terrorist organisations have been supported by Pakistan in order to promote its foreign policy goals in the disputed state of Kashmir, a territory to which both India and Pakistan lay claim (see Alex Ninian, 'Kashmir', p. …

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