Be Patient with Pakistan

Après Musharraf, patience
By Hassan Abbas; International Herald Tribune, August 27, 2008
CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts:

Western governments clearly have mixed feelings about the legacy of Pervez Musharraf and are trying to grasp what is in store for a nuclear-armed state whose writ is diminishing within its territories.

The concern is legitimate, but it underestimates Pakistan's potential. The notion that somehow developing countries, and especially Muslim-majority states, cannot adjust to democratic model is a flawed assessment. The track record of democratic governments in Pakistan is indeed mixed, but it is also true that democracy takes time to develop.

In fact, Pakistan was created out of a democratic movement led by a constitutional lawyer, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who aspired to make Pakistan a pluralistic, democratic state. Pakistan was also the first Muslim state to elect a woman as prime minister in 1988, the late Benazir Bhutto.

Her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, also a former prime minister, went to the gallows in 1977 rather than submit to a military dictator. The daughter returned to Pakistan in 2007 after a long exile to lead the democracy movement, knowing fully well that she was a prime target of anti-democratic forces.

Despite such courageous acts, Western governments, primarily the United States and Britain, have shown far more patience with dictators than with elected leaders. Periods of military rule in Pakistan - 1958-69; 1977-88; 1999-2008 - lasted an average of 10 years, while democratic phases lasted an average of less than three years and were often declared to be unstable, corrupt and weak. Foreign aid also declined during the democratic periods.

This is not to say that the reemergence of democracy will resolve everything quickly and amicably. History shows that dictatorships destroy the social fabric of societies and diminish the capacity of state institutions to function effectively.

Musharraf, though a liberal person at heart, was no different. He did contribute positively in certain areas - for instance in initiating a peace process with India - but overall his policies proved to be divisive and haphazard. The humiliating way in which he dealt with the judiciary in Pakistan cannot be defended on any grounds.

Musharraf's autocratic decisions did not go unchallenged in Pakistan. An energetic lawyers' movement emerged in response. In its early days, it failed to attract Western support, perhaps because the West did not expect people of a "backward Muslim country" to go into the streets to demand rule of law.

Still, it must be acknowledged that the United States and Britain did push Musharraf to allow Benazir Bhutto to return to Pakistan and hold free elections.

With Musharraf's departure, Pakistanis have gained a new opportunity to put their house in order. Similarly, the Western world has a fresh opening to support democratic forces.

The challenges are huge, but not insurmountable. Without a doubt, religious bigotry is ascendant in Pakistan's tribal areas and violence in the shape of suicide bombings and attacks on girls' schools and music shops are on the rise.

To reverse this trend, a new counter-terrorism policy focused on isolating the terrorists, politically as well as physically, along with increased economic opportunities should be a priority for the new government.

Restoration of the deposed judges, as promised by major coalition parties, and a smooth election of the new president in coming weeks will set the stage for serious policy making and consensus developing on critical issues.

Despite the recent breakup of the coalition, the government is not going to fall. Such developments are part of a democratic process.

Pakistan can indeed be rescued from a further slide into chaos, and its democratic institutions are better placed to tackle this situation than any dictatorship. But this can only happen if the West supports democracy and patience.

Hassan Abbas, a former Pakistani government official who served in the Bhutto and Musharraf administrations, is a research fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard. He is the author of "Pakistan's Drift into Extremism: Allah, the Army and America's War on Terror."


Jessica F. said…
Hi Hassan,

I've was thinking about our U.S. and the Muslim World class at Olin while I was following the political changes in Pakistan. I was wondering what you had to say on the subject. Thanks again for shedding some light on the subject for me.
Hassan Abbas said…
Teaching that class was a great experiecne. My recent opeds in Guardian and the most recent one in International Herald Tribune reflect my take on the prevailing political scenario in Pakistan. Indeed there are very serious problems faced by Pakistan today, but in my assessment democracy is the only way to face these challenges. However, it will take a while before things will return to some form of normalcy.

Anonymous said…
Motarham Hassan,

Give credit to those from Nov 1988 to Oct 1999 also, kindly. They litterlly stole Pakistanis money from the banks. Nawaz Sharif stole with the biggest 'dakka' in Pakistan's history in May 1998, when him, Ishaq beta, and Surcharge Aziz stole US$11 billion in foreign exchange of people's money. I lost myself US$7,25,000+. Rabb kaa bouhout shukr hay that I had some of my money in homeland of Zardari (Dubai) from there I could restart my business and pay off all those LCs to our friends in Sri Lanka and Kenya.

Tou bhai meray, if not a consumer economy than what had we be selling and manufactuereing during 51 years. Lattha or Surab cycle? Azam bhai if you don't want a consumer economy than stopped drinking chia. Pakustan is the worlds largest consumer and importer of chia. Pakistani spend close to US$ 7 billion a eyar on chia. Buss Buss thar jaa, you say I am a khutta with this US$7 billion but look the consumer chia economy:

import chia+pay duty+transport+sell at dhukan+take home+gas+sugar+water+milk+cups==== US$7 billion.

I run my business in Karachi with all over Pakistan. Investment in Pakistan was only in service sector. Becuase quick return for the investor.

Your Riawind kaa daakko had US$35 million FDI in from Jnauary 1998---Oct 1999. Mulk sumwarow daakoo stole another US$350 million after the US$11 billion.

Mobile phones has put a lot of fast in how business is done Pakistan. You call a bhangee on his mobile and tell him to open the gutter, he is there in two hours. Fast service bhai wakeel. I live amongst the gharib in Kharadar, Mirpur Khas, Alamgire on GT Road, and live with poor Kak Kay Zai I know what is life in Pakistan.

ZAB was very demoractic but he was a taliban inside. He made FSF and killed, raped and kippned thousands of people. Democractic is the solutions.

My dada (grandfather), who was man of great understand of Islam, used to say that when the kuffar (nonmuslims) are happy with results which effects you then rest assured that something very bad is about to happen to you. And the people from within you are also happy with the results then either kill these happy people or leave the city or village and go live in either the mountains or jungle

I was at the election in my beautiful city of Mirpurkhas were people voted but after this came out. PPPP Mir Munawwar Ali Talpur won the seat but bhaio 60% people in the city that he will not do anything for the people. Last year during the floodings in Sindh his younger brother who is a councilor was given 3 caror to help the poor people who dates farms were destroyed. This madhar chuat went to Karachi to a showroom on Khalid bin Walid road abd bougght a Hummar for 85 lak and BMW M-5 for 80 lak. Now his brother PPPP NA just wait and see how much money he'll make.

Poor people of Pakistan will remain poor because they are put gun on their head and their women are not safe from these harames.

Did any of the media go to the interiror of the country to ask people how they feel about the elctions?

Did any of the media show the palaces of Zardari and Nawaz and the rest of harames?

Bhaio, the best party in Pakistan is MQM. They work for their people and they live amongst their own people. No one has pointed a finger of loot and chori on them yet because live in three story houses with their mother and father and other family memebrs.

Bibi and daakko Sharif, have ZERO balls to let media open. Media was open in 1973 Aaine but everybody gave lashes to journalists. Musharraf has 101% credit to open media in Pakistan and let __________ like Shahid Masood, Javed Malik, Talat Hussian, Hamid Mir, Asma Jahangir, Iqbal Haider run their mouth.

18 Feb 2008. Business people took cash worth US$32 billion out of Pakistan. We have leanred our lessons. I personally took my US$-very large amount- and send it out to protect. I have already have a lot out but as long as harame like Ishaq betta there no body trust PML-N & PPP with their money.

Oct 1999, Pakistan exposts US$7 billion today US$18 billion. Bhai wakeel check economy

Does Riawind and Zardari palace pay electriccity bill

One thing about Pakistan's three military leaders; they never made a single paisa for themselves in corruption and rishwat. Bibi and Nawaz made Pakistan their kitchen.

What let us know what you think about their years in power

Lets hear crimes by elected badmash for crimes against constittituon.

The business community is all siding with President Musharraf. Karachi with with President Musharraf and all chia brathery is with him even after he gracefully resigned and was given gaurad of honour.

bhai hassan, you need come out of your a/c office and come to Karachi and let me show you how Pakistani are dying becuase of hunger and diseses.

Pakistan is here to live without the Bhutto, Zardari, Sharif, Chaudhry, Altaf Hussian, 1973 constitituion, democracy etc......Pakistan ka metlab kyh Laillah ha illal Mohammadur Rasool Allah

Saleem Hatoum

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