The recipe is Pakistani, but the flavour is distinctly that of rural Sindh, feudal, of course. Less than three months after his wife was assassinated, Asif Ali Zardari wants to become prime minister (PM) of the country. Immediately after Benazir Bhutto’s death, and later, he had told journalists he was not interested in the job.
Times change and so do positions. The morphing of Zardari the fugitive into Zardari the prospective PM, has been quick. Almost magically, corruption cases against him are being dismissed without ado. It bodes ill for Pakistan’s tryst with democracy. It will only embolden the army in the time to come, undoing the sacrifices made by many in the last few months.
In the naked bargaining over power between Zardari, Pervez Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif, the concerns of the Pakistani citizen have been dismissed. The major premise behind the drive for democracy was that the army could not appreciate the concerns of the people. These range from deterioration in security to the economic tailspin that Pakistan finds itself in.
Given the oligarchic nature of the country’s polity, the link between solving these problems and changes in the political structure is weak at best. Sceptics and Pakistan observers would deny it outright. Consider the hope that with democracy, problems on the volatile western border would be solved. A democratically elected government can ask the army to stop offensive operations in Waziristan, Swat and other troubled regions. How will this deter Taliban militants? Those who support them, their motives and their intentions have little connect with Pakistan being a democracy or a dictatorship.
What about relations with India? Zardari sounded a hopeful note that the two countries could put aside the Kashmir issue for the moment and concentrate on commerce. Within days, the taciturn army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, was quick to point the centrality of Kashmir to Pakistan’s identity. Zardari had to back down almost immediately.
What the future brings, no one can foretell. But a muddled state of affairs, with the army marking time and politicians squabbling for spoils, is certain in Pakistan.
Will democracy make any difference to Pakistan’s citizens? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org