have handled the protests better…Imran Khan
and Tahir-ul Qadri….egged on by the military to clip
Sharif’s wings….Pakistan similar to Thailand….urban middle class, gang up with generals and
judges to undermine those elected by the people…..
The ex-Ambassador and current Professor of International Relations, Boston University speaks his mind.
It is difficult to say what is the truth. HH is expected to be biased against the Army which banished him from his homeland. That said, there is not much evidence that Imran Khan has made any impact with the non-stop drama-bazi.
Indeed, just like Arvind Kejriwal in India, IK seems better suited as a protester than a ruler. Kejriwal and the Aam Admi Party should have focused on governing Delhi and gaining the confidence of the people. Large sections of Indians from al backgrounds would have loved to vote for a non-BJP, non-Congress, secular, left-liberal platform (rather than cast a vote against the Dynasty or Hindutva). Even the neo-Gandhian, Irom Sharmila was sympathetic to the cause. She would have guaranteed an AAP seat in Manipur – a 25% increase from the current tally of four.
The key issue is if and when self-confidence (constructive) morphs into hubris (destructive). After having destroyed the seemingly invincible, four-term Chief Minister Sheila Dixit in Delhi, Kejriwal thought he could repeat the magic by defeating Narendra Modi in Varanasi. Admittedly it was a gamble not devoid of merit – the Sunni Muslim vote-share (15%) roughly equals that of the super-caste vote. But it was the Shia Muslims, the non-Yadav OBCs and the non-Jatav Dalits who contributed to a complete annihilation of the “secular” coalition in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere.
Instead of insisting that people do not pay their power bills, Khan should focus on better governance and better access to power, which is the primary reason why the Pakistan economy is suffering so much. It is not power for himself but power to the people that is the need of the hour.
protests, led by Imran Khan and cleric Tahir-ul Qadri, an attempted
civilian coup? What will the impact on Pakistan’s democracy be?
The elephant in the room in Pakistan is always its overbearing
military and the ubiquitous intelligence service, the ISI. Sharif could
have handled the protests better – but I have no doubt that Imran Khan
and Tahir-ul Qadri have been egged on by the military covertly to clip
Pakistani democracy remains fragile and subject to the military’s
manipulation. If PM Sharif is forced out by a few thousand protesters
after being elected with millions of votes, it would mean that Pakistani
democracy remains subject to the whims of the military and its civilian
The winner would be Pakistan’s authoritarian tradition – the loser would be the idea of a democratic Pakistan.
What we’re witnessing in Pakistan is similar to Thailand where
losers, backed by the urban middle class, gang up with generals and
judges to undermine those elected by the majority of the people.
The protests raise allegations of corruption and rigging an election – how else could these issues be highlighted?
First of all, protests against an allegedly rigged election should
follow the election – not be orchestrated 14 months later. The excuse is
flimsy at best.
Imran Khan has even said his protest is really about four
parliamentary seats where he claims the vote was rigged. There is a
clear appeals process for such complaints. There is no justification for
a protest campaign of this nature.
What are the strategic repercussions for India?
A weak civilian government is less effective as an interlocutor for
India. The prospects of dialogue recede when Pakistan is in the midst of
There is always the chance that jihadi extremists could embark on new
dangerous missions against India while PM Sharif is preoccupied.
Meanwhile, India has called off talks with Pakistan after Pakistan’s envoy met Kashmiri separatists in Delhi – what’s your view?
I was never optimistic about these talks. Meaningful talks cannot
take place amid posturing and regurgitation of previously stated
The Sharif government is just too weak to move forward with serious
talks. That is why they had to appear to be reiterating concern over
Kashmir, though India’s view on that is well known. Talks will only move
ahead when both sides are ready to negotiate substantive issues – not
just score points.
America is due to exit Afghanistan soon – how will the US withdrawal impact security in the region?
There will definitely be an attempt by the Taliban and their backers
to grab power as they did in the chaos following the Soviet withdrawal –
but Afgha-nistan is better prepared for the withdrawal of US troops
than many people realise.
Ideally, all countries of the region should help the Afghans maintain stability once American forces leave.